THE CITY OF THE FUTURE IS BORN TODAY
In recent years, we often hear expressions such as “smart city”, “city comfortable for living”, “sustainable development of territories”. What is behind these concepts?
The easiest way is to look up on the Internet and find the already established definitions. International experts have identified eight key aspects that define a “smart city” that include smart governance, smart energy, smart home, smart mobility, smart infrastructure, smart technology, smart healthcare and smart citizen. But how does it affect urban planning? Are we talking about reconstruction of existing cities or construction of new ones that are fundamentally different from the traditional models?
Turkmenistan answers this pressing question. White marble Arkadag became the first city of national importance on the political map of the country. In just a few years, the initiative of the National Leader of the Turkmen people, Chairman of the Khalk Maslakhaty of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov to build the country’s first “smart city”, integrating several information and communication technologies and the Internet to manage all city systems, has come true. The goal of such an ambitious plan is obvious – taking quality of people life to a fundamentally different level.
A high-tech modern urban settlement with its own rules, built from scratch on the empty land, appears to be a very bold urban solution. Such a city is managed using the artificial intelligence and robotics. Electric vehicles for personal mobility and bicycles with no harmful emissions will be used on the city streets instead of conventional transport! Ecology is a top priority. A “smart city” must use various types of renewable energy, and above all solar. There are no landfills, garbage damps or incinerators. All waste will be recycled, and nothing should endanger the health of citizens. This is what an ideal city of the 21st century should be like!
The State Committee for Construction of the City of Arkadag was established for the practical implementation of this idea, and the best specialists from design and contraction organizations were engaged. Several construction enterprises – members of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Turkmenistan were selected on a competitive basis to build houses and facilities. All of them were up to the task, and in the early morning of June 29, 2023, a solemn ceremony of “registration” of Arkadag in the register of cities of the country took place with participation of President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedov.
Construction of the second phase of the new city is coming. Tenders have been announced for the design and construction of a number of new facilities, in which, as in the first phase, domestic entrepreneurs take active part.
The national construction business enjoys a very well-developed segment, such as production of all kinds of materials. It is a requirement that environmentally friendly building materials that comply with relevant regulations should be used in construction of not only the city of Arkadag but also all architectural structures in Turkmenistan. The list of building materials of various shapes and types that meet modern standards is quite extensive. Innovative building materials will be used in construction of facilities under the second phase, just like in the first one. All this architecture can be referred to such a universal concept as “green building”.
The 21st century is a time of a more responsible attitude towards the environment and the commitment of states to sustainable development. The trend of erecting “green” buildings that are as much comfortable and safe as possible, in harmony with the environment, has become perhaps the most important feature of the digital age in which we live. The green building concept focuses on healthy living and responsible consumption for the benefit of future generations. This concept is associated with solving a number of global problems, such as climate change.
Environmental protection is one of the top priorities of the social policy of Turkmenistan. This is clearly evident in the city of Arkadag, where even public transport consists of electric cars and electric buses, with no place to cars with internal combustion engines. And finally, this is about a large-scale landscaping campaign as part of the 2021–2025 National Forestry Program of Turkmenistan. For example, in the second phase of construction, trees of various species and vineyards will be planted along the perimeter of the city.
From an architectural point of view, Arkadag is a great embodiment of the idea of a new regular housing construction subordinated to a harmonious aesthetic program. Wide straight streets combined with circular and diagonal lines, spacious squares and future parks are fit in a rectangle that circumscribes the territory of the city. The prevalence of axial symmetry is observed not only in the layout but also in the architecture of buildings. This is, above all, evidence of commitment to the urban discipline and the desire to balance all areas and visibly outline the administrative and cultural center.
In the second phase of construction of Arkadag, a residential complex comprising 72 five-story, 24 seven-story and 14 nine-story buildings will be built on an area of about 300 hectares. There will be erected nine kindergartens and five secondary schools, two city amusement parks, a health center, a district administration building, a fire station, a shopping and entertainment multifunctional center, a railway station and a bus station. It is planned to lay about two hundred kilometers of pipelines for technical and drinking water supply, irrigation, closed drainage, sewerage and mudflow protection systems, 20 kilometers of gas pipelines, 150 kilometers of power transmission lines, 100 kilometers of communication lines. It is also planned to build and reconstruct about 40 kilometers of roads with interchanges. And, naturally, the area of the city under construction will also be covered with a fiber-optic network for high-quality Internet. This means that “smart” technologies will immediately begin to work there too.
Digital components of social and cultural aspects of life change its perception, forming information consciousness, developing a person as an individual. And Turkmenistan is confidently following the path of innovative growth, developing technical support in the field of communication technologies. And the “smart” city of Arkadag becomes an example of establishing an urban organism not only for the country but also for the entire Central Asian region.
We bear witness to how the formation of a happy city is moving from the realm of fantasy into reality thanks to the all-out digitalization. And one cannot do without taking into account the international experience and those innovative ideas that have already been introduced in other countries. Moving away from the concept of “vertical” cities in favor of “horizontal” ones is the main trend in urban planning of the 21st century. This type of development is much more effective from the point of view of human safety if one needs to maintain social distance during a pandemic or to be evacuated during natural disasters. The city of Arkadag takes into account the global trend towards constructing two-, five- and nine-story houses on average, especially in countries with hot climates, which is a kind of compromise between large-panel high-rise buildings and conventional one-story buildings.
A “smart” city must ensure a flexible and reliable relationship between humans and the natural environment to survive the conflict between technology and nature and withstand the real prospect of ecological imbalance. This means that modern urban planning systems should provide for a kind of natural infrastructure, a hierarchical system of elements of the natural environment – from individual trees to forest parks, with reservoirs adjacent to the areas of non-urbanized territories. In this regard, it is important not only to consider the environmental, sanitary, hygienic and other special aspects of such approach but to the great extent its general humanistic nature. Elements of the natural infrastructure of each city become an instrument for its radical reorganization, renewal and improvement of the urban environment. It is exactly this kind of ecological rethinking of the urban planning tradition that is associated with the formation of new images of the “smart city” of the future that are in many ways unusual and unpredictable in their specificity.
The construction of Arkadag proved that Turkmenistan has all the necessary prerequisites for the implementation of such projects. A legislative and regulatory framework for urban planning is being formed in the country to ensure the sustainable development of urban and rural settlements, taking into account new socio-economic conditions. The laws of Turkmenistan “On urban planning activities” and “On architectural activities” define the basic principles of the state strategy on creation of a full-fledged living environment and human activity, sustainable development of populated areas. These program documents are aimed at improving and developing the existing settlements, intensifying the development of urban and rural habitats, stimulating the development of small and medium-sized cities, developing suburban areas for local recreational activities and much more that is necessary to ensure a prosperous and happy life for the country’s citizens.