There’s something about the prospect of starting an entire city from scratch that’s sure to stir the imagination, evoking ideals of efficiency and future-forward design at it’s finest. Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects were recently presented with just such an honor when they won first place in an international competition to create a new sustainable city set on the Paljassaare Peninsula in Estonia. Dubbed Ecobay, the mixed-use development will provide a self-sustaining community complete with housing, schools, commercial districts, and daycare centers. Situated serenely overlooking the Baltic Sea, the new city will benefit from a diverse portfolio of clean energy sources and will house up to 6,000 citizens as it is completed over the next 15-20 years.
Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects’ Ecobay is grounded in a sterling sustainable approach to city development. Its mixed-use layout seamlessly integrates a variety of different districts to minimize the need for transportation, since “most key destinations are just a walk or bike ride away”. Structures will be carefully laid out to maximize solar gain while minimizing overshadowing, and residences will be held to high standards of efficiency. The city’s energy needs are accounted for via a variety of clean sources including wind farms, geo-thermal energy, and hydro-electricity.
With sustainable super-cities sprouting up left and right, we’re reminded that starting from a clean slate presents a unique opportunity to design developments that are paradigms of efficiency. Still, such idealized modern developments are hardly new, and even since le Corbusier designs like as these have been the center of much controversy. While they certainly present an organized and efficient vision of modernity, some staunch critics (most notably Jane Jacobs) have raised concerns that they may limit the organic self-organizing capacity of a city left to grow of its own accord. Since these super-funded cities are currently in the process of creation, it has yet to be seen how their communities will grow and develop.