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December 01, 2005

U and Non-U cities

(Seoul). In my car from the airport I am disconcerted by what sounds like someone drowning a dog in a bucket of water. It turns out to be the ringtone on my driver's mobile phone. The traffic here is worse than ever so he probably has time in jams to source the weirdest downloads. More startling still are plans for Korea's new administrative capital. The government is considering modeling the city on a doughnut. Two of eight finalists have proposed de-centered design concepts: Spanish architect Andres Perea Ortega; and Swiss architect Jean-Pierre Durig. The latter suggests a doughnut-shaped urban area with central areas dedicated to public parks and other green areas, and residential and commercial areas circling the center. I hope these radical concepts are taken seriously. Critics here and in the US had earlier lambastedthe government for emphasizing the city's technology over its sustainability. New Songdo has been described as the world's first "U City" where the U stands for ubiquitous computing. (A ubiquitous city "is where all major information systems (residential, medical, business, governmental and the like) share data, and computers are built into the houses, streets and office buildings").

Posted by John Thackara at December 1, 2005 01:44 AM

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