New Economy

When does a city become smart?

Thomas Wagner
May 3, 2017 · 5 min read

End of Growth

Our whole economy is build on growth. In Thackaras book, professors Murphy and Hall explained that “When a system must grow in order to survive, but the work it enables is destructive, the consequences are catastrophic”. Thackara explains the problem of growth with an example of a famous home furnishing giant in Sweden: „It is committed to double in size by 2020“. All efforts this company will do in terms of sustainability, it will not have an impact because of compound growth: „However hard they work, however many leaks they plug in production cycles, the net negative impact of their firm’s activities on the world’s living systems will be greater in the years ahead than it is today.“


One of the main factors for success of the industrial revolution was the centralization of production, which made it easy to produce standardized products. Now we came to a point where this centralization causes wide-ranging problems. In an urban context for example, we outsource everything what we consume. Instead of buying milk for example from local farms nearby, we buy it from centralized places, somewhere in the country which causes the demand for complex supply chains. And why are we doing this? Because the access to it (in the supermarket round the corner) is effortless. It is easy — but not really smart. Thackara sees a demand for local production, the connection between people and makers and collaborative distribution.

ReGen Villages Concept by EFFEKT
Helsinge Haveby— Village of Tomorrow. Concept and masterplan by EFFFEKT


Tackara noticed that „If, in an age of networks, even the smallest actions can contribute to transformation of the system as a whole, then our passionate but funny efforts so far may not have been in vain.“ In the last years with the globalization and the rise of the internet in our everyday life, I have the feeling, that we forgot to think locally. We think about change on huge scales but at the same time the most impactful changes which affect our lives most, happen on a small, local scale. Therefor it will be mandatory to think global but act local. Also the phrase „act first and talk later“ which was mentioned in Thackaras book, can lead to unexpected success. I can imagine that most of the smartness of a city will come from the bottom up and can lead to system wide changes, which sooner or later will be necessary.


To reach the goal of smartness, we have to think about how the access of things in the city will take place — and also what happens after we used those things. The model of a circular economy will go away from the linear model of make, use, dispose, to a model which is oriented on natural systems — cycles flows, webs and interconnectedness. Its aim is to change waste to resource to reach a regenerative economy. In a circular economy there is no waste. Another aim is also to keep stuff alive and therefore reduce waste. It will not only be a paradigm shift of peoples behavior but also new services and infrastructures are needed to enable the full potential of a circular economy.

Global Design Futures

Thoughts about Global Design and Future Trends

Thomas Wagner

Written by

Design, Research & Strategy | Service Experience Designer (MA) based in London | Currently Service & Interaction Designer @ Method London |

Global Design Futures

Thoughts about Global Design and Future Trends