Cities Project

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NPR's Series On Urban Life In The 21st Century

Solar Sunflowers, an art installation, greets visitors to Mueller's commercial and retail hub off of Interstate 35. The panels power a nightly light display and return power to the grid. When the development is complete, five miles of granite trails will connect the residents to its commercial and retail hubs. Julia Robinson for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Julia Robinson for NPR

A resident of Lathrop Homes leaves one of the few occupied buildings in the development. The city wants to redevelop the public housing as mixed use, and offered vouchers to encourage residents to relocate. Cheryl Corley/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Cheryl Corley/NPR

Walters Clothing carries styles that go back decades and shoes up to size 18. Its outsize selection has earned the attention of NBA stars and hip-hop artists. Eboni Lemon /New Voices Initiative, AIR hide caption

itoggle caption Eboni Lemon /New Voices Initiative, AIR

New apartment buildings are replacing empty lots in Mantua, one of Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods. Will Figg for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Will Figg for NPR

The Los Angeles River in 2013. Engineers turned it into a narrow concrete channel in the 1940s, after a flood destroyed homes and left 100 people dead in 1938. Steve Lyon/Flickr hide caption

itoggle caption Steve Lyon/Flickr

Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh is spearheading an effort to revitalize downtown Las Vegas and make it a tech hub, home for small businesses and a creative community. Isaac Brekken for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Isaac Brekken for NPR

The broadcast tower at Alexanderplatz looms over the city center. A crossing point of tourists, commuters, shoppers, lovers, artists and bums, Alexanderplatz was rebuilt by the communist authorities of former East Germany in the 1960s. Today, it's a popular gathering place in the reunified city. Sean Gallup/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Lebanon's parliament sits in Beirut's rebuilt Nejmeh Square, near the center of the city. Unlike many of Beirut's neighborhoods, the square is often mostly empty. Tim Fitzsimons/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Tim Fitzsimons/NPR

Artists' renderings of New Meadowland show how the wetland would be designed for human recreational use as well as flood control. The berm shown would be a path through the park when water was low (left). When storms came in, the wetlands would flood, and the berm would protect local development. Courtesy of New Meadowlands hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of New Meadowlands

A view of Seattle from the Bullitt Center. Brad Kahn/Flickr hide caption

itoggle caption Brad Kahn/Flickr

New York state is buying homes like this one in Staten Island's Fox Beach neighborhood as part of a Hurricane Sandy recovery project in the hopes that demolishing them will help nature return and provide a barrier to future storm surges. Matthew Schuerman/WNYC hide caption

itoggle caption Matthew Schuerman/WNYC

Some neighborhoods in this "Mayberry by the Sea" could be underwater within a few decades, according to some projections. Jon Hamilton/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jon Hamilton/NPR

The Mathare Valley, shown here in an aerial map, is one of the largest and oldest slums in Nairobi, Kenya. Residents are using hand-held GPS devices to map the area, which comprises 13 villages and is home to nearly 200,000 people. Courtesy of Muungano Support Trust and Jason Corburn, UC Berkeley hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Muungano Support Trust and Jason Corburn, UC Berkeley

Cable cars move commuters over a complex of shantytowns in Rio de Janeiro, one of many cities taking part in the smart city boom around the world. Felipe Dana/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Felipe Dana/AP