Greg Lindsay's Blog

November 29, 2017  |  permalink

Aerial Futures: Leading Edge

Earlier this month, I was delighted to attend “Aerial Futures: Leading Edge,” the second symposia about the future of airports and cities organized by the Berlin-based agency PLANE-SITE. In addition to joining a behind-the-scenes tour of LAX and imagining how airports of the future might function, I was honored to moderate a discussion about airports-as-public-spaces featuring the Los Angeles Times’ architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, architect Curtis Fentress (of Denver International fame), Project for Public Space’s Cynthia Nikitin, and aviation consultant Andrew Vasey. A brief video recap is above.

UPDATE: Video from my panel, “Defining the Commons,” is posted below:

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November 20, 2017  |  permalink

From Mixed-Use to “Mixed-Up Use” Real Estate

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If you’re free in New York on Dec. 6th, please join us at Good Goods in SoHo (121 Prince) for a special URBAN-X event on the future of real estate as categories like “offices” and “retail” become increasingly blurred together. Description and registration link below:

The urban mix has become mixed-up as retailers fear extinction at the hands of Amazon, hotels are being redesigned to feel like living rooms — or are living rooms courtesy of AirBnB — while knowledge workers are setting up shop in coworking spaces, restaurants and public places — anywhere but the office. What does it mean for cities when old paradigms such as the office tower, department store, factory, and park fall by the wayside or blur together? What are the opportunities and challenges when pop-ups proliferate because no one can meet the landlords’ asking price? When cafes prove more appealing than cubicles, and parks are more than the sum of their playgrounds?

Moderated by Greg Lindsay, writer, futurist and Urbanist-in-Residence at URBAN-X.

Featured panelists:

Eric Ho, CEO of Good Goods

Preston Pesek, CEO of Spacious

Shin-pei Tsay, Executive Director at Gehl Institute

Free registration here.

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November 20, 2017  |  permalink

LA CoMotion 2017

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The inaugural edition of LA CoMotion is in the books, with nearly a thousand attendees of its invitation-only “Cities in Motion” conference joining several thousand Angelenos over the weekend to make it one of the largest events of its kind.  I was honored to serve as the master of ceremonies during the conference, introducing Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti as well as dozens of the smartest people working in urban mobility – including LADOT general manager Seleta Reynolds, Transport for London’s Ben Plowden, and Whim’s Sampo Hietanen, to name just a few.

Two of my favorite participants (both pictured below) were Piaggio Fast Forward’s adorable rolling robot, Gita, and Gensler’s SWITCH! — a prototype form of reconfigurable street furniture coming to the LA neighborhood near you. It was through their contributions (among many others) that this wasn’t just another conference or trade show. Watch this space for more to come on next year’s installment!

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November 10, 2017  |  permalink

Intel’s “Passenger Economy” Live at URBAN-X

On November 7th, BMW MINI and URBAN-X hosted “Start Your Autonomous Engines,” a panel discussion and reception continuing the conversation around the “Passenger Economy” — the $7 trillion ecosystem of goods and services we will someday salvage from the time now spent driving.

Serving in my dual role “Urbanist-in-Residence” at URBAN-X and as one of the authors of the report, I moderated a short discussion between Intel Ventures’ Trina van Pelt, URBAN-X’s Micah Kotch, Urban.Us’ Shaun Abramson, and Via’s Alex Lavoie. Video from the event isn’t available yet, but please check out Intel’s new explainer video above.

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October 23, 2017  |  permalink

Smart Cities NYC: Integrated Urban Mobility

Back in May, I moderated a panel at the inaugural Smart Cities NYC conference on “Integrated Urban Mobility” starring Motivate CEO Jay Walder, car2go North America GM Aaron Landry, Zipcar VP of fleet and supply chain Dan Curtin, and EV-Box CEO Kristof Vereenooghe. The recording is evidently audio-only, so think of it as a podcast you can leave open in a tab while catching up on email.

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October 19, 2017  |  permalink

Deep risks and extreme failures: New tools to imagine resilience

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(Arup’s in-house Web magazine Doggerel interviewed me about my work imagining the world created by my teammates Rafi Segal, Susannah Drake, and co. for the Regional Plan Association.)

Asked to consider resilience strategies for the New York metro area by the Regional Plan Association (RPA), an influential research and advocacy group, a team of designers depicted a dramatically reshaped 2067 shoreline. They envisioned a coast capable of accommodating fluctuating water levels, encouraging amphibious commercial and recreational uses while protecting dense communities on higher ground.

The team asked Greg Lindsay, a journalist and urbanist, to develop a backstory for its design, thinking about what could make ambitious design strategies of this kind politically and economically viable in the coming decades. He dreamed up Hurricane Hermine, a giant storm that would cause unprecedented damage in 2022, convincing everyone from President Zuckerberg to residents of low-income waterfront communities of the need for change.

But just a few months later, Lindsay watched multiple disasters of similar magnitude to the one he had described play out in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico. “I imagined a storm half again the size of [2012 Hurricane] Sandy, with losses at around $150 billion. [Hurricane] Harvey topped $190 billion and the scale of devastation in Puerto Rico dwarfed anything we imagined,” he said. “My teammates had charted the likely damage to infrastructure in the [New York] region — everything from sewage to fuel storage, to the fact that 75% of electricity generation sits in the 100-year floodplain. And now we’re watching millions of Americans suffer without power or water for weeks — and likely months.”

The hurricanes’ political and economic dimensions also seem uncomfortably familiar to the RPA-convened team. Lindsay depicted a 2023 financial crisis triggered by a collapse in coastal housing values, leading to subsequent implosions in the mortgage, bond, and insurance markets, starting with the National Flood Insurance Program. Today, this same program is billions of dollars in debt and faces an uncertain future due to the looming end of its congressional authorization period — challenges that are compounded by an expected $9 billion in new claims. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s woes are compounded by the commonwealth’s debt crisis and resulting quasi-bankruptcy.

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Whereas Hurricane Hermine catalyzed large-scale urban resilience efforts in Lindsay’s fictional future, it’s too soon to know what lasting impacts Harvey and Maria will have on the Gulf Coast and Caribbean. While there may be more and more voices calling out for measures like those described in the New York proposal, the reality is that large-scale, forward-thinking change will always be a challenge beyond the difficulty of pushing the kind of creative, out-of-the-box thinking that Lindsay and his team are advocating; there’s also the very real limitations imposed by existing circumstances. Resources that might be allocated to future resilience measures are too often, by necessity, diverted to address current rescue and redevelopment efforts. The perpetual push and pull between preemptive design projects and reactive recovery in the wake of real-time disasters is a resilience catch-22.

Which has left Lindsay wondering: What will it really take to make ambitious coastal resilience strategies possible? How can policymakers and designers better understand the risks cities face? How can artists and futurists create stories and visions that convey the urgency of the situation? And how can we get all the right people to the table to tackle the logistic challenges inherent in such a design revolution?

“It’s not just long-term thinking that’s needed, but more weird thinking,” he said. “How do we actually understand the massive disruptive consequences that will be weirder and more sudden than are really even slightly acceptable to discuss?”

The need to think more broadly and deeply is rooted in the multifaceted nature of the disasters that have battered cities around the world in recent years. “Harvey’s a perfect example of what my futurist friends call ‘Wexelblat Disasters,’ which refer to natural disasters triggering bigger man-made ones,” he said. “Katrina caused New Orleans’ levees to break; an earthquake triggered a tsunami that led to a meltdown at Fukushima, and so on.” The increasing likelihood of these kinds of domino events means that it is more crucial than ever to reconcile the creative push for resilient design with practical applications in the real world.

As that world becomes increasingly complex and interdependent, effecting meaningful change will require a new set of tools, Lindsay believes. “It’s one thing to calculate new floodplains from sea level rise,” he said. “We need to do a better job applying foresight and systems thinking to understand deep risks and imagine perverse failures. Otherwise we’re left with the spectacles of presidents throwing paper towels and tech companies rushing in to provide broadband before power or water.”

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October 07, 2017  |  permalink

Have Deck, Will Travel

As the leaves begin to turn, I’m finally taking a break from a frenetic summer and early fall of speaking. After wrapping up the spring with trips to Bangkok and Zurich (where I met the team behind the phenomenal Projket Interim) I’ve stuck closer to home — or at least to North America. A few highlights:

• Most recently, I was in Chicago for the Big Ideas Summit hosted by Procurious, a British social network for procurement professional (the people who run the world’s supply chains). My talk — the very short version of which is posted above — focused on “engineering serendipity,” and both unknown knowns and unknown unknowns. (I gave a similar talk earlier in the month to the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada in forest fire-choked British Columbia.)

• The week before that I was in Denver, then Victoria (British Columbia) speaking about the future of cities. In the case of the former, I was the opening keynote for this year’s RE/MAX Commercial Symposium, where I used Amazon’s HQ2 RFP as a prism to examine how cities and CRE prefernaces are changing. The next day in Victoria, I spoke at the inaugural Platform retreat hosted by the American Society of Interior Designers about how new mobility options, shared workspaces, and networks are transforming cities.

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• In August, I moderated back-to-back events in San Francisco for Intel and Ford, both focused on the future of mobility. The former hosted an intimate press event to discuss its “Passenger Economy” report on the $7 trillion economic impact from autonomous vehicles by 2050, while Ford invited more than a thousand people to Fort Mason for its “City of Tomorrow Symposium.” As seen above, I was invited to moderate a panel on mobility-as-a-service, and how we go about actually building such a system. (Also on the mobility beat: in September I spoke the Columbus Partnership as part of their efforts to implement the Smart Columbus plan, which won the Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge.)

• But the highlight of the summer were back-to-back appearances in Colorado Springs and Albuquerque in late August. The first was for a brief talk to the senior leadership of Deloitte’s Technology, Media, and Telecommunications practice on how we might rethink the idea of what a “smart city” is. For example, rather than through solar panels and a Tesla Powerwall into your suburban home, what if we could convince institutional investors to build thousands upon thousands of Alejandro Aravena’s “half-built” homes in exchange for a 50-year on the solar electricity collected from their rooftops?

From there, I drove to Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico for an unclassified, but off-the-record workshop on the world in 2035. I can’t divulge many details until the final report is published, but it was exhilarating to spend the day in the presence of so many brilliant people trying to invent the future. More soon, I hope.

• The rest of the fall is a bit quiet, with one great exception. Next month, I head to Los Angeles for the inaugural edition of LA CoMotion — a five-day festival of new mobility in the Arts District downtown. As director of strategy, my job is make sure the whole is greater than the sum of its many very cool parts. With only five weeks to go until Nov. 15-19, we’re in the home stretch. You can get a taste of what I’m thinking in the video below. See you on the other side.

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October 06, 2017  |  permalink

After the Flood: Adapting to Disaster

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I was delighted to return to Christopher Lydon’s “Radio Open Source” on WBUR this week to discuss “Adapting to Disaster: The Future of Cities in the Anthropocene,” the second in a two-part series on climate change. (You can listen here.) I was joined by friends and colleagues Chris Turner — author of the The Geography of Hope and The Patch — and Rafi Segal, along with New York 2140 author Kim Stanley Robinson and Harvard’s Naomi Oreskes. Please give it a listen.

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September 18, 2017  |  permalink

Here Comes The Flood: New York 2067, Sea-Level Rise, and the 4th Regional Plan

When Hurricane Harvey swamped Houston this month, followed only days later by Irma’s bearing down on Florida my first thought was: They’ve arrived five years ahead of schedule. Because I’d spent the last six months imagining America’s day of climate change reckoning — a super storm destroying $200 billion worth of property (like Harvey) after landing a direct hit on New York City (as Irma nearly landed on Miami). I’d spent the last six months I’ve been working with an incredibly talented team of architects imagining how the coasts of New York and New Jersey might look after six feet of sea-level rise, and the triggering event I’d generously scheduled for 2022 was arriving only weeks after our work had been unveiled.

Some backstory: we were commissioned in February by the Regional Plan Association (with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation) to envision the Tri-State region underwater as part of 4C: Foreseeing the Region of the Future, a design competition launched ahead of the Fourth Regional Plan — the RPA’s once-in-a-generation planning guidelines.

I was invited by my Foreclosed teammate Rafi Segal to join him, DLANDstudio’s Susannah Drake, and MIT’s Sarah Williams, Brent Ryan, and Benjamin Albrecht as part of the core team creating The Bight: Coastal Urbanism. The Bight is the notch in the coast where ocean currents conspire to pile sand, forever redrawing the shore. Rather than simply harden the coastline against sea-level rise and future storms, we proposed “sending and receiving” residents in vulnerable areas to new developments on higher ground, while transforming New York’s future wetlands for new uses — whether parks or farms or preserves.

My role on the team was to imagine a backstory for the world we made, and how we got there — a future history encompassing the near-destruction of Lower Manhattan by Hurricane Hermine in October 2022; the resulting Crash of ’23 as real estate values plunged along the East Coast; the subsequent creation of the Bureau of Coastal Management to create ironclad zoning and development guidelines; the dissolution of the Port Authority  by mutual agreement of Governors Cuomo and Bon Jovi; the election of President Mark Zuckerberg in 2024, who soon instituted universal basic income (“Zuckerbucks”) and housing (“Zuckerhuts”), while pushing a clean energy agenda that led to the merger of ExxonMonsanto.

To bring this world to life, my teammates and I not only designed a new city around Jamaica Bay and new communities along the coasts of New Jersey and Long Island, but also imagined their future residents — including a video postcard from an ExxonMonsanto artisanal seaweed harvester and a promotional video (see above) for the 25th anniversary of Ascendas-Singbridge Bight City, starring a 2067 incarnation of our teammate Chaewon Ahn.

Our work was displayed this summer at Fort Tilden in the Rockaways, and will be exhibited in Manhattan sometime this winter at the New York Historical Society.

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July 28, 2017  |  permalink

Songdo, City of the Future? Or of Our Hopes and Fears?

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I love to tell the story of how when I first visited New Songdo City in 2007, the site of the future Central Park (pictured above) was nothing more than mud studded with seashells, having only recently been dredged off the seafloor. Today, as you can see, the park has come into its own, even if the city — now with 100,000 inhabitants — still feels patchy at times. In this short clip directed by Ghost Cities of China author Wade Shepherd and shot in June at the New Cities Summit, I talk about how Songdo succeeded almost in spite of itself, and how we project our own hopes and fears for the future onto these instant cities.

 

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About Greg Lindsay

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is a senior fellow of the New Cities Foundation — where he leads the Connected Mobility Initiative  — a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, a contributing writer for Fast Company and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

» More about Greg Lindsay

Blog

November 29, 2017

Aerial Futures: Leading Edge

November 20, 2017

From Mixed-Use to “Mixed-Up Use” Real Estate

November 20, 2017

LA CoMotion 2017

November 10, 2017

Intel’s “Passenger Economy” Live at URBAN-X

» More blog posts

Articles by Greg Lindsay

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

Global Solution Networks  |  December 2014

Cities on the Move

Medium  |  November 2014

Engineering Serendipity

New York University  |  October 2014

Sin City vs. SimCity

Harvard Business Review  |  October 2014

Workspaces That Move People

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

» See all articles