As cities around the world strive to create more connected and sustainable futures, World Design Capital Valencia 2022 has set out to explore what the city could look like come 2030 as part of an immersive new project called Valencia 360. Partnering with Las Naves Innovation Centre and Non Architecture studio, Valencia 360 culminated in the launch of a virtual exhibition, PERSPECTIVE 2030: Imagining the Valencia of the Future earlier this year, presenting a series of five images that merged both utopian and dystopian visions of the city. We asked Alexandre Estellés, Project Manager at Non Architecture, what this project can teach us about the power of design to raise awareness about key issues that will affect cities of the future.
The collaboration between World Design Capital (WDC) Valencia and Non Architecture was born following a call for projects in the summer of 2021. Leveraging Non Architecture’s history of research-by-design projects, Estellés recognized that a partnership with WDC Valencia would “be a great opportunity to use design as an exploration tool on two levels. On one hand, to visualize future scenarios, and on the other, to explore new and fun design processes.”
Alongside Las Naves, the innovation department for the City of Valencia, an open call was launched for design teams to develop visions for the future of Valencia. Receiving more than 150 applications from around the world, five design teams were ultimately selected to participate. They include two studios from Valencia: Quatre Caps and C LAB Atelier, two studios in France: Lloyd Martin and Ex Figura and one based in England: Rarea Studio.
The five design teams were each tasked with developing a 360-degree architectural visualization of one emblematic location in Valencia. These locations included: the beach, agricultural land, the city-centre, the Turia riverbed and the Miramar Tower roundabout. The panoramas were required to show each location with one half in a dystopian view and the other half utopian. Estellés states that this representation of both utopian and dystopian futures was crucial for the project because of the impression it creates on the spectator. Seeing two possible futures, “it puts the spectator in a position of choosing” the kind of future they hope to see in their city.
While spectators were able to experience the project at Las Navas in February and March of this year, it remains completely accessible online via the Non Architecture website. In this way, Valencia 360 reaches a larger audience, fostering widespread dialogue amongst citizens.
Indeed, the five locations chosen have allowed for continued discussion about key issues facing the city, including the scarcity of resources, the integration of large-scale infrastructure and the future of cultural heritage and tourism. Estellés stated that “while the images all differ in style, location and themes addressed, they act as a powerful visualization tool to display the critical issues of tomorrow in a very tangible way. They are great tools to generate awareness, questions and debates on where we are heading and what kind of cities we want to live in.”
For Xavi Calvo, CEO of World Design Capital Valencia 2022, “Valencia 360 materializes in a visually striking way our desire to turn the design capital status and all that it entails into a unique opportunity to reflect on the Valencia of the future. The new generations of designers are able to participate and even lead a debate about the cities we want to inhabit in the not too distant future.”
While viewed independently, each image addresses a different challenge, from the need for sustainable growth to public mobility, to the importance of local production and the preservation of agriculture, to the effects of technology on the built environment. But when examined collectively, the project highlights design’s capacity to not only solve problems, but also to visualize them and raise awareness. As noted by Estellés, “the great thing about the future is it is not here yet, so we as a society have the power to create it the way we want. As designers we have the chance to envision the threats and opportunities, and it is through design that we can develop a better future.”
To experience Valencia 360, please visit: https://www.nonarchitecture.studio/valencia-360o/.
About World Design Capital
Designated every two years by the World Design Organization, World Design Capital® (WDC) recognizes cities for their effective use of design to drive economic, social, cultural, and environmental development. Through a year-long programme of events, the designated city showcases best practices in sustainable design-led urban policy and innovation that have reinvented their city and improved quality of life. Previous WDCs include Torino (Italy) in 2008, followed by Seoul (South Korea) in 2010, Helsinki (Finland) in 2012, Cape Town (South Africa) in 2014, Taipei (Taiwan, Chinese Taipei) in 2016, Mexico City (Mexico) in 2018 and Lille Metropole (France) in 2020. Valencia (Spain) holds the title for 2022. The cities of San Diego (USA) and Tijuana (Mexico) will hold the first binational WDC designation in 2024. www.wdo.org/wdc