Jaime Lerner: Why Smart Cities are like Turtles

On Friday, I featured five articles on smart cities.  Over the weekend, I came across the first in an intriguing new series of ‘flash interview’ by The Economist.

The inaugural installment features one of my favorite urbanists, Jaime Lerner.  Jaime describes his vision for the “smart cities” of the future:


1. What one idea could most improve life in cities?

The understanding that the city is a structure of life, work, movement, together. These concepts come together in the metaphor of the Turtle – if you break down the shell of the turtle, living here, working there, it will die. This metaphor emphasizes the absolute need of integrating within the city compatible urban functions and of articulating them with the desire of displacements.

2. Should governments lead all major infrastructure investment, or should the private sector lead?

There should be an “equation of co-responsibility”, in which the public realm, private sector and civil society all act together in the best of their abilities to the consecution of a common view of the future.

3. What ‘smart system’ technology most worries you?

Creativity begins when you cut a zero from your budget. Sustainability, when you cut two. When dealing with “smart system” technologies, we must always remember to bind our solutions with a commitment to simplicity. Also, having in mind that sustainability is an equation between what is saved and what is wasted. If waste is “zero”, sustainability tends to infinity.


Other installments in The Economnist’s Flash Interview series include:

Yuri Artibise

Yuri Artibise is an experienced policy analyst, community engagement practitioner and social media specialist. I have a Master of Public Administration degree with over 10 years of public policy research, analysis, and advocacy experience.