Just like contemporary cities might be unrecognizable to previous generations, innovations are quickly turning yesterday’s pipe dreams into today’s reality. Be it high tech or low tech – any great idea can make cityscapes more functional, sustainable, or just plain cooler. Here are ten of this year’s most fantastic innovations, all great reasons to look forward to tomorrow.

Eindhoven University of Technology 3D printed concrete cycling bridge

a 3D printed concrete cycling bridge
The 3D printed concrete cycling bridge by Eindhoven University.
Photo: BAM Infra Nederland bv.

3D printing bridges the gap between product design and future fabrication, now the Eindhoven University of Technology uses the process to literally build physical bridges. An eight meter long cycling bridge of reinforced concrete, currently installed in the village of Gemert, Netherlands, is the first reported use of the tech for civil engineering, cutting down on CO2 emissions and using less material thanks to greater efficiency than traditional concrete forming techniques.

Studio Kota – 18 Peaks Pavilion

Based out of Jakarta and Hong Kong, architectural practice Studio Kota believes the best way to unite people in public spaces is to bring them under one roof. In the case of 18 Peaks Pavilion in the West Kowloon Cultural District of Hong Kong, that roof is porous, constructed of cables that create an artistic symmetrical web that represents the country’s 18 districts while invoking the city’s mountainous landscape.

people standing an playing under and in front of the 18 Peaks Pavilion
Uniting people under one roof: 18 Peaks Pavilion in Hong Kong.
Photo: Studio Kota

Teratoma – Plug a seat

Bollard posts are a necessary part of a streetscape and effective at controlling traffic flows and increasing sidewalk safety, but could be used for so much more. Madrid-based Teratoma Productions developed the Plug a seat, an aluminum sheet that fits on top of bollards to create a temporary bench structure or table that functions as street furniture.

Bollard posts with an aluminum sheet, that serves as a seat
Teratoma’s Plug a seat can be used as temporary bench or table.
Photo: Teratoma Productions

Gregory Quinn – Sheltair

In a time when conflicts leave hundreds of thousands without a roof over their heads, cheap and portable shelter is more important than ever. That’s where Sheltair comes in, Gregory Quinn’s doctoral thesis project at the Berlin University of Arts. It uses a minimal skeletal structure and a patchwork of air-filled cushions to greatly decrease cost and construction time and bring temporary relief from the elements to those most in need.

Sheltair : A skeletal structure and a patchwork of air-filled cushions
Skeletal structure and air-filled cushions: Sheltair from Berlin.
Photo: Jirka Jansch
inside of Sheltair
The temporary shelter started out as a doctoral thesis project.
Photo: Jirka Jansch

Space10 – Algae Dome

Furniture maker IKEA’s experimental arm Space10 tapped architects Aleksander Wadas, Rafal Wroblewski, and Anna Stempniewicz to create a dome spiraled with coiled tubes flowing with 450 liters of algae. The oxygen produced creates what they call a “sanctuary of fresh air,” but also has potential to be used in urban farming and biofuel creation.

a dome spiraled with coiled tubes
Coiled tubes flowing with 450 liters of algae: Space10`s Algae Dome.
Photo: Space10/ Niklas Adrian Vindelev
man taking a picture of the dome with a smartphone
The dome produces fresh oxygen.
Photo: Space10/ Niklas Adrian Vindelev

Omri Revesz’s Street Cinema

Few art forms connect people quite like cinema, especially when the films are projected in public places other than a traditional theater. Tel Aviv designer Omri Revesz’s Street Cinema installation for the Venice Art Biennale 2017 uses a collapsible modular wooden structure with a curtain exterior to create an immersive pop-up movie house experience without the hassle of cumbersome inflatable projection surfaces.

a collapsible modular wooden structure at the water front
Omri Revesz’s Street Cinema for the Venice Art Biennale 2017.
Photo: Nicolo Zanatta

People’s Industrial Design Office – Bike Share Farm

The People’s Industrial Design Office in Beijing has taken a mobile approach to urban farming with their Bike Share Farm. A pyramid-shaped frame equipped with solar panels and hydroponic tubing fits atop two interconnected bicycles, which allows the structure to be easily transported, taking sustainable farming anywhere people can pedal.

A pyramid-shaped frame on two bikes
Bike Share Farm may be the most mobile approach to urban farming.
Photo: PIDO
lettuce growing on the frame
Solar panels and hydroponic tubes let lettuce grow.
Photo: PIDO

Alan Nakagawa’s Street Perfumes

The streets of Los Angeles aren’t always associated with the nicest scents, but artist-in-residence Alan Nakagawa channels the city’s olfactory elements into a bus stop installation that sprays a perfume mist of one of three scents: “Into Town,” inspired by California sagebrush, “Economic Development,” featuring lavender and coffee, and “Hollywood Springtime,” with a burst of fresh flowers.

a box spraying perfume mist at a bus stop
Artist Alan Nakagawa has composed three fragrances for L.A. pedestrians.
Photo: Alan Nakagawa

Good2Go

Although it sounds a bit like the hare-brained iToilet app referenced in an episode of comedy hit show Curb Your Enthusiasm, Good2Go hopes to connect the germ aversed with clean and modern bathrooms. The pilot program in San Francisco partners with cafes like Peet’s to offer a seamless bathroom experience, complete with online queue and a totally hands-free experience, from opening the door to flushing to washing up.

a person drinking coffee and using the Good2Go app
Good2Go shows the way to clean and modern public bathrooms.
Photo: Good2Go

Smart Palm

Palm trees traditionally invoke a nostalgia for simpler, more natural times, but as citizens’ needs change, so must the flora. The Smart Palm project creates a mock metal tree structure equipped with solar panels that power a charging station, wi-fi hotspot, infrared camera, and digital touch screen.

Chances are that it can be seen outside Dubai`s city limits soon, the place it was originally invented for. Still – unlike its natural original, the Smart Palm doesn´t require desert climate to thrive.

Smart Palm: a mock metal palm tree structure equipped with solar panels
The Smart Palm comes with charging station, hotspot, camera, and touch screen.
Photo: D Idea