The Aura City

Data-rich urban environment design.

More than half of the world population lives in cities. The development cannot be stopped. Project Aura City critically approaches and questions the future development of the economy driven by technology.



It is 2113. Cities have undergone profound change. By around 2050 urban population had grown dramatically and resources were scarce. Despite attempts to achieve sustainability, human obsession with owning resources lead to the collapse of society. The first wave of hope came in the form of collaborative consumption. This had begun decades before but only minorities had engaged. Citizens started to share their resources to ensure access to shelter, food and transport. Ownership had become an old luxury.

In the beginning the sharing economy enabled encounter, trust and social capital. But desire for efficiency and optimization lead to the development of highly sophisticated sharing systems that precluded social interactions.

Gradually, equipped with all sorts of sensors capable of recording information from brain activity to visual stimuli, smells and somatic experiences, we began to remotely share the most sensible data about our human experience.

As time passed by the streets were empty, people lost agency with the physical world and with others. Public funding was given to researchers working on interactive systems to foster social connectedness.

Now it is 2113 and this is our second wave of hope. Wearing our new technologies, we have achieved ultimate connectivity: we enjoy augmented experiences as long as we sync our senses with others in proximity. Sharing visual data requires that people look in each other’s eyes; sharing feelings can only occur if people actually touch. Even memories can be shared, but this data is only unlocked when two or more users reach certain levels of specific neuromodulators. In a society that relies on data sharing for most of its processes reputation needs to be quantified. Personal Aura points determine your aggregated reputation and whether others can trust you for sharing or not. In an Aura economy, finally, what you give is what you get.

Mara Balestrini, Sandro Engel, Ena Hadžić and Assunta Matassa have designed a design fiction concept about a new hybrid citizen and the way he lives and interacts with the world around him. The project was designed during the UrbanIxD Summer School under the guidance of Tobias Revell and Sara Božanić.

In July, the Aura City project was presented at the UrbanIxD exhibition at the gallery of The City Museum of Split, Croatia. The same exhibition was also be held in September at the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, Italy and in 2015, at the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO) in Ljubljana.