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Dumb Cities: Ancient methods that your technophobe mum will love!

If truth be told, my mum is a massive technophobe, smart city rejecter and proud owner of a Nokia 3210; and she is not alone. Whilst the digital age continues to grow and innovate, many are avoiding the switch and at the very least, are deeply suspicious of any digital involvement in their homes, commutes, entertainment and finances (yes, she still uses a chequebook).

The notion of smart, which is becoming more prevalent in our cities, is throwing up all sorts of challenges around data, privacy and “surveillance capitalism”.  As a result, there is increasing mileage in the idea that not just old methods, but ancient technologies may be of use in the building of dumb cities.

 “This month, Julia Watson, a lecturer in urban design at Harvard and Columbia Universities, launched her book Lo-Tek: Design by Radical Indigenism, with publisher Taschen. It’s the result of more than 20 years of travelling to research the original smart settlements, through an architect’s lens.

She visited the Ma’dan people in Iraq, who weave buildings and floating islands from reeds; the Zuni people in New Mexico, who create “waffle gardens” to capture, store and manipulate water for desert crop farming; and the subak rice terraces of Bali. Watson walked the living tree-root bridges that can withstand adverse weather better than any human-made structure, and that allow the Khasi hill tribe in Northern India to travel between villages during the monsoon floods.” Writes Amy Fleming in The Guardian

And there are more and more examples of the application of these ancient methods popping up all over the globe – from Copenhagen where they have designed parks that can turn into lakes during times of flooding, to Makoko, Lagos, the city-on-stilts, that has a completely sustainable and solar-fuelled school.

Watson states that “Life on Earth is based upon symbiosis.” Rather than reinvent the wheel, let’s take what we’ve learnt and what we know works and compliment it with modern technologies. 

Then maybe we can create a smartest, dumbest city where even my mum might want to live!





Posted by: Brightsmith Recruitment