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Cities as Luxury Goods?

Cities as Luxury Goods?

A conversation with Greg Lindsay, Guest Curator of the reSITE 2018 Accommodate event, and Martin Barry, Founder of reSITE.


Housing has been identified as the number one issue of today’s cities by leading architects and planners, Teddy Cruz, Jean-Louis Missika, and Carl Weisbrod – all keynote speakers at reSITE events over the last three years. That’s where the theme of the reSITE 2018 Accommodate event, June 14-15 in Prague, begins. For this annual event, reSITE is inviting fifty international guests to explore the challenge and its solutions from all angles, including planning, design, technology, and new economic and social models of co-living and cohousing. Greg Lindsay, guest curator of reSITE, and Martin Barry, reSITE’s founder, speak about the theme of the upcoming June event.

Q:What do you define as the most pressing housing challenges cities face today?

Martin Barry: From Bordeaux to Belfast and Tokyo to Tel Aviv, cost of living has become one of the most pressing puzzles of our generation. As cities face increasing challenges to fund affordable housing solutions, we need to utilize new technologies and diverse partnerships. We need to build more and build closer to city centers or transit hubs. We need do it in a way that can open alternative ownership models that provide higher quality housing at affordable costs and a flexible structure. Increasing supply simply isn't decreasing cost. If cities want to remain competitive, they should look no further than ensuring that people can find a good and affordable place to live.

Sou Fujimoto and Manal Rachdi OXO Architectes design, The Thousand Trees, submitted for Reinventer Paris competition. Fujimoto will speak at reSITE.

Greg Lindsay: It’s become clear that the most beloved qualities of our cities have transformed them into luxury goods, and a process that started in London or New York a decade ago is trickling down into one city after another. Having a “right to the city” means having the right to live in the city, and that’s why we need new strategies, technologies, and protections to build homes for all of us. We need to build more housing where people want to live; we need to do it without the mass displacement of the people who live there now, and we need to stop financializing it.

Q: What are the new and expected trends related to housing and living in cities?

Greg Lindsay: As an American, I think it’s interesting that the dream of a single-family suburban home is receding for rich and poor alike. Soaring home prices coupled with stagnant incomes and austerity are leading some to reconsider collective housing, while at the very high end of the market, “co-living” offers wealthy residents housing as a membership club. Why pay a lease or a mortgage when you can sign up for a room in one city and then float to a luxury building in another? Home ownership has become either an unattainable ideal or a drag, depending on your tax bracket.

Foro Boca by Michel Rojkind, who will give a keynote lecture in Prague.

Martin Barry: Student housing in Europe is trending and there is a need, with over 7 million international students in 2020, compared with 4.1 million in 2014. However, the market in cities like Amsterdam, Lisbon and London will soon be saturated with ultra-luxury student apartments, which are more like 5-star hotels than the creaky flats that I lived in when I was in school. It's a great sector for us to pilot new types of housing alternatives, because younger people have different expectations about how they want to live in the future city. We can test new ideas of co-living and intergenerational living as part of this trend.

Q: Why do we need to cooperate across disciplines?

Greg Lindsay: No single discipline or profession can solve this challenge. We need to rethink in parallel the design, construction, financing, and use of homes if we have any hopes of creating better cities. Simply building more housing isn’t enough; neither is designing a more beautiful or practice house, or finding ways to build them more cheaply, or with less money down. We need to think holistically and discover how one solution might reinforce another.

reSITE 2018 will include a Book Signing by OMA's Partner Reinier de Graaf, for his new book: Four Walls and a Roof

Q: What are your program tips for reSITE 2018?

Martin Barry: Alternative ownership, financing and regeneration models are driving the conversation about housing around the world. We will expand upon each of those at reSITE this year. Jeanne Gang is a practicing architect and a MacArthur Fellow, whose work at a recent MoMA exhibition "Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream" will be a highlight. Reinier de Graaf's first book "Four Walls and a Roof," will be revealed at the event, where we expect him to lambaste apathetic architectural ideals and explain that architecture will always be flawed as long as humans conceive, create and build it.

Greg Lindsay: An emerging theme is top-down plans for large-scale regeneration — such as LSE Cities’ Richard Burdett and his role in remaking east London following the 2012 Summer Olympic Games — versus bottom-up craftsmanship, as demonstrated by the Turner Prize-winning architects of Assemble and the Mumbai-based research group URBZ. Resolving that tension productively will go a long way toward achieving our goals for housing.

The Baltic Street Adventure Playground, Glasgow, by Assemble — Photo by Assemble

reSITE 2018, the annual international forum showcasing better solutions for our urbanized world, sponsored by CityLab, will present 50 international speakers from 30 countries including architects Jeanne Gang, Michel Rojkind, Sou Fujimoto and Reinier de Graaf. Over 1,000 audience members including architects, planners, bottom-up innovators and municipal and private sector leaders will also attend on June 14–15, 2018 at Prague’s Forum Karlin.

To register and learn more, including about reSITE’s “Women Make Cities” discount promotion, which is available for all the women in architecture, design, NGOs and city leadership, visit

About the event:
June 14-15, 2018
Prague, Forum Karlin
Register at

Martin Barry is a landscape architect and the Founder and Director of reSITE. Martin leads the reSITE team with strategy, expansion and fundraising, providing creative and program leadership for current and future reSITE projects. He’s also the co-founder and CEO of City Crew, a global advisory and creative agency for cities and real estate investors. At W Architecture in NYC, Martin managed complex projects around the world. He was awarded the President’s Award for Community Service from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in 2016. He is a Fulbright Scholar, a Fellow with the Design Trust for Public Space in New York, and a visiting lecturer at the Paris Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi.

Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He has joined reSITE in 2018 as a guest curator of the annual flagship Prague conference. He is a senior fellow of the New Cities Foundation — where he leads the Connected Mobility Initiative  — a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, a contributing writer for Fast Company and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next. He spoke at reSITE events in 2013 and 2015.