Photo by Eugénie Frerichs

An article you recently shared: A New York Times review of Edward Glaeser’s 2011 book Triumph of the City.

The perfect city would have: Awesome, vibrant, diverse, and mixed-income neighborhoods with rock-solid schools.

One technology on the horizon that can change the world: Nano solar cells: the use of nanotechnology to produce a photovoltaic material that can be spread like plastic wrap or paint.

Building you would save if the world was going to end: I would save a few of our cities’ most vibrant neighborhoods: Paris’s Marais, New York’s East Village, Rio’s Lapa and Santa Teresa, and San Francisco’s Mission. They represent the key ingredients of community, commerce, and vitality.

Favorite mode of transportation: Bike, hands down. I suggest people check out Portland’s annual Pedalpalooza, a month-long celebration of bike culture, anchored by the world’s largest naked bike ride.

Wasteful habit you’re trying to kick: My love of old trucks. My latest obsession is an ’85 Toyota Landcruiser that I just picked up from a friend from high school.

Greatest professional pet peeve: The emerging hipster term “maker.” We didn’t just start making stuff.

A current event we should follow more closely: Gun violence in Chicago, immigration reform, and the EPA’s rules on carbon emissions in power plants. All three have tremendous impacts on the future of cities.

Environmental come-to-Jesus moment: My first green building conference at MIT in 1996. Paul Hawken and Bill McDonough pushed my understanding of environmentalism towards the deep interconnectedness between design, commerce, and spirit.

What you’d pitch to President Obama if you had 30 seconds: Fund a competition for cities to create “innovation districts” where we can rewrite the regulations and bring together economic innovation and the latest in green building, integrated infrastructure, and civic entrepreneurism.

The boldest idea in sustainable design: Simplicity and restraint. This was the mantra of Greg Acker, who helped spark Portland’s green building movement and who is now helping transform downtown Doha.

Best environmental documentaryRace—The Power of an Illusion. The practice of redlining was one of the most damaging policies in the history of city building and reverberates today.

Cause you’d support with a billion dollars: Convincing the other billionaires to donate a billion dollars each to making life on this planet for all species possible and just. I like leverage.

The thought or idea that centers you: Failure is okay.

Favorite place you’ve traveled: Varanasi, India: a jumble of people, holiness, and crumbling buildings. It is a big beautiful mess, perhaps the most honest expression of the human condition on Earth.

Most meaningful project you’ve completed: Nothing I’ve done is complete.

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