For the first time in history, the majority of the earth’s approximately seven billion inhabitants live in cities. Close to one billion people live in informal settlements, commonly known as slums or squatter settlements, and that number is projected to swell to two billion by 2030, pushing beyond the capacity of many local institutions to cope.

Lured to the city in search of work and greater social mobility or fleeing conflicts and natural disasters, many urban migrants suffer from insecure land tenure, limited access to basic services such as sanitation and clean water, and crowded living conditions. At the same time, these informal cities, full of culture and life, increase opportunities to create solutions to the problems they face.

Design with the Other 90%: CITIES features sixty projects, proposals, and solutions that address the complex issues arising from the unprecedented rise of informal settlements in emerging and developing economies. Divided into six themes—Exchange, Reveal, Adapt, Include, Prosper and Access—to help orient the visitor, the exhibition shines the spotlight on communities, designers, architects, and private, civic, and public organizations that are working together to formulate innovative approaches to urban planning, affordable housing, entrepreneurship, nonformal education, public health, and more. The United Nations offers an ideal setting to examine these complex issues and connect with stakeholders who can impart real change.

Additional funding is provided by Procter & Gamble, Deutsche Bank, Smithsonian 2.0 Fund, the Albert Kunstadter Family Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution’s Research Opportunity Fund.

This exhibition is presented at the United Nations in the context of the United Nations Academic Impact initiative and UN-HABITAT.


Design with the Other 90%: CITIES is the second in a series of themed exhibitions that demonstrate how design can be a dynamic force in transforming and, in many cases, saving lives. The first exhibition, in 2007, Design for the Other 90%, focused on design solutions that addressed the most basic needs of the 90% of the world’s population not traditionally served by professional designers.


Organized by Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum,Design with the Other 90%: CITIESwill be on view at the United Nations in New York City from October 17,2011 through January 9, 2012, and is available to travel in the United States and internationally beginning February 2012.

The venue rental fee is $36,000 for a four-month viewing period, plus insurance. In addition, crating, shipping, and courier costs will be prorated among the venues. Each venue will also receive digital didactic material, including labels, text panels, and credit line; and twenty-five free copies of the fully illustrated book. More copies may be obtained at a 40% discount off the retail price through the Museum.

For information about the possibility of hosting the Design with the Other 90%: CITIES and/or Design for the Other 90%exhibitions at your venue, please contact: Cynthia E. Smith, Curator of Socially Responsible Design, [email protected].