New Cities. How Should They Be Designed?


Where would you start if you were able to design a city from scratch? What would your priorities be?The opportunity to have a blank canvas would be liberating for many planners, but there’s always a multitude of competing interests and considerations to be taken into account.

What about our existing cities, shouldn’t they be fixed first?The folks at Silicon Valley seed funder and startup incubator

Y Combinator have thrown out the

call for applications to join their research project to study building new, better cities.

Y Combinator has a sound track record at successfully funding startups including with such businesses as Dropbox, stripe, Airbnb and reddit.

The New Cities project believes its research will also make existing cities better but will concentrate its efforts on new cities as “there's [already] important work being done by smart people to improve them.”

new cities

Adora Cheung, Y Combinator partner, said that they’re serious about building new cities and think they know how it would be financed.

She wrote:“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?
  • 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?”

Building a city from scratch may be biting off more than they can chew though according to Gizmodo’s Alissa Walker. She believes the logistics of building all the infrastructure that people need to exist and live in a sustainable, low-emission lifestyle and be economically stable would be quite an accomplishment.

She suggests that perhaps they start off with building a city for all the startups they entice to Silicon Valley.

What do you think? What other considerations should be addressed?

Main image copyright: paylessimages / 123RF Stock Photo

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