PLAN 87: Article
The Future is Cities

An Illustrated Tour of MIT Work in Urbanization

This year’s winter issue of MIT’s Spectrum magazine – ‘The Future is Cities, Cities of the Future’ – is a glossy 24-page production featuring oversize full-color spreads on current projects in urbanization, the lion’s share of which are being conducted at SA+P. With an introduction by MIT President Rafael Reif, the issue addresses many of today’s most important challenges – including poverty, energy, climate change, disaster resilience, transportation and sustainability – and the often startling ways our researchers are tackling those issues.  As we launch our new Center for Advanced Urbanism, this magazine provides an invaluable glimpse of the range and scope of SA+P’s vision for the future. Below, to spur your interest, you’ll find a list of the stories that feature our work. You can find them all online at <> and download a PDF of the entire issue at the bottom of that page. If you’d like a hardcopy, please send your address to and we’ll mail one to you. 


Smart Components, Assembling Themselves
Skylar Tibbits transforms common materials into responsive and reconfigurable building elements.


Where Economy Meets Ecology
John Fernández is at the forefront of urban sustainability, an emerging field that explores a city’s economy and ecology.


Barriers to Opportunity
Xavier de Souza Briggs reveals that if people in high-poverty areas move to low-poverty areas, soon they may be no better off than before.


Resilient Places
San Francisco rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake while Warsaw rebuilt after World War 11. Larry Vale explains what makes cities so resilient.


Seductive Spaces, Sustainable Energy
Christoph Reinhart, who runs MIT’s Sustainable Design Lab, creates a new modeling system to evaluate hundreds of buildings at a time.


A Soft House, To Last a Century
Sheila Kennedy creates a Soft House –– tough enough to withstand the harshest elements and to last a century.


3-D Printed Buildings for A Developing World
Larry Sass’s vision is for new buildings to rise faster, use fewer resources, and cost less, thanks to digital fabrication.


Do-it-Yourself Manufacturing
Neil Gershenfeld creates fab labs, aimed to reshape cities socially and economically.


Data Visualizing Healthy Cities
Sep Kamvar’s group is making 10,000 data visualization maps, so residents can view cities like never before.


Greening Gray Infrastructure
Judith Layzer says as urban development escalates and climate change creates rising seas, current water management systems are failing.


Not Just Men in Spandex
Michael Lin and Sandra Richter design a future vehicle for bike lanes.



Shaping Vibrant Cities
Alumni from Toronto to Beijing meet to discuss urbanism.