Every great city is an experiment in something. New York (as local writer Adam Gopnik once observed) is one in density, just as Venice is an experiment in water; Paris, perhaps, is an experiment in art, while Los Angeles is an experiment in the automobile. In each case, what makes a city great—what makes us fall in love with it, really—is the version of human life that the place seems to be incubating, its vision of a possible world.
But what if you could stitch several of those visions together, Frankenstein-style, into one city? What if you could take the accumulated results of all those experiments and put them into practice? What would that city look like?
Departures went looking for the world’s best new urban laboratories, distilling each down to a single, essential quality crucial for a great metropolis in the 21st century. We didn’t look back: It’d be terrific for every city to be as historic as, say, Rome, but that’s not really possible. And in any case, we wanted to look further afield, trying to find those out-of-the-way places whose experiments are just getting under way, or that haven’t had their big moment yet on the global stage. (We left out China, for example, since the country has become synonymous with new cities.) What we’ve come up with is a composite image, a crazy quilt of innovations and ideas that planners and designers, or anybody who loves cities, can look into and maybe catch a glimpse of the future.