Future Cities: Beyond Science Fiction


Photograph of future City-scapeOverview:
This course explores current thinking on cities of the future. You will reflect on sci-fi depictions of cities in film and influential novels, and then consider the influence of the 'futuristic' urban designer Le Corbusier and scientific experiments including BIOS and Biosphere 2.

Looking to the future, examine the kinds of architecture that will turn current urban environments into eco-cities and what we need to consider before supporting plans for urban development, and the possibility of building short-term life-sustaining structures in space.

Target audience:
This course will appeal to anyone, especially to people who are curious about what may be coming or are looking for a bit of creative inspiration.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this course, you will have:

  • Considered a range of possible engineering and design approaches to the architecture of cities in the future.
  • Discussed how certain models may be more (or less) relevant to our current lives and why some of these models may be useful to us in the near future.
  • Explored the influence of Science Fiction upon how engineers and computer scientists have imagined new technologies.

Course outline:
Each session includes a lecture presentation with time for questions and group discussion.

Session 1: What will they look like? Utopian/Dystopian Dichotomies vs. Real Eco-cities

  • Science Fiction, BIOS and Biosphere 2 and their equivalents.
  • Successful models already in place.

Session 2: How will they work? Engineering and Design of Urban life

  • Improving on past visions of “futuristic” urban environments.
  • Constructing new ways to inhabit old cities.

Week 3: Who will pay for them? Start-Up Culture and emergent Business Models

  • Design thinking and generating resources to fund ventures.
  • Solving problems and improving the quality of life.

Week 4: Where will they be built? Humans in Space, on the Moon, and on Mars

  • New technologies of travel and corresponding forms of government.
  • Conserving the Earth and the possibilities of life in space.


David White is a historian and education professional with a degree in History and Journalism from the University of Kansas. He has taught courses about transformative social movements, exploration, technology, and innovation for the Centre for Lifelong Learning at Victoria University of Wellington.

Nancy Marquez has a PhD in History from Victoria University of Wellington and is a currently pursuing a second MA, this time in Literary Translation with the School of Languages and Cultures. She has many interests within the history of science and is drawn to topics where technical know-how and elegant design produce new ways of experiencing the world.

“I appreciated the course tutor [David] not assuming prior knowledge and pitching information at an appropriate level]”, Ten Protest Movements that Changed the World (2018)

“Really enjoyed it particularly with participants able to ask questions and have dialogue with the lecturer [David]”, Ten Protest Movements that Changed the World (2018)

“Nancy was keen to encourage discussion”, European Baroque Influences in East Asia, 1557-1815 (2019)

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140
Phone 04 463 6556, Email: conted@vuw.ac.nz

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.