Idris Elba’s Next Project Is a Smart City

He's one of the partners on an ambitious effort in Sierra Leone

Idris Elba
Idris Elba speaks onstage during the 30th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Idris Elba is a busy guy. Actor. DJ. Style icon. And now…urban planner? As the BBC reports, Elba is working with architecture firm Foster + Partners — the architects behind Miami’s The Towers and NYC’s JPMorgan Chase World Headquarters — on an ambitious project in Sierra Leone. That’s not an arbitrary choice; Elba’s father’s family has deep ties to the nation in question.

The project is set to reinvent the landscape of Sherbro Island, which the BBC’s reporting notes is slightly smaller than the Hawaiian island of Molokaʻi. Siaka Stevens, another partner on the project, told the BBC that the overall redevelopment effort could “potentially [accomodate] a population of up to a million people.” Given that the largest town on the island, Bonthe, has a population of just over 10,000, this undertaking is ambitious.

On its website, Sherbro Island City touts the project as an “afro-dynamic eco-city which is our concept for a sustainable urban development model, specifically designed for the African continent.” The BBC report also points to one specific goal of the project: creating renewable energy via wind power.

It sounds like the partners involved in the project will need to find the right balance between development and preservation. Elba told the BBC that “the character of the island hopefully will remain intact. It’s a beautiful, green part of the world and we don’t want to disturb that.”

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Not surprisingly, infrastructure will play a big part in bringing this project to fruition — including the creation of a wind farm, solar panels and an array of batteries to store the accumulated energy. “Never in my lifetime would I have thought I could build the foundation for a new smart-city,” Elba told the BBC — and one which could serve as a proof of concept for others in similar locations.

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