Building Cities With Citizen Ideas & Money [My Ideal City]

Real-estate pioneer Rodrigo Niño explains how his current project, My Ideal City, seeks to bring citizens and experts together to build a better city.

Rodrigo Niño is the director of My Ideal City - a collaboration with leading architects Winka Dubbeldam and Gary Hack, as well as citizens themselves, to bring about a crowdsourced’ and crowdfunded solution to the problems that cities around the world faces today. Already a speaker at PSFK CONFERENCE 2013, he spoke recently with PSFK.com about how he sees his vision developing and how he hopes that it will encourage other urban metropolises in emerging nations to follow suit.

What was your rationale behind the My Ideal City Project?

I believe in the power of the crowd first and foremost. I saw how over 3200 investors decided to put together their efforts to make the first skyscraper in Colombia—BD Bacata—developed by BD Promotors. That project would not have been possible with traditional financing or institutional investments, and it showed what the power of the crowd could bring to the population.

We saw how the city was growing like a flat pancake with buildings that had, on average, no more than four stories. We saw that people were flooding into Bogota at a rate that outpaced any potential development and recognized that there was no consensus when it came to finding a solution. We also understood that the approach from top to bottom, where experts determine what should be done, wouldn’t be an effective way to operate. It’s important to respect and give proper credit to the crowd–there is no one who knows better when it comes to figuring out what needs to be done to improve the city.

How do you see it working out?  

We decided to create a conversation between experts in urbanism, architecture, the environment and art to define the future of the city through the vision of ‘My Ideal City‘. We hope that the project is applicable to other cities so it can be franchised to other settlements facing the same problem. It is our bet that this model will replicated across the world, particularly in emerging countries which are experiencing extreme urban growth. The concept of crowdfunding behind it also draws on the idea of crowdsourcing because the crowd will tell us what kind of city it wants as well as financing it themselves. I don’t know of any initiatives in any other cities which use popular participation, through some organized direction, as a core strategy.

Has being a Bogotano in New York influenced your way of thinking?  

The combination of being a native of Bogota and a resident of Manhattan has shown me a variety of ways in which the city could evolve, ranging from from vertical growth to transportation. However, I have always had an emotional attachment to Bogota because it is where I was born.

After living in New York, I see that urban redevelopment is the way forward. People need to be able to live comfortably in densely populated areas while minimizing their impact on the environment. But New Yorkers are New Yorkers and Bogotanos are Bogotanos–we each have the respective right to decide how our cities should develop. Nobody should decide that for us, but experts can help us make our collective vision come to fruition.

Are there any issues unique to Bogota that a person looking to transform the city might encounter?

I feel that people from Bogota, and Colombians in general, are very conscious of their environment. If you give them the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way in deciding the direction of a topic as global as the future of a city, they will embrace it enthusiastically. They will produce outstanding results and come to clever conclusions that will not only define the future of Bogota but the way that the city of the future is conceptualized.

Which urban ‘problem’ would you like to see most improved in the next five to ten years?  

I would like to observe more vertical growth and improvements in traffic circulation. Mobility in Bogota, as in other cities in the world, is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Overall, I would like the initiatives result in an urban environment that is the definition of happiness for a city dweller, whatever country they live in.

What do you ultimately hope to achieve via the ‘My Ideal City’ project?

With the help of the team at PSFK Labs, I believe that ‘My Ideal City’ will give people from all over the world the opportunity to participate in a solution that will define the future of cities in emerging countries. Pertinent questions and topics will be examined on PSFK.com, so the conversation will not only be between Colombians and experts but also between the world and experts. The subject of the ideal city is relevant to everyone because it concerns the future of the places where they live and work.

Thanks Rodrigo!

Over the next 6 months, PSFk.com will create a conversation around what you envision as ‘My Ideal City’. For new ideas around the future of the city, watch the content generated in our special section at psfk.com/my-ideal-city or on MiCiudadIdeal.com.

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