Sense the City – Discovering the future with all your senses

Collage Urbane Zukunftsvisionen - adelphi

Today's big cities are gritty, loud and fast moving: streets dominate the cityscape, the grey of concrete is the dominant colour, and the noise of vehicles makes the pulse beat faster. Instead of lively architecture, new buildings are being built that look much alike. Instead of acceptance of an increasing variety of ways of life and circumstances, resentment towards anything "foreign" has become more evident. But does this have to be the case in the future?

Cities are places where society increasingly takes place and social concerns are discussed. But so far there is a lack of debate and a clear vision of the future city we want to live in and what we exactly we want to change. In times of complex challenges, positive visions and ideas of the future are particularly important in order to provide encouragement, to offer orientation and to promote an active shaping of change that corresponds to our own desires and needs. 

However, it is difficult for us to think about the future; especially one that not only represents the continuation of the present, but begins where tomorrow ends. Often, it is only the solution of small problems that comes to the foreground. Questions such as “What and where do we want to go in the long term?” are barely raised. We need a new, unconventional approach that allows people to envision the future with imagination and detached from the opinions of others.

The aim of Sense the City is to explore and uncover people's ideas and desires for the city of the future through the Level of senses. By asking how the city of the future should sound, smell or feel, we embark on a search for forms, colours, materials and atmospheres of the built environment as well as for ideas of future social coexistence.

The visions for the city of the future were developed in individual and group formats with around 400 citizens and experts from various disciplines, including architecture, psychology, philosophy, sociology, music and literature. Various sensory and future-oriented methods were used in vision talks and factories. Sensory stimuli and questions about emotions helped people to break out of conventional patterns of thought and to create a picture of the future that corresponds to their very own ideas and needs.

In cooperation with artists, authors and illustrators, the collected visions were narrated and brought to life. In addition, the project was continuously documented and scientifically evaluated. The results were then brought together in a method toolkit. The collected visions, the evaluation, and the method toolkit are all available on

adelphi is responsible for the conception and implementation of the project.

Publications of this project