What’s Montreal’s IQ? : Antoine Picon Mellon Lecture on Smart Cities

Antoine Picon Mellon lecture. Photo Kim Hachey. Antoine Picon Mellon lecture. Photo Kim Hachey.

On May 1, Antoine Picon gave a lecture on the challenges and benefits of having “smart” cities in today’s society. Picon is a professor at the prestigious Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and has written numerous books related to architecture. His lecture, which was held at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, concluded the cycle of a lecture series featuring international scholars. These lectures are part of the Mellon program, which has as its goal to generate fresh thinking and innovative ideas in the community.

One of Picon’s main points was that smart cities are already partly a reality. The “smart” from smart cities is understood as a type of non-human intelligence, an advanced technology such as what we see in works of science fiction. But yet, as Picon explained, they are not so fetched from reality. However, with smart cities, the architect is not as present; questions then arise as to how design can successfully contribute to their conception and creation.

Picon explains that smart cities are “sentient cities,” where there is a multiplication of information. In such cities, “what happens” is the most important part. Events and stimulation of the senses are crucial, and even the architecture itself becomes a kind of event.

smart city map

smart city map

A big topic when discussing smart cities is parking. Finding a way to make parking more efficient and pleasant is a central matter. There are already technological advances regarding circulation (level of traffic) and trash (which areas are most concentrated). Smart cities can be highly useful, but there is the paradox of the individual vs. the digital. Many people, according to Picon, believe that artificial intelligence is the next step when discussing smart cities.

As interesting and innovative as smart cities can be, there are problems with them. There are issues of sustainability, recycling, aging of the city (or lack thereof), and the fact that they are aimed at a certain group of people (smart and creative, specifically). Smart cities are not just a product of science fiction, but are very much present among us. As Picon put it, “smart cities exist because we want them to exist.”

Antoine Picon spoke at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (1920 Baile) on May 1. 6-7 p.m. For upcoming events at the CCA, click HERE.