This talk argues that there is a gap separating planning practice and the technical and legal requirements that smart city technologies entail. A pertinent case is Quayside, Toronto, where Sidewalk Labs (part of Alphabet and a sister company of Google) and Waterfront Toronto (a three-level public governance agency) joined forces in the development of a new urban area. Ultimately abandoned in 2020, the experiences lasted for 2.5 years and offered generous testimonies of the conflicting demands of (private) urban technologies and (public) urban planning. Focusing on the 1500-page Masterplan, this paper outlines the principal points of attention (e.g., the setup of parallel authorities, control of procurement procedures and the setting of technical standards) and argues that these represent ‘gaps’ to which urban planning needs to develop a firm response, or else risk planning authority shifting away from public governance.
Guy Baeten is Professor of Urban Studies at Malmö University and is the Director of the Institute for Urban Research. He has previously worked at the universities of Lund, Oxford, Leuven and Strathclyde. Guy Baeten is interested in urban development projects and urban sustainability. He was the principal investigator of the FORMAS Strong Research Environment CRUSH — Critical Urban Sustainability Hub and has recently finished several projects that deal with smart urban environments, including an investigation of the Google plans for a new district in Toronto. Currently he investigates histories of the sustainability concept in Malmö urban planning and the notion of ‘liveability’ in a Nordic urban context.