Why Wakanda should be a model for our future cities

Wakanda is a miracle. The fictional city of the Marvel Universe is the most advanced civilization in the world, years ahead of the world in technological learning.

But it’s a small part of that city that can predict what our real-life cities of the future should look like, according to author Vishaan Chakrabarti, who I spoke with for my new podcast, “Downside Up.”

“One of the things I love about Wakanda, if you notice, if you watch ‘Black Panther’ carefully, there’s the city, the city has all this public transportation and all these housing estates and all this stuff,” explains Chakrabarti, who wrote. The book “A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America”. “And the moment you leave the city, you’re in the countryside. And there’s this link between rural life and urban life.”

He added: “I think it’s a really interesting paradigm for thinking about people, living in very dense situations or living in really rural areas and doing the things that we all have to do on farmland, which is growing our own food and growing all those things. And the planet. It would mean you’d use a lot less land at the end of the day.”

This vision of our cities does not match the appearance of our cities today. Not close And that’s largely because most of our modern cities were built around cars, not people. (You’ll notice that there are no cars in Wakanda.)

And this is a development that happened after the Second World War. Our dense urban centers began to empty out as people chased the dream of backyards and white picket fences in the newly formed suburbs. People need a way to get from their jobs in the city to their new homes in the suburbs. And the growth of factories to meet wartime demand meant that cars could be mass-produced quickly and cheaply.

Car culture was born. The idea was simple: our cars were an essential part of who we were and who we are. Cars were an extension of your personality. Everyone — it seemed — had one. They became a status symbol. And our cities began to be built to accommodate them rather than accommodate us.

We were all in such a rush to live the neighborhood dream, we had no idea what — and who — the rising car culture was leaving behind. “Cities are then designed to serve a very small minority of people who have access to resources and power,” Dr. Destiny Thomas, an urban planner, told me.
Now, however, may be the time to change the way we think about and build our cities, said Joann Muller, who works on the future of cities and transport at Axios.

“I think we’re at this very interesting moment, it’s about a once-in-a-century sort of transformation and connected electric and autonomous vehicles,” he said. “And with all the technology changing at that moment, it should be time to rethink what cities should look like. I don’t know that it’s happening enough, but it’s a possibility. And you think, there are a lot of micro mobility devices today. And I don’t know the brand new of a scooter or the bike is definitely not brand new, but we are thinking about it in different ways as transportation around cities. And sometimes, actually, riding a bike much faster than a car.”

Chakrabarti notes that there are several European cities that are already working to put people in the center of their cities. “Copenhagen and so on, tons of bike lanes, there’s a whole cycling culture, the Dutch country, again, incredible infrastructure around walking, cycling and mass transit,” he said.

Whether America’s major cities change from where we are today — highly suburban and car-dependent — remains to be seen. But all we have to do is look at Wakanda to get an idea of ​​what our future cities will look like could work