Exhibit will explore future of cities

Sarah Thamer

A new traveling exhibit will explore the past, present and future of major U.S. cities.
 
Patrick Hamilton, a resident fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and director of global change initiatives at the Science Museum of Minnesota, is developing an exhibit that aims to create conversations about problems cities will likely face in the future.
 
By 2050, it is expected that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, which Hamilton said could drive innovation. He said for the first time in half a century, central cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul — rather than their suburbs — are growing in population.
 
But for the majority of time cities have existed, they’ve mostly been scattered and small, Hamilton said. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that they began to spring up all over the planet.
 
Today, cities have become centers for social, economic and political transformation and innovation, Hamilton said.
 
“There is something powerful about how cities can concentrate knowledge, expertise and wealth,” he said.
 
Hamilton said his project will tour for at least five years through 15 cities, starting in St. Paul. He said the exhibit will likely travel to cities like Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Ore.; and Philadelphia.
 
The exhibit, which is still early in the planning phase, will feature each city’s inventions along with predictions of their future landscapes and challenges. Hamilton said he is also exploring ways games can be embedded into the exhibits. 
 
Ryan Allen, an urban planning professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said large facilities and the jobs they provide could prompt rapid 
urbanization in the near future, underscoring cities’ importance.
 
Some cities are starting initiatives to make their spaces more modern and better equipped to address future problems. For example, http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?nid=5641http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?nid=5641
promotes a more sustainable environment by encouraging walking and bicycling. 
 
“We want to make cities more welcoming of everyone; we want to grow as a city and attract more people,” said Nora Riemenschneider, the economic development program coordinator for St. Paul. 
 
Creating a sustainable area is important in ensuring a more livable city, Riemenschneider said.
 
St. Paul is also working on transforming the site of a former car factory into an environmentally friendly and sustainable neighborhood. 
 
Right now, Hamilton is looking for funding for his project. He said he isn’t sure when the exhibit will be completed but said he hopes it will make people more involved in their city’s decision-making.
 
“The successful cities of the future will be those that resolve a big dilemma, the ones that are more livable for more people while dramatically reducing their environmental impact,” Hamilton said.