Conference Act Urban 2016

Natalie Voland at Act Urban

Designing the cities of tomorrow

Natalie Voland, president and founder of GI Quo Vadis, recently attended Act Urban, an event hosted by the Jan Gehl Institute of Philadelphia. A handpicked selection of experts from a variety of fields related to sustainable city building convened for three days to examine and develop ways that cities encourage people to participate in public life.

Jan Gehl, a Danish architect and urban design consultant whose masterful work can be witnessed around the globe, opened the event. Over the next three days, they discussed the power of urban design and how it could be used most effectively for positive change.

“You can actually design cities out of poverty,” Voland says. “People are so worried about gentrification. Gentrification of a city is actually more sustainable. It creates more inclusivity and actually drives down the prices so that more affordable housing can be available to the community.”

Voland is interested in creating buildings that can adapt to the changing demands of the community. Buildings are designed for a single purpose and torn down once something else is required. Instead, why not design buildings to change?

“If today I need 100 thousand square feet to build a school, can that building be designed, first of all, to interact with the community around it? That means the building across the street, around the corner, people uptown. Next, also consider that maybe you’re not going to need this school in 100 years. Maybe you’re going to need an office space instead. If so, the school should be moved to another part of the city that makes more sense.”

The group’s recommendations may soon be delivered to cities around the world.