In the year 2030, an entirely new city could rise from a patch of yet-to-be-named territory in North America. Probably somewhere parched, flat and mostly uninhabited (think Utah, Nevada or Texas). It’s a place where five million people could live by 2050, that would prioritise technology, inclusion, equality and “human potential”. Going by the name of Telosa, this metropolis might sound like something from a science fiction movie. But for American entrepreneur Marc Lore and Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, founder and director of BIG, it’s a very near reality.
Expected to break ground this side of the next decade – and welcome scores of residents soon after – the ambitious project is marketed as setting a “gold standard” in city design. Upon its opening, should investors help get the project up and running, Telosa is poised to inspire the global cities of the future. Not just because of BIG’s cutting-edge architecture and urban design, but also due to the project’s human-centric attributes.
Telosa city: An entirely new metropolis in North America designed by BIG
The mission of Telosa is to create a more fair and sustainable future for its residents, bound by the principals of “equitism”. Again, it all sounds a little sci-fi. But the Telosa team insist that equitism is a very real concept, explaining that it’s an economic system in which the future citizens of Telosa will each receive a stake in the city’s land. Put simply: as the city does better, the residents do better.
The city’s public realm is promised to be vibrant and active, with open space woven throughout the dense city fabric. In preliminary illustrations of the city nearly everything appears solar-powered, autonomous and zippy. The city parks, shown to be lush in native planting, will host carefully managed reservoirs, storing clean water for the city and providing all residents with open space just minutes from where they live.
By starting from scratch, priority is easily given to bicycles and pedestrians in Telosa. Smart cars would safely share the streets with people and nature. Training centres, cultural institutions and retail stores would spill out onto the street – met by shaded public spaces that encourage the city’s residents to come together. But will this be some sort of utopia? Not quite. “Utopian projects are focused on creating a perfect, idealistic state,” say the Telosa team. “We are not. We are firmly grounded in reality and what is possible,” they insist.
“We have a chance to prove a new model for society that offers people a higher quality of life and greater opportunity,” adds Marc of his and BIG’s vision for Telosa. “When I look out 30 years from now, I imagine equitism serving as a blueprint for other cities – and even the world – and Telosa being a place of pride for all who live there.”
In this Q&A, the Telosa team answers a series of frequently asked questions about the multi-billion-dollar project, revealing more about what to expect, where the city could appear and just who might call this “city of the future” home.
Why are you building a new city?
Over 80 percent of people in the United States live in metropolitan areas – which are also the source of over 90 percent of the economic activity of the US and have become important hubs for higher education, research, science and technology. A new city built from scratch avoids the legacy issues of infrastructure and policies that constrain and restrict what can be developed. The clean slate allows the opportunity to redesign a city with the needs of people at the centre. We benefit from the knowledge, innovation and expertise that has been learned since other cities were built in the US. We can build the most sustainable and resilient city that will serve as a model helping residents in existing cities along the way.
Where will the city of Telosa be built?
Telosa will be built in the United States. We have established site selection criteria, engaged experts and plan to begin conversations with local, state and federal leaders to help identify the ideal location. Some potential locations include Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas and Appalachian Region.
Who will live in the city of Telosa?
This city is being built for everyone. This is not a private city. We want Telosa to be representative of our society. We want to create an environment in the city where everyone can reach their full potential. We want to attract those that want to be a part of building something better. Just like many of our predecessors, the initial residents will be pioneers such as entrepreneurs in all industries, educators, manufacturers, artists, students, builders, telecommuters, mentors and corporations. In some cases, we will invest capital in new businesses coming to Telosa. As we grow organically, we will continue to attract diverse businesses while expanding to a wider audience of residents looking for a higher quality of life.
Is the goal to create utopia?
No, we are absolutely not attempting to create a utopia. Utopian projects are focused on creating a perfect, idealistic state – we are not. We are firmly grounded in reality and what is possible. We are focused on the best, most sustainable solutions for infrastructure, urban design, economic vibrancy and city services, but we fully recognise that no solution is perfect and all human systems have flaws. Therefore, we are committed to new ideas, finding the best way to solve difficult problems and constant improvement.
Why would people move to Telosa?
Residents will come to Telosa for several reasons – good jobs, education and a higher quality of life will play a large role. At the same time, we also believe that many will come to Telosa to take advantage of our new way of life. Some will come for the adventure and to live in a vibrant, exciting, sustainable city that is forging a blueprint for the future. Most importantly, the residents will have a part in creating something new and with that comes the inherent pride to join the community.
Telosa will create a place integrated with nature for outdoor recreation and a 15-minute city area where you work, live, learn and have access to all of your basic needs within your neighbourhood.
The economic vibrancy that creates jobs and opportunity will build a strong community that values individual achievement and the notion that we don’t leave people behind. Visitors and residents will also view Telosa as a destination to experience the adventure of next generation mobility, world-class education that will shape the future, the newest innovation in industry, and the most unique entertainment and culture.
Where are you in the process of Telosa?
We’ve been laser focused on our mission, vision and values – which we consider as our foundation. We are now starting to expand the team to bring in the most diverse thought leaders in skills, backgrounds and experience for all aspects of a city.
When will the first residents move into Telosa?
Very soon we will reach out to state officials and other partners to begin to determine where the city will be built. Our first residents will start moving in by 2030.
What are the biggest challenges?
There are real challenges with finding the right location – water, climate, logistics and other features, but the greatest challenge based on other new city projects will likely be to generate public and political support. We need to address problems and bring solutions that matter to people and improve their quality of life. We need to lead with people, not technology. We need to focus on creating a higher quality of life for everyone. We welcome your ideas, input and suggestions to improve every aspect of what we are doing.
How are you going to minimise the environmental impact of building a new city?
Telosa will provide a model of how best to incorporate an existing natural environment into a new city’s design and operations to ensure continuity of the natural resource flow. The air quality of the region will be maintained by not allowing fossil-fuel vehicles, requiring zero stack emissions and minimising the heat-island impact of the city to avoid associated air quality issues. Maximum permeability of the city’s footprint for water infiltration and groundwater recharge will require green infrastructure with all buildings, thoroughfares and open spaces.
The city is committed to instituting a circular materials economy that minimizes the need to extract additional natural resources, and thus, reduce the loss of natural habitats. But most importantly, and unlike any city in the world, Telosa will establish a fund to restore critical habitats and preserve the natural resources of the greater region.
How much will it cost to build the city? How will you pay for it?
It will cost billions. The project will be divided into multiple phases over decades. We anticipate that it will cost over $25 billion for the initial phase (1500 acres, 50,000 residents) and over $400 billion for the city build out. Funding will come from various sources including private investors, philanthropists, federal and state grants, and subsidies for economic development.
What is equitism?
An economic system in which citizens have a stake in the city’s land – as the city does better, the residents do better.
Equitism in Telosa starts with land. Initially, all the land will be donated to a community endowment which will use the increasing land values to fund enhanced public services – the building blocks of prosperity: higher quality education, greater access to home ownership, improved health and wellness, more innovative business opportunities and expanded jobs and retraining. This will provide wider access to opportunity and a greater shared prosperity for all citizens. Equitism is inclusive growth.
How might someone get involved in Telosa?
We are building Telosa of, by and for the people which requires input from people of every walk of life, every level of income, every racial and ethnic group and every political perspective. We deeply value what you have to say and encourage you to sign up for our updates, follow us on social media and submit ideas through the website. It is exciting, ambitious and we need your feedback to accomplish our mission.
When I look out 30 years from now, I imagine equitism serving as a blueprint for other cities … and Telosa being a place of pride for all who live there.