Oh, and Akon City will run on ‘AKoin,’ a proprietary cryptocurrency, as a trial run for whether digital currency can be better integrated into Africa as a whole. The new city is being pitched as sustainable, and when complete in 10 years, will be the first LEED-certified project in Africa. Because the project is being touted as a tourism city, SAPCO, the state-owned tourism agency, is co-developing the project with Akon. While the designer for Akon City hasn’t been announced yet, from the renderings, the aesthetic seems to borrow heavily from the biomorphic, parametrically-designed structures found in other smart city proposals. At the heart of the development will be two sculptural, interlocking towers with a large void between them, reminiscent of Zaha Hadid Architects’ recent work in Beijing. A large manmade lake and promenade will front a curvy center and will join undulating glass tower complexes. While concrete details about the city’s makeup are sparse, the project will reportedly feature a mixture of residential and commercial areas. According to CNN, Akon City is only a five minute drive from Senegal’s new international airport, which opened in 2017. The project is being rolled out in phases, with the second phase set to begin in 2025. While it may seem far-fetched, integrating blockchain technology into city building has been gaining traction in recent years—though none of the projects have been successfully realized yet. Tom Wiscombe Architecture and Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC) are designing a 100-square-mile city powered by Bitcoin-competitor Ethereum in the Nevada Desert, and The Orbit in Ontario is expanding a town that was an early adopter to cryptocurrency into a full-fledged smart city.
Just finalized the agreement for AKON CITY in Senegal. Looking forward to hosting you there in the future pic.twitter.com/dsoYpmjnpf— AKON (@Akon) January 13, 2020
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The Orbit is also following in the footsteps of the earlier proposed project in Toronto by Sidewalk Labs. An offshoot of Alphabet Inc., Sidewalk Labs has redesigned the old industrial waterfront district of Quayside to resemble an Innovative Development and Economic Acceleration (IDEA) district. Both Canadian plans are idealistic in nature and check many of the boxes required for sustainable and sensitive development in contemporary discourse. However, their main drawback is that they are digital master plans, and their biggest ideas, from infrastructure to real estate, require the intervention and cooperation of many different parties—these outside partnerships undermine the authoritative leadership proposed by a utopian plan and jeopardize the guarantees the designers see (although Sidewalk Labs is definitely making progress).