50 Creative Ideas To Make Better Cities, Presented On Gorgeously Designed Posters

For years, Urban Omnibus has been collecting ideas to make cities friendlier and more comfortable places to live. Here are the cream of the crop, with a little design flair.

The Urban Omnibus, published by the Architectural League of New York, has been collecting good “citymaking” ideas since 2009. Earlier this year, the publication assembled 50 of them into a special Ideas For A New City feature, and commissioned eight posters to highlight some favorites (you can buy those here, and see them in the slide show). These are the eight highlights.


Capture Energy From Moving People

Think of a city and all the energy that’s being expended and wasted. Every time you push something open or closed, that’s energy that could be harnessed for use. Jenny Broutin and Carmen Trudell, two former Columbia students, came up with the idea for an “energy harnessing door.”

Spaces To Share Ideas

Everyone’s got a good idea: we just need a space to make them heard. Designer Candy Chang wants to take unused city walls and turn them into brainstorming spaces full of sticky notes and chalk drawings (see her contribution to the Common Space project here). Neighborland, a social network for neighborhoods co-founded by Chang, takes the city chalkboard experience into the online realm. The idea: to start a public conversation about the future of the neighborhood and bring people together in the process.

Natural Systems As Infrastructure

Hurricane Sandy showed how hopelessly prepared New York was for a serious storm. Urban Omnibus champions the use of wetlands and waterways as run-off areas, discussing how the Staten Island “Bluebelt” could be used here.


End Illegal Basements And Attics

Illegal building goes hand in hand with affordability. As cities like New York get increasingly expensive, more people want to convert basements and attics into living spaces. Seema Agnani suggests bringing more of these units up to code, creating safer dwellings and more affordable housing.

Less Car, More Gondola

When there’s no more space at ground-level, you either have to go up or down. We have subway networks, but almost never look upwards for city transportation. Steven Dale proposed a gondola system stretching from Brooklyn to New Jersey–along with greater use of inland waterways.

Build Parks Around Uncapped Hydrants

In the middle of summer, many New York neighborhoods open fire hydrants to keep cool, and a shocking amount of water runs away (1,000 gallons per minute). Adrienne Cortez had an idea: make use of some of that liquid by building mini-parks. As the poster explains, “We can waste less water and still beat the heat.”


Socialize Cab Ridership

All those people riding cabs on their own: think about how many extra people taxis could carry if we shared a little more. That’s the idea behind “social transit,” which uses mobile apps to match people needing transport with empty spaces. Suddenly, the yellow cab becomes a community resource, not a private shuttle.

Invest In Naturally Occurring Culture

Cities often impose arts institutions on neighborhoods to “import visitors to a downtown shopping or commercial district.” A Naturally Occurring Cultural District supports existing cultural activities, building stronger communities in the process. “Understanding how cultural districts occur naturally can help inform a more nuanced approach to cultural policy,” explains the poster.

And 42 Other Good Ideas

There’s much more in the Urban Omnibus compilation beyond these ideas, including “seeing cities through the lens of food,” mapping everything you can think of, and getting citizens involved in infrastructure maintenance.


About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.