Smart cities
Smart cities

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Smart cities

2 A rich picture – Milton Keynes’ future challenges

One type of systems diagram is a rich picture. The idea of using pictures to explore issues is common to several problem-solving or creative thinking methods because we often communicate more easily in impressions and symbols than in words (The Open University, 2000). Pictures can both evoke and record insight into a situation.

Rich pictures are a useful tool for exploring the challenges your city faces, which is the first step to identifying a problem you want to solve in your smart city project.

Watch the following video which explores a rich picture of Milton Keynes.

Download this video clip.Video player: ou_futurelearn_smartcities_vid_1010.mp4
Skip transcript


When we want to discover future challenges in a city we need first to look at the challenges of the past and the present. In 1967 the village of Milton Keynes with its 15th century church and thatched cottages gave its name to a new town to be built in the UK in the county of Buckinghamshire between London and Birmingham. Medieval villages and hamlets as well as several existing towns were absorbed. And the development involved the purchase of thousands of acres of farmland. A set of cows sculpted in concrete by a local artist became synonymous across the UK with Milton Keynes concreted over fields.
Yet while detractors from outside the new town imagined a landscape devoid of culture and natural environment world respected architects and urban planners were creating a unique blend of ancient and modern. Their vision was a city in a forest. They combined strong modernistic design with parks and balancing lakes and a vast tree planting scheme. The Grand Union Canal gained a scenic waterside walk and the first Buddhist Peace Pagoda in the Western world was built here as a symbol of world brotherhood.
In less than 50 years Milton Keynes has grown into a significant regional centre whose scale and pace of development is unique in the UK.
The population has grown from 60,000 to 260,000. Further growth is underway with 1,750 new homes planned every year to 2026 taking the population to 300,000. So our rich picture shows some of these people. Farmers calculating the value of land, builders pricing new developments and entrepreneurs talking start-ups.
What else is happening in this community located conveniently between major travel links? What about travel within Milton Keynes? Well along with the concrete cows the grid system of dual carriageways and roundabouts is the other feature that seems to characterise the place. At least for people who've never visited. When you live here all it is is more traffic on the road which means congestion, road safety issues, increasing air pollution and carbon emissions. And there are special paths everywhere for cyclists, joggers and pedestrians called Redways. They're coloured red. Here are some happy people out for a bike ride. But it has to be said that the Redways can be lonely places after dark.
People have been known to get lost trying to find their way from one estate community to another and often it's just simpler to get in the car. Here are some people going to the cinema. The famous shopping centre. Going for a ski at the Snozone in the Xscape Leisure Centre. And over here the local football team, MK Dons, are playing at home. So what does all this activity mean for energy demand? There's increasing demand on the water system. How can we show water supply and sewerage? This makes the point. The need to build more new homes impacts on the local environment, again energy use, air pollution, carbon emissions and loss of biodiversity.
Are there enough bricks and enough skilled bricklayers? There's no denying the pressure on public services. A reduction in funding from central government and more jobs are needed. Here are some people outside the Jobcentre. But economic growth has been impressive. The city has the strongest 30 year growth rate in jobs and output of any UK city economy. It is still embracing new technologies such as this eco bus being charged. Milton Keynes remains an innovator.
End transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

What do you make of the rich picture in the video, which explores Milton Keynes – its growth as a city, its increasing complexity and the associated challenges?


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371