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New Cities as a Lab: Designing the Innovation Economy Report Released

By Brooks Rainwater, Director, Public Policy



The newly released AIA Cities as a Lab: Designing the Innovation Economy report demonstrates how design can drive innovative approaches to the changing needs of American cities. The world is increasingly urbanizing with increasing numbers of people moving to cities, and the US Conference of Mayors reports that U.S. metro regions alone comprise over one-third of the world’s 100 largest economies. The evidence of this shift of economic power is demonstrated by important work happening in cities, which have become a laboratory for innovation and change.

Cities as a Lab highlights the fact that urban architectural experimentation is influencing the future direction of our cities and demonstrates the impacts of innovative design and policy solutions on the wider economy. Case studies from coast to coast illustrate this phenomenon:

    Boston Innovation District: Pioneering designers reshaped derelict wharves into a multidisciplinary hub for innovation and manufacturing, attracting 200 companies and 4,000 jobs to date.

    Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Research parks experiment with layouts that create opportunities through proximity and knowledge exchange.

    Downtown Project, Las Vegas: An urban experiment in increasing meaningful chance encounters and thus productivity.

    5M Project, San Francisco: A budding intentional community of over 1,000 art and technology firms inverts the development process to reinvent underused offices.

    TechShop: In tech hubs from the Bay Area to Pittsburgh, tinkerers launch a resurgence in American product design and small-scale manufacturing.

    The Plant, Chicago: A vertical farm feeds off city waste, growing produce and small food businesses in an abandoned meatpacking plant.

    Flexible Offices: At corporations, start-up nonprofits, and the federal government alike, 60-80% of office employees applaud new collaborative plans that enable effective work in a connected, paperless era.

    City Streets: A fresh focus on street design gives architects a new canvas for creative placemaking, reclaiming sidewalks and streets as social spaces.

    Temporary Architecture: Architects use pop-up buildings to experiment with new forms and ideas, from cutting-edge modular solar houses to an instant market.

    EcoDistricts: Districts can adopt innovative policies quickly, but are large enough to have significant impact without delaying implementation.

Whether transforming existing space, creating new urban infill approaches, or reacting nimbly to changing social and technological environments, design serves as the critical linchpin in a society where technology continues to grow and influence our everyday lives. The ability to overlay data measurement systems into the built environment is changing our relationship with physical space, providing previously unimagined observations about the urban fabric. Design excellence is the very driver for those cities that have seized the moment to shape the future. Read Cities as a Lab to learn more.


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