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Rapid urbanization, accelerated growth and a lack of sustainable planning have led many cities to fail their community and regress to a point where inhabitants feel the need to move.


How might we help city decision-makers to be informed and citizens to be involved in sustainable city making?

The Challenge

As cities strive for an all-encompassing urban wellbeing, what role do inhabitants, visionaries, and governments play in guiding us to find the intersection between sustainable environment, cultural lifestyle, and community?


It’s always a challenge to bring a diverse group of people together to come to an agreement.

The Living City Experiment addresses these complex issues by opening communication to create a greater understanding of how decision makers, visionaries, and residents are currently interacting within cities.

Our Objective

The Living City Experiment was created to provide a city's decision makers (ie. government leaders, legislators) and visionaries (ie. architects, urban planners) a framework to build a human-centered city in order to bridge the divide between liveability and sustainability. It delivers enlightenment, community, duty, and harmony to help better understand cities and its inhabitants’ (decision takers) needs.


We imagine engaging cities that bring people together for conversations to address common issues and solve shared problems when it comes to sustainability to bring about social change. It involves people in the decision-making process, that builds empowered communities actively creating a common future. 


We conducted a variety of interviews that included street intercepts and expert panels.


From our intercept interviews, we discovered the initial reasons for migration are motivated by the economy (ie. career prospects). But in the end, involvement in local culture or loved ones within proximity were the reasons people would stay in a city long-term.


We also discovered that citizens had ideas and opinions about how they felt their city could be improved. But felt unheard and frustrated by some of the decisions being made by the government and how these impacted their lives.


Some themes that emerged from our interviewees had them imagining new cities and utopic sustainable systems to improve existing cities. However, many were not able to believe they could have a say in how cities are made, experts or not.

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In order for cities to be sustainable and prepared for the needs of the 21st Century, we need to design more than just infrastructure, we need to engage citizens and develop a culture of sustainability.

Our Design Challenge

Build Knowledge

It can difficult for people to learn and understand initiatives, along with how to participate. One of the obstacles we discovered is challenging governments to glean meaningful knowledge according to a citizen’s point of view. On the flipside, citizens can sometimes lack the full scope of implementing a sustainable project and how it ripples throughout the larger system. For these reasons, we identified the need for all stakeholders to share knowledge to develop long-lasting solutions.

Build Capacity

A result of building knowledge helps prioritize how cities should build capacity. When authentic dialogue occurs between decision-takers, decision makers, and decision drivers, it helps identify areas they should focus efforts and resources into building. “By spending resources and designing cities in a way that values everyone’s experience, we can make cities that help us all get stronger, more resilient, more connected, more active and more free. We just have to decide who our cities are for. And we have to believe that they can change.” (Charles Montgomery)

Build Power 

We want to create distributed leadership in cities. Building capacity results in citizens feeling empowered to influence the way their city is being built. However, empowerment also relates to challenges of accountability that normally fall on government. The spread of decision-making and accountability will be evenly shared among all stakeholders. 

Build Trust

By creating equality among all stakeholders, we hope that trust can be built on all levels. Without it, there is no reason for either side participate or risk seeking common ground. Trusting relationships between government, citizens and visionaries are necessary to solve shared issues. 

Build Foresight

Finally, we want to build the ability for all stakeholders to envision foresight. The idea of thinking about futures is daunting, but also very exciting and motivating. By getting a better grasp of what’s to come, it can help develop a bigger picture of what all stakeholders should work towards. Thinking toward the future also keeps in mind how to make cities sustainable and last.


San Francisco Pop-Up Think Tank

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