I have been working at the intersection of people, place, and technology for over 20 years, combining my passions for urbanism, economics, and storytelling to create a more equitable and sustainable society. Below is a summary of my journey across cities, and the projects I have been fortunate enough to be a part of.

Jesse Shapins - Copenhagen
Copenhagen (2022+)

In July 2022, I moved with Kara and Aiyana to Copenhagen, a city I have long been fond since first visiting in 2002 when I was living in Berlin. Few cities have captured my heart over the years the same way as Copenhagen and when I learned about the urban development work happening at Urban Partners I felt I had to make the move. Kara, similarly, has always loved the city and as a family we've always wanted to live together in Europe. Aiyana was thrilled for the adventure and especially excited about the idea of a whole city basically built around swimming pools (with the harbor swimming, I don't feel like I exaggerated in giving her this idea). For Kara, it's also a great place to advance her new project, an Institute for Climate Sound & Society that she's incubating at metaLAB, including in partnerhsip with the Freie Universität Berlin.

In August, I started as Urban Partners' new Head of Urban Strategy & Design. In this role, I have the opportunity to really pull together all of the threads of my experience and drive significant impact and develop new economic models. I am focused on shaping Urban Partners' urban vision, as well as making it real within projects initially in Copenhagen and hopefully in cities across Northern Europe. A large part of my role will also be contributing to thought leadership and mobilizing urban leaders of all stripes around the world to address the critical environmental, social and democratic crises we face.

Jesse Shapins - New York
New York (2021-2022)

In September 2021, we moved back to our amazing East Village neighborhood, with school, friends, and work all just within a few blocks. With Sidewalk Labs, my work focused on accelerating systems change in the real estate industry to address environmental and social impact. I co-produced the last season of our City of the Future podcast that dove deep into ways to create more inclusive and equitable cities, including the capstone episode on the "S" in ESG. I especially worked closely with Alison Novak, Chrystal Dean, and Habon Ali. Along the way, I was very fortunate to meet and explore initiatives with extraordinary leaders in this space such as Landon Taylor, Clarence Wooten, Max Levine, Michael Farber, Samir Goel, and others. I also visited MIT to reconnect with Sarah Williams and we began a discussion that is actively brewing around developing a standardized approach to measuring equity in real estate. During this time, I also began working in Detroit as a Senior Advisor to Michigan Central, what I believe is truly one of the most important urban development projects anywhere. I helped develop a renewed strategic plan and narrative for the project, which is a world-leading community building solutions & skills at the intersection of mobility & society. I carry all of this work with me in my move to Copenhagen and believe NREP can be a unique platform for driving the systems change we need.

Jesse Shapins - Colorado
Colorado (2020-2021)

In March 2020, we were visiting my home state of Colorado and with the onset of the pandemic decided to stay there in order to be close to family. Like so many, we didn't expect to stay so long. But we were very fortunate to be able to spend so much time with my parents and connect with dear friends who had also relocated to Boulder and set up a home school in their basement, where Aiyana thrived.

Throughout this period, I continued working as a Senior Director at Sidewalk Labs, establishing a new innovation advisory services business focused on more equitable and sustainable cities. In just a year, I grew the business to 10 clients across the country, in cities such as Tulsa, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, and others. In September 2021, we moved back to our home in the East Village.

Jesse Shapins - Toronto
Toronto (2017-2020)

I love Toronto. This picture is from my favorite place, a perfect combination of urbanism and nature, time folding upon itself, a beach made of construction debris made smooth by decades of Lake Ontario waves. When Sidewalk Labs began working in the city, I knew I wanted to be a part of the community and shaping the project from the ground.

With an incredible team, I created 307, the project's public workshop and an immersive multimedia model showing a day in the life of the neighborhood; directed ethnographic research with participants often left out of public design processes around what factors contribute to a sense of belonging in public space; collaborated with the Inclusive Design Research Centre on an inclusive design toolkit; researched and wrote about innovation strategies for the public realm; led urban design for the project plan; published the Digital Innovation Appendix, which made clear the project's responsible technology practices and was recognized by GovTech as one the most transparent documents created regarding technology and the city; and spoke frequently with local media (e.g. CTV, Breakfast Television, and others).

Jesse Shapins - NYC03
New York City (2015-2017)

We sold GoPop to BuzzFeed (TechCrunch) and moved back to New York. During this time, we gutted a tiny apartment in an amazing community building in the East Village with close friends. Our daughter Aiyana was born just after we finished the renovation. For two and half years I led BuzzFeed's consumer product team, including a series of new apps. In May, 2017, I joined Sidewalk Labs to lead design.

Jesse Shapins - Oakland
Oakland (2013-2015)

In 2013, we decided to try translating what we had learned about interactive media and storytelling into a viable startup to support journalists and creative collaboration. Zeega was accepted into the first class of Matter, a mission-driven media accelerator in San Francisco. From there, we invented GoPop, which aimed to create a new visual language for public conversation. We secured a seed round of financing from Lowercase Capital, SV Angel, and others. The app was featured by Apple twice as a "Best New App." During this time, Kara and I also got married in Mendocino.

Jesse Shapins - Cambridge
Cambridge (2007-2013)

In 2007, I started a PhD at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, completing my dissertation "Mapping the Urban Database Documentary: Authorial Agency in Utopias of Kaleodoscopic Perception and Sensory Estrangement" in 2013. My research was focused upon the history of cities and technology, especially how artists engaged the city to understand its complexity and sensory experience, including case studies in Moscow, Berlin, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Kansas, and New York. While in Cambrdige, I co-founded metaLAB (at) Harvard, a research center for digital arts and humanities in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. I also served on the GSD faculty, inventing courses such as Media Archaeology of Place and The Mixed-Reality City, and also taught Critical Urban Media Arts at Columbia's GSAPP. As part of this work, I co-directed the montage film and soundscape Media Archaeology of Boston, which premiered at the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts and is distributed by DER.

During this time, I also remained heavily involved in media arts practice. I co-founded Mapping Main Street, a collaborative documentary about the more than 10,466 streets named Main Street across the country. During the summer of 2009, I lived out of my car while traveling over 15,000 miles with co-founders Kara Oehler and James Burns. The project was showcased at the FCC as a leading example of media innovation. Following Mapping Main Street, we co-founded Zeega, an open-source platform that allowed anyone to mix media to tell stories from across the web. Zeega was awarded a Knight News Challenge grant and showcased at interactive film festivals around the world (iDocs, NiemanLab)

Jesse Shapins - NYC02
New York City (2004-2007)

In 2004, I moved back to New York City from Berlin to join my close friends and collaborators Christopher Allen and Brian House in creative adventures. Together, we created Yellow Arrow, which allowed people to share messages about the places they love with stickers and text messaging. The project was adopted around the world, including as part of Copenhagen's mayoral election, and became a landmark in the history of the internet and cities as one of the first popular instances of the geospatial web.

In parallel to creating Yellow Arrow, I co-founded UnionDocs, which remains a leading global center for documentary arts over 15 years later. I helped start the Collaborative Studio program, as well as helped shape the early productions Living Los Sures and Documenting Mythologies. UnionDocs is also where I met my future collaborator and wife Kara Oehler, during our first public screening, the film Dislocation, which followed the stories of families displaced after the tearing down of the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago.

Jesse Shapins - Berlin
Berlin (2002-2004)

I moved to Berlin in 2002, with a grant to support my photography and design practice. I quickly met Philip Schwarz and Celia Di Pauli, and together we created Stadtblind, a mini urban arts collective focused on breaking through conventional approaches to represeneting the city. We opened a gallery in a formerly abandoned storefront space in Wedding, where we incubated what became Die Farben Berlins (The Colors of Berlin). We published this project with Prestel, and also exhibted it at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum (DAZ) in Berlin, the architekturgalerie am wei├čenhoff in Stuttgart, and New York's Van Alen Institute. We also put on the Loving Berlin festival.

Jesse Shapins - NYC01
New York City (1999-2002)

I moved to New York City in 1999 to begin college at Columbia. My father was born in Flushing, and my extended family still lived in Queens, so New York had always been close to my heart. While Colorado was a wonderful place to grow up, I was drawn to urban life. At Columbia, I majored in Urban Studies and Architecture, with a specialization in Comparative Literature and Society. My research projects included the history of Loisaida, the neighborhood where I now live; the political agency of art and urban imaginaries in the context of globalization; and the interplay between history and landscape in Berlin's Mauerpark. I also began my photography practice, including my initial web exhibition Textures of Landscapes, with images that uncovered hideen details in New York, Berlin, Italy, Mexico, San Francisco, Hungary, and Havana.