When we think of cities, we tend to picture permanent, densely settled places with administratively defined boundaries in which economic, societal, political and cultural transactions occur endlessly. The size of these well-defined human settlements becomes apparent when we leave a city and end up crossing a spatial border (usually indicated by a street sign) indicating the end of a city. Based on this definition, cities take up 3% of the world’s surface (Global Rural Urban Mapping Project). Rather small, right?


Here’s the problem with this definition though. Even though only 3% of the world’s surface is considered urbanized, 72% of the global ice-free land surface is dedicated to supporting our species, and between a quarter and a third of the entire ‘net primary production’ of the planet is consumed by humans (Mark Lynas, 2019, CNN, accessed 26 April 2021, https://edition.cnn.com/). This goes to show that, even though cities are primarily considered as densely packed and concentrated administrative areas, the activities that are necessary to keep them in operation reach far beyond the thoroughly planned limits of the urbanists and city administrators. In fact, this disproportionate ratio of production-to-consumption-area is one of the many ambiguous attributes of a city that has led numerous of today’s urbanists and theorists to rethink the traditional, static limits of a city and to attribute to it a “fluid dimension” (Ricci, 2012).

When one equates this ratio with the 48% global surface area that is left untouched for healthy and thriving natural habitats (Bonnie Christian, 2019, Standard, accessed 26 April 2021, https://www.standard.co.uk/), we see a clear warning sign that something is not right. Never before have we paid such close attention to the impacts that our actions have on our cities and their surrounding territories. The way cities operate today simply costs too much on our environment and consequently the natural stability we need as a species to survive and thrive. It’s important to find new ways to decentralize this stress from our natural habitats and create new paradigms of production and consumption. Paradigms that do not rely on our cities’ surrounding environments as the main providers for all of their necessary resources to operate. Paradigms that rely on decentralized, collaborative, actionable and data-informed plans between cities for the exchange of ideas, resources, energy, information and people.

It’s therefore time to redefine the role of cities in our efforts to maintain the balance of the world’s natural processes. Can we take advantage of today’s endless connectivity to reach a collective and connected urbanism? Can cities reach circularity at a metropolitan scale?

These are some of the questions that the Master in City & Technology researchers explore each year during the Internet of Cities, a design research studio that aims to develop holistic urban projects through a deep understanding of urban theory, a sophisticated application of technology, a holistic strategy, and innovative design. 

The Internet of Cities studio is led by Mathilde Marengo and Eduardo Rico-Carranza, with the technical assistance of Iacopo Neri and Raul Bielsa

In order to not only compare and contrast different proposals but to also create projects that can be scalable, replicable and that can operate beyond the local context, it was decided that the MaCT researchers would divide their studies on two different cities, Barcelona and Luxembourg. Moreover, the studio specifically focused its research on three fundamental topics that need to be addressed in order to restore the territorial integrity and the regional interdependencies of these two cities:

  1. Rewilding: a study on the conservation of natural habitats and ecosystems surrounding the city, creating new natural corridors and ecological connections.
  2. Carbon Capture: a study on territorial strategies to reduce the amount of CO2 found in the atmosphere surrounding cities by maximizing the use of natural carbon sinks.
  3. River Renaturalization: a study on the implications of urban interventions into rivers in order to enhance the natural state and functioning of rivers and catchments.

Finally, the MaCT researchers were challenged to develop the Internet of Cities through a sophisticated intersection of urban planning and data science tools such as GIS & Big Data Analytics, Environmental Simulations and Computational Urban Design. Through the use of such tools, we believe it’s possible to develop novel techniques that reveal the newly formed regional interdependencies and optimize the material and social connections of these new territories.

Below you can find some of the projects developed by the students:

Rewilding – Barcelona

The following project aims to study the creation of a green corridor for pollinators in a specific area of el Vallès in Catalonia using the existing abandoned crops as structural elements. These crops represent an opportunity to rebalance the relationship between humans and nature and to promote a rewilding process of the area. Considering the reduction of pollinators, this project proposes solutions to restore, protect, and enhance pollinators’ habitats and therefore their populations.

Full documentation here

  • Project Name: Flowerpowder: a new ecological corridor for pollinators
  • Students: Adriana Aguirre Such, Simone Grasso, Matteo Murat, Riccardo Palazzolo Henkes

Carbon Capture – Barcelona

“A breathing Organism” is a project developed for increasing the Carbon Capture in the city of Barcelona. To achieve this goal the MaCT researchers propose to convert conventional crops to regenerative agriculture. In this study they analyzed crops at urban and rural scales and proposed an intervention to connect consumers to farmers through sharing platform with the concept of U-Pick farm.

Full documentation here

  • Project Name: A breathing Organism, increasing Carbon Capture in Barcelona
  • Students: Kevin Aragon, Inigo Esteban, Diana Roussi & Tugdual Sarazin

River Renaturalization – Luxembourg

This project studies the implications of human intervention into rivers. People have modified rivers for centuries to fit certain purposes, and facilitate human activities. However, these interventions in many cases have caused damages to ecology, issues with flooding and loss in habitat just to name a few. This has called for river renaturing and restoration projects to help reverse the negative impact of human modifications.

Full documentation here

  • Project Name: Alzette River 2.0
  • Students: Leyla Saadi, Marta Maria Galdys, Sridhar Subramani & Ivan Reyes Cano

Follow this link to the students’ blog If you want to see more results from the Internet of Cities studio.

Are you interested in developing projects like this? Don’t miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study the future of cities in Barcelona, the birthplace of urbanism!

Applications 2022/23 are open until the 31st of March!
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