30 Pieces of Wisdom from The Future of Cities

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” ―Jane Jacobs

The Future of Cities and Season 1 of the podcast have officially launched!

At The Mission, we’re building a network of podcasts and media that focuses on solving some of the most important challenges in the world. Cities and innovations in building and construction have lagged behind for decades, but meanwhile there is a small group of doers that is hard at work fixing these challenges.

“Why do people resist [engines, bridges, and cities] so? They are symbols and products of the imagination, which is the force that ensures justice and historical momentum in an imperfect world, because without imagination we would not have the wherewithal to challenge certainty, and we could never rise above ourselves.” –Mark Helprin

We’ve brought them together to cross pollinate ideas and find the best solutions. Let’s start with housing.

Humanity is facing a housing crisis. Millions of people are migrating into cities every week and supply isn’t keeping up with all the new demand. How severe is the crisis? A former Habitat for Humanity executive helped us put it in perspective:

“It was fun to travel around speaking to audiences and say ‘Isn’t it great that somewhere around the world Habitat for Humanity is starting a new home every six minutes?’ And you get all the cheers and the enthusiasm and surprised looks on people’s faces.
And then you say ‘Oh by the way, we’re only about 96,000 houses a day short.’ It’s sort of a deflating way of approaching the issue but it’s really to drive home the reality of how significant the need is.”

That was Marty Kooistra, the executive director of the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County. We need to create new and better cities. FAST.

To better illustrate why the future of cities is so important, we compiled 30 of our favorite quotes from our world class guests that came on Season 1.

It’s available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Emily Warren

Emily Warren, Senior Director for Policy and Public Affairs, Lime
“Cities hold surprises and I think part of what people love about the urban experience is being able to explore those surprises.”
“We need services that don’t require people to park vehicles at the train station. Rather, we need services to get them to the train station.”
“I think that it’s critical to block off time on your calendar for proactive work and then require that when people put meetings on your agenda that they have a stated objective.”
“I’m excited for car ownership to become a thing of the past. It’s been the most negative influence in affecting urban life in the last 60 years, and we have an opportunity now to undo that and reclaim our cities.” –Emily Warren

Trevor Schick

Trevor Schick, Head of Materials, Katerra
“For me what makes a great city is the movement piece. It’s allowing people not to have to spend half their time getting to the destination, but bringing the destination to them.”
“You know, most people say you can be better, you can be faster, or you can be cheaper, but there’s no way you can be all three of those things. Most people say you have to pick two. I think in this industry, you don’t. You can give a better product and you can do it faster and cheaper.” –Trevor Schick

Jed Howbert

Jed Howbert, Former Group Executive for Planning, Housing, and Development, City of Detroit
“We think in timelines that are well beyond the political term of one elected official in office.”
“If you try to compete in a way that doesn’t play to your strengths and isn’t true to what you are, it’s not going to be a successful strategy, and that applies to cities too.”
“Cities are really great because they provide people opportunity. Sometimes that’s opportunity to be the sort of person you want to be…ultimately it’s really about economic opportunity and the opportunity to make something better for yourself.” –Jed Howbert

Chris Lehane

Chris Lehane, Head of Global Policy and Communications, Airbnb
“[Airbnb is] in 191 countries, 80,000 cities. So we’re virtually everywhere. It’s easier to name the places we’re not in.”
“If you’re looking to travel, tap into the greatest natural resource that exists in any community, and that’s its people.” –Chris Lehane
“You learn about a particular place through its people. You learn about the history, the culture, the politics, the art, the food. And you can learn about it best through [a city’s] people.” –Chris Lehane

Di-Ann Eisnor

Di-Ann Eisnor, Director, Area 120, Google
“By the year 2050, we’re going to have to fit another 2.5 billion people into the cities, and already infrastructure is crushed as it is. If we can’t solve our operational problems now, we’re going to have a bigger problem then.”
“What makes a city great is the micro-interactions of the people, fostering an environment and a culture of the citizens where they feel connected.”
“Culturally we need to wrestle technology into being of service to humanity. What do we want our cities to be? When we decide that, we need to force technology to serve it.” –Di-Ann Eisnor

Jody Kelman

Jody Kelman, Director of Self-Driving Platform, Lyft
“One of the things we are really good at Lyft is figuring out how to take a technology that seems super futuristic and turning it into something that is incredibly familiar and comfortable for passengers.”
“A happy city is one that is built around the types of human connections you and I are having right now rather than around cars.”
“We believe that we can build cities that are built around human connection.” –Jody Kelman

James Timberlake

James Timberlake, Partner & Co-Founder, KieranTimberlake
“The diversity of people, I think, makes a city great. We as architects think it might be the urbanism or the architecture but it’s how people use the urbanism or the architecture and the landscape that ultimately defines a city’s greatness.” –James Timberlake

Stephen Kieran

Stephen Kieran, Partner & Co-Founder, KieranTimberlake
“I certainly believe time helps make a city great. When I think across the trajectory of urban history at the outset, it’s really hard to say any city is great at its beginning. I can’t think of one that really started off great, and those that are fully planned often take decades and centuries to fully realize the plan.” –Stephen Kieran

Deano Roberts

Deano Roberts, Senior Director of Global Workplace and Real Estate, Slack
“I think what makes a city great is probably what makes any community great whether it’s a workspace [or] a family. It’s a shared understanding of what its core values are and what it wants to be authentically[…] I think I want a thread of continuity in the community that is predictable, dependable, and authentic to who it is and who its history was.” –Deano Roberts

Ryan Popple

Ryan Popple, President & CEO, Proterra
“I think one of the biggest changes we’ll see that people aren’t ready for is the fact that moving people within the urban core is going to get to the point where it has 0 marginal cost. I liken it to how we used to pay for mobile phone service. I’m old enough to remember nights and weekend. And now the idea of that just seems crazy. The cost of movement in a city keeps going down. Mass transit in the urban core in some cities has already moved to a free model. You can just get on the vehicle. A lot of cities have realized that the congestion relief is more valuable that the incremental cost of collecting a fare.” –Ryan Popple

Craig Curtis

Craig Curtis, Head of Architecture, Katerra
“In order to really execute on these problems, I am now convinced that it takes something like the SIlicon Valley disruption model in order to make it work. It’s never going to just come from within. Lots of people refer to this same issue around the way Uber was started. It was not started by a cab company. Airbnb did not come from within hospitality. I don’t really see that any construction company or […]architecture firm would ever have the kind of capital to invest to take on a problem that is this immense without that Silicon Valley disruption mentality.” –Craig Curtis

Marty Kooistra

Marty Kooistra, Executive Director, Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County
“It was fun to travel around speaking to audiences and say ‘Isn’t it great that somewhere around the world Habitat for Humanity is starting a new home every six minutes?’ And you get all the cheers and the enthusiasm and surprised looks on people’s faces. And then you say ‘Oh by the way, we’re only about 96,000 houses a day short.’ It’s sort of a deflating way of approaching the issue but it’s really to drive home the reality of how significant the need is.” –Marty Kooistra

Grant Geiger

Grant Geiger, Founder & CEO, EIR Healthcare
“If a hospital decides they want to open up a new tower [or] expand, from the time that the board and the CEO make that strategic decision to the time that that facility opens is tremendous. Best case scenario you’re looking at over five years. We’ve seen examples of over a decade.” –Grant Geiger

Michael Green

Michael Green, Principal, Michael Green Architecture
“So, you know, we have the solutions. We just have to find ways to connect the public to those solutions and that’s kind of a fun part of the job.”
“A great city is a place where the people are able to gather and connect with each other and feel really connected and a strong sense of community.” –Michael Green
“Buildings should create context for the places in between. In a way they’re the backdrop. And they can be a beautiful backdrop. But in a way they’re a backdrop to making sure that the people are the success of the city.”
“Our job as architects is not just to make an object, it’s to solve a connectivity problem with people.” –Michael Green

These quotes only scratch the surface of what we learned. The challenges that face cities are great. But human innovation and ingenuity is also great. We can’t wait to see how our cities will change and grow. Download The Future of Cities, Season 1, and let us know what you think at The Mission or on Twitter:

And for those interested, the early response we’ve received is tremendous so we’ve begun production on Season 2. If you’re a mission-driven company that’s interested in sponsoring The Future of Cities, Season 2, you can get in touch with our creative team here.

“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.” –Roman Payne