A proposal for future urban living by David Grassi & Associates, San Francisco | Tel: 001-415-552-4125 | Email: dels75@hotmail.com

Work in Progress Commentary for:

New Cities Initiative

Urban/Suburban Mix

New Cities Initiative proposes a carless urban environment combining high density living with the values of spaciousness and greenery typical of suburbia.

Cars have pre-empted mass transportation and virtually foreclosed city planning initiatives for healthful living.

Walkable, urban environments linked by with mass transit are necessary to foster healthful living and commercial competitiveness.

The Urban Environment As Necessarily “Efficient”

Previously, concern for the “efficiency” of cities has not been a high priority or even considered to be crucial to national competitiveness. To the extent that people have to struggle against the structural defects and deficiencies (such as grid iron street patterns, vehicular congestion, blight, lack of greenery, parks and people friendly spaces) of where they live, work and recreate, they will have less money, energy and enthusiasm to be healthy, cultured and commercially productive.

Prime, Undeveloped Urban Sites Around The World

Global services exist today such as mapping and extensive data banks with demographic information that would allow the Administration of the New Cities Initiative to identify prime, undeveloped urban sites in various countries. Talented design professionals culled from design competitions and academia would prepare preliminary city plans for the most desired locations. Potential inhabitants guided by the preparatory work of the New Cities Initiative could surf the internet scouting the preselected sites deemed of most interest to them. Substantial information in the format of travelogues, demographic, economic, historical and cultural development of the prospective “new city” would be available online.

There are innumerable, pristine sites for new cities that have not been adulterated by traditional development often industry intertwined with sprawling housing or urban developments whose original rationale was proximity to transportation hubs such as railroads, raw materials exploitation, old harbors and river junctions.

The Gridiron City Structure Is Dysfunctional And Must Be Abandoned (new wine in old bottles won’t work)

Ever more people will be engaged in the service industries and able to work at a distance, communicate commercially by remote technology, enjoy creative retirement, innovate, teach and mentor from their habitations.

The Administration of the New Cities Initiative would interact online with each potential inhabitant by proposing macro infrastructure plans such as high rise building envelops and satellite structures including schools and cultural venues, multi-layered transportation schemes. Specialists would provide plans for city wide greenery, local landscape plans and sustainability strategies for food production, water catchment, recycling and energy production. The prospective inhabitant would select location “coordinates” in any given building envelope, develop in ever greater detail the architectural design and the amenities for the immediate habitation/work space. Private design professionals would be welcome at every stage of development.
A great variety of structural components and materials pre-selected to be environmentally friendly would be at the core of the designer’s data bank. Private design participation would always be entertained, evaluated and incorporated where possible and consistent with overall planning objectives.

Work In Progress --Points to Ponder
The overall planning objectives as well as local detail would evolve from back and forth communications between the city’s general planners and the prospective inhabitants largely before a site would be purchased and within predetermined planning concepts whose intent would be to maximize a healthy environment, sustainability and 21st century living. The “predetermined planning concepts” would be published well in advance of the promotion of the New Cities Initiative.

All planning of infrastructure should result in at least 100% of the land mass remaining as green space for gardening, food production, parks, landscaping including water features, art works, meadows, forested and wooded areas, jogging paths, pastures and corrals, animal husbandry. “Sky parks, green space between all housing and roof gardens should offset the needed foundation supports for structures.

All structures would be constructed from materials that are high tech strong, of long life span, lightweight, easily replaceable where practical to do so, as environmentally friendly in their production, installation and maintenance as practicable. Notions of aesthetics and “quaintness” would not trump functionality.

Engineering schemes would be implemented to minimize excavation and foundation installation.

Solid matter recycling and grey water usage would be priorities.

Food production and animal husbandry would be visibly accommodated to raise awareness of the commitment to sustainability that would animate the city.

The overall planning of the urban environment will be predicated on walking everywhere with long distances effected by mass transit. Physical structures for walking, jogging, roller skating, skate boarding will be constructed not only at ground level but at various levels in high rises including roofs.

Mass transit should profit from inclined planes, electric carts, people mover belted walkways. Transportation should be reduced where practicable by locating living, work, recreation and cultural amenities in “mixed use structures”.


Please click on link below to view an example of a "200 year city plan" for San Francisco or any other major urban area that typically grows by urban and suburan sprawl:


Examples of recent work:

City Space Planning Study (Section 1)


Redesign of San Francisco with high rise epicenters connected by mass transportation. Entire land mass would be green and interlaced with waterways.

K.H. 030


The new urban, high density structures could take innumerable forms.

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Overview Study of San Francisco with Habitations and Masstransportation (Section 2)


All infrastructure and buildings would follow the natural terrain.

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Each epicenter would strive for self sustainability.


Habitations with Interior Mall and Parks (Section 3)





















Habitation Tower with Interior and Parks (Section 4)


All habitations would look out onto the whole city and not onto immediate neighbors.

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Groupings of floors would be separated by "skyparks".

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Habitation epicenters would each have security, health and social centers.

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The centers of all megastructures would have different levels of greenery, art galleries, water features and educational facilities.

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Habitation Tower with Satellite Functions (Section 5)


From an urban epicenter, pathways would connect cultural and educational stations.

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Habitation Tower with Interior Park (Section 6)


Satellite sturctures could house theaters, recreational opportunities, specialty restaurant complexes and amusement parks.


Study in Habitation Structures (Section 7)


Structure columns of various scales could be mass produced using carbon re-inforced plastics of great durability.

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Mass transit systems would be suspended from highly engineered space frames.

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Diagonal communication would add another demension to elevations and people movers.

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Water catchment and solar paneled canopies of large scale would create vast protected semi-outdoor spaces.

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Light weight to high strength ratio building structures would minimize foundations. "Skyparks" could have agricultural, horticultural stations for research and development.

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The Productivity of the City

Globalization of commerce challenges the urban environment and its subsystems such as pollution and waste management, educational competence, best allocation of resources, local sustainability, energy generation and conservation, land mass management and enhancement, transportation networks. Just as the economic performance criteria that measure production of products and services, their distribution and financing, the City will need to compete with other cities worldwide and, to the extent that it doesn’t, it will act as a millstone around the aspirations and prospects of its citizens and adversely impact their standard of living.
Globalization cannot be denied; it will impose itself as surely as Adams Smith’s invisible hand. The need to do more with less in a world of finite resources and growing expectations will be the new design motif------(not notions of beauty, charm and quaintness!).
The City as a physical entity must behave as a machine for living with its rationale objectively revisited and updated—no sacred cows can be allowed to graze.



Agriculture Research (Section8)  


Individual experimental gardens and community botanical displays would be encouraged.

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Agricultural Tower (Section 9)


Agricultural towers would increase food sustainability and local nutritional awareness.

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(Section 10)



Food production in specialized towers might reduce agribusiness sprawl.

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(Section 11)



People movers and covered pedestrian pathways would connect city amenities to habitation complexes.

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(Section 12)



Young people could grow up with hands on experience with flower cultivation and food production.

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Habitation Closeup (Section 13)



Individual habitations could be designed inbetween space coordinates and be of great variety.

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Each habitation would be flanked by greenery.

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Habitations would be at least two stories so as to maximize "habitation sprawl".

K.H. 103


Individual dwellings could be built from relatively few building components but in limitless spatial combination.

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Interlacing of greenery and water features from outdoor to indoor settings would be encouraged.

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Unusual forms and shapes would create living environments tailored to new living patterns.

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Pathways between habitation blocks would separate structures and allow greater penetration of natural light.

T.R. 046


Parks would be placed every five, ten, fifteen stories for family use and individual enjoyment.

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Urban structures with significant spaciousness.

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Suggested urban tower with parks.

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Light penetration into and between habitation blocks.

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"Skyparks" every five, ten, fifteen stories of habitations.

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It’s Too Late  

Topographically, we can describe almost all housing in the world without ever having set foot there: the habitations are perched in obedient rows along streets flanked by concrete sidewalks. The sidewalks are afflicted with chewing gum rashes and the streets suffer from asphaltic tooth decay. The streets support populations of cars some asleep, some wheezing noises and bilious waste of their body fluids, overhead communities of wires askew slice up the sky. Occasional trees and bushes are held captive here and there to remind us that nature has been tamed and relegated.

Why not build alley ways behind the habitations for cars and use the space in front of the houses for finger shaped parks, gardens and community seating?.....................because it’s too late. Cars call the shots and planners carry out their orders obediently.





T.R. 053


Beginnings of individual habitation - coordinated selection in a high rise.



Greenery corridors in high rise.

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Indoor/outdoor greenery exchange.

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Individual habitation design.

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Individual habitation design.

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Individual habitation space planning.

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Individual habitation space planning.

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Individual habitation space planning.

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Individual habitation space planning.

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Individual habitation space planning.

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Individual habitation space planning.

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Individual habitation space planning.

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Individual habitation space planning.

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Individual habitation space planning.

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Individual habitation space planning.

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Individual habitation space planning.

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The Individual Building (a star is born)  
Too daring to require that buildings be raised up two stories on “engineered stilts” to allow for “diagonal meandering” instead of right angle marching?
Should we have insisted that each high rise have skyways to its neighbors like the hands of children linked during an outing? Any reason not to have imagined an intermediate floor designated as “community use”? How to experiment with roof top gardens and cantilevered gardens, energy and water catchers and not run afoul of the Planning Department?
Look at the clusters of your downtown high rises –their estrangement one from the next-how did we let that happen? Why did we stand mute before the pile drivers and gawk at the cranes overhead as chunks of the sky disappeared? Were we seduced by the mayor’s incantations “our glorious skyline” ? And who championed the landline where we really live?
(Do you remember how the media draped each building in architectural praise but waxed indignant when a hulking steel forest arose……..?)
Why do so many gladly leave the high rise Eden at the end of the day?


Individual habitation space planning.

K.H. 119


Habitation clusters with individual dwelling separated by private greenery.

K.H. 120


Green pathways between habitation blocks.

K.H. 121


Green pathways between habitation blocks.

K.H. 122


Dipiction of spaciousness between dwelling units in high rises.

K.H. 123


Schematic of residential high rise with large interior court and adjustable foundations.

K.H. 124


Schematic of residential high rise with large interior court, adjustable foundations and water catchment on roof.

K.H. 125


Residential high rise with schematic jogging paths.

K.H. 126

Aesthetics -the False Prophet  
I shall gladly argue that aesthetics is more akin to arthritis than the study of “…the beautiful, the ugly, the sublime, the comic …” (Webster) ……………it’s usually painful and life would be more agreeable altogether if it never existed. The morbid vocation of aesthetics is to confound consequent thinking in the arts and, more pertinently, in architecture and its adult parent –city planning.
Aesthetics is not an indispensible oxygen that we must have but an affectation that obscures clarity.



Schematic of residential high rise with ground level mass transportation.



Schematic of residential high rise with ground level mass transportation.

K.H. 129


Schematic of residential high rise with ground level mass transportation.

K.H. 130



Schematic of residential high rise with ground level mass transportation.

K.H. 137


Schematic of residential high rise with ground level mass transportation.

K.H. 133


Schematic of residential high rise with ground level mass transportation.

K.H. 134


School and learning center.

T.R. 070


School and learning center.

T.R. 073


School and learning center.


T.R. 071

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Looking for a City

Of old, Cities were clustered around protective hill tops festooned with castle crenellations. Then they straddled rivers, perched at harbor mouths and coughed the soot of mines. Soon they fell into parade formation along streets with name plates and gas lit eyes. Now they shoulder solar arrays joust with wind mill blades and move electrons about. Where is the city that proclaims “I am your Alexandria, your library?”

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