This is a selection of books that helped me better understand the relationship between cities and technology.

Last updated: March 29, 2020.

Smart Cities

by Anthony M. Townsend


Smart Cities is the first comprehensive book dedicated to urban technology that I’ve come across. In contrast to common utopian or dystopian fortune-telling, Anthony creates a balanced portrayals of cities and technology. I really appreciate that he grounds relative success of urban technologies in better understanding people and human nature, something that is at the core of my personal interest in urban fundamentals.

“If the history of city building in the last century tells…

What will buildings of the future look like? Will they have a bent Zaha Hadid-inspired shape? Will they be 3D-printed? We would argue that both luxury and affordable buildings of the future will be modular and reusable. In fact, an affordable and a luxury structure could be the same building, though perhaps a decade or two apart.

Upgrade Cycles & Secondary Markets

Most products evolve in cycles: new car models are introduced about every 7 years; a new generation of cell phones — every 2 years.

These cycles create a positive loop: as new technologies are frequently introduced to the market, recent models become much…

(This article first appeared on TechCrunch on July 23rd, 2016)

In recent years, researchers and companies have been exploring new ways to improve buildings through analytics software, prefabrication, connected devices, new materials and construction automation. It’s striking that most of these efforts are trying to patch problems within the legacy framework of “permanent” construction.

The assumption that buildings should be designed and constructed as permanent objects is commonly treated as an axiom. Could it be that the one thing that is taken for granted is the biggest problem with buildings as products?

What’s wrong with permanent buildings?

Buildings are not permanent, but we tend to…

For all the hype around connected homes, thus far, the Internet of Things (IoT) industry hasn’t found an original killer use case. Could new behaviors or a radically new device emerge to become as universal in homes as refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, or computers?

By New York Times, Nicholas Felton

The 20th century saw multiple structural shifts in living conditions. Some improvements were so welcomed that they’ve reached almost 100% household adoption (in advanced economies). Almost-universal adoption means that a certain tool resonated with universal human needs or desires. Let’s explore these basics to understand whether connected home solutions could augment them.

Home fundamentals

For thousands of…

When and if autonomous cars arrive on the streets, they will affect not only traffic, but land use and real estate as well.

Today, places and most services have a fixed location. People drive to shops, restaurants, offices and hotels. With autonomous mobile platforms, some services could be unbundled from a rigid location. Suddenly, a multitude of scenarios arises:

  • a person drives up to a fixed place to get service;
  • a person stays put and requests a service-on-wheels to drive to them;
  • both a person and a service are in motion and meet on the road

Could autonomous cars end…

A single book shelf. That’s the size of the whole urban studies section within the flagship 5-floor Barnes & Noble store in New York. And only one book on this shelf is dedicated to technology.

Books are a good proxy for topics that are in demand in an industry — in this case, a proxy for how urban planners think. Dozens of new books are written every year on urban design improvements for pedestrians and bikes, slum reconstruction, new urbanism, and various interpretations of sustainability. Yet one would still have a hard time finding books systematically studying the impact of…

The debate between Open Plan and Private Office is missing the point


Both an open plan office arrangement and private office approach are based on a flawed assumption that it’s possible to design an ideal space for average behaviors. Instead, we should aim to provide opportunities for bottom-up individual space planning. To do this, we must find a way to make an office interior reconfigurable.

Flawed Assumption: Design for Average Behaviors

For the last couple decades, the debate between an open plan office arrangement and a private office has not come to a conclusion. The open plan promises transparency, spontaneous collaboration and brainstorming. A private office boasts better productivity and concentration.

These conflicting paradigms will never reach a…

And why we should embrace that.

The “smart city” vision may sound futuristic, but it is based on the legacy urban planning ideals. Emerging technologies are overexposed to a status quo urban governance system that evolved over last century.

The early versions of “smart city” concepts propose centralized infrastructure governed by local authorities. It is ultimately the manifestation of a top-down urban governance approach.

The Internet, in particular mobile, created an environment that challenges the basic premise of top-down urban governance. …

Fed Novikov

Co-founder Apt Buildings, Inc., previously Airbnb Samara and Asmbld

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