Designing a Future City [Part I]

We have all this magical technology, but are constantly restricted by the existing features of our legacy system.

What if we imagined a city from scratch, designing all the features to work in harmony… what could we build?


To start, we have some core technical features we should scope out before actually designing a layout for how everything fits together.


I think having the resources to feed everyone is already a solved problem – we have enough food, it’s just not distributed properly to give everyone a sufficient amount.

So, there are two facets to food distribution – local and long-distance.

If we’re trying to build a single community, the solution we find may be different than if we need to account for multiple cities across non trivial distances.

I guess ultimately the equation here for making people satisfied is:

1. Do I have enough food (nutritionally)?

2. Does it taste good?

3. Did I have to do a lot of work for it?

4. Is there enough variety?

If you have enough food, that tastes good, and you don’t have to do a lot of work for it – that seems like a good solution.

A local solution may look like the sharing economy – where each person focuses on one growing one type of food, and shares it with everyone else.

Another solution would be to have a single ‘food common area’ where everyone gathers for food – like a college dining hall.

You have a few chefs (people who love food) who prepare the meals for everyone in the community.

As technology advances, we may see things like in vitro meat, which would be an ideal solution for generating meat without killing animals.

Until this point, I don’t think meat is a viable solution ethically or practically, which definitely sucks because it tastes so awesome.

For long distances, it may be beneficial to put a certain amount of land aside for farming purposes.

It would be controlled by robots (similar to the amazon warehouses), and food could be picked by the robots and placed into a pneumatic transport system where it could be delivered in bulk long distances, or individual amounts to each persons home.

A pneumatic system could theoretically reach 4,000 miles / hour, which would allow you to pick a orange in Florida and get it to Los Angeles within 45 minutes for breakfast.


With todays technology we can build homes and offices that use zero net energy using solar panels.

Every roof should be oriented to get maximum sun exposure.

Buildings & Construction: 

Everything should be built with standard pieces – this way manufacturing can be simplified.

If a window breaks on any building – it’s the same window that everyone else uses.

Removing variance in building materials and dimensions will allow us to build modularly and keep resource usage to a minimum.

Buildings would be created with standard CAD designs and cut out on CNC or printed on 3d printers.

Currently, CNC seems the better option, but when 3d printers can print with multiple materials, and integrate added support to complex structures, I think that will be the better solution.

These houses are already being built, and are open sourced on sites like:

Health & Fitness:

We’re going to be pre-solving a lot of problems, but this will remove a lot of human activity from the equation.

Instead of making fitness a secondary thing that you have to do in addition to everythign else, it should be integrated into society itself.

We know if we design things a certain way, certain behaviors will emerge.

In amsterdam you see almost everyone riding bikes, which leads to higher fitness level and better health.

This should be kept in mind.


Schools shouldn’t exist anymore – at least not how we think of them now.

“School” should basically be a time for kids to explore any curiosities they have under the umbrella of ‘building things that will make life better for you or someone else’.

Implanting and engraining this guiding mission early in a childs life, and giving them the support to explore it, is essential in building the future we wish to see.

There should be formal teaching for the first few years of life – maybe up until 3rd grade (when the kids can read and think).

At this point, ‘school’ should change into basically ‘play time’.

Give the kids all the tools they need to do something productive, and then get out of the way.

Very similar to how hackathons are structured – very open form, get smart people into a room together with a broad goal, and watch what emerges.

Even if a kid wants to just sit and play video games – I believe that is still a worthy cause.

At this point we have all the information needed in the palm of our hands.

What’s needed is mastery & breadth of experience.

Kids should begin learning whatever it is they want.

If they start with dance, it doesnt mean they’ll be a dancer. But there is something that happens to a brain when you master a subject – everything else becomes easier.

As these people get older, they will get curious about how the world works – this is human nature.

They will begin to explore more subjects as the see their peers learning cool things too.

This is the dynamic I think we want to see if we want to get the most out of our future adults.


Self driving cars, or self navigating bikes (still need to pedal) are likely the solution we’ll see here.

This also depends on the distances needed to be traveled and the size of the city.

Self driving cars are probably good for places like New York and LA, but in a new society we may not build cities that big. Or we may build much bigger.

Instead of having streets for cars — we can use that space for walking, and integrate a ‘rail’ like system (similar to San Francisco), except instead of a single trolly car, you can have hundreds of individual ‘pods’ that take you to your location. An ‘open air’ ride to your destination.

It’s almost like walking because you’re on the same path as the people walking, except you’re being navigated automatically, at a slightly faster speed.

It’s a very social commute – I could imagine taking a pod down the street, and seeing 2-3 friends, waving hello, etc.

Garbage & Sewage:

 I think it would be cool if we didnt need garbage cans, or people to pick up the garbage, etc.

Each house should have a ‘laundry schute’ type system where the trashcan in your house is basically just a vaacuum tube that leads to a central garbage collection / recycling area.

Would need a scanner or compressor to make sure nothing you throw away is dangerous (bombs, etc.)

This would leave very little trash on the streets, in the homes, etc.

Also, there wouldn’t be as much trash because there are very few ‘commercial’ goods.

You don’t need to go shopping for clothes / food, so no bags.

All the food would likely be prepared fresh as its the cheapest, easiest, and best nutritionally.

This means you wont have bags of chips, boxes, etc. to throw out.

If you ever want that stuff, you just walk over to the food hall and grab what you want (free).

UX Design:

Okay so now lets think about a few things that make a city awesome.

1. Chaos vs Order:

Order is great, but it can mind-numbing and ugly if everything is exactly the same.

Each house should be the same height & width, but can have individual form & color.

2. Live Streets

Too much space makes things impersonal and anonymous.

The best cities, you walk outside and things are happening. Paris, Japan, Amsterdam.

3. Compact

Living close to other people in uplifting surroundings can be extremely beneficial.

At a certain point we began to experiment with suburbs which is good for isolating yourself, but that doesn’t lead to a happy life.

You isolate yourself because your job sucks and at the end of the day you just want to be done.

But if you remember back to college, living in the dorms – that was some of the best living I’ve done, you just need an environment to accommodate it.


Turns out there’s a lot of work in designing a new city (duh!) – and each point seems to have many factors to consider as you drill down.

I’ll continue designing this city and update with my own designs in the next post.

– J