CITY IN YOUR HANDS: From Smart to Responsive

During my research time at the Chair of Information Architecture at ETH Zurich and together with Prof. Dr. Gerhard Schmitt, we wrote an eBook called “City in your Hands”, which brings together our research efforts and findings of the past 6 years. This eBook is also based on our Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) series on Future Cities on the edX online platform.


“City in your Hands” aims to reflect on the series and consolidate the knowledge generated through the “Future Cities” series of MOOCs, conducted from 2014 until 2018 by a joint team from the Chair of Information Architecture at ETH Zurich and the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) in Singapore. The body of the publication consists of four volumes dedicated to four types of cities: future, livable, smart and responsive. The first volume presents the biggest picture and acts as an umbrella to the following volumes. Livable Cities, Smart Cities and Responsive Cities focus on more specific angles of a similar debate. As such, the four volumes should not be understood as separate, but as different interpretations of and viewpoints on recurring questions. Consequently, rather than present or teach the one correct ‘solution’, this book aims to trigger discussions, show-case new tools and offer various approaches to urban and territorial design.


Future Cities series of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs):

The ‘Future Cities’ series on urban MOOCs is the first and complete series of urban courses dealing

with different focus areas for the design, management and transformation of cities for its sustainable and resilient future. By every edition, the series intended to increasingly interact with citizens around the world and empower them to become part of the development of their own cities, especially in those places in the world where this knowledge is needed most. The ETH urban MOOC series ‘Future Cities’ is composed of four editions; ‘Future Cities’, ‘Livable Future Cities’, ‘Smart Cities’ and 'Responsive Cities'. While ‘Futures Cities’ provides an overview on the latest research results on planning, managing and transforming cities, ‘Livable Future Cities’ focuses on livability in existing and new cities, by exploring different focus areas (climate, energy, mobility, ecology and ecosystem services) that affect livability and quality of life in a city. In the process of building up the ‘Futures Cities’ urban MOOCs series, the third edition, ‘Smart Cities’, explores the concept of smart buildings and cities and forms the basis of our fourth edition: ‘Responsive Cities’.


Similar to previous editions, ‘Responsive Cities’ MOOC aimed to present realistic approaches, methods and techniques to increase the sustainability and resilience of cities. There are no other courses focusing on this particular, yet very important topic in a holistic way. The Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore and Zürich has produced carefully researched results in various urbanization related scientific fields. The knowledge gained from the correlation of research results is an absolute need for the next generation of city planners, city builders and city managers. Moreover, as it is a topic of global interest, there is a necessity to engage people worldwide regardless of their profession, and stimulate them to be part of the planning of their own cities.


As a two-way approach, the Future Cities MOOC series intended not only to teach participants about the latest research in city planning, but also to learn from citizens around the world about the experiences in cities they live in. In this way, the courses also aimed to encourage citizens around the world to get involved in the development of their own cities and support them by linking the course content with tangible research methodologies. This was achieved by the implementation of the Research Driven Learning and the Learning Driven Research approach, using the online interactive teaching tool: QUA-KIT.



The end goal for the MOOC series as well as for the eBook was to get a full understanding of the latest development in urban planning and arrive to the concept of the “Responsive City”, which is last MOOC course from the series and the topic for the last volume of the eBook.


The Responsive City:

Cities become first smart and then responsive. Dynamic behavior differentiates the Responsive City from the Smart City. Smart Cities are technology driven and produce large amounts of data. Smart

Cities and Smart Buildings are in an early stage of development, as every building and every city is a prototype. The Responsive City builds on Smart City technology, but places the human in the center of decision-making, design, and management of the city. It uses the stocks and flows of information as the main driver of change. Data for the Responsive City come from smart buildings, smart infrastructure, and most important, from its citizens.


To deepen the knowledge about Responsive Cities, we define the concept of Citizen Design Science, a combination of Citizen Science and Urban Design. Both are conducted, in whole or in part, by citizens or nonprofessional scientists. This approach is still in an early stage of development and, with the Responsive Cities MOOC course, we aimed to explore its potential together with participants around the word. We engaged participants in the discussion and activate citizens around the world to be part of the planning of their own cities.


You can find the eBook for free on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/city-in-your-hands/id1451584143?ls=1&mt=11


About the Chair of Information Architecture, ETH Zurich:

Research lab within the Institute of Technology in Architecture from the Architecture Department at ETH Zurich and the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore. The research goal is to develop visual methods for the analysis, design and simulation of urban systems for a sustainable future.


About me:

Before co-founding WeSpace, I was researcher, lecturer and project coordinator at the Chair of Information Architecture at ETH Zurich. My background is in Sustainable City Planning and I did my PhD in Urban Climate and Information Cities. After I attained my doctoral degree, I coordinated research topics around Future Cities.

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