When people ask Femi Adelakun what he does as Co-Founder of City78 in Washington, D.C., he can always say he’s an urban planner. That’s pretty straightforward, and most people have a general idea of what that means.
But when they ask him for details—well, then the answer gets more complicated.
Adelakun’s specialty is location intelligence analysis, a process that uses thousands of pieces of data (including GIS, or Geographic Information System Mapping) to determine how a given area serves a population’s needs. But in order to make the best use of this information, Adelakun also draws on his knowledge of land use theories, planning and zoning, economic development, architecture, transportation, and urban sociology.
“People are surprised,” he said. “They ask: ‘How do you balance those skill sets that seem so disparate?’”
The short answer: He learned that at Georgetown.
A native of Nigeria, Adelakun earned his undergraduate degree in urban sociology from the University of Jos in his home country. While this gave him insight into the impact cities have on their residents’ quality of life, he felt he also needed what Georgetown offered: a deep—and practical—understanding of urban design.
Since founding City78 in 2018, Adelakun and his colleagues have worked on economic, traffic, and land use issues facing Boston’s North Shore and Charleston, South Carolina’s sprawling Savannah Highway. Both projects are multifaceted, tremendously complex—and just the kind of work Adelakun feels he was meant to do.
“One of the things we say is that there is no silver bullet,” he said. “At the same time, the beauty of it is, you are not trying to structure cities to be simplified and scientific. The beauty of cities is actually how complex they are, how they just organically developed into their own systems of being in existence.”