As locations for prototype cities go, one benefiting from the crisp mountain air at the foot of Mount Fuji is pretty hard to beat. With construction well underway on the site of a former car factory, Woven City is also being developed by Danish architecture studio BIG to be a 70 hectare home for 2,000 Toyota employees, their families, scientists and retirees who will test living in smart homes: robotics in a “real world environment.”
More than just a living laboratory, however, it will also be a fully-functioning city built from the ground up with the key elements of the modern urban experience stripped back, reimagined and woven back together – hence the name.
Everything is human-centred and integrated with a focus on wellbeing. Powered by hydrogen fuel-cell technology, the buildings are designed to “take care of basic needs and enhance daily life”, to the extent that sensors connected to AI will check the health of residents and even suggest what food to eat to improve both wellbeing and happiness, and prompt when exercise or fresh air is necessary. Groceries will be ordered automatically and menial jobs such as cleaning will be looked after by in-home robots, freeing up time for the residents and helping to remove stress.
And, in an environment where social media and online retail is replacing physical meeting places, the traditional-looking timber homes are arranged in groups around central courtyards. Green spaces between the streets let the city breathe and encourage socialising.
A network of streets cater for three different speeds – a main road for self-driving vehicles; smaller streets for other modes of personal transport like bicycles and scooters; and then a pedestrianised lane. Meanwhile, goods travel beneath the city in bespoke pathways on autonomous palettes that also take away outgoing packages and collect the rubbish.
“Woven City can serve both as a prototype for future cities and as a retrofit to current cities,” says BIG founder Bjarke Ingels.”By simply ‘reprogramming’ existing streets, we can begin to reset the balance between people, mobility, and nature in cities as diverse as Tokyo or New York, Copenhagen or Barcelona.” The future is already here.