At the Audi Urban Future Initiative Award in Istanbul, architects, designers and urban planners presented their visions of mobility for 2030. Projects for São Paulo, Istanbul and Shenzhen returned to a similar theme: liberate the street.

In emerging economies, the development that has lifted millions out of poverty is now choking megacities. When residents are physically stranded, isolated in their neighborhoods as a result of traffic congestion, they experience a parallel social and cultural immobility.

São Paulo – Dancing with the city

A modernist solution to the problem might be to build more roads. Design studio Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) wants to focus instead on the social aspect of mobility, including, for example, the structures that people build under and around traditional roads. ‘3D space is not readable in our maps,’ founding partner Hubert Klumpner tells LS:N Global. ‘We should understand and register better our available areas.’

Rethinking mobility in three dimensions has led U-TT to unusual design solutions. For São Paulo, the team imagines a ‘radically open system of mobility’ in which zones around transit hubs are connected above ground level, freeing up the street for social activity. One example is Metro Cable, a system of cable cars in Caracas that extends into the city’s barrios, interfacing with public transport while leaving existing neighborhoods largely intact.

Istanbul – More city to share

Like many megacities, Istanbul is low on green space. Grand views of the Bosporus are offset by a crowded urban environment in which public space is scarce. In this context, the spaces occupied by idle cars could be put to better use.

Multidisciplinary design studio Superpool responded to this challenge with Park, a new kind of loyalty program. Commuters can give up their cars in favor of a new kind of dolmuş, a shared taxi that lets them collect points through a social media application. These can be redeemed for the right to use unoccupied parking spaces however they choose – for relaxing moments in the sun, picnics or chatting with a neighbor. The idea can be summed up as ‘more city to share with more shared mobility’.

Shenzhen – Underground flows

The Pearl River Delta in southern China is not just the world’s factory, it is also home to more than 42m people. Roads are overwhelmed by the constant need to feed the supply chain, and for most people they have become less about mobility and more about division.

For the city of Shenzhen, Doreen Heng Liu of NODE Architecture & Urbanism proposed a simple but radical solution: bury the logistics. A new system under existing roads feeds the manufacturing economy, while ground-level links are released ‘to form an interface of both integration and living experience’.

Emerging urbanism

Amid talk of emerging superpowers, the architects here are interested in emerging urbanism. ‘We are interested in the 1bn people who already live in slums in cities, distributed in secondary cities within cities,’ Klumpner tells LS:N Global. ‘How do you integrate them? I think that is a big challenge ahead.’

This article was originally published on LS:N Global.