Globally, over 50% of the population lives in urban areas today, and this trend is expected to continue — by 2045, the number of people living in cities will increase by 1.5 times to 6 billion, adding 2 billion more urban residents.

With more than 80% of global GDP generated in cities, urbanization can contribute to sustainable growth if managed well by increasing productivity, allowing innovation and new ideas to emerge.

Though the chaos of quantification of cities should make the 50-percent-urban statistic unusable, the larger question is what the number hides.

However, the speed and scale of urbanization brings challenges, including meeting accelerated demand for affordable housing, well-connected transport systems, and other infrastructure, basic services, as well as jobs, particularly for the nearly 1 billion urban poor who live in informal settlements to be near opportunities.

Cities also play an important role in tackling climate change, as they consume close to 2/3 of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As cities develop, their exposure to climate and disaster risk also increases. Almost half a billion urban residents live in coastal areas, increasing their vulnerability to storm surges and sea level rise.

We are about to ride the next enormous wave of city building and economic growth

We are about to ride the next enormous wave of city building and economic growth

Some existing cities will get bigger and there’s important work being done by smart people to improve them. We also think it’s possible to do amazing things given a blank slate. Our goal is to design the best possible city given the constraints of existing laws.

There are many high-level questions we want to think through, for example:

  • What should a city optimize for?

  • How should we measure the effectiveness of a city (what are its KPIs)?

  • What values should (or should not) be embedded in a city’s culture?

  • How can cities help more of their residents be happy and reach their potential?

  • How can we encourage a diverse range of people to live and work in the city?

  • How should citizens guide and participate in government?

  • How can we make sure a city is constantly evolving and always open to change?

And there are tactical questions we want to dig into, for example:

  • How can we make and keep housing affordable? This is critical to us; the cost of housing affects everything else in a city.

  • How can we lay out the public and private spaces (and roads) to make a great place to live? Can we figure out better zoning laws?

  • What is the right role for vehicles in a city? Should we have human-driven cars at all?

  • How can we have affordable high-speed transit to and from other cities?

  • How can we make rules and regulations that are comprehensive while also being easily understandable? Can we fit all rules for the city in 100 pages of text?

  • What effects will the new city have on the surrounding community?

What will the city of the future look like? Don’t head to the cinema to glimpse the future city. Instead plan a visit to Istanbul, Songdo or Singapore. Each city’s depth and individuality will astound you, but also the ingenuity with which the challenges of overcrowding, depleted sources and stagnant economic growth have been met. Future cities seek inspiration from disruptive technology and innovation, an absolute need to rely on progressive energy sources, and from engaged citizens. Whether finding the answer in being a car-free city or regenerating water, the future city is smart, green, and efficient.

Fifty percent of the world’s population isn’t living in a version of Manhattan.

Here we invite you to listen to 5 of the best TED Talks about this complex and fascinating topic. Because humanity’s future is the future of cities.


Thanks for reading! :)

BLOGOndrej Chudy