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Looking ahead at the future of technology with advances in computing, materials, and electric propulsion technology, an explicit symbol of an urban vision of any futuristic film or plan or installation would be, flying vehicles. To turn this into a reality, MVRDV collaborated with Airbus, Bauhaus Luftfahrt, ETH Zurich, and Systra to research and plan for the future of Urban Air Mobility (UAM), and simultaneously answer these fundamental questions - How will these flying vehicles impact our urban environments? / How can issues of energy, sound and safety be approached? / What protocols should be established with authorities to guarantee their safe and harmonious integration? / How could they be leveraged to improve our cities – not only for their users, but for everybody?
Due to Airbus’ on-demand helicopter service Voom, Airbus Urban Mobility envisions a comprehensive mobility concept. The futuristic urban design taken up by the Netherlands-based firm MVRDV supported Airbus in exploring strategic urban development scenarios that leverage UAM as an opportunity to grow cities around the globe into thriving urban regions. Understanding that revolutionary transport modes when introduced to cities without careful planning may affect both short-term and long-term scenarios, the study aimed to avoid any detrimental impacts that may arise from this disruptive technology. The research highlights how, when implemented with urban principles in mind, UAM can reconnect territories with minimal impact, and deliver a multi-modal system that is accessible to, and beneficial for, people of all backgrounds.
The design unlocks the potential of the project largely through ‘vertiports’, landing hubs that integrate and connect the aerial network with the existing and future ground transportation system. The research findings envisaged vertiports of various types and sizes, just like traditional transport stops, stations and terminals. However, unlike our urban transport options such as trains, metros, or buses, the network does not require any linear infrastructure in between these ports. No tracks, tunnels or roads are required which further save energy, natural resources, as well as land.
This would allow designers to adapt the vertiports to a variety of different locations, plugging into and enhancing existing urban scenarios. The vertiports have been designed as catalysts for urban improvement and as hubs of renewable energy, data, and public amenities, while remaining sustainable and resilient. A mature network of vertiports could serve to connect disadvantaged areas of cities, improve emergency response times.
“As cities become denser and technologies improve, it becomes increasingly clear that the truly three-dimensional city – one that includes flying vehicles – is surely one of the city models of the future… a city where my mobility is at my balcony!” says Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV. “But to reach this future will require many small steps. It’s a credit to Airbus that they are thinking about these issues in advance and doing so in a way that will improve things in the meantime.”
On a broader scale, the research investigates the potential of future UAM networks within cities and recognises that it should not seek to replace cities’ existing transport infrastructure but to complement it. The research concludes that with an extensive network of vertiports, UAM could serve as an interesting contributor to a mobility system.
In order to communicate the nuanced vision for a connected future to the public, MVRDV and Airbus developed a number of scenarios. The research findings were translated into an immersive exhibition, titled The City and the Sky Above, created through a collaboration between MVRDV, Airbus, and Squint/Opera that is currently on display at the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen).
Together, these ideas through illustrations in varied forms give a glimpse into a future world that masters technology for a more responsible, more collaborative, and more accessible society.
Name: UAM City Integration
Client: Airbus Urban Mobility
Size and Programme: Research
Founding partner-in-charge: Winy Maas
Director: Enno Zuidema
Design team: Jeroen Zuidgeest, Bertrand Schippan, Kris Schaasberg, Irene Luque Martín, Halina Zarate, Chun Hoi Hui, Laura Huerga, Rocio Calzado, Alexandra Farmazon, Sophia Armpara, Francesco Barone, Boris Maas, Vedran Skansi, Monika Novkovikj, Paul van Herk, Yayun Liu, Leo Stuckardt, Chiara Thomassi, Nika Jazaei, Isabella Suppa
Visualisations: Antonio Luca Coco, Luca Piattelli, Francesco Vitale, Pavlos Ventouris, Kirill Emelianov, Magda Bykowska, Jaroslaw Jeda, Angelo La Delfa
Strategy & Development: Jan Knikker, Bart Dankers, Daan van Gool, Greetje Wieringa
UAM Team: Systra, Tractebel Engie, ETH Zurich, Bauhaus Luftfahrt, MIT, Upstone
Biennale video production: Squint Opera
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