Earth, population 7 billion, faces changes that its residents can only describe as existential threats. The changes are unpredictable. Sea levels are rising faster than they used to, but no one can say how high they will rise. Global temperatures could rise 2°F by 2100—or they could rise 11.5°F. Even if Earth's 7 billion residents could put their hands on the levers to control some of these changes today, the outlook will be different in 2100, when the world's population is half again larger than it is today.
So you can see the logic behind the work of Bimal Mendis and Joyce Hsiang, researchers who are designing a city with a population of 7 billion people. With "The City of 7 Billion," Mendis and Hsiang, researchers at Yale University's School of Architecture and co-founders of Plan B Architecture & Urbanism, plan to simulate population crisis at a global level—but one situated within the framework of a city, a level at which people can in fact put their hands on the levers.
For their effort, the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows has recognized Mendis and Hsiang with the 2013 Latrobe Prize, a $100,000 award for research that leads to advances in architecture. Mendis and Hsiang plan to build a multi-scalar model of the world in which every dataset—demographics, finance, geography, infrastructure, and resources—is applied to an urban framework. It's Sim Earth meets Sim City, an open-source analysis of a city facing a world's worth of population strain and environmental stress.
The 2013 Latrobe Prize jury includes John T. Regan (chair) of Texas A&M University; Harold Adams, FAIA, of RTKL; Wayne Drummond of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Henry Green, Hon. AIA, of the National Institute of Building Sciences; Laura Lee, FAIA, of Carnegie Mellon University; Monica Ponce de Leon of the University of Michigan; Ronald L. Skaggs, FAIA, chancellor of the AIA College of Fellows; and William J. Stanley III, FAIA, vice chancellor of the AIA College of Fellows.