Shashwath Santosh is a designer based in New York. Currently at Google Creative Lab.



Futures for
Times Sq:
Rat Turf Wars

Designer, Maker, 
Researcher, Futurist 

Collaboration with:
Xusheng Yu, Max Helfand,
Krithi Srinivasan, Kairi Wasaki

Collaborated with the Times Square Alliance to create provocations for unimagined futures for the world famous city block. Reflecting on existing social, technological, ecological, and political signals, a live scene was choreographed on site to encourage public engagement with speculative thought.

Manhattan’s geographic diversity has given rise to genetically distinct varieties of rats. A brutal turf war between uptown and downtown rats at Times Square caused the suspension of certain subway lines.

The underfunded MTA struggles to regain control amidst civil war.

The MTA’s Rodent Forensic Team documents casualties of the Rat wars, estimates potential delays in service and maps future conflict zones.

Public opinions are gathered to explore potential peace solutions with different plausible methods of human intervention during intra-species conflict.


Various foresight and futures thinking tools, such as Futures Wheels, the Delphi Method, and the STEEP Analysis Model, were used to establish connections between signals, study imaginative boundaries, and critique the collective understanding of futures design.

These tools enabled for consistent construction of a narrative that was just the right length and depth to effectively provoke imaginative thought among the public.


Minus the flying cars and the humanoid robots, it is hard to think outside of cliches about the future. But there is strong potential for unthought yet plausible futures to exist our collective imagination.

This is an exciting case for designers to study. To be the one not just designing products and experiences, but ways of thinking about 'tomorrow'. With the future cones in mind, this project was an attempt to tap into a scene from an unfamiliar thought framework based entirely in Times Sq and the energy of New York City.

Research Signals:

1 Zhang, Sarah. “New York City Has Genetically Distinct ‘Uptown’ and ‘Downtown’ Rats.” The Atlantic, 29 Nov. 2017,

2 Arbel Harpak, Nandita Garud, Noah A. Rosenberg, Dmitri A. Petrov, Matthew Combs, Pleuni S. Pennings, Jason Munshi-South, Genetic Adaptation in New York City Rats, Genome Biology and Evolution, Volume 13, Issue 1, January 2021, evaa247,
(Database: Oxford University Press)

3Flegenheimer, Matt. “As Rats Persist, Transit Agency Hopes to Curb Their Births.” The New York Times, 12 Mar. 2013.,

4Archive, View Author, and Get author RSS feed. “NYC Subway Repairs Remain Unfunded Due to Congestion Pricing Delay: Watchdog.” New York Post, 19 Aug. 2021,

5APOPO | Training Rats to Save Lives. Accessed 23 July 2022.

6Wamsley, Laurel, and Merrit Kennedy. “After Years Of Detecting Land Mines, A Heroic Rat Is Hanging Up His Sniffer.” NPR, 4 June 2021. NPR,

7Oliveira, Alex. “Huge Garbage Bins Installed in Times Square in Effort to Clean Streets.” Mail Online, 21 Apr. 2022,

8Goldbaum, Christina. “Counting on Biden, M.T.A. Shifts From Doomsday Budget to a Wishful One.” The New York Times, 16 Dec. 2020.,
A Collaboration with:

Xusheng Yu
Max Helfand
Krithi Srinivasan
Kairi Wasaki

Special thanks to:

The Times Sq Alliance, New York 

Research Under The Guidance Of:

Elliott P. Montgomery
Award Winning Designer + Strategic Foresight 

Radha Mistry,   
Award Winning Designer + Strategic Foresight