Yegor and Mikhail on the City as a Service

Yegor Korobeynikov and Mikhail Belyaev from Aventica spoke on how to design new urban experiences. They used the case study of Innopolis, a newly established city in Russia designed specifically to attract highly skilled technology workers.

One of the questions asked during the Q&A afterward captured my general sentiment. The questioner asked “is this a real thing, or is this fiction? Because it sounds incredible.” He was referring to the idea of creating a new city from whole cloth for a particular target market with no established services or infrastructure. Which, to be fair, seems a lot harder than trying to update an existing city literally anywhere else in the world.

To me it sounded like the company towns of the late 19th and early 20th centuries where timber or mining organizations would establish temporary communities on the frontier for their workforce. These company towns were built around the commodities they were extracting. Innopolis seems like an updated version for the 21st century to attract tech workers, but since tech can be done anywhere it’s hard to imagine a fabricated city being a better draw than actual cities with actual culture.

Yegor and Mikhail shared several examples of city-based services from around the world and then moved into the idea of the city itself as a service looking at the macro-level, mid-level and micro-level across social, information, services and the physical realm. Many of the ideas seemed like scaled up versions of a college campus where every conceivable amenity, from food and entertainment to housing and utilities are available in one place.

There’s also a bit of resonance with the planned, walkable communities that are a facet of New Urbanism pioneered by Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. Those places are built around design guidelines that are desirable but rare in the modern world. The Innopolis example seems much more centrally controlled than places like Seaside, Florida or McKenzie Towne in Calgary. I’m curious to see how it unfolds.

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