November 01, 2021  |  permalink

On the Road Again, Or: What I Learned On My Biennale Vacation

It’s been a long, loooooong time since I posted an update from the road, but not even Delta (as in the variant, not the airline) could deter me from traveling to New York, Chicago, San Antonio, and Tirana-Venezia-Torino this fall. Here’s a quick recap of what I’m doing, where I’ve been, and where I’m going:

1. In late September, I flew to New York to host the second installment of NewCities’ Greenfield Cities Alliance Dialogues 2021, a series of live- and virtual events exploring the post-pandemic strengths and weaknesses of master-planned urban megaprojects. While the first edition focused on the viability of such projects in general, the New York City event — held at Cornell Tech’s Roosevelt Island campus, a greenfield project within a greenfield project — focused on “sustainable urban mobility systems of the future.” From NewCities’ description:

On September 23, 2021, NewCities convened the second edition of the Greenfield Cities Alliance Dialogues 2021 in New York City at Cornell Tech’s Verizon Center in partnership with the university’s Urban Tech Hub. Titled “Sustainable Urban Mobility Systems of the Future,” this installement explored how greenfield city projects might act as proving grounds for the proper balance of local-, walkable- and regional-, high-speed transportation systems of the (near-) future.

The session began with a keynote address by Canadian-American transportation planner Adam Giambrone, who ran projects in Toronto, New York, and Riyadh before joining the Saudi greenfield city project NEOM as its Director of Regional and Urban Mobility. In his opening remarks, Giambrone paid particular attention to The Line — an audacious plan to create a 140 kilometer-long urban corridor combining high-speed transit strung with local nodes of “five-minute cities” along its trunk.

Following his presentation, he was joined by ITDP CEO Heather Thompson and Starbust Co-Founder and COO Van Espahbodi to explore and debate the particulars of NEOM’s proposal, which recalls both Hong Kong’s extreme urban-rural divide and utopian projects such as Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti, which sought to limit urban sprawl across the deserts of Arizona through its desert “arcology” concept.

During their subsequent discussion, the panelists debated the appropriate speeds- and scales of urban movement; how to balance the sheer audacity of building greenfield cities with the need to sustain existing urban systems; and even how to reconcile the energy intensity of our desires to move and to travel with the early pandemic-era lesson that the fastest way to decarbonize society is to simply sit still. How do we resolve these tensions in the face of decades of climate change?

(left to right: Greg Lindsay, Heather Thompson, Van Espahbodi, Adam Giambrone)

2. That trip was bookended by my opening keynote at the National Association of Realtors’ inaugural C5 Summit. But I’ve covered that already.

3. My October (Archtober?) kicked off with my first visit to Albania for Tirana Design Week, which was exciting and inspiring in equal measure. You can watch my opening address here, but it doesn’t capture the thrill of visiting Tirana, which has the unique charm of a European capital that’s still waking up from history. Big thanks to POLIS University’s Dr. Rudina Toto, Dr. Dritan Shutina, and Rector Besnik Aliaj for inviting me!

4. From Tirana, it was off to Venice, where I arrived at sunset — just in time to catch a vaporetto across the lagoon at dusk (below). There, I met up with my old friend Daniel Safarik to tour churches, drink spritzes, launch a podcast, and finally visit my Venice Architecture Bieannale team’s “station” in the Arsenale. (Photographic proof at top.) Other highlights included the Japan Pavilion’s “Co-ownership of Action: Trajectories of Elements,” in which a 1954 wooden home was demolished/disassembled, digitally tagged, and shipped to Venice, with a team of artisans using elements to fashion new furniture. I snagged a stool, knowing Sophie would appreciate giving new life to splinters of a beloved home within our own.

5. From there, we hopped the train to Turin for Utopian Hours, an urban conference co-hosted by Torino Stratospherica’s Luca Ballarini, who had graciously invited me twice before — it figures the third time would be the charm in a pandemic. Luca invited to me present on our Biennale theme of “open collectives,” so I was joined onstage virtually by my MIT teammates Rafi Segal and Marisa Moran Jahn, along with Quipu’s Mercedes Bidart (pictured on screen below). Joining me in person was DisCO Coop’s Irene Lopez de Vallejo, who shared her team’s vision for blockchain-powered digital cooperatives. Dan and I were also joined by reSITE’s Alexandra Siebenthal, host of the Design and the City podcast, for more cities talk over spritzes.

6. In between everything, I mastered the skill of being two places at once, with virtual talks for Belgrade’s Smart Cities Festival and NYU’s Rudin Center on flooding and public transportation, along with a deeply ironic interview about climate change with Esri CEO and co-founder Jack Dangermond, which took place in my Venice palazzo hotel room during aqua alta, i.e. the city’s periodic flooding during king tides.

But my favorite virtual talk of the fall was with the office of the Mayor of Buenos Aires (below), in which I was one of several experts (including Harvard’s David Zipper) discussing how best to carry forward pandemic-era investments in converting streets to public space, active transportation, and more.

It was a little wild to deliver one talk before rushing to the airport and another shortly before an hour-long talk in person, but that’s how things go these days.

7. Once back across the Atlantic, I rounded out the month with trips to Chicago and San Antonio, first to speak to 700+ members of Worldwide ERC comprising an entire industry of mobility and relocation experts who I desperately wish I had known when I emigrated to Montréal. Many thanks to CEO Lynn Shotwell (bottom) for inviting me (and for TikTok dancing with me.)

Finally, I flew to San Antonio to speak with the members of the Municipal Advisory Council of Texas — the municipal debt folks — hopefully inspiring, probably scaring, and definitely provoking the audience with a vision of post-pandemic cities.

Next up: CoMotion LA in Los Angeles Nov. 16-18. Hit me up if you’re around, and if you’re not, register for this free Webinar on Nov. 30 hosted by The Economist on future-proofing sustainable cities.

It’s good to be back.


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October 28, 2021  |  permalink

Introducing Unfrozen

As if I didn’t have enough podcasts on my plate (here and here) I’ve teamed up with my old friend Daniel Safarik to launch another, Unfrozen. Inspired by How Long Gone, but riffing about architecture and urbanism rather than green juice, we started it on a lark while visiting Venice last month. The first episodes are out (and available below). Here’s what you’re missing:

1. Greg and Dan successfully make it to the 2020 > 2021 Venice Biennale, on their fourth attempt, only to find it is closed on Mondays. Fortunately, there are other things to talk about and see.

2. Greg and Dan visit the Venice Biennale and share their thoughts on “How Will We Live Together?”

3. Greg, Dan and special guest Alexandra Siebenthal, host of the Design in the City Podcast by reSITE, convene in Turin, Italy, to discuss their “redpill” moments that got them hooked on architecture and urbanism, and what they’re looking forward to seeing at Utopian Hours, the urban design festival held 8-10 October, 2021.

More episodes, and more guests, to come!

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October 26, 2021  |  permalink

threesixtyCITY Returns

Podcasts are the new television, at least when it comes taking the summer off and airing fresh episodes in the fall. So it goes with NewCities’ threesixtyCITY, which returned when the leaves started to turn. Airing live on Wednesdays at 12 PM Eastern on NewCities’ Facebook page and repackaged as audio-only podcasts later, the fall season stars Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather (above) — a self-described remote work climate migrant from the wildfire-ravaged Pacific northwest to a lakeside village in Wisconsin — urban surveillance critic Rebecca Williams (below), and air pollution expert Jeffrey Smith, among others. Watch this space, as the fall season runs through the holidays.

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October 25, 2021  |  permalink

The Fast Forward Podcast’s Fall Season

CoMotion’s Fast Forward podcast returns for its fall season with a new co-host — the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Julia Thayne DeMordaunt — and a new slate of guests, including ClearRoad CEO Frederic Charlier (listen above), Swiftmile CEO Colin Roche (below), and RedBlue Capital managing partner Olaf Sakkers (bottom).

As CoMotion LA (Nov. 16-18) approaches, expect more episodes on urban air mobility, autonomous vehicles, and more. Watch this space — or listen, rather.


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October 16, 2021  |  permalink

“Searching for the American Dream? Go to Canada”

My buddy Parag Khanna blew my cover in the The Globe and Mail:

In the early 2010s, my colleague Greg Lindsay and I set out to answer the question, “Where will you live in 2050?” The answer could simply have been “high-tech cities,” but which ones? Some will be sites of predatory surveillance while others will allow residents to preserve some privacy. Some will be in areas resilient to climate change, while others may well have been submerged by then. Some will have thriving service economies and lively culture, while others will have become the discarded “factory towns” such as those littered across Michigan. As we scanned the world for geographies that offer abundant freshwater, progressive governance, and could attract talent to innovative industries, we decided on … Michigan.

More broadly, we pointed to the emergence of a “New North,” a collection of geographies such as the Great Lakes region and Scandinavia that are making significant investments in renewable energy, food production and economic diversification. Not too long after living through Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Greg and his family moved from New York to Montreal.

Greg’s relocation to Canada is far from unique, and it represents a bet not only on Canada’s climate resilience but also its physical and economic mobility. These are the tenets of what used to be called the “American Dream.”

Read the whole thing.

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October 15, 2021  |  permalink

The VISION Podcast by Protiviti

Listen to “The Way We’ll Live Next - with Greg Lindsay, Senior Fellow at NewCities” on Spreaker.

(The folks at the global consulting firm Protiviti were kind enough to invite me on their podcast series about the future of cities. Listen above; description below.)

Greg Lindsay is a senior fellow at NewCities and director of strategy for CoMotion LA — an annual mobility festival in Los Angeles — as well as a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management. Greg is a futurist, urbanist, author, journalist and all-around expert in how cities of tomorrow will look, feel and function. During this Q&A, Greg talks about the remote work revolution, self-driving cars and instant cities being created by visionaries, among other things. And what should keep executives up at night? Climate and location, location, location.

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October 02, 2021  |  permalink

The National Association of Realtors’ C5 Summit

(The National Association of Realtors invited me to deliver the opening keynote of the inaugural C5 Summit, the association’s first event devoted expressly to commercial real estate rather than residential. Stacey Moncrieff’s recap from REALTOR Magazine is reposted below; thanks again to the organizers for having me.)

How will commercial real estate needs change in the next five to 10 years? How has the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the change? And what’s the implication for cities? Those questions were top of mind as the National Association of REALTORS®’ inaugural C5 Summit, a commercial real estate conference, kicked off Monday in New York.

Cities have a bright future, said Greg Lindsay, a senior fellow and director of applied research at the New Cities Foundation and Monday’s opening speaker, but the way residents live and work will undergo a radical transformation.

People take for granted that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll all be accepting deliveries from and riding around in autonomous vehicles. But what about autonomous buildings, which are essentially machines where goods, services, and amenities automatically come to you? That’s the future that Lindsay asked C5 attendees to think about. Research shows “Americans are ready for extreme automation,” Lindsay said.

To meet the demand, planners and developers are deconstructing spaces and rethinking them to combine housing, retail, industrial, office, and recreation. The vision for autonomous buildings includes these ideas:

• Food can be dispatched from nearby centralized kitchens.
• Retail and grocery delivery can deploy from micro-warehouses.
• Residents can eliminate their daily commute through companies’ adoption of cloud solutions, flexible workspaces, and coworking.

Retailers and developers are already putting such ideas into action, Lindsay said. He pointed to Hub 121 in fast-growing McKinney, Texas, as a development that turns traditional city planning on its head. Rather than restaurants and amenities springing up to serve area office workers, the developers started with multiple outdoor beer gardens and restaurants, surrounding them with flexible workspaces, Lindsay said.

Buildings that can integrate technology and adapt to consumers’ and companies’ changing needs will succeed. “He who controls the app and the delivery controls the experience,” Lindsay said.

Amazon Fresh, for example, opened its first grocery store in Woodland Hills, Calif., and quickly began using delivery data to change the store layout in real time. Lindsay said the company is bringing to life the concept of the “15-minute neighborhood”—a term coined by University of Paris Professor Carlos Moreno to indicate areas where residents can mostly bike, walk, work, and meet all their needs within a 15-minute radius. Moreno, who serves as a special envoy for smart cities to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, envisioned the concept as a way of reducing cities’ carbon footprint while improving residents’ quality of life. He has said he draws inspiration from the work of Jane Jacobs, author of 1961 classic “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” Jacobs famously fought urban planning efforts of the 1950s and ’60s that facilitated the growth of car-dependent, suburban living.

Bustling Times Square, where the C5 conference is being held through Wednesday, served as the perfect backdrop for Lindsay’s C5 Summit remarks.

While the pandemic proved that office workers aren’t place-dependent, “superstar cities have retained their vitality,” Lindsay told C5 attendees. “Urban cores are stronger than ever, even if the real estate types within them are changing.”

To thrive, he said, cities need to rethink the public realm, focusing on how to beautify it, activate it, and turn it into something that’s more useful. “We can no longer think of cities as places where we stack people.”

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October 01, 2021  |  permalink

Fast Company Innovation Festival 2021

My old pals at Fast Company invited me to moderate a pair of panels at last week’s virtual Innovation Festival 2021. First up was “The Caring City,” starring Logitech’s Massimo Rapparini and Scott Wharton along with Siemens’ Rainer Karcher. Belying the title, the discussion was more focused on how virtual collaboration has aided Siemens’ urban practice rather than building more caring cities per se.

I was giddier to host “Accelerating Innovation,” (above) which featured Genpact CDO Sanjay Srivastava, Formula E Envision Virgin Racing managing director Sylvain Filippi, and honest-to-goodness motorsport champion Nick Cassidy, who politely ignored my geeking. (See if you can spot Niki Lauda’s The Art and Science of Grand Prix Driving behind me in the pixelated image above.)

Already looking forward to being asked to host again next year.

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September 20, 2021  |  permalink

CREtech Climate Presents: MOVE

My friends at CREtech invited me to host a Webinar with my even better friend (and FutureMap partner) Parag Khanna on the eve of his new book MOVE: The Forces Uprooting Us.

Click on the link above to watch the session on the CREtech+ video platform, or just read our 2013 op-ed for Reuters, “Where Will You Live in 2050?” that inspired his book. (Spoiler alert: Montréal in my case; Singapore in his.) The session description is below:

Tune in to our exclusive webinar celebrating the upcoming book launch of Dr. Parag Khanna’s MOVE: The Forces Uprooting Us. Greg Lindsay, Director of Applied Research at NewCities and CREtech Climate Leadership Board Member, will join Khanna to look at the forces, such as the climate crisis and disruptive technologies, that are producing the next mass migrations.

These two highly regarded futurists will help real estate professionals understand the deep trends that will have a profound impact on the future of the built world. Their expert views will enable industry leaders to understand, prepare for and adapt to the seismic forces that are going to result in the “new map of human geography”.

This webinar, like the book, will “prepare you for a complex future in which mobility is destiny.”

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September 15, 2021  |  permalink

Henley & Partners: The End of the End of Cities?

(Henley & Partners asked me to write a short essay accompanying the launch of their Best Residence-by-Investment Cities for Business Index, a ranking aimed at global nomads and the firms chasing them. Republished below.)

The ‘death of cities’ foretold at the onset of the pandemic was a false prophecy, of course, and not for the first time — but hopefully the last.

For decades, the end of urbanity has been where futurists’ predictions go to die. As far back as 1967, for example, Marshall McLuhan unflinchingly declared that after the advent of his electronic global village, “the circuited city of the future will not be the huge hunk of concentrated real estate”, but “an information megalopolis”. A decade later, Future Shock author Alvin Toffler envisioned working from an “electronic cottage” rather than the office.

Give each man his due — software is eating the world and remote work is here to stay — but the great scattering to a connected countryside hasn’t come to pass, not even after a year-and-a-half of lockdowns or worse. If anything, the opposite happened. The largest US cities all gained population over the last decade, according to newly published census figures collected during the pandemic. Elsewhere, European capitals sprang back to life this spring, while many of Asia’s megalopolises avoided quarantine altogether until the Delta variant came along. How did we ever believe cities might ‘die’?

Urban–rural tension is partly to blame for the ‘dying cities’ myth

The answer is at least as old as the Hanseatic League. The gap between cities and their hinterlands — to say nothing of central governments — has been a fraught one in the West since the decline of medieval city-states and the rise of modern nations. Their tensions and resentments periodically erupt in one asserting its cultural dominance over the other. Or as the sociologist Richard Florida told me bluntly last winter, “Americans don’t like cities, and every time there’s a crisis they start screaming about the death of them.” (See also: Brexit.)

This gap can become a chasm into which every migrant — no matter how high or low their net worth — risks falling. Because international migration is overwhelmingly urban. As I have written previously, the pandemic-era population declines seen in global capitals was less a consequence of residents fleeing than the disappearance of new migrants to replace them.

Open migration policy, happy city

The health and wealth of cities, then, is inextricably bound to the migration and security policies of their federal governments — as New York, London, and Hong Kong have all recently discovered to their lasting regret. It’s no coincidence, for example, that London Mayor Sadiq Khan greeted Brexit with an unrealized proposal for the city’s own immigration scheme, although UK chancellor Rishi Sunak has been more obliging in winning a global tax exemption for the city’s biggest banks.

The new Best Residence-by-Investment Cities for Business Index highlights the risks of cities falling out of sync with their hosts. But it also underscores the opportunities of more tightly aligning urban-and-national migration programs to win the post-pandemic competition for talent in a world upended by remote and stark failures of governance all around. Along these lines, several cities (and city clusters) stand out:

London and New York. Shocking to anyone who seriously entertained the ‘death of cities’ and utterly unsurprising to anyone else, the world’s twin financial capitals top the list. Scoring high across the board in quality-of-life factors — including runaway scores in education (along with Los Angeles) — the duo’s performance underscores their centrality in global flows of talent and migration. They aren’t about to be disrupted by sunny tax havens any time soon. (New York City’s population in particular has surged to an all-time high of 8.8 million, surprising demographers who had estimated tens of thousands of departures.)

Sydney, Singapore, and Auckland. In pre-Covid times, this trio of Asia-Pacific capitals would score highly on nearly any cities index due to their various combinations of security, stability, and competent governance. But those qualities have become perverse liabilities more than a year into the pandemic, as early successes with ‘zero Covid’ policies have crumbled under the mental strain of repeated lockdowns and the highly infectious Delta variant. They’ve proven they can close themselves off from the world, but can they reopen? Singapore and New Zealand are taking tentative steps in that direction, but Sydney appears to have disappeared off the global radar until 2022.

Dubai. After losing nearly a tenth of its population early in the pandemic due to guest worker repatriation, Dubai corrected course through close coordination with Abu Dhabi and its fellow emirates. The city emerged from lockdown late last year as a freewheeling refuge for Europeans fleeing lockdowns, and a national joint venture with Sinopharm to manufacture vaccines locally has helped propel the UAE to the world’s highest vaccination rates. On top of that, Dubai liberalized citizenship and introduced a remote work visa earlier this year, finally taking steps to untether foreign residents from their employers. The triumph of the ‘Dubai model’ can be seen in its impact on projects such as Saudi Arabia’s NEOM — a city being built from scratch with its own courts and immigration system.

Hong Kong. A year after instituting the sweeping national security law that all but heralded the end of “one country, two systems”, the pandemic may be all that’s holding back an exodus. In January, the UK began offering a clear pathway to citizenship for more than 3 million eligible residents, and as of March, more than 34,000 had applied. London is already angling to attract an outsized share of wealthy residents to cement its post-Brexit status, while Vancouver and Toronto are also poised to win more than their fair share of emigrants. Hong Kong isn’t the only city on the list endangered by nationalism — Barcelona also faces difficulties navigating Catalonia’s aspiring independence.

In each case, the ‘death’ and life of great global cities increasingly depends on the willingness of their governments to (re)open borders, promise stability, and welcome migrants. In a world gradually pivoting from the pandemic to what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts will be several decades of mounting climate disasters, safe harbors will be at premium. Let’s hope this marks the end of ‘the end of cities’. We will need them more than ever.

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About Greg Lindsay

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is a partner at the geo-strategic and climate advisory firm FutureMap, the senior fellow for applied research and foresight at NewCities, a senior fellow of MIT’s Future Urban Collectives Lab, and a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Strategy Initiative.

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Articles by Greg Lindsay

-----  |  January 1, 2022

2022 Speaking Topics

CityLab  |  December 7, 2021

The Dark Side of 15-Minute Grocery Delivery

Fast Company  |  June 2021

Why the Great Lakes need to be the center of our climate strategy

Fast Company  |  March 2020

How to design a smart city that’s built on empowerment–not corporate surveillance

URBAN-X  |  December 2019


CityLab  |  December 10, 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility in San Francisco, Boston, and Detroit

Harvard Business Review  |  September 24, 2018

Why Companies Are Creating Their Own Coworking Spaces

CityLab  |  July 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility + U.S. Cities

Medium  |  May 1, 2017

The Engine Room

Fast Company  |  January 19, 2017

The Collaboration Software That’s Rejuvenating The Young Global Leaders Of Davos

The Guardian  |  January 13, 2017

What If Uber Kills Public Transport Instead of Cars

Backchannel  |  January 4, 2017

The Office of the Future Is… an Office

New Cities Foundation  |  October 2016

Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport

Inc.  |  October 2016

Why Every Business Should Start in a Co-Working Space

Popular Mechanics  |  May 11, 2016

Can the World’s Worst Traffic Problem Be Solved?

The New Republic  |  January/February 2016

Hacking The City

Fast Company  |  September 22, 2015

We Spent Two Weeks Wearing Employee Trackers: Here’s What We Learned

Fast Company  |  September 21, 2015

HR Meets Data: How Your Boss Will Monitor You To Create The Quantified Workplace

Inc.  |  March 2015

Which Contacts Should You Keep in Touch With? Let This Software Tell You

Inc.  |  March 2015

5 Global Cities of the Future

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May 15, 2022

Reaping the Whirlwind: My Spring Speaking Travel

April 28, 2022

Utopia, Dystopia, and Everything In Between: CRE with CBC Worldwide

April 26, 2022

Webfleet Mobility Conference: Mobility 2032

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