Cities Anew: Peter Ellis Nears, Much More to Come

| May 14, 2015

On June 4th, BuiltWorlds will host an evening charrette with international architect and urban planner Peter Ellis as part of our new SmartWorlds Future Cities Series. His presentation will draw on exceptional recent work in India, and explore the lessons it holds for the re-imagining of America’s aging metropolises. That evening, attendees should expect a major announcement from BuiltWorlds about an even broader initiative that we will be launching this summer.

That effort will expand on the “urgent optimism” that Mr. Ellis and other dynamic thought leaders believe will be necessary to steer our planet onto a “smart” path that will truly be able to sustain our imminent urban future. Toward that end, here again is our recent preview of the Ellis event. 



When driverless cars are the norm, who will have designed cities with the infrastructure and the surroundings needed to accommodate this fundamental shift in both personal and commercial transportation, and all the ripple effects that will cause?

Will crossing silos in my areas of expertise as a professional then even matter to the future of innovation in the built environment?

Who better to ask these forward-thinking questions than visionary architect Peter Ellis?

A longtime veteran of SOM and recent principal with CannonDesign, the founder of Peter Ellis New Cities Ltd. not long ago had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design an entire city from scratch, without government involvement. In 2010, the Jaypee Group, one of India’s most respected private companies, commissioned Ellis to develop a comprehensive city plan for 1.2 million inhabitants, on 5,000 acres outside New Delhi. Ellis and his team designed Jaypee Sports City, which he is still shepherding today. This incredibly rare experience so far has yielded lessons and innovations that Ellis now is applying to boost American cities’ efficiency, sustainability and beauty –which one could argue are one and the same– and, in turn, increase the quality of life afforded to all residents.

When designing a city from a blank canvas on private land, the rigamarole that comes with government regulations and the layers upon layers of existing conditions true to most urban environments are stripped away. Truly, a dream come true for any urban planner. (Daniel Burnham would have been beside himself!) For Jaypee Sports City, Ellis had full design freedom and the luxury to explore and implement truly innovative systems.

Coming back to Earth –or rather, the U.S.– he now applies his masterful creativity to rethinking American cities. But despite all the bureaucratic hurdles to come, Ellis maintains a hopeful perspective on how, in 50 years’ time, we could significantly improve the nature of U.S. cities.

“We are incredibly honored and excited to have Peter participate in our new Project Innovation Series,” says Matt Abeles, managing director of BuiltWorlds. “Cities everywhere now are poised for enormous growth. Peter’s influential international body of work gives him the insight and authority to help shape that growth as smartly and as sustainably as possible.”

Ellis’ sensitivity to environment and culture is inherent in his work as an architect, and it has helped to define his global reputation. In fact, LEED pioneer David Gottfried, founder of the U.S. and World Green Building Councils & CEO of Regenerative Ventures, warmly shared in an interview, “Peter’s one of my favorite architects in the world.”

Having worked with Peter while our paths overlapped at SOM, one of the world’s most influential multi-disciplinary architecture firms, I echo David’s sentiments.

A regular contributor and design consultant to BuiltWorlds, the author is creative marketing lead for industry job matching platform Hard Hat Hub. She can be reached at


Peter Ellis worked 32 years at SOM in Chicago, London and San Francisco, where he was a design partner and leader in the application of sustainable design principles, believing that sustainability results in a more meaningful architecture. Many of his signature buildings throughout the world have been recognized for their sensitivity to the cultural environment and context of each locale. With much of the world urbanizing at an unprecedented rate, Peter sensed an opportunity for a practice devoted to the planning and design of new cities. In 2010 he started his own firm, Chicago-based Peter Ellis New Cities Ltd., focusing solely on city design. New Cities later merged with CannonDesign where today Peter leads the urban and city design practice. As a signatory of the AIA 2030 Commitment, CannonDesign makes carbon neutrality an integral part of every project.

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