Future Cities Laboratory (FCL)


Sustainable Future Cities: Through Science, By Design, In Place


Future Cities Laboratory is a research programme established by ETH Zurich and Singapore’s National Research Foundation that aims to develop new knowledge, technologies, and approaches for a sustainable urban future with an Asian perspective.

Through Science

To achieve sustainability, science is essential. Science provides the basis for understanding how cities develop and interact with the environment at different spatial scales. A city is a complex system with a quantifiable ‘metabolism’ composed of diverse stocks and flows of resources. The scientific focus of FCL’s research is to quantify and understand that metabolism, and how it is best structured and organised for the benefit of sustainable cities.

By Design

A sustainable city must also be liveable. To achieve liveability, good design is essential. Good design should translate scientifically sound solutions into plans for urban environments that are socially and economically viable. The design component of FCL’s research focuses upon the quality of life–well-being, comfort, convenience, security, and satisfaction–that cities offer to their inhabitants, while ensuring that solutions contribute to urban sustainability.

In Place

Science and design are effective only if they serve places and the lives that are lived in them. Places result from differentiating factors (geography, culture, language, history) and common processes (growth and decline; competition and cooperation; ebb and flow of capital, people, goods, technologies and ideas; climate change).

Programme Structure

Our research focuses on lived places in forms of city that are important in Asia:
Compact cities: with very high population densities, like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taipei
Responsive cities: wireless, sensor, and broadband-enabled technologies improve planning and management in cities like Singapore, Copenhagen, and Zurich.
Extended cities: with a mosaic of urban and rural land-use, and locally high densities; the dominant urban form in Asia, such as Bangkok, Jakarta, and Manila


The key outcomes of the Future Cities Laboratory are:
• Science-based approaches to design and planning
• Application of technologies in diverse kinds of city in Asia
• Design scenarios for sustainable urban development
• Curriculum development