Imagine a sprawling metropolis in the middle of the American desert west complete with futuristic infrastructure and carefully planned roads and streets filled with autonomous electric vehicles. A city that combines the sprawl and diversity of New York, the efficiency and connectivity of Tokyo, and the governance and sustainability of Stockholm. An insane multi-billion dollar plan to create a futuristic city similar in scale and ambition to Saudi Arabia’s The Line. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the future city of Telosa: America’s Version of the Line. The city of Telosa is a planned development that promises to not just be the city of the future, but also to be a completely new model for society.
Similar in vein to megaprojects like Saudi’s Neom, these planned megacities are a response to the emerging problems of today’s world which includes overpopulation, pollution, and climate change. These future cities aim to redefine what it means to create a thriving city from scratch that is designed to be sustainable, resilient, inclusive, and equitable for all of its residents. The name “Telosa” comes from the ancient Greek word telos which can roughly be translated to “the greatest purpose”. First unveiled to the public in September 2001, Telosa is the brainchild of American billionaire Marc Lore. Shortly after stepping down as president and CEO of American retail powerhouse Walmart, Lore announced his ambitious goal to create the planned city of Telosa. Through this visionary project, he aims to “create a more equitable and sustainable future that can become a blueprint of future generations”. In charge behind the master planning of Telosa will be world-renowned Danish architect Bjarke Ingels who has previously been commissioned by Toyota to create a smaller smart future city in Japan. The core concept behind Telosa and the reason as to why it is being planned in the first place, according to Lore, is to create a city with the needs of the people serving as its foundation. As it stands, more than 50% of the world’s population currently lives in cities. This figure is expected to increase to as much as 70% by the year 2050. Because of this, cities have become important centers for education, research, and economic opportunities for millions of people. And although cities have brought much growth to a few handful of individuals, not everyone directly benefits from this development. This increasing wealth gap is precisely what Lore and Telosa are trying to solve. The goal is to build a city wherein everyone will have equal opportunities for growth no matter their socioeconomic or cultural background. To achieve this vision of equality, at the heart of the plan is an economic system known as equitism. The idea behind this system is to create a community wherein the people will directly benefit from the growth of the city. In this system, Telosa will own all of the city’s land while its citizens are given the freedom to build and sell homes on top of this land. Ideally, as the city grows, land values will also grow alongside it. These generated funds will then be invested back into the city through public services, transportation, education, and healthcare. Thus fulfilling the vision of equity wherein all citizens have equal access to high-quality services. Although the final location for the city of Telosa has not been decided, the people behind it are planning to build the city on desert land in the American West in the states of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, or Texas. Another consideration is for the city to be built somewhere around the Appalachian Region over in the east. But out of all the available land in the United States, why are they planning to build Telosa in the middle of the desert? One of the main reasons for this decision is that there is plenty of cheap and readily available undeveloped land in the American West.
And with Telosa’s plan of reimbursing increasing land values back into city services, this cheap land has the potential to pay for itself as the city grows over time. Although the land for Telosa’s eventual construction may come at a relatively cheap price, building a bustling metropolis in the middle of the desert isn’t exactly the most ideal or smartest undertaking. Saudi Arabia’s recent construction on Neom and The Line have clearly showcased these problems that Telosa might encounter as well in the future. Initially planned to be partially completed by 2020 and expanded upon in 2025, Neom’s construction is already behind schedule. It turns out that building on undeveloped desert land first requires the construction of operating facilities to house construction equipment and personnel in the unforgiving climate. Some other problems that Neom and The Line are currently facing right now are high temperatures, water availability, and the energy impact of constructing an entire city from scratch in a harsh environment. Telosa is also planned to be fully powered through renewable sources of energy. Each building in the city will have photovoltaic cells installed on their roofs, while strategically placed wind turbines across the city’s borders will provide additional capacity to power Telosa. The city is planned to generate more power than what it consumes, making it a self-sustaining city when it comes to electricity generation. Additionally, at the heart of Telosa will be the Equitism Tower, the city’s tallest structure that will serve as an iconic landmark and a beacon for the city. The tower will house an observation deck, an elevated water storage system and aeroponic farms that will supply the city with fresh produce. Another consideration of Telosa’s layout is an urban design and transportation system that makes it possible for residents to always be within only a 15-minute commute of key locations and services such as offices, schools, parks, shops, and restaurants. Unlike The Line which will be completely pedestrian-centric with a focus on mass transit, Telosa will use a mix of carefully planned transit systems and autonomous electric vehicles. The city will make use of the “superblock” concept of urban planning wherein heavier traffic is concentrated over on the borders of the block while bikes and slow-moving EVs will be given priority on inner streets. This achieves two goals: one, ensuring that people can easily move around between blocks; and second, so that residential areas will be far enough away from major streets to avoid excessive noise. The construction of Telosa will be divided into two phases. The first phase is ambitiously set to be completed by the year 2030. By this point in the development, the city would be capable of housing as many as 50,000 residents over an area of 6 square kilometers which is roughly twice the size of New York’s Central park. Once completed, the second phase of the development aims to fully build the rest of the city over the course of the next forty years.
Over 5 million people are expected to live within the city by this point with a total area of more than 120 square kilometers. By comparison, the city of Telosa will be as big as the city of San Francisco but with more than six times its population living in the same area. In total, the entire project is estimated to cost as much as $400 billion USD to complete with funding primarily coming from potential private investors and federal and state grants. In comparison, Saudi Arabia’s The Line is estimated to cost a similar $500 billion USD which unlike Telosa, is completely funded by Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund, and by extension, the Saudi government. With Telosa’s highly ambitious plan and vision for the future, Marc Lore and his team have to overcome one of the biggest hurdles with the construction of planned cities like these—funding. It’s not exactly easy to convince the government and private investors to lend you billions of dollars into creating a vision that may not be fully realized. And even though Telosa promises to be different by saying that its people will be at the center of the city’s development, it will still need a huge sum of money to even begin this insane megaproject. But despite all the mounting environmental and financial challenges, and with no construction work having been started more than a year after the project was first announced, Marc Lore and his team are still optimistic and determined to fulfill their vision of the most sustainable and inclusive city in the world by the year 2030. What do you think Telosa would be able to do differently compared to NEOM?