Named for the Greek word “telos,” or higher purpose, the proposed city of Telosa is the brainchild of former Walmart executive and Jet.com founder Marc Lore. At its core, the city is a homage to its creator’s father, but it also stands as an embodiment of human innovation, pioneering spirit, and sustainability. The latter point, in particular, makes the premise of Telosa especially poignant.
Lore envisions a city where equitability meets sustainability — where citizens can walk to work, the grocery store, and the park within fifteen minutes of leaving their home. This lifestyle model evokes small towns — but it also acknowledges that the construction of those towns should reflect the realities of global warming and climate change. Telosa looks to the past even as it plots a very different future, and it does this by rethinking the way architects, scientists, and nations view natural resources, transportation, and housing.
Building a City With Nature in Mind
Whether it’s the moon or Mars, a planet’s viability for human life begins and ends with a single question—is there water? Or, put another way, does the celestial body have the resources conducive to human life? It’s no surprise that the creation of a city within the American West or Appalachia begins with a similar question—how do you make a seemingly barren or dry landscape habitable for a population hoping to grow to 50,000 in less than a decade?
While the exact mechanics of Lore’s city are still in development, Lore has proposed that the citizens of Telosa will do less with more when it comes to at least one resource—water. Per USA Today, Lore has noted that creating a sufficient water system within inhospitable lands means thinking beyond our current technology around water. The city of Telosa will “ live off of 80% less water per person” in preparation of future water scarcity predictions.
But water scarcity isn’t the only environmental concern the city of Telosa will have to tackle if it hopes to become the equitable community set out by Lore. 2021 brought with it a bleak outlook for global climate change. With the overconsumption of fossil fuels, the prevalence of natural disasters, and Earth’s rising temperature, there has never been a better time to focus on improving our relationship with nature and reexamining the way we consume scarce natural resources.
According to the city’s website, Telosa will house and reuse fresh water from within; promote renewable resources that can supercharge the city; and include numerous green spaces which have both environmental and social benefits to visitors and residents. If successfully implemented, these actions could have a resounding impact on the surrounding environment and serve as a model for future cities.
Transportation and Equitable Housing in an Urban Setting
Carbon emission has long been a concern of climate scientists. In recent years, there has been a push from carbon-emitting vehicles to electric vehicles. More fuel-efficient or electric cars can disrupt the effects of pollution and have a positive impact on the environment and the health of the population.
With Telosa, Lore aims to create a city where citizens don’t have to travel far for play and work. And while this plan includes the use of autonomous vehicles and shared public transportation, the true charm of the city’s design has less to do with cars, buses, and railways and more to do with its proposed walkable spaces and bicycle-friendly streets. That’s because Bjarke Ingels Group, the architecture firm tapped to create Telosa, will focus on design elements that beget communal, open-air spaces.
The city’s layout will likely change from conceptual drawings to completion, but the overarching idea will likely remain the same. Telosa would be a city where pedestrian safety is the starting point rather than the afterthought. It has the chance to be a model of equitable, climate-friendly transportation that builds on European and Asian transportation systems found in cities like bikeable Amsterdam and commuter-friendly Tokyo. The city, by design, will be more suited for walking, cycling, roller skating, and other non-motorized vehicles. And all of this may make for less air pollution, healthier residents, safer travel, and more chances to connect.
However, advances in transportation would mean little if housing was far from where citizens worked and children went to school. In a year where home prices have increased substantially across zipcodes small and large, discussions about creating affordable, efficient housing have reached peak relevance.
America’s housing shortage seems front of mind in Lore’s vision of Telosa. Mockup images of the city highlight communal living arrangements in the form of green multifamily apartments bedecked with rooftop gardens. These shared spaces punctuated with floor-to-ceiling windows may benefit residents’ mental health while providing positive environmental impacts because of their communal resources. Since Telosa will own the land beneath these homes, the city puts itself in a position to sustain its green initiative so that future citizens may have homes, workplaces, and places of leisure that continue to use recycled and circular materials.
A Chance to Create Climate-Friendly Jobs
Since Telosa will be created from a blank slate, its developers can create an economy based on sustainable, climate-friendly jobs. In the past, cities popped up around natural resources (near rivers and lakes, around iron ores and coal mines, etc.). However, Lore has no such constraint and therefore has an opportunity to select which companies are given a foothold in the city. This means the builders and the constituents have the option of picking and choosing the types of employers that best suit their green designs.
This provides Lore the opportunity and incentive to reach out to companies with sustainable practices — which could mean handpicking green and eco-conscious companies and creating safe havens for climate research facilities. The city itself could become the testing ground for global green innovations.
Telosa may also have the chance to lower the consumption of disposable goods. It could, for instance, ask that companies rely on biodegradable packing in lieu of plastic. It also has a greater opportunity to promote secondhand buying because of the communal nature of its homes.
A City of Promises
Telosa seeks to be an open, fair, and inclusive community offering world-class experiences while simultaneously addressing some of society’s most pressing issues—water scarcity, housing shortages, gaps in education, pollution, and affordable healthcare.
Addressing these issues will come with an expensive price tag, mountains of cooperation, and a strong belief that good design can lead to a more sustainable and equitable society. Scientists and researchers often spend their lives trying to address one or two of the concerns that threaten the planet’s health and humanity’s existence; Lore is trying to tackle nearly all of them.
According to Lexico, lore is a “body of traditions and knowledge on a subject or held by a particular group, typically passed from person to person by word of mouth.” It seems that what Marc Lore hopes to pass on to future generations is the tradition of fortitude.
What could be more sustainable than that?