Conscious Cities Conference: Itai Palti

We continue our expose on the speakers who will be contributing to the Conscious Cities Conference on 1 March 2016. This time we are proud to introduce architect, educator, and researcher, Itai Palti. He has become known for his insightful and broad thinking manifesto written for the Guardian called Conscious Cities. The manifesto was one of the inspirations for the conference as it gives reason to why our cities are in need of change. It also lays out the purpose for those of us working within the built environment.

It poignantly highlights that “we have created a shared urban environment that is, on the whole, oblivious or “numb” to necessities other than movement”. One cannot argue against this point, a city’s main priority is to get us from point A to point B, but what about our wellbeing, quality of life, and productivity? We do everything in our built environment; our work, our socialising, and our living, therefore it makes sense we start to implement better tools and thought to the design and creation of the built environment.

Science has now give us evidence of the mechanisms contributing to the depression, anxiety, and sickness caused by poor urban planning and development. However, it is not just science that is driving change in city and building design, it is the people. As occupiers of cities and spaces we can feel the impact of poor design and we are starting to take action. People are avoiding areas which host boring facades, we are refusing to work in poorly designed workspaces, we are moving away from congested cities, and we are building independent tenements in the middle of cities like Hackney Wick.

Civilian discontent is also driving protest against “numb” developments, which are deprived of smart design or empathy. For example, the controversial Bishopsgate Goodsyard, the project by Shoreditch High Street Station is causing a lot of unrest. Although the development is well designed from an aesthetic point of view with different facades, walkable areas, green spaces and interesting communal areas, it is not taking into consideration its consequences to the surrounding area. For example, it is understood that a wind tunnel will be created on Bethnal Green Road, which runs perfectly SW-to-NE. The wind tunnel will make it an unpleasant area to be, it will remove one of the values so keenly loved of East London, the ability to be outside. We will be presented with a public space not suited to the public. The campaign More Light More Power demonstrates that will also create shade all throughout Redchurch street and Arnold Circus, taking daylight from those residents. The economic benefits of the development, whilst great, do not outweigh the negative social impact of neighbours. Most developers and property investors may not see the value or purpose of considering the long term effects of their development. They sit at interesting points of the economic supply chain. However, if we talk about wellbeing in economic terms, they might start to think differently.

As we mentioned people are already demanding more from the built environment. Especially the Boomers and Millennials who are both in search of The Good Life and invest heavily in products or services that contribute to their wellbeing and quality of life. It is only a matter of time for these groups to tilt the economies of scales towards more conscious design. They will want their built environment to match all the other aspects of their lives, which reflect their values on aesthetic, wellbeing, and quality of life.

However, the most important reason to create more conscious cities, is because we can, in other words, we have the ability to do so. “Rapid developments in behavioural science and data technology offer the prospect of urban streetscapes helping to alleviate ailments such as stress, anxiety and boredom, even reducing the likelihood of crowd trouble.”

Come and hear Itai Palti speak about creating Conscious Cities and how he uses neuroscience in his architectural practice.

About Itai Palti

Itai Palti (Bsc. MArch) is a practicing architect, educator, and researcher. His work focuses on designing with the human experience in mind.

A graduate of The Bartlett School of Architecture in London, Itai has previously worked alongside the late Jan Kaplicky at his practice Future Systems, where he contributed to projects such as the Ferrari Museum in Modena.

Itai is an adjunct faculty member at the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem. His work has been published internationally, including ‘A Manifesto for Conscious Cities’ in The Guardian, part of research in collaboration with leading figures in the behavioural and brain sciences.


We have been a coworking space for seven years and in those years we have seen the evolution of the workspace. It was unique to offer an office that was driven by openness, collaboration, and calm. We attempted to match the design of the space with the cognitive outcomes we thought were ideal for innovation. Our next stage of our journey is to gather the community of people who are working in the built environment to create further discourse and establish best practice. This is our first conference, so we are happy to share the production with Museum of Architecture, who offer an educational platform for architects and designers and with Arup who have kindly sponsored the event.