In terms of human history, the process of urbanization, the development of cities and the emergence of city planning are relatively new. Consider the earliest cities—those which sprung up and thrived due to access to routes of commerce, the availability of trading resources and the placement of agricultural hubs. These cities developed naturally in accordance with what its inhabitants could cultivate from the earth or craft and exchange.

Today’s more integrated, globalized and advanced world eliminates the need for immediate proximity to natural resources, meaning the function of cities have changed along with what makes it possible for them to flourish. Now, in a shifting climate of blinking touchscreens, voice automation, alternative energy and modified food, cities rely on innovation and design to move forward. Across the globe, three cities are pushing the boundaries of invention and resourcefulness, emerging as leaders in imaginative and sustainable urban design.

Rotterdam

The evening fell over Rotterdam

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Rotterdam, recently lauded as an epicenter of innovation, has grown into a design gem of the Netherlands. As a city well versed in rebuilding (an unfortunate result of WWII bombings), Rotterdam is now gaining repute for its revitalized port and train station—and not to mention its colorful list of future projects, which include a floating dairy farm. Catalyzed by the efforts of environmentally conscious designers and imaginative architects, Rotterdam is creating points of interest that rival the Netherlands’ capital city, Amsterdam, and draw new fascination to the region.

Singapore

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With a population of more than 5.6 million contained in an island city-state, Singapore faces unique challenges related to space, energy consumption and efficiency. Finding solutions related to population density and commerce, Singapore has created a leading freshwater system for its citizens, seen a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions and has innovated a smart transportation system that constantly collects traffic and transport data. Sustainable but also sleek, Singapore’s green efforts have developed into the crafting of clever architectural sites with a global draw. Specifically, over the last two years, Singapore’s cutting-edge buildings and stylish high-rise offices have attracted international companies who seek high-impact design and local flavor.

Vancouver

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Vancouver, a well-established green city, is pioneering clean urban living with edifices meant to purify. In fact, starting in 2020, all of its architectural additions will be completely carbon neutral. This means Vancouver is pushing designers to reimagine structures as sustainable environments, where compelling design and functionality work hand in hand. Through the development of eco-conscious spaces and new building mandates, Vancouver draws not only talent, but businesses aimed at environmentally conscious business practices.

As cities highlight green architecture and attract with leading-edge urban design plans, underrated urban sites draw tourists, commerce and forward-thinking businesses.

Feature image: @florencebelmain