The architectural response

Designers discuss options for rethinking urban ground transportation on a warming planet.

December 18, 2018

Recorded on November 3, 2018.

Climate change and economic inequality pose immense and inextricable challenges to the United States: How to reimagine the American way of life to address the impacts of global warming, and how to build a new and robust economic structure that offers viable and sustainable livelihoods and lifestyles across the income spectrum for all Americans.

The Five Thousand Pound Life—an Architectural League initiative of public events, digital publications, and a planned design study—is a contribution to what must be a collective effort spanning geographies, generations, occupations, disciplines, and ideologies to address these challenges.

Autonomous cars and trucks could mean the recapture of space from parking and oversized roadways; electrified bikes and scooters could create new freedom for longer-distance movement without cars; reconfigured cities could make life more pleasant, and less noisy, for pedestrians and bicyclists. Or driverless vehicles could radically increase sprawl, erode public transportation systems, increase congestion, and have enormous negative climate change effects.

Architects, planners, and engineers have long found changing modes of transportation a compelling catalyst to thinking about urban and landscape form. In this video, recorded as part of the daylong Ground Transportation and Climate Change conference, social scientist Sabina Uffer shares ideas germinated in a series of transportation “design sprints” organized by BuroHappold in cities around the world. Oliver Schaper presents a group of speculative projects developed by Gensler to repurpose urban spaces once dominated by vehicles for a more people-oriented future. Amina Hassen reports on a research project by WXY Studio to suggest how New York City’s streets can accommodate the demands of curbside charging of electric vehicles. Adam Frampton analyzes Hong Kong’s three-dimensional movement infrastructure, and shows a project commissioned by the Regional Plan Association to imagine passenger use and related development around an underused freight rail line in Brooklyn and Queens.

Gabrielle Esperdy and Jesse LeCavalier then bring Uffer, Schaper, Hassen, and Frampton together in conversation.


Gabrielle Esperdy is an architectural and urban historian who studies the intersection of architecture, consumerism, and modernism in the metropolitan landscape.

Adam Snow Frampton is an architect and the Principal of Only If, a New York City-based practice currently engaged in projects from the design of a single-family housing prototype to larger-scale urban planning, research, and speculation.

Amina Hassen is an urban planner currently focused on sustainable urban mobility. She manages WXY Studio’s electric vehicle research and development projects.

Jesse LeCavalier is a designer, writer, and, educator whose work explores the architectural and urban implications of contemporary logistics.

Oliver Schaper is a design director and practice area leader for urban strategies and design at Gensler.

Sabina Uffer is Global Head of Cities Research at BuroHappold.



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League Prize Video 2016