19.20.21: Charting the Rise of Supercities in the 21st Century

Supercities will “radically redefine the world’s future macroeconomic and cultural landscape.” But how do you make sense of it all? Image via 192021.org

Some of the greatest minds of design and marketing are working on a five-year, multimedia project to collect information about the rise of urban populations to better understand its impact on urban and business planning and its effect on consumers.

The project is known as 19.20.21, based on the premise that there will be 19 cities in the world with populations of 20 million people in the 21st century. You can learn more about it online in a spiffy Flash-based presentation:


Led by Richard Saul Wurman, word-renowned information architect and founder of the TED conferences, the initiative will explore trends in cities ranging from London to Lagos, researching data on topics like health, education, transportation, energy consumption, and infrastructure.

While based on statistical analysis, the project no doubt will deliver something entertaining and accessible, delivered through the Web, television, print publications, and exhibits and seminars.

So what’s the big deal?

The idea is to standardize the way information about cities is collected and shared. This means coming up with patterns of data, comparing trends, and developing communications strategies to provide a “roadmap for understanding the world ahead.”

Raphael D’Amico, author of Shakeout blog, says 19.20.21 has the potential to be a “common yardstick” that can help cities measure their progress towards becoming better places to live:

Hopefully, the outcome will be a set of concrete design patterns which city planners can use to improve the lives of their citizens while reducing the environmental burden of urbanisation. These must do two things. 1) create an objective way to measure the success of a city’s elements, 2) make it possible to transfer these elements elsewhere.

Watch a presentation by Jon Kamen, founder of @radical.media, about mass urbanization and the 19.20.21 project:

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