Urban Planning for the City of the Future

Cover of Urban Planning for the City of the Future

A Multidisciplinary Approach



Table of contents

(13 chapters)

Section 1 Strategy, Planning and Economy


The historical evolution of the economy of Ireland's South East region is traced, highlighting Waterford's key role as the region's leading urban centre and port. What had been a rather traditional regional economic structure underwent considerable modernisation in the last two decades, but lacks the sectoral specialisation which provides a strong economic base in other Irish regions. The National Spatial Strategy, launched in 2002, sought to promote regional specialisation in exporting sectors, but lacked the governance structures required to drive the process. The current National Planning Framework is more focused on building up the main regional centres, but is likely to leave Waterford City well short of the scale required to be competitive in global markets. An alternative strategy is proposed, whereby Waterford would work in collaboration with the South East's unique set of strong county towns to create a distinctive and coherent, region-wide and sectorally focused, urban system. The success of such a project, however, would be dependent on the creation of a strong regional government tier and the devolution to the regions of a wide range of powers and functions currently concentrated at national level.


Project Ireland 2040, announced as ‘one vision for one country’, is the spatial plan for Ireland's development for the coming decades. The plan assigns a particular role to Ireland's cities outside Dublin, including Waterford. This chapter considers the place of Waterford in that national strategy and examines that role as an expression of a neoliberal ‘turn’ in Irish planning. Waterford is, in many senses, as will be shown, unexceptional in modern, Western cities; the chapter therefore in considering Waterford also will illuminate some aspects of the planning of other European cities.


This chapter explores the question – where is the economy? In taking up this question, I explore the action of economists in making the economy, framed in the place of ‘place’ in the economy and how the politics of economic data and calculation and boundaries make economies. In this way, I argue for a performative understanding of regional economics where the economy can be said to be made, often out of real things such as hospitals, factories, shops and schools, and infrastructure, but also out of social practices that echo out of the field of economics into institutions and ways of thinking calculatedly.

To make this case of this approach, and to grasp the slippery fish of where the economy is, I introduce autoethnographic materials from my experience of being a regional economic commentator, holding forth on the Waterford economy. These empirics relay the everyday methods of economic analysis as a material and political practice, alighting on the data, calculations and boundaries that go into making the economy. Here the curious relationship between the economist and their economy, the dancer and the dance come into view and how people, including myself, call an economy into being.

Section 2 Heritage, Archaeology and Belonging


Heritage buildings often stand as a reminder of power structures. In urban streetscapes, they can represent particular values and views of the world such as colonial conquest, hegemonic power relations, or social hierarchies. The changing use of some heritage buildings, however, alongside the changing remit of libraries in Ireland, may offer scope for radical acts of inclusion for diverse populations. One such building is considered here, the Waterford Central City Library, originally a Carnegie library, which is situated at the social and cultural centre of the city. This chapter reflects on the changing use of space in iconic buildings, the changing remit of public libraries in Ireland, and the potential of city centre buildings to be diverse spaces which facilitate inclusive community building.


Cultural heritage and memory are essential mechanisms for the formation of individual and group identity, contributing to a sense of belonging in society. More specifically, built heritage (the buildings, structures and monuments associated with our cultural history) reflect our individual and collective decisions about what is important to preserve and remember into the future, further shaping our identities as citizens of Waterford. Thus, our relationship with heritage is just as much about looking forward into our social imagination for the future of Waterford city as it is about reflecting on our past.

Sites of Conscience are a specific type of built heritage which signify a society's belief that by remembering difficult pasts we can interrogate our current lived realities and create meaningful change in the future (International Coalition for Sites of Consciousness, 2022). Sites of Conscience are akin to what French historian Pierre Nora (1989) referred to as ‘les lieux de mémoire’, or places of memory. These physical spaces can connect past traumas and struggles to our present lives. As places of memory which ask us to acknowledge the past, Sites of Conscience can prevent the erasure of historical traumas and stand as an act of restorative justice, providing safe spaces for citizens to engage with difficult memories.

One such site of conscience in Waterford is the complex of buildings located at the College Street Campus of the South East Technological University. The site comprises the former convent of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd of Angers (commonly known as the Good Shepherd Sisters); the St Mary's Good Shepherd (Magdalene) Laundry; and St Dominick's Industrial School. The site was occupied in 1884 and the Laundry operated until its closure in 1982 (Department of Justice, 2013). This chapter will consider the former Magdalene Laundry and Industrial School's cultural and heritage significance to Waterford as a site of conscience, which encourages the citizens of Waterford not only to connect our past to our present, but to connect these memories to current actions to create a more just society into the future.

The built heritage of this complex acts as a powerful memory aide of a shared local history, allowing citizens to connect this past to related contemporary human rights issues. In this way, the former Laundry and Industrial School can stimulate discussions on gendered violence today, or to interrogate modern forms of institutionalisation such as Direct Provision. The chapter will further consider how these connections are even more important when our need to remember and recognise past atrocities are met with social, political, economic or cultural pressure to forget. Sometimes the desire for erasure is understandable; we want to commit events to the past and move on. However, such erasure can further disempower survivors of these institutions; prevent current and future generations from learning critical lessons; and dismantle future opportunities for healing and reconciliation. In this context, Sites of Conscience offer an opportunity to connect a difficult past to visions of a more socially just city of the future.


Researchers and practitioners working within transdisciplinary research projects face specific challenges when addressing representation of evidence-based concepts across complex occurrences, particularly when delivering a visitor experience design and documentary film encompassing an extensive cultural and natural heritage timeline period. In this chapter, these challenges are explored from the contrasting points of view of the view of the principal investigator and design lead and the filmmaker and researcher within an ongoing transdisciplinary research project Portalis, which is funded by the ERDF through The Ireland Wales Cooperation Programme.

The Portalis visitor experience design promotes and supports citizen science-based climate action behavioural change within six distinct Irish and Welsh cross-border coastal communities. It explores whether there are any parallels with how we can adapt to climate change now, with a focus on the resilience and innovation evidenced within Waterford's earliest settlements during and after South East Ireland's earlier climate change periods. The design research and the filmic documentation of archaeological and geological surveys is employed to map the story of these early post-glacial settlements 10,000 years ago along the Waterford Estuary. Interwoven through this mapping is a demonstration of how those living along the Estuary are preserving their maritime heritage through citizen science led engagement and community initiatives.

Adding a deep resonance to the research project, singular to Waterford, a new vision is called for; an acknowledgement of Waterford City and its Estuary as an area of unique conservation and growth and a recognition of this much travelled waterway as a designated and protected cultural landscape. A successful transdisciplinary approach creates a rich and accessible resource towards recognising the Estuary's cultural and marine heritage in city planning for the future. In so doing, it broaches the so-called rural-urban divide, adds to the global community of practice and allows for reflection on how urban planning can learn from our past in this context.

Section 3 Futurising, Smart Cities and Critical Technology


Creating high quality, liveable urban settings that facilitate a transition to lower carbon living and work environments is central to achieving more sustainable cities and communities. For over two decades, city builders and planners have advocated compact growth to facilitate these transformations. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has heralded a conceptual shift in debates on urban density, mobility and accessibility with the idea of the ‘15-minute city’ (Moreno, 2016) gaining increased prominence and traction among policymakers. Popularised by Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris, proximity and accessibility, together with density, underpin an ideal that privileges the relocalisation of work, home and leisure activities. Broadly described, the concept centres on the (re)development of urban neighbourhoods where basic services – access to public transport, grocery, social and healthcare, leisure and amenity – can be provided within a 10-, 15- or 20-minute walk or cycle from home. Since the publication of the National Planning Framework in 2018, more compact urban growth has become a core principle underpinning spatial planning at a range of scales in Ireland and the development of low-carbon and vibrant urban centres is now a key objective of Irish policymakers. The Southern Regional Assembly has been promoting the ‘10-minute town’ ideal through its Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RPO 176) and pilot projects in 3 medium sized towns (Carlow, Tralee and Ennis). However, scaling up the concept to accommodate the region's larger cities is relatively unexplored. As the smallest of the three cities in the southern region, and with significant redevelopment potential at the heart of the urban core, Waterford is in a dynamic position to accommodate the 15-minute concept. Furthermore, Waterford's more recent population growth suggests the need to cement the 15-minute city concept as a baseline for the design of the city as it develops and evolves in both new and emerging neighbourhoods. This chapter examines the potential and challenges of embracing the 15-minute city concept in Waterford as a way to meet the objectives set out in the National Planning Framework, Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy and by Waterford City Council, and discusses lessons for the Irish context more broadly. The chapter concludes that while the framework conditions for success appear to be largely in place, whether the governance and political system at the metropolitan and local levels is courageous enough to embrace and harness these opportunities remains to be seen.


This chapter explores the evolution of smart city thinking in order to have a clear understanding of what is involved in effectively and sustainably implementing a Smart City 4.0 strategy. The chapter illustrates that the concept of smart cities has evolved from the technology driven implementations to Cities as Open Innovation Platforms. These open and participatory platforms facilitate the interaction and collaboration of the city's citizens, government, industry, entrepreneurs, academia, creatives and the social sector so that they can harness their collective intelligence for innovation, experimentation and implementation of solutions that creates real transformational value for the betterment of the city's and its stakeholders. The author also identifies the key dimensions on which a smart city 4.0 concept must be built upon but highlights that depending on the composition of its stakeholder ecosystem, the City will prioritise different dimensions and so each smart city is unique. The chapter builds upon the experience of implementing a Smart City 4.0 project in Waterford, Ireland. Details of the smart city initiatives implemented are illustrates with examples.


Beyond the idea of the city as ‘an abstract terrain for business operations’ (Greenfield, 2013), this chapter analyses alternative constructions and research processes for engaging with ideas of smart cities and digital spatiality, drawing upon the author's arts-based research making virtual reality installations. The chapter describes workshops in which participants have navigated virtual and analogue city spaces, discussing their own ideas of smartness and the mapping of cities. These workshops took place off and online, collaboratively framing intelligences beyond the extractivist logic of surveillance and the Internet of things. In the making of this work, questions of what we mean by smartness and futurity were materialised. The chapter expands on these projects and questions, asking what kinds of design prevents social equality (Ansari, 2020; Irani, 2015), who is left out of these constructs and why? The author draws upon this work in relation to Waterford, examining how the specific historical and contemporary contexts and topography of the city informs a situated approach to technologies of representation. Rivers, from the Thames to the ‘artificial’ Huangpu, the Suir and John's River in Waterford, in their contingency and ontological instability, run through the chapter as a situating, post-human presence.

Cover of Urban Planning for the City of the Future
Publication date