Zuzalu: A Pop-up City on the Mediterranean

by | May 9, 2023 | Blog

Last week, the Free Cities Foundation team travelled to Montenegro to take part in Zuzalu: a two-month gathering of entrepreneurs with a shared interest in longevity, blockchain, and new cities. 

Zuzalu’s organizers describe the project as a “pop-up city”: a medium-term experiment in living together designed to explore what building new societies could look like. 

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Vitalik Buterin explains Zuzalu’s goals

During the launch event, the project’s primary backer, Vitalik Buterin, outlined its goals. He explained that the extended duration of the gathering would not only facilitate the exchange of ideas and networking typical of a regular conference, but also provide attendees with the opportunity to work together and co-create. 

The Zuzalu experiment began on March 25th with 100-150 residents arriving at a location on the coast of Montenegro. Residents have since been spending their weekdays coworking and their weekends attending talks on themes including synthetic biology, technology for privacy, public goods, longevity and governance. The group will remain on the site until the end of May.

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Location of the Zuzalu pop-up city

Along with other representatives of the “New Cities Industry”, the Free Cities Foundation team was invited to take part in a two-day Zuzalu event focussed on new cities and Network States. 

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Graphic showing the new cities industry landscape. Created by Infinita.

Our foundation council president Titus Gebel gave an opening presentation. He provided an outline of the “Free Cities Universe”, explaining the variety of projects that can be classified as Free Cities. These range from intentional communities like Montelibero that have a shared ethos but no legal autonomy, to fully autonomous seasteads and Free Private Cities. 

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Titus Gebel speaks at Zuzalu

I had the pleasure of chairing a panel discussion on the path to political decentralization in Honduras and the country’s ZEDE regime. My co-panellists Massimo Mazzone of Ciudad Morazán and Gabriel Ayau of Próspera shared updates on the progress of their projects and how they are dealing with political challenges that have resulted from Honduras’ recent change of government. They also discussed the benefits of ZEDEs, including their ability to create jobs in high-value industries. 

Other speakers included Balaji Srinivasan, author of The Network State; Niklas Anzinger, CEO of startup city VC fund Infinita and Andreas Baumgartner, chief strategy officer for TIPOLIS.

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Laurence Ion, Adam Gries, Balaji Srinivasan and Niklas Anzinger take part in a panel on Longevity Network States.

Our creative director, Timothy Allen, also travelled to Zuzalu to conduct a series of interviews for the Free Cities Podcast. He recorded new episodes with event speakers including Titus Gebel, Patrick Lamson-Hall, Nuria Forques, Gabriel Ayau, and Andreas Baumgartner. If you’d like to listen to these episodes when they’re released, you can subscribe to our podcast on your favourite platform. 

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Timothy Allen travelled to Zuzalu to record new episodes of the Free Cities Podcast

For the Free Cities Foundation team, Zuzalu served as a valuable forum for exchanging ideas and hearing updates on new city initiatives. We were encouraged by the progress being made in established projects like Ciudad Morazán and Próspera, and also the development of newer projects such as the Catawba Digital Economic Zone, Praxis, and the nomadic community Kift. We’ll be staying in touch with the organizers and seeking to learn from the outcomes of the Zuzalu experiment following its completion. 

For those looking to find out more, the Zuzalu website has more information about the program of events and speakers. Several of the Zuzalu speakers – including Titus Gebel, Patri Friedman, Mark Lutter and Massimo Mazzone – will also be joining us in Prague this October for the Free Cities Foundation’s Liberty in Our Lifetime conference. Visit our conference website for the full details. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to hear the latest updates on our planned conference activities and speakers. We hope to see you there!  

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TIPOLIS CSO Dr. Andreas Baumgartner speaks at Zuzalu