And you get to influence and vote on how the city morphs and adapts to dramatic changes in climate, shifts in the economy, new patterns in population and immigration as well as through many unpredictable events.
Above, Hamilton as it appears nowadays, on the shores of Lake Ontario. (via Flickr)
The city's future--taking into account changes in climate, population, lifestyle, and economics--plays itself out in a engaging and clever way. Already automobiles have been banned from the city and replaced by trams, and voters have rejected the construction of a solar panel "bubble" covering part of the city in favor of a nuclear reactor. Hamilton has weathered a flu epidemic, and an African safari park has been established nearby. (According to the game, it's already 2078, so you should hurry over.)
Each week from November to February, a key event will occur in the city.
And you get to vote on things like whether the city builds an underwater highway on the lakeshore to Toronto to solve gridlock, or whether a new airport is built in Flamborough, or whether ... well, we don't want to spoil the surprise.
After votes are counted and an event occurs (or not) in the city, these new landmarks appear as high-impact visuals on an interactive map that lets you click and play individual map graphics of buildings and other icons to see how the city has evolved.
It's fun to click around, but also fascinating to see how the presentation of the city in game format (a la SimCity) can build interest in its future. Civic visioning processes can be simultaneously informative and fun; the limited real-world constraints of the game permit participants to dream big.
Along the lines of dreaming big, alternative versions of the future, and fun: 202 Collaborative's hydrogen-fueled urbanism (featured on BLDGBLOG in November; and friends of mine too, I'm proud to say) envisions a self-sufficient addition to the Reykjavik cityscape, powered ultimately by the photosynthetic byproducts of algae:
We developed a prototype algae "pond" and "balloon" that could produce and store hydrogen for use by up to 12 vehicles. This ratio of pond to vehicle become a planning module, and the process become a technology which Iceland and their universities could theoretically develop and export (technology not the actual h2) to other nations. Our proposal envisioned several scenarios (low density housing, research fields, higher density housing, commercial districts, and a hydrogen race track) that were centered around the algae ponds. In all instances the ponds become a very tangible element of the design supporting our belief that the visible presence of environmental technologies only strengthens users awareness of our complex relationship with nature.
I'm hardly the first or most informed person to say this, but imagine the potential of renewable energy sources to reconfigure urban form. (As Worldchanging points out, "what we build is how we live.") It's impossible to look at the images below and not conclude that the cityscape of the future will indeed look quite different than how it does now. And that it will continue changing.
Below: several images of the project--thanks, Patrick! (Earlier, somewhat related)