Cities of the Future debuts Friday, Feb. 16, in select giant-screen theaters, and the stars are ready to shine.
The civil engineering stars, of course.
The film, produced by ASCE and MacGillivray Freeman Films, features five young civil engineers exploring the innovative infrastructure around the world that will shape the cities of the future.
Peyton Gibson, Vignarajh “Rajh” Kanesathurai Kurukkal, Paul Lee, Diniece Mendes, and Monica Morales are each inspiring and remarkably accomplished civil engineers who can now add “movie star” to their resumes.
And with their faces about to be projected across movie screens three stories tall across the world, they are perfectly positioned to serve as ambassadors for the profession and especially as role models for the thousands upon thousands of students who will see the film.
So it’s a good time to get to know them a little better. Here are the civil engineering stars of Cities of the Future.
Peyton Jane Gibson
Civil engineering discipline/focus: Right now, I’m working in technologies for civil engineering and architecture. But I would say my actual expertise and what I hope to move back into is built environment, urban policy, and economics.
What’s your favorite modern city? I haven’t spent much time in Asia, so I’ll have to stick with Amsterdam for now. The city planning – everything from the bike structures to the underground trash containers; the street sweeping and traffic signals to the reconstruction of historic brick streets and canals – is extremely impressive.
Philadelphia, although lacking in financial investment, also holds a special place in my heart. Its 1700s grid makes it walkable and the culture seeps out of the city’s pores – the art museum, the gardens along the Schuylkill River, and the Wissahickon’s forest are all within the borders. It’s got a great mix of culture and nature. With the right investments in the transportation system and the local communities, it could be America’s best city.
What new technology are you most excited about for the cities of the future? I am firmly in the camp that technology is a tool, not a solution. I think it will be important in helping us to rebuild our cities around people, making things a bit easier – like safer and more efficient public transportation and cycling infrastructure easier to construct and rely on.
If you could visit one piece of current infrastructure, what would it be? Not really one piece, but I’d love to visit China for a few months to explore its vastly different landscapes. The big things like the Great Wall and Three Gorges but also just to see how ancient cities meet modern ones in one of their mega cities and the bullet trains and transportation systems.
What’s your favorite thing about being a civil engineer? I want to influence built environment policies that make cities better places to live for everyone.
What should kids get excited about when it comes to the cities of the future? I think kids should be able to connect with their friends and communities more independently in the future – imagine a life where at 7 or 8 you’re able to go to the grocery store alone to help buy your mom something or ride the train to school.
Vignarajh “Rajh” Kanesathurai Kurukkal
Civil engineering discipline/focus: Construction
What’s your favorite modern city? Singapore
What new technology are you most excited about for the cities of the future? Infrastructure: faster, more efficient, interconnected, and available to everyone.
If you could visit one piece of current infrastructure, what would it be? Anything exploring the role of tunnels in modern infrastructure systems.
What’s your favorite thing about being a civil engineer? I work with teams to solve today’s real-world problems, working toward sustainable practices while safeguarding society and the environment.
What should kids get excited about when it comes to the cities of the future? High-tech transport, self-driving cars, taxis, cycling lanes, vertical farms, and floating cities could make our lives safer, more sustainable, and more efficient than ever before. Everything from rubbish bins to streetlights is expected to become smart!
P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE
Civil engineering discipline/focus: Energy and climate
What’s your favorite modern city? Of course, Los Angeles.
What new technology are you most excited about for the cities of the future? The Space Solar from Cal Tech definitely has me excited.
If you could visit one piece of current infrastructure, what would it be? I actually want to try every city’s public transportation system, New York and South Korea in particular.
What’s your favorite thing about being a civil engineer? Seeing drawings on paper or a computer being created in real life and used by people.
What should kids get excited about when it comes to the cities of the future? I want them to get a sneak peek at the world they’ll one day live in and see the engineers behind it all.
Civil engineering discipline/focus: Transportation
What's your favorite modern city? I don’t know if I have a favorite modern city. However, I’d like to use a series of indicators to inform how I view cities that are likely impacted by their built environment and access to opportunities: health, safety, climate and environment, and social equity. I’ll highlight some cities that come to mind (from a transportation perspective) and are on my bucket list outside of NYC: Amsterdam, Mexico City, Singapore, and Tokyo.
What new technology are you most excited about for the cities of the future? I find the evolution of transportation in cities of the future fascinating. Transportation infrastructure is vital to connecting people to opportunities and ensuring the efficient movement of goods, but it also shapes the character of our communities through placemaking. As our world becomes even more integrated, cutting-edge technologies will continue to support smarter, more connected urban experiences. These changes will undoubtedly transform how we live, work, and interact with our cities and the built environment.
If you could visit one piece of current infrastructure, what would it be? The Jewel at Singapore Changi Airport featured in the film is a great example of modern infrastructure and on currently on my travel bucket list. I admire its function and form – a great representation of integrating nature and sustainable building design.
What’s your favorite thing about being a civil engineer? Civil engineers are at the forefront of shaping our interconnected world, solving some of the most complex challenges. We have the opportunity to leave a lasting imprint on the world and an immense social responsibility to ensure we design, build, and maintain safe, sustainable, efficient, and adaptive infrastructure systems.
What should kids get excited about when it comes to the cities of the future? Cities of the Future encourages critical thinking and offers space to reimagine and redefine the infrastructure we will need to support our cities. It is a great educational resource for kids to learn about engineering concepts and consider this a future profession. As such a pivotal time, it's an inspiring call to action to attract young minds worldwide – they, too, can and must be a part of the solution to build a more sustainable, vibrant future. Our future depends on it.
P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE
Civil engineering discipline/focus: Water resources, conveyance design
What's your favorite modern city? Edinburgh, Scotland, because it looks like is right out of a storybook (yes, I’m a Harry Potter-loving millennial), while still maintaining modern means with public transportation accessibility and ease. I would love to take another trip there for longer to be able to explore it more!
What new technology are you most excited about for the cities of the future? Potable reuse water treatment technologies becoming more widespread to provide for independent, sustainable, and resilient water resources in drought-prone areas and seeing the impacts of climate change the most.
If you could visit one piece of current infrastructure, what would it be? SFER IK in Tulum, Mexico, because it is absolutely awe-inspiring with its use of natural elements and concrete for the structure itself, oversees the ocean, and also houses a contemporary art museum, and I love contemporary art! I will probably have to make this happen within the next few years!
What’s your favorite thing about being a civil engineer? I help fight droughts and protect water resources, so millions of people have access to affordable and clean drinking water.
What should kids get excited about when it comes to the cities of the future? These are projects that they could potentially work on when they grow up and become engineers! They can mold society to the best version it can be through sustainable infrastructure design so that generations of people after them can continue to enjoy all that Earth uniquely provides us!
Find a theater near you showing Cities of the Future.