Cindy Frewen Wuellner gives us a look at the “future of cities”

Who she is: Dr. Cindy Frewen Wuellner,* FAIA, LEED AP, founded and operated an architecture firm for 20 years before merging it with another design firm in order to shift her focus to the future of cities.

What she does: She now consults for cities and organizations on the future of cities and teaches in the Graduate Program in Futures Studies at the University of Houston as an adjunct professor. Frewen Wuellner is currently writing a book on how social technologies are transforming the ways we use, design, and build cities.

Why she does it: “After a decade of woeful economic conditions, a future Golden Age is on the horizon,” she explains. “Integrated technologies will make buildings interact with us, even adapt and grow. They’ll be disposable, portable, recyclable, assembled, and temporary—with virtual, augmented, and physical layers. How will architects’ roles change, and what can we do now to be ready and take advantage? Furthermore, Generation Flux will live in a hybrid reality of ubiquitous computing. How can buildings learn to talk, adapt, and shape future experiences?”

Want to learn what the cities of the future will look like?

Ask Cindy Frewen Wuellner, who is listed as the most influential architect on the BD Online/Peer Index (London) global scale for architects and social media, number one architecture blogger on Engineering New Record (New York), and her blog posts are regularly read by more than 30,000 people.

She frequently speaks to groups in person and online on design futures, the future of cities, creative problem-solving, leadership, and entrepreneurism. And she has spoken at conferences hosted by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), University of Oxford, University of Kansas, Urban Land Institute, National Communication Association, World Futures Society, IBM Smarter Cities, Innovaro, KC Builders Association, Chambers of Commerce, University of Texas, and Copenhagen In 100 Years.

Frewen Wuellner’s architectural and planning projects have been recognized for design, sustainability, and community development in civic, education, public housing, and park facilities.

Examples of her projects include: the Ilus W. Davis Park, a two-block downtown civic commons that links the Whittaker US Courthouse and Kansas City’s City Hall; Kansas City Downtown Civic Mall Master Plan for 60 blocks of the central business district; Civic Council’s Downtown Corridor Development Strategies, which involved urban planning and economic development for 4,000 acres; Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department Facilities Master Plan; Charles E. Whittaker US Courthouse Interiors; and numerous education facilities and residential developments.

Frewen Wuellner is a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects and a Distinguished Alumna for the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Design. Her design work was included in the AIA national traveling exhibit, “That Exceptional One,” and her firm was recognized as the first Woman-Owned Business of the Year by National Association of Women Business Owners, Kansas City.

She chairs the Association of Professional Futurists, sits on the board of the University of Kansas School of Architecture, is vice president of the Kansas City Design Center, co-founded the Kansas City Architectural Foundation’s Scholarship Fund and served as its president, has served on more than 30 boards and committees, and is a member of numerous architectural, planning, communication, business, and futures organizations.

Praise for Cindy Frewen Wuellner

Tina J. Latvis, President, National Association of Women Business Owners, San Francisco Chapter
“Dr. Frewen has little herd instinct, and is the architect of an entirely different and fresh approach toward reaching and inspiring people she has never met before, and in this case, all of whom exited her seminar feeling rejuvenated and bonded to one another from that point on. It was a break from the madding crowd; a gift. We are the beneficiaries of, “The Frewen Influence,” open and willing to consider alternative routes for new business strategies in order to build better organizations.”

Cheryl Harrod, Former Development Director for the School of Architecture, University Endowment Association, University of Kansas
“As a keynote presenter for the UEA general session, my colleagues and I were impressed with Cindy’s ability to address the issues of change in meaningful ways that applied to our respective professional positions. Having only known Cindy as a professional architect through her position on the Kansas University board, I was particularly impressed with her versatility in this type of venue. She was clearly effective in conveying her message to the audience and extremely passionate and forward thinking in her views about education and architecture. The profession is indeed fortunate to include Cindy Frewen as a valuable colleague, not only for her abilities in the field, but also as a representative in the greater community.”

David Warm, Executive Director, Mid-America Regional Council, American Public Works Association
“In her speech on ‘The Creative Process and Quality in Government,’ Cindy’s message was right on target. The subsequent speakers referred several times to the points she so effectively demonstrated about creativity and taking personal responsibility for change.”

Rose Kemp, Regional Administrator, Women’s Bureau, United States Department of Labor
“Cindy Frewen was sought out to provide testimony to the Glass Ceiling Commission because of her community activism and leadership in the business community. She had distinguished herself as a force for change and a force for good as evidenced by her various leadership roles, such as the National Association of Women Business Owners and the YWCA. The hearings were attended by Sen. Bob Dole and presided over by then-US Department of Labor Secretary Lynn Martin. Dr. Frewen’s testimony provided additional impact due to her recognized leadership in her field. She is a recognized spokesperson for women architects and women-owned businesses, particularly since she is among the first and few women-owned architectural firms in the region. Dr. Frewen’s hard work toward shattering the glass ceiling for women is commendable, and she serves as a powerful advocate, role model, and mentor. Her accomplishments serve to inspire others to be all they can be. I am just one of many people in the Kansas City community who are encouraged by the fact that Dr. Frewen continues to use her community involvement and her position of significance and influence to help shape public policy positively.”

Speaking Topics: Cindy Frewen on “Cities of the Future” and more


Design in the Age of Smart Machines

After a decade of woeful economic conditions, a future Golden Age is on the horizon. Integrated technologies will make buildings interact with us, even adapt and grow. They’ll be disposable, portable, recyclable, assembled, and temporary—with virtual, augmented, and physical layers. How will architects’ roles change, and what can we do now to be ready and take advantage? Furthermore, Generation Flux will live in a hybrid reality of ubiquitous computing. How can buildings learn to talk, adapt, and shape future experiences?

Design Futures

Design futures marries futures methods and design-thinking in order to materialize speculative future worlds. Futurists are moving beyond traditional tools to create more vivid, lived in, world building scenarios. Rather than just narratives, these stories are told with images, videos, and sounds and in the future tactile and spatial experiences. You will, in effect, see possible design futures, and participate in shaping the design. In creating multisensory, multidimensional futures, you can explore more deeply the intentions and implications of future alternatives. Participants will learn the theory, see examples, and practice creating or assembling thumbnail images of futures artifacts to imagine future worlds. Participants will learn what design futures are, how they differ from traditional scenarios and design fictions, how to create design futures, the basics of design futures workshop facilitation, the characteristics of excellent design futures, and examples from videos and illustrations. Plus, particiipants will do speedy thumbnail sketches freehand or using prefab elements.


Cities in 100 Years and What It Means Today

Where can you see the future today? Stretching your time horizon to a century gives perspective and allows you to come back to see how those ideas might work today. Portland, Oregon; New Songdo City, South Korea; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Vienna, Austria, each hold clues to the future of cities. Urban issues move slowly through innovation and development phases. Many places are already experimenting. Which are visionary and which are empty promises? We’ll create a framework for analyzing in terms of technology and social change, and rate a number of current and future plans in terms of their likely timelessness and durability. In other words, which works will speak to us tomorrow?

21st Century Cities After Peak Urban

For five years, more people have lived in cities than not, and China and India keep growing rapidly while European cities and some American ones shrink. But by the second half of the century, that huge growth spurt will end and many cities will be overbuilt. Given that future in the lifetime of Millennials, what should we build now? When will cities become energy independent? What might the house, office building, or city hall of the future look like? How will we move around cities and between them, if at all? Will we produce food and energy, or make buildings and cars at home? How will ubiquitous computing and big data change our daily lives? Will buildings know us and talk back? What will matter most in future cities?

The Power of Educational Campuses in a Digital Century

If the 20th century campus was a pastoral college town, the 21st is located in the urban core, a hybrid of real and digital worlds. The vertical campus engages communities, generates economic prosperity, and becomes a central element of thriving cities. The vertical campus is very different than its rural counterpart. The urban college campus is the city street. The urban fabric defines and connects the isolated highrises. The campuses of the 22nd century will become incubators of innovation and learning-by-doing. Emerging futures can be found globally in design-build, well-being, and governance models that integrate education, work, and lifestyles. Highlights: Participants will learn about future higher education environments as energy producers and incubators of ideas and economics, how future cities will be shaped by integrated vertical education networks, cutting-edge locations that are exploring future models, and visions that vault universities into valued urban places.


The Futures-Focused Design Firm

Rather than be building strictly on the past, a futures-focused firm is forward-thinking, purposeful, clear about mission and vision, willing to take risks, and highly connected. While credibility is gained through track record, inspiration comes from visionary purpose and being connected to ideas greater than today’s tasks. We will look at some firms doing it well, and some examples of doing it wrong. Instead of a shell organization frozen by past successes, a futures-focused firm responds to clients’ and associates’ concerns and aspirations through robust processes towards shared goals and common aims.

The Future of Futures and Foresight

Based on a year-long study by the Association of Professional Futurists, the practice of foresight has reached a crossroads. Divergent paths include foresight as data intelligence, anticipatory futures, experiential design futures, and big-picture meta-futures to name a few. Some futurists focus on issues-based advocacy, others on corporations and product innovation, still others on institutions and social change. Futures work has become increasingly social and values-based, with tools—such as integral futures, generational turnings, World Values Survey, and causal layered analysis—that expose underlying systems and ideology. The debate forward focuses on whether foresight remains a loosely connected network or develops into a full-fledged profession grounded by academic discipline.

The Best Architects Are Futurists

Buildings are primarily designed in the past tense, using history to inform building design today for projects to be used for decades, even centuries. Does that make sense? Instead, architects can draw on futures scenarios and imagine how their buildings will be relevant in those various alternatives. Rather than just considering the “business as usual” future, as an extension of the present, consider what if the future were radically different? I’ll discuss the idea of design futures, which marries futures methods with design thinking to materialize future speculative worlds. Participants will see how their ideas can be broadened and how to use a futures approach to inform their work and expand their qualifications.