August 03, 2013  |  permalink

“The Future of Work” at the New Cities Summit

In addition to moderating one of the plenary sessions of the New Cities Summit (see below), I also chaired “The Future of Work” panel starring architect Edo Rocha, Mandalah CEO Lourenzo Bustani, coworking entrepreneur Erik Van Der Broek, and Rotterdam vice mayor Korrie Louwes. Video above.

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July 31, 2013  |  permalink

Video from the New Cities Summit

Last month in Sao Paulo, I moderated the BUILD panel at the New Cities Summit, starring the architect Daniel Libeskind, Ericsson’s Jan Wareby, Citi’s Jay Collins, Emaar’s Fahd Al Rasheed, and Sao Paulo developer Otavio Zarvos. The complete video from the session is above.

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July 29, 2013  |  permalink

Co.Design: Jeanne Gang To Build A Dorm That’s Hogwarts-Meets-The-Googleplex


(Originally published at Fast Company’s Co.Design on July 23, 2013.)

When your university’s unofficial motto is “where fun comes to die,” your upperclassmen might be forgiven for fleeing campus housing in droves. But as the University of Chicago discovered roughly a decade ago, such a dispersal ultimately harms both the campus culture and students’ ability to learn from each other. So, taking a page from Marissa Mayer’s HR manual at Yahoo, the university has commissioned Studio Gang Architects—and its MacArthur-certified “genius” principal and 2011 Fast Company Master of Design, Jeanne Gang—to build a $148 million residence hall designed to lure them back with the promise of pampering and 24/7 collaboration. It’s Hogwarts-meets-the-Googleplex.

The University of Chicago is famous for its Gothic architecture and infamous for its academic intensity. A cornerstone of student life is the house system, which subdivides residence halls into Dunbar’s Number-friendly “houses” of 75 to 100 students, each of which is comprised of an equal mix of first- through fourth-year students, plus a handful of live-in faculty. The resulting tribes have as much tradition (and rivalry) as Slytherin and Gryffindor. Today, barely half of all undergraduates live in houses, and of those, 80% are first- and second-year students, threatening to upset the equilibrium of the system. But the number of upperclassmen returning to campus is slowly increasing, and surveys indicate more would like to return, albeit on their own terms.

Hence Gang’s design for Campus North (as the new complex is colloquially known), which will house 800 students in eight houses, each with its self-contained “house hub,” a three-story lounge linked by cascading staircases practically begging residents to linger. “Everyone passes through the house hub,” says Gang, “so we literally thought of it as a house. Beyond three floors, you start to lose cohesion. So we’ve added a variety of spaces that all kinds of students can use for collaboration. Sometimes that’s chatting with one person—an upperclassman giving advice to a first-year—and sometimes that’s group study, or even group projects. It’s this entrepreneurial notion of collaboration—that great ideas come from being together.”

To lure third- and fourth-years back into the fold, Gang’s layouts include private apartments comparable in quality to her market housing—including her signature Aqua Tower—in addition to more traditional singles and doubles. Public amenities open to all residents include a penthouse “reading room,” courtyards, and a pair of “community commons” lounges, while the dining hall extends the Hogwarts theme with long tables devoted to each house.

Signaling another shift in the traditional notion of university campuses as worlds onto themselves, Campus North is meant to double as a “portal” to the surrounding neighborhood of Hyde Park. “I think the goal is how to take this insular, Gothic-style campus and make it more urban and connected,” Gang says. The solution was the “diagonal,” a boulevard running through the complex to the university’s Smart Art Museum and Henry Crown Field House.

Although known for its Gothic buildings, the university has in recent years commissioned a number of contemporary architects in addition to Gang, including Rafael Viñoly, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, and Helmut Jahn, whose Joe and Rika Mansueto Libarary is named after Mansueto Ventures’ (and Fast Company) owner.

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July 03, 2013  |  permalink

4 Weeks, 3 Continents, and 2 Hemispheres


Greetings from a tiny cabin in the Stockholm archipelago, where I’m recovering with my family after an intense month of travel. (But we still have WiFi, of course — one can’t quit cold, after all.) A quick recap:

• First up was Sao Paulo, for the New Cities Summit. (Please read the post below for more.) I had the pleasure of meeting (and moderating) the architect Daniel Libeskind, Emaar’s Fahd Al Rasheed, Ericsson’s Jan Wareby, architect Edo Rocha, and Mandalah founder Lourenco Bustani, among many others. I had the chance to bump into and catch up with Saskia Sassen, Cisco’s Wim Elfrink, the FT’s Simon Kuper, and Jones Lang Lasalle’s Rosemary Feenan. Before leaving, I ran into Daniel and Nina Libeskind again in the departure lounge of GRU (naturally).

• The next week took me to Los Angeles for the “Rumble,” the annual year-end review/party at UCLA’s Architecture and Urban Design school. I was invited to attend a day-long mini-conference devoted to “Divining Providencia,” Roger Sherman’s open-ended project to re-imagine the urbanism, economy, and institutions of Ecuador’s Amazonian basin in a last-ditch effort to prevent wholesale deforestation. Joining us was Roger’s counterpart at Pontificia Universidad Catolica Ecuador (PUCE), Santiago del Hierro Kennedy; the South America Project’s (SAP) Felipe Correa, Ana Maria Duran Calisto; and numerous special guest stars to critique the final projects of Roger’s students — four different attempts to imagine an alternative to the riverside truck stop that passes for Providencia now.


• If that wasn’t enough, from there it was off to Europe, where I gave four talks in four days in Amsterdam, London, Istanbul and Prague. The first three were organized by various chapters of the Urban Land Institute, including the opening keynote of the Europe Real Estate Trends conference to talk about my book, Heathrow, “Boris Island,” and why London probably has no choice but to pave a third (and even fourth runway) at Heathrow or else economic irrelevance. (Future Cities’ Rich Heap was kind enough to cover my London appearance.) Istanbul (pictured at top) was more exciting, where plans to build a new airport on the Black Sea is one of the mega-projects associated with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s efforts to pave over Istanbul and replace it with Dubai-on-the-Bosphorus. Finally, I flew to Prague to moderate and speak briefly at my friend Martin Barry’s reSITE conference devoted to cities and public space. (Pictured at left.)

• Finally, it was back to Los Angles for Extreme Ideas: Runway, the final installment in the Getty Foundation-sponsored series of events about the future of architecture. (I had been a panelist at the launch event in May.) Earlier in the day, I joined a passel of UCLA friends and faculty to discuss the future of architecture education and what it all means. (You haven’t lived until you’ve picked a fight with Thom Mayne.) The assembled brain trust made the day memorable, but the location made it magical: the Sheats-Goldstein Residence (pictured below), the house in Beverly Hills that John Lautner and Jimmy Goldstein’s money built. From there, it was a redeye back to New York and another redeye to Stockholm the next evening. My sleep deficit is steep.


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June 12, 2013  |  permalink

The BBC’s Click: A Route 66 of the Future


While in Sao Paulo last week for the New Cities Summit, I was fortunate enough to be asked by BBC World Service radio to provide color commentary for its weekly technology show, “Click.”

More than one million new people move to cities each week. It is an accelerating trend that has been going on for decades and has led to the creation of megacities. How do you move people around in such overcrowded places with creaking, overstrained transport systems? In part three of our special series, A Route 66 of the Future, Click travels to Sao Paulo in Brazil, at the start of an international New Cities Summit to hear some of the solutions proposed by technologists, architects and planners. Gary Duffy talks to a range of specialists, including John Rossant, the founder of New Cities Foundation and the architect Daniel Libeskind. There is also a report on the new monorail planned for the city, which will reduce journey times by more than a half; and the ground-breaking Apps to improve city life that were finalists at this year’s AppMyCity competition. Sao Paulo, a mega city with a population of 11 million, is known for its innovation. But it is also renowned for traffic jams that can be over 200 kilometres long. Can technology help to break the gridlock?

You can listen to the entire broadcast here.

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June 07, 2013  |  permalink

Aerotropolis on “Efecto Naim”

Moisés Naim is the Spanish-speaking world’s answer to Fareed Zakaria — a multi-platform pundit with columns in both Spain’s and Italy’s largest papers as well as “Efecto Naim,” his weekly foreign affairs program broadcast across the Americas.

This spring, I was interviewed for a lengthy segment on the aerotropolis, and while the program is in Spanish, you can hear me babbling beneath the overdub. The segment begins around the 1:30 mark.

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June 05, 2013  |  permalink

Fast Co.Exist: The Insane Growth of China’s And India’s Megacities

(Originally published at on June 3, 2013.)

Faced with the incomprehensible scale of worldwide mega-urbanization, observers have alternately fallen back on sheer numbers or city comparisons to drive home the speed at which cities in the developing world are growing. For example, New York University’s Shlomo “Solly” Angel projects the world’s urban population will double in 40 years, while urban land cover—including everything from skyscrapers to slums—will triple in size during that span. Grasping to put such numbers into context, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates China will build the equivalent of New York every other year for 20 years, while India needs to add the equivalent of a Chicago to its building stock annually.


The mind reels, but such comparisons tell us little about the truth on the ground—is the urban future of India more likely to look like Chicago or Dharavi (Mumbai’s famous slum) or something else completely? A satellite designed to measure ocean winds offers us a clue.

University of New Hampshire Earth system scientist Steve Frolking, together with researchers at Yale and Boston University, recently published a paper plotting the growth trajectories of a hundred cities over a decade, combining satellite data on the spread of city lights with recordings from the SeaWinds scatterometer mounted on NASA’s QuikSCAT planet observation satellite, which operated from 1999 until 2009. Typically used to measure the effects of wind on the oceans’ surface, the sensor’s microwave transmitter also bounced signals off the cities in its 1,800 kilometer-wide orbital path.

Frolking broke each city down into a grid, plotting each cell as an arrow with its trajectory rendered over time: the head corresponds to 2009, the tail to 1999. In doing so, we can see how each section of the city, from the exurbs to the CBD, changed over the decade in question. The longer the arrows extend horizontally means that the part of the city has expanded outward. The longer they extend vertically shows that the city is expanding upward, building more towers. The results tell three distinct stories about humanity’s recent urban evolution.

The first is that Indian cities—joined by many in Africa and Latin America—have sprawled out rather than up. Whether Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Kolkata, or Pune, the fastest growth occurred at the cities’ edges, while the core remains low-slung.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Frolking and company found that developed world capitals such as London, New York, and Tokyo added considerable mass and height to their skylines while growing slowly, if at all on the periphery.

And to no one’s surprise, China’s megacities did both. Not just Beijing and Shanghai, but also second-tier cities such as Shenzhen, Dongguan, Foshan, and Tianjin experienced patterns of growth that resemble no other nation on the planet—a point that paper co-author Karen Seto, who has studied Chinese urbanization for decades, drove home in her presentation at a “science of cities” confab at Arizona State University last month.

“I had never studied cities before, and what struck me was the fundamental difference in backscatter between China and India, where the population sizes are similar, but the pattern is totally different,” says Frolking. Because the SeaWind went offline in 2009 when its antenna failed, more recent data isn’t available, but Frolking is hopeful that a new Indian satellite may yield higher-resolution results. “This is still a really blurry view of the planet.”

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June 05, 2013  |  permalink

Engineering Serendipity on KCRW

A few weeks ago, while I was passing through Los Angeles, Frances Anderton was kind enough to have me appear on her show “DnA,” KCRW’s Design and Architecture program, to discuss my obsession du jour, “engineering serendipity.” Anderton’s skepticism made for a fun interview.

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June 01, 2013  |  permalink

Fast Company: The Best Cities Are Ones Where You Can Make Friends

(Originally published at on May 28, 2013.)

In 1964, the sociologist Melvin Webber suggested the city of the future would more closely resemble Amazon’s random-access warehouses than the canyons of Manhattan. Thanks to the car and its “door-to-door, no-wait, no-transfer, private, and flexible-route service,” Webber wrote, dense urban cores would give way to what he called “community without propinquity”—settlements spread unevenly across the landscape loosely bound together by social networks and freeways rather than sheer physical proximity. The result, he believed, would be unprecedented choice in how and where to live and who and how often to meet face-to-face—effectively anyone, anytime, anyplace.

Webber’s exurban vision quickly came to pass, but it’s taken almost 50 years to quantify the results. In a pair of recent papers, Steven Farber, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Utah, and his collaborators have proposed a new metric to measure the latent possibilities for community in cities without proximity: “social interaction potential.” SIP represents the intersecting slivers of space-time in which any random pair of a city’s residents can meet based on where they live, where they work, and, given those, how long they have to rendezvous.

Drawing on census data, travel times, employment densities, and land-use patterns among other statistics, Farber calculated the SIP of 42 U.S. metropolitan regions with at least a million residents. Unsurprisingly, the largest cities—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington—also boast the highest aggregate SIP scores. But once you control for size, all four cities underperform compared to smaller peers. For one thing, their vastness works against them—“super-commuters” to Manhattan, the District, or the Loop head straight home at the end of the day, sharply limiting their opportunities for happy hour.

But long commutes pale in comparison to two other factors: decentralization, which produced the edge cities of the 1980s and ‘90s, and the thin schmear of unchecked sprawl that flourished during the housing bubble. “The impact of decentralization is 20 times stronger than commute times,” says Farber. “It’s far more important to move people spatially to the same place than it is tagging on a few minutes to their commutes.” It would seem Melvin Webber was dead-on when it came to community-without-propinquity (especially in our current age of social media), but dead-wrong about the optimal urban form.

“Our results clearly show that more sprawling regions make it harder and harder for people to have social interactions with each other,” Farber adds. “One of the questions on my mind is the relationship between social equity and disparities in SIP. In American cities, I think there will be a huge disparity between those with and those without an automobile. There will be neighborhoods and communities designed for interaction only with the car in mind.” (They’re called “gated communities” for a reason.) “That’s a risky system to have where our success or social capital is contingent on driving around.”

That’s assuming, of course, that a city’s success and social capital are correlated closely with SIP. The usefulness of the metric depends on linking face-to-face encounters with higher quality of life and economic growth—which, given the rich body of literature on the subject from Jane Jacobs’s The Economy of Cities onward, seems likely.

Farber’s ultimate aim is to use SIP as a tool in shaping urban policy. Given that smaller, yet-compact cities such as Boston and Portland make better use of their potential—they’re populous enough to have SIP, while small enough spatially to enable short commutes to the center—he says: “I think the biggest bang for the buck is intensifying density in urban neighborhoods,” says Farber. “If you work in the center and live close to the center, you may have access to 150,000 people instead of 10,000. From there, the possibilities for interaction increase exponentially.”

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June 01, 2013  |  permalink

Extreme Intelligence: The Future of Thinking Environments


On May 22, I was fortunate to participate in a wide-ranging panel discussion with UCLA’s Neil Denari and Oblivion and Tron Legacy director Joseph Kosinski. The panel was part of Extreme IDEAS: Architecture at the Intersection, “a series of programs that chart a dynamic new future for architecture.” The inimitable Alissa Walker recapped the event:

Even though Lindsay’s book Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next seemingly predicts the sprawling, globalized megacities of Kosinski’s fantasy future-world, he thinks it won’t be the Minority Report reality we might envision. American cities, for example, have proven to their citizens that their governments aren’t going to make those massive top-down infrastructural investments in things like PreCrime anymore. More and more, cities are leaving the future to be largely shaped by private companies, a la Google’s Glass and self-driving cars. Which means that urban intelligence, especially those day-to-day interactions with technology, will largely be engineered by the creative people who work for those companies—designers and architects.

Ostensibly a talk about smart cities, instead we wandered into ruminations on science fiction, futurism, and more. Highlights from our talk, including my riffing on my obsession du jour, serendipity, are below.


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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, and speaker. He is a contributing writer for Fast Company and an author of the international bestseller Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next. He is also a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute, and a research affiliate of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI).

» More about Greg Lindsay

Articles by Greg Lindsay

Inc.  |  April 2014

The Network Effect

Atlantic Cities  |  March 2014

How Las Vegas (Of All Places) May Be About to Reinvent Car Ownership

Wired (UK)  |  October 2013

How to Build a Serendipity Engine

Next American City  |  August 2013

IBM’s Department of Education

The New York Times  |  April 2013

Engineering Serendipity

Fast Company  |  March 2013

Swedish Modern Comes To Town

Fast Company  |  March 2013

Working Beyond the Cube

Fast Company  |  December 2012/January 2013

Imagine Air Travel Without Hassle: Surf Air Can

WSJ  |  November 2012

Jeanne Gang

Fast Company  |  June 2012

That’s So Fly

Next American City  |  May 2012

Chartered Territory

The New York Times  |  Feburary 2012

Designing a Fix for Housing

Departures  |  October 2011

Instant Cities

Travel + Leisure  |  October 2011

The Future of Travel

The New York Times  |  September 2011

Not-So-Smart Cities

World Policy Journal  |  Fall 2011

Thus Spake Nano

Advertising Age  |  September 2011

Ad Age Insights: The Evolution of Facebook Brand Fans

Open Skies  |  July 2011

Paradise Lost: The Death and Strange Afterlife of Brasilia

WSJ  |  May 2011

Marc Newson on How Design Is Easy and Why You Can’t Make a Cappuccino on a Plane

WSJ  |  February 2011

Cities of the Sky

» See all articles


April 03, 2014

WPI: The Hidden Order of the Brave New World

March 27, 2014

The Takeaway: The Network Effect

March 27, 2014

Inc.: The Network Effect

March 22, 2014

92Y: Youth Think Tank

» More blog posts