Cosanti Foundation President Jeff Stein was one of 24 urban designers, computer scientists, ecologists, lawyers, researchers from around Arizona and the US invited to participate in a 4-day intensive “Sandpit”, sponsored by ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability (GIoS).

[photos and text by Jeff Stein]

The sandpit exercise, entitled “Creating the Cities of the Future” was held at The Boulders, a kind of eco-resort of the past generation developed in the 1960’s by Laurence Rockefeller (for around $200 million.) Sitting on 1300 acres in Carefree AZ, it boasts “saguaro cacti and the sound of crickets”, plus 160 one-bedroom casitas, another 50 multi-bedroom villas, a fleet of electric carts to carry you between them, and two (2!) 18-hole golf courses.  The irony of all this sustainability was not lost on the attendees.

A “Sandpit” is an “intensive discussion forum where free thinking is encouraged in order to delve deep into wicked problems and drive radical approaches to particular research challenges.”

While this one didn’t get too radical, ie, no one is making arcologies as a result of the experience, 4 interdisciplinary teams did work hard to create a pilot project that could influence the design and management of cities. The pilot needed to be one that the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives could actually fund at ASU to the tune of $500,000.  Jeff’s team won, and their project, a way to utilize “big data” to allow cities and their citizens to understand the regional and global impacts of their decisions, will now move forward at GIoS.

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