The Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Residences and JW Marriott Hotel at LA Live, Los Angeles
A city with tall buildings.

Ensuring the Future Health of Our Cities

Editor’s Note: The following excerpt is from Design for a Radically Changing World, by Gensler Global Co-Chairs Diane Hoskins and Andy Cohen.

The future health of cities depends upon their ability to attract new residents, visitors, businesses, and workers. One answer to this challenge is mixed-use design. By reimagining single-use residential and commercial blocks as multipurpose spaces that support a range of activities and behaviors, cities can yield better experiences overall, creating a sense of place that is intimately tied to the local context.

The varied programming of mixed-use developments insulates downtowns and central business districts (CBDs) from the negative effects of economic downturns by attracting people at different times of day for 24/7 activation. Properties in mixed-use developments consistently outperform nearby single-use properties. Our cities need integrated, holistic thinking and the flexibility to adapt over time. The places we build today will remain standing for generations to come, so they must be able to transform and accommodate new uses as the need arises.

Our cities need integrated, holistic thinking and the flexibility to adapt over time.

This culminates, for us, in the concept of the 20-minute city: a place in which all residents’ needs for attainable housing, work, amenities, culture, and essential services exist within a short walk, bike, or public transit ride. The 20-minute city, neighborhood, or district is designed to create both vibrancy and equality. This concept, popularized by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, has been implemented in cities around the world by using various policy, economic, and community-oriented strategies—from changing the use of streets on weekends to promoting micromobility services.

Design for a Radically Changing World book cover
Design for a Radically Changing World
A new perspective positioning design as a strategic tool for creating meaningful, lasting, and positive change in the built environment.

All citizens deserve access to the best features of the urban environment, regardless of their background, socioeconomic status, profession, or physical ability. We believe that the numerous challenges cities face today are solvable if we as a design community embrace broad, future-focused thinking. While the pandemic may have temporarily upended our concept of city life, we now have a chance to reimagine what the central tenets of urbanity should look like. This is the moment to take back our cities and ensure that every place that we design is a place for people. Through design, we can improve the human experience, leverage our capabilities for positive purposes, and make a difference in cities all over the world.

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Andy Cohen
Andy is global co-chair of Gensler, the world’s most influential architecture and design firm. He served as co-CEO from 2005 to 2024 and has spent his entire 43-year career at Gensler. Cohen is a frequent speaker for premier industry groups, including the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the Urban Land Institute, the Young Presidents Organization, the Milken Institute Global Conference, the Pension Real Estate Association, and more. His insights have appeared in Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Quartz, Curbed, and many other general interest and trade publications. Cohen is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a graduate of the Pratt Institute.
Diane Hoskins
Diane is global co-chair of Gensler, the world’s most influential architecture and design firm. She served as co-CEO from 2005 to 2024. Hoskins is the 2023-2025 Global Chair of the Urban Land Institute and was a featured speaker at the United Nation’s Habitat Assembly in Nairobi (2023) and Climate Action Summit in New York (2019). She has also spoken at the UN Climate Change Conference for three consecutive years. Her insights have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review, CNN, Forbes, Fast Company, NPR, and elsewhere. A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Hoskins graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and holds an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.