The fantastic imaginings of cities in 2050

Floating parks, giant mushrooms, and farming with no land: Vision discovers the reality behind futurists’ predictions for Dubai, Mumbai and Sydney in 2050

In the 1968 science fiction film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the 21st century as Stanley Kubrick saw it was a world in which apes ruled the earth, men rode in ‘moonbuses’, and cryogenic hibernation was both possible and prolific.

Whilst the depiction of life in the year 2001 was fairly off the mark, predicting the future became a popular topic for the film industry and futurists alike. Who might inhabit the cities of the future? What will they drive, how will they look, where will they work?

2050 in…Dubai

One region that recently attempted to tackle the question of the future was the UAE, with its exhibition ‘Your Planet Needs You’. The event, based in Dubai, was an exploration of how we will survive in a changing planet, looking at strategies to ensure the survival of communities and lifestyles worldwide in the face of changing climate and resource availability.

Water shortages was highlighted as a serious issue, and the exhibit encouraged visitors to think about how they access water and what they would do if it wasn’t readily available, as well as introducing techniques and technologies for saving water and making it safe.

Agricel soil less farming
The Dubai firm Agricel has some novel ideas on soil-less farming which, they claim, could reduce water use in agriculture by up to 90 percent

Soil-less farming has been touted as the freshest innovation of a new eco-future, with venture capitalists Yalman Khan and Kunal Wadhwani, who set up the Dubai-based startup Agricel, whose soil-less farming technology could deliver water savings of up to 90 percent. “The human race sits at the top of the food chain for a reason and hopefully we will always have enough food to feed the world,” said the pair. “However, if land and water are continuously depleted, the result will be inevitably be reduced output.”

2050 in…Mumbai

During the Indian Civil War, the Dharavi slums of Mumbai were inundated with hundreds of thousand of refugees, looking for new opportunities in the city. Sometime later, genetically-engineered fungal samples from Amsterdam appeared in Dharavi. Through a collective drive and expertise, refugees managed to turn into a new type of infrastructure providing heat, light and building material for the refugees.

mushrooms Mumbai
Tobias Revell's fantasy depiction of a slum in Mumbai that is powered by giant mushroomsImage: Tobias Revell

Dharavi rapidly evolved its own microeconomy based around the mushrooms. The documentary ‘New Mumbai’ tells the story of some of the characters involved from Mumbai and the rest of the world and how Dharavi came to be such a unique place. Sound unbelievable? That’s because it is. The mock documentary was made by the futurist Tobias Revell, who located his fantastic proposition of giant mushrooms powering cities in Mumbai in order to celebrate the city’s independence. “In Mumbai there’s an independence. They seem to make Dharavi their own, and it’s full of exciting tales of microeconomics and specialists which make it unique.”

2050 in…Sydney

Skyscrapers will be doubled in size, the metro will cross the harbor, and parks will be suspended in mid-air, if Sydney’s architects see their dreams become reality. The firm Urban Taskforce asked three architects to dream up the ideal future for Sydney in 2050, and their answers spanned from transport to sustainability to beauty. James Fitzpatrick envisioned a series of centres including North Sydney, Glebe Island, Central Station and Woolloomooloo all connected by a new circular metro line.

Harbour Bridge in Sydney
Architect Richard Francis-Jones envisioned a green area spanning Harbour Bridge in Sydney where locals and tourists could relax on the bridge Image: Richard Francis-Jones

Richard Francis-Jones dream of a “green spine” that would cross the Harbour Bridge was particularly visionary. Mock-up images of the narrow park see locals cycling, walking and having picnics 134 metres up in the air.