The cleanliness of Tokyo, the diversity of New York and the social services of Stockholm: Billionaire Mark Lower set his vision for a new city of 5 million people and retained the services of a world-renowned architect to design.
Now he needs to find a place to build it – and invest $400 billion.
The former Walmart CEO last week revealed plans for Telusa, a sustainable city he hopes to create from scratch in the American desert. The ambitious 150,000-acre proposal promises green architecture, sustainable energy production and a supposedly drought-resistant water system.
The so-called “15-minute city concept” will allow residents to reach their workplaces, schools and amenities within a quarter of an hour from their homes.
While planners are still searching for sites, potential targets include land in Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas and the Appalachian region, according to the project’s official website.
Accompanying the announcement was a series of digital mockups submitted by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), the architectural firm tasked with bringing Laure’s utopian dream to life. The pictures show apartment buildings covered in greenery and the residents imagine enjoying the abundant open spaces.
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With fossil fuel vehicles banned in the city, “self-driving cars” roam the sunlit streets alongside scooters and pedestrians.
The skyscraper project nicknamed the Equitism Tower which is described as a ‘beacon to the city’.
The building has a raised water tank, wind farms and a photovoltaic roof that produces energy that allows it to “share and distribute everything that is produced”.
The first phase of construction, which will accommodate 50,000 residents on an area of 1,500 acres, is estimated at $25 billion. The entire project is expected to exceed $400 billion and the city will reach its target population of 5 million within 40 years.
Project organizers said the funding would come from “a variety of sources,” including private investors, philanthropists, federal and state grants, and grants for economic development.
City planners hope to reach out to state officials “very soon” in order to welcome the first residents by 2030.
In addition to innovative urban design, the project also promises transparent governance and what it calls a “new model for society.” Taking its name from the ancient Greek word “telos” (a term the philosopher Aristotle used to describe an inherent or superior purpose), the city would allow residents “to participate in the decision-making and budget process.”
The communal endowment will provide residents with joint ownership of the land.
In a promotional video, Laure described his proposal as “the most open, equitable and inclusive city in the world”.
Laure founded jet.com before selling it to Walmart and joining the retail giant as head of e-commerce in the United States in 2016.
He left the company earlier this year, saying his retirement plans included working on a reality TV show, giving advice on starting businesses and building a “city of the future.”
On Telosa’s official website, Lore explains that he was inspired by American economist and social theorist Henry George. The investor cites the “big flaws” of capitalism, attributing many of them to the “land ownership model on which America was built.”
Telosa’s mission is to create a more equitable and sustainable future. He’s our pole star,” Laure promises.
Meanwhile, BIG founder, Danish architect Bjarke Ingels said Telosa “embodies the social and environmental concern of Scandinavian culture, as well as the freedom and opportunity of a more American culture.”
This isn’t the first new city planned by Ingels, which has also installed a ski slope over a power plant in Copenhagen and helped design Google’s new headquarters in London and California.
In January 2020, Japanese automaker Toyota revealed that it had tasked BIG with developing a master plan for a new city of 2,000 people at the foot of Mount Fuji. Although the project, dubbed Woven City, is much smaller than Telosa, it promises to test autonomous vehicles, smart technology, and robot-assisted life.
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