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Being a pedestrian in Dhaka

Category : ⚐ EN + city + dhaka + mobility + urbanism

Stuck between a street vendor, his living hens and a rickshaw (first mean of transportation in Dhaka), trying to cross a four-lane road in the middle of an intersection among clouds of dust… being a pedestrian in Dhaka can look like a risky adventure. Ecosistema Urbano experienced it when we were in Dhaka for the Dhaka Upgrading Urban Project.

In 2016, Dhaka was the 11th megacity in the world with 18.237.000 inhabitants. In 2030, the UN estimate that its population will be around 27.374.0001 inhabitants. In rapidly growing megacities like these, with large, unplanned neighborhoods, both private and public spaces are affected by dynamics determined mostly by the pressure of the local and global economy. Public space, in particular, tends to be approached as an afterthought and becomes the residual (and scarce) space between the buildings, merely regarded as the minimum right of way and thus becoming hugely dominated by traffic. Due to lack of planning, parks, squares or boulevards are nonexistent, and when they exist, the spaces consist of bare land, often misused and treated as dumping grounds.

Walking is the main form of transportation in the Greater Dhaka Metropolitan area since 37,2% of the trips are made by foot2. However, this mode of transportation is far from being the safest. Being a pedestrian can be very complicated as one may encounters lots of obstacle through his journey.

Walking in Dhaka’s streets

The typical narrow street in Dhaka features a continuous surface. There are no curbs, and the whole street can be used either by pedestrians or by light vehicles without much conflict. One of the most noticeable problems is the quality of the pavement. Most of the streets are made of concrete, sand and dirt and become unusable during the monsoon. The only obstacles are the steps that give access to the buildings, which have different heights, and the open drainage channels (side drains). Inhabitants often put “homemade bridges” above them. Street lighting can be found in some streets, but not all.

By Jorge Toledo

A street with an uncovered side drain // An example of a “homemade bridge” above the side drain.

In wider streets, pedestrians have to share the street with trucks, cars, rickshaws and street vendors. In this kind of street, there are usually sidewalks, separated and elevated from the traffic lanes by a curb. Part of the traffic lanes and sidewalks are typically blocked by piled goods, stopped vehicles, construction rubbish and hawkers.

Invaded sidewalks in Lalbagh, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Dhaka Metropolitan city has approximately 388km of footpaths, 155 km of which are occupied by hawkers3 forcing pedestrians to step down the sidewalk and to use the traffic lanes where they must compete with cars for mobility space. There, they have to avoid parked rickshaws and streets vendors who sometimes also invade the road. Pedestrians have to step up and down the sidewalk to avoid obstacles. The elevated curb becomes an added barrier. Some streets can also be momentarily appropriated by inhabitants to organize events or for a mechanic workshop (see the previous article about “5 things you can do in Dhaka’s public spaces”).

Diagram showing pedestrian space in a street of Dhaka

Crossing the roads in Dhaka

Even if walking is the first mean of mobility in Dhaka, public space is not designed for pedestrians and is dominated by traffic. In some large avenues, there is no infrastructure to help pedestrians crossing the roads. In Attish Deepankar Avenue, for instance, pedestrians have to make their own way to reach the other side of the road. They have to cross several traffic lanes, separated by a central elevated strip, and a railway, avoiding several obstacles. By doing so, they draw small informal paths in the urban landscape that urban planners call “desire lines”. These desire lines can help urban designers to shape public spaces.

Desire lines crossing a street in Dhaka

Can you spot the desire lines?

Through the Dhaka Upgrading Urban Project, Ecosistema Urbano worked to improve liveability, accessibility and walkability in Dhaka´s public spaces. One of the challenges of the project is to make public spaces more accessible and visible, easier to move to and from and to increase safety for pedestrians. Some of the key actions towards this goal are:

Diagram showing a proposal for recovering pedestrian space in a street of Dhaka

  • Removing architectural barriers like steps, elevated curbs or open side drains whenever possible, in order to increase walkability and accessibility.
  • Widening or creating new pedestrian spaces.
  • Permeating limits, establishing visual and functional connections between spaces that are currently disconnected by the presence of physical barriers like walls. This specifically includes opening closed green areas to the surrounding streets.
  • Creating inner pathways in green areas or open spaces in order to enable more direct and comfortable routes for pedestrians.
  • Increasing visibility and protection of pedestrian crossings.
  • Adding greenery to increase attractiveness, comfort, climate and the diversity of urban ecosystems.

All these interventions are aimed to improve the pedestrian experience in Dhaka’s public spaces. Each intervention will be connected to a larger system or cluster. Public clusters, referred within this project as “neighborhoods”, are networks of public spaces or facilities created by connecting urban nodes with continuous corridors. Each urban node is a public space or a facility that could act as a driver for urban change. Those nodes can have different characters and uses: community centers, markets, playgrounds, parks, water surfaces and other singular spaces.

To know more about the Dhaka Upgrading Urban Project, read our next article next week about “An Urban Design Scheme to improve mobility in Dhaka”.

1. Bird, Julia Helen; Li, Yue-000316086; Rahman, Hossain Zillur; Rama, Martin G.; Venables, Anthony J.. 2018. Toward Great Dhaka : a new urban development paradigm eastward (English). World Bank Group.
2. Data taken from Dhaka Transport Coordination Board (DTCB), Ministry of Communications (MOC), Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Preparatory Survey Report on Dhaka Urban Transport Network Development Study (DHUTS) in Bangladesh Final Report (Appendix Volume). JICA, March 2010.
3. Data from the 2012 Strategic Transport Planning Report.

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Ecosistema Urbano en Spanish Architectures – Crónicas desde Europa

Category : ⚐ ES + eventos + noticias

A partir de hoy y hasta el 28 de octubre del 2018, la Fundación Mies van der Rohe presenta por primera vez en Madrid una recopilación de la mejor arquitectura española contemporánea en la Sala de Exposiciones La Arquería de los Nuevos Ministerios.

La exposición presenta más de 300 obras construidas por estudios españoles en España y en el del resto de Europa, además de todos los proyectos nominados para el Premio de Arquitectura Contemporánea de la Unión Europea – Premio Mies van der Rohe, realizado por estudios de arquitectura españoles.

En la exposición podrás encontrar dos obras de Ecosistema urbano, el Ecobulevar de Vallecas, un espacio público bioclimáticamente acondicionado creado para reactivar la actividad urbana y Plaza Ecópolis, una obra en Rivas Vaciamadrid que reúne en el mismo sitio una escuela, un espacio lúdico para niños y un espacio público integrando la ecología en la vida cotidiana de las personas.

La exposición presenta modelos, fotografías, dibujos, textos y entrevistas y ofrece un contexto cultural, social, tecnológico, político y económico que se refiere a los eventos que tuvieron lugar en España y Europa desde que el país se unió a la Unión Europea.

Visita la Exposición del 7 al 28 de octubre 2018
Espacio: Sala de Exposiciones La Arquería de Nuevos Ministerios
Dirección: Paseo de la Castellana, 67, 28046 Madrid
Horario: Martes a Sábado de 11 a 20 h.
Domingos y festivos de 11 a 14 h.
Entrada gratuita
•Página web:

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Turning alleyways into active pedestrian passages | Open Shore Project

Category : ⚐ EN + architecture + design + ecosistema urbano + urbanism + work in progress

Part of the Open Shore Project was to create a lively urban ecosystem nearby the shore of West Palm Beach, and one of the things that interested us the most was a dark and dirty alleyway near the Banyan Hub. When a city lacks public spaces, every corner, shore or even an alleyway can become a part of the urban ecosystem. These secondary narrow streets are unique opportunities for transformation.

This is how we proposed to activate this space:

The passageways

From Service Alleyways to Surprising Passageways

The alleyways will undergo a rapid activation process ranging from temporary interventions to the development of permanent structures and spaces to host new programs. Walkability, security, and comfort will be the first priorities to be addressed by means of active and passive climatic mitigation, new waste disposal and lighting systems, etc. Activities will disperse later into adjacent public spaces and buildings and these revamped ‘passageways’ will become thematic routes connecting different parts of the city.

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Carta para el diseño de nuevos desarrollos urbanos y regeneración de los existentes

Category : ⚐ ES + ciudad + sostenibilidad

Carta urbanismo ecosistemico

El 22 de Mayo del 2018 Salvador Rueda, director de la Agencia de Ecología Urbana de Barcelona, presentó en Barcelona, en el ámbito del Congreso Post-Habitat III, la “Carta para la planificación ecosistémica de las ciudades y metrópolis’’. En el mismo congreso se creó una comunidad de miembros e instituciones que apoyan Carta con la intención de impulsar los principios incluidos en ella. Cada profesional, institución y empresa que quiera unirse puede hacerlo inscribiéndose aquí:

Desde Ecosistema Urbano buscamos crear, con una visión integral, ciudades y espacios públicos que incorporen en su desarrollo el equilibrio ambiental, la justicia social y la calidad de vida. Compartimos muchos de los principios del “urbanismo ecosistémico” expresados por la carta, de modo que os animamos a revisarla y, si lo creéis conveniente, suscribirla.

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Ecosistema Urbano is recognized as a 2017 Social Design Circle Honoree by the Curry Stone Design Prize

Category : ⚐ EN + design + ecosistema urbano + news + urban social design

We are honored to announce that Ecosistema Urbano has been recognized as a 2017 Social Design Circle Honoree by the Curry Stone Design Prize.

What is the Curry Stone Design Prize?

The Curry Stone Design Prize is awarded each year to honor innovative projects that use design to address pressing social justice issues. Supported by the Curry Stone Foundation, the Prize highlights and rewards projects that improve daily living conditions of people in communities around the world. The Prize acknowledges work that is considered emerging in the professional and public consciousness.

What is the Social Design Cirle?

This year, in honor of the 10th anniversary, the Curry Stone Design Prize assembled a group of 100 of the most compelling social design practitioners of the last decade, a project called The Social Design Circle. As the organizers of the prize refer: These are practices which have captivated and inspired us over the years, as we’ve built a global community of visionaries, activists and game changers. The Social Design Circle project gives answer to what are defined to be the 12 most urgent questions in social design practice. Each month a new topic is adressed through a new open question. Answers come from different practicioners among the 100 winners.  The questions up to date asked are:

Should designers be outlaws?   Is the right to housing real? Can design challenge inequality? Can design prevent disaster? Can we design community engagement?

Can design reclaim public space?

Ecosistema Urbano has been included in the category “Can design reclaim public space?” of the Circle, together with other colleagues and collectives as Asiye eTafuleniBasurama, Collectif Etc., EXYZT, Interboro,  Interbreeding Field, Studio Basar, Kounkuey Design Initiative, Y A + K and Raumlabor Berlin.

Here follows the report of the jury regarding our work:

We honor Ecosistema Urbano particularly for their progressive ideas on community participation. The group has worked to update the very notion of “community participation” through the development of online tools which encourage global participation on local projects. The group has developed several apps to collect community input throughout the design process. New technologies work to break down barriers which traditionally inhibited the full participation of community. Many of our ‘communities’ today are in fact digital, so the idea of community participation must be updated as well.

In a physical space, the group is best known for their green projects like Ecobulevar – a project of ‘air trees’ in the Madrid suburb of Vallecas. The project is intended to be temporary, but creates the same sort of community space that one would find in an old growth allée.

The air trees are made from repurposed industrial materials such as recycled plastic, greenhouse fabric, rubber tires. They contain rooting vegetation and atomizers that cool and moisten the air in the cylinder and around it (8oC to 10oC cooler than the rest of the street in summer). The cylinders can be used for public gatherings, and solar panels provide electricity for lighting when needed (excess energy is sold back to the grid and helps fund the maintenance of the structures).

This and other sustainability projects like Ecopolis in Madrid speak to a shared sense of community responsibility and interaction.

Moreover, an interview we gave for the occasion together with our colleagues of Interboro constitute the episode 24 and 25 “Tools for urban action” of the Social Design Insight podcast. You can listen to episode 24 here, while the episode 25 will be shared on Thursday June 8 on Curry Stone Design Prize webpage.

Stay tuned!


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Cuatro (y más) miradas al patrimonio desde la co-gestión

Category : ⚐ ES + ciudad + colaboraciones + creatividad + educación + eventos + urbanismo

Plaza pública en Projet Darwin, un complejo industrial rehabilitado – Fuente: Projet Darwin, © David Manaud

“La mejor manera de proteger el patrimonio es habitarlo”. Esta frase, escuchada durante la segunda jornada #CityFollowers en la Universidad Camilo José Cela el pasado 28 de marzo, sintetiza muy bien el enfoque de partida de un debate intenso sobre el patrimonio arquitectónico y urbano y su preservación.

La pronunciaba Paula Guillén, que acudía en calidad de vecina a hablar del Espacio Vecinal de Arganzuela (EVA), pero seguramente podría haber venido de cualquiera de los otros cuatro ponentes: Ángel Lomas también del EVA, Kike España de La Casa Invisible, Casilda Cabrerizo de Intermediae y Raphäel Besson de Villes Innovations.

Si hubiera que buscar un aspecto común en las intervenciones de los invitados y el público, sería esa noción de que el patrimonio cobra sentido cuando está lleno de vida, de actividad, y conectado con el contexto. También de que el cuidado y desarrollo del patrimonio está íntimamente relacionado con los usos que se le dan, o las actividades y personas que acoge. Como expresaban desde La Casa Invisible citando un proverbio, “nosotros hacemos la casa, y la casa nos hace a nosotros”.

Vecinos de Arganzuela, dando vida al Mercado de Legazpi

Vecinos de Arganzuela, dando vida al Mercado de Legazpi – Fuente: CC BY-NC-SA EVA Arganzuela

Los espacios patrimoniales, comentaba Raphäel Besson, pueden ser no sólo lugares a preservar sino también recursos vivos y actores del desarrollo local, siempre en evolución con su entorno. En su presentación compartía varios casos europeos, como Projet Darwin, donde esto se está intentando a través de la co-gestión y la innovación abierta,.

Preservar, matizaba Kike España, que no conservar. Lo primero nos invita a buscar nuevas posibilidades desde un respeto por las cosas (espacios, edificios…) que nos han conformado como sociedad. Lo segundo, en cambio, supone congelarlos y aislarlos en el tiempo y el espacio, bloqueando precisamente las dos nociones que definen el concepto de patrimonio.

¿Qué patrimonio?

Sin ánimo de entrar a definir aquí qué es el patrimonio, sí merece la pena repasar algunas de las acepciones que surgieron durante las jornadas.

Algunas de las acepciones habituales del término están en gran medida ligadas a la posesión y la acumulación de la propiedad, como explica su origen etimológico y bien recordaba Kike España. Pero los conceptos actuales de patrimonio cultural, histórico y/o arquitectónico, apuntaba una de las asistentes, tienen poco recorrido histórico. Antes la gente vivía “con el pasado incorporado en el presente y proyectado hacia el futuro”, sin hacer tanto esfuerzo consciente por distinguir o elegir los valores a mantener.

El patrimonio como bien común, y el espacio público como patrimonio. Paisaje Tetuán, Intermediae – Fuente: CC BY-NC-SA Intermediae

Como también apuntaba Casilda Cabrerizo, la definición de “valor patrimonial” se apoya en la diferenciación o elevación de algo sobre el resto, como una “reserva” selecta que da a entender, implícitamente, que todo lo demás es prescindible. Su propuesta desde Intermediae: dejar de aplicar el concepto solamente a lo excepcional, y extenderlo a todas esas otras construcciones o paisajes urbanos en los que sus habitantes reconozcan algún tipo de valor a mantener y cuidar. Buscar un concepto de patrimonio más amplio y cercano al de bien común.

Patrimonio, ¿para quién?

De lo anterior se desprende otro de los principales temas de debate: Se trata de preservar el patrimonio dándole vida, pero, ¿quién define qué es lo que se preserva y lo que no? ¿Quién está capacitado y autorizado para hacerlo? Si bien esto suele estar en manos de las instituciones (o de algunos técnicos dentro de ellas, como apuntaba Ángel Lomas), en la conversación se cuestionaba si tenía que ser siempre así. ¿Es lo mismo que el reconocimiento sea institucional, privado o comunitario? ¿Puede llamarse “bien común” a un bien cuyo valor ha sido definido por un solo agente? Varios de los ponentes coincidían en que no.

¿Es posible que esa puesta en valor del patrimonio provenga de una ciudadanía informada y conocedora de su entorno? Desde EVA proponen que sí, poniendo a trabajar a expertos y vecinos para mostrar que el Mercado de Legazpi tiene un alto nivel patrimonial pese a que el ayuntamiento le asigna un nivel de protección bajo. En La Casa Invisible, por su lado, llevan ya diez años demostrándolo con su detallada documentación del edificio que ocupan, y con el cuidado que muestran en su rehabilitación.

Planta de tipos de pavimento de La Casa Invisible

Capturas del proyecto básico de rehabilitación de La Casa Invisible

Capturas del proyecto básico de rehabilitación de La Casa Invisible, con un cuidado catálogo de elementos de valor patrimonial. Fuente: La Casa Invisible en

¿Puede el carácter patrimonial ser cuestionado? En este punto no podía dejar de salir a debate la Casa Guzmán de Alejandro de la Sota, derribada por el propietario pese a su gran valor arquitectónico. Si incluso el artículo 128.1 de la Constitución subordina toda la riqueza del país al interés general, ¿cómo puede el derecho a la propiedad privada imponerse a éste? La dificultad parece estar en definir qué es el interés general, quién lo define, y cómo se cuida. Kike proponía que el reto es precisamente contestar a esas preguntas en común, y no desde un solo ámbito o agente por representativo que éste sea. No es una cuestión, decía, puramente técnica, sino de democracia.

Legalidad y sostenibilidad

Tanto en La Invisible como en EVA se puede reconocer la lucha de los movimientos ciudadanos por equilibrar un proyecto creativo, horizontal y autogestionado con la estructuración y burocratización que la relación con las administraciones requiere.

Ángel y Paula se preguntaban si la administración, incluso en su afán (reciente, al menos en Madrid) de apoyar la existencia de espacios colectivos o ciudadanos, en realidad no está matando la capacidad innovadora, creativa y espontánea de esos espacios, al requerirles entrar en un proceso de regulación.

Una posible respuesta de las instituciones a esa inquietud se puede ver en cómo en Intermediae buscan formas de “dejar hacer” desde la institución. En muchos casos, según Casilda, haciendo gala de una auténtica “creatividad burocrática” para tratar de garantizar unos niveles aceptables de seguridad y responsabilidad, y buscar un modelo de gestión claro y coherente con cada iniciativa.

Y al reto de lo legal le sigue de cerca el de lo económico: ¿cómo garantizar la sostenibilidad de esos espacios patrimoniales reactivados? Lo habitual es que sea la administración o la inversión privada las que se ocupen de ello. Sin embargo, ¿puede la iniciativa privada financiar un bien patrimonial, entendido incluso como un bien común, sin depredarlo y corromperlo? Varios de los participantes expresaban serias dudas. En España, la financiación pública funcionaría como solución intermedia entre la agresividad del capital privado y las transformadora pero aún limitada economía de los movimientos sociales.

La iniciativa privada como motor de revitalización y fuente de sostenibilidad – Fuente: Projet Darwin, © David Sánchez

¿Y en el resto de Europa? Los proyectos explicados por Raphäel Besson en la jornada apuntan a modelos de co-gestión e innovación abierta en los que lo empresarial garantiza la sostenibilidad económica del proyecto y a la vez permite dar soporte económico a proyectos comunitarios. ¿Pueden casos como el Projet Darwin de Burdeos traer alguna esperanza en esa línea? Hasta cierto punto, quizás, y es una vía que merece ser explorada.

Público, privado, común

Hablar de modelos de gestión del patrimonio llevó a los asistentes, inevitablemente y desde el comienzo, a hablar de lo público, lo privado y lo común. Tres ámbitos que, como cuestionaba uno de los participantes, se viven en España como una confrontación, y que dieron para un debate tan intenso que alguien tuvo que sugerir que se dejaran de clasificar esas palabras “como buenas y malas” para centrar el debate en los modelos interesantes detrás de esas palabras.

Si, como apuntaba Miguel Ángel Díaz, incluso los “templos de la ciudadanía” de los que hablaba Jane Jacobs son en muchos casos espacios privados, ¿cómo negar la necesaria relación entre esos tres ámbitos a la hora de activar el patrimonio? ¿Y si hacer visible el conflicto entre ellos no fuera solamente inevitable, sino además necesario? ¿Y si, en ese contexto de confluencia de movimientos y agentes, tomáramos como natural y deseable mantener espacios de conflicto social?

Reunión en el Espacio Vecinal de Arganzuela – Fuente: CC BY-NC-SA EVA Arganzuela

Es ahí donde las tres iniciativas españolas que se presentaron en la jornada coincidieron en algo: no se trata de negar el modelo institucional o el privado-comercial de revitalización del patrimonio, sino de asegurarse de que haya lugar para otro tipo de enfoques, otras formas de hacer.  Una reivindicación que llamó la atención de Raphäel ya que, en su experiencia, en Europa el debate en torno al patrimonio parece más centrado en lo cultural, lo económico y las formas de gestión, que en la democracia, de derecho a la ciudad o los bienes comunes. ¿Síntoma de que la jornada estaba conectando con una vena transformadora?

A continuación os dejamos el vídeo íntegro de la sesión, porque merece la pena escuchar estas cuestiones, con todos sus matices, directamente de los asistentes:

Ver el vídeo completo de la segunda jornada #cityFollowers

Si te ha interesado el debate, te invitamos a participar en las próximas jornadas de debate #CityFollowers, el 27 de junio. Como siempre, la calidad del debate que se forme en torno a las ponencias dependerá de la diversidad de participantes. ¡Te esperamos!

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Ecosistema Urbano wins West Palm Beach Design Competition!

Category : ⚐ EN + ⚐ ES + ⚐ IT + architecture + city + competitions + design + ecosistema urbano + news + sustainability + urbanism + work in progress

We are very happy to announce that our project Open Shore is the winning proposal of Shore to Core, the international design competition to reimagine downtown West Palm Beach as a dynamic, resilient waterfront city! We are thrilled with the great reception that the project has had, and eager to continue its development side by side with the people and the institutions of West Palm Beach.

Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Rain Plaza

Here we share the press release from Van Alen Institute:

Van Alen Institute and the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (WPB CRA) today announced Open Shore by Ecosistema Urbano as the winning proposal for the Shore to Core waterfront design competition. The Shore to Core competition invited international designers, planners and architects to envision what the future of the West Palm Beach waterfront could look like over the next 20 to 30 years, taking factors including populations, economies and the environment into account. The winning proposal will serve as a “vision board” for the city’s future, providing a starting point and framework to help the city adapt and make the most of the waterfront.

Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Rain Plaza

Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Plan

Selected from a pool of over 40 international teams and two finalists, Ecosistema Urbano’s winning proposal envisions a healthier and more resilient downtown and waterfront for West Palm Beach—a keystone city in southern Florida with a growing population of people in their 20s and 30s, as well as large Black and Hispanic populations. The competition proposals imagine new amenities that reflect the city’s emerging populations, and Shore to Core’s organizers believe that design is a crucial tool for tackling these evolving needs. The initiative included public consultation, and this input played a role in the jury’s decision-making process.

Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Strolling on the Waterfront

Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Aerial View

Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Flagler Drive and the Cloud Forest Habitat Plaza

Ecosistema Urbano’s winning design answers Shore to Core’s call for a comprehensive, forward-thinking urban plan to make West Palm Beach’s waterfront a year-round destination for locals and visitors alike. The proposal includes what could be the first public bioclimatic domes in the U.S. adorned with hanging gardens. These domes create climatically comfortable spaces 365 days a year, thereby supporting a more socially cohesive city.

The proposal also illustrates how the city’s Banyan Garage could be upcycled into a mixed-use building with both public- and private-sector roles featuring adaptive climates suitable for a range of activities, including a farmers market, coworking spaces, and skyline viewing platforms. Additional amenities include vibrant thematic alleyways—with such features as a rock climbing wall, interactive exhibition space, and immersive foliage—that harness the cultural values and experiences unique to West Palm Beach, while also providing shade and introducing new elevated programming spaces



Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Level 4 Open Air Plaza at Banyan Hub

Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Farmers Market day at Banyan’s ground floor

Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Social green space at Banyan Hub overlooking the downtown

Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Banyan Hub | Section

Ecosistema Urbano will present their proposal to the WPB CRA board in May 2017. The CRA board will identify priority projects within the Banyan Garage and downtown alleyways, and then contract with Ecosistema Urbano. This process will be followed by outreach to the community about the individual elements that are scheduled for possible implementation in late 2017 or early 2018.

“The Shore to Core competition and resulting proposals truly offered insights into how we can plan a strong and vibrant future for our city,” said Jeri Muoio, Mayor of the City of West Palm Beach. “Ecosistema Urbano’s design was applauded by all as enhancing the waterfront and creating new, iconic experiences that incorporate our natural resources, cultural spaces, and inclusive urban atmospheres.”

“Ecosistema Urbano’s proposal addresses social cohesion in a compelling way by integrating locally responsive systems with a welcoming public space that will further diversify the city,” said David van der Leer, Executive Director of Van Alen Institute. “We’re thrilled that West Palm Beach is looking to the future and rethinking how to create a downtown that is uniquely theirs— a downtown that enhances the wellbeing of residents and visitors alike.

The runner-up design finalist, Perkins + Will, created a proposal focusing on community-building with a continuous waterfront park, extended Great Lawn, and the Banyan Garage revitalized as a multi-use civic space. Van Alen has synthesized the work of the finalist teams into a key findings document, “A Shore Thing: Key Findings from the Shore to Core Competition,” that summarizes the shared insights from all three proposals.

The Shore to Core competition has parallel research and design tracks: The aim of this structure is to understand how waterfront cities like West Palm Beach can become healthier, and to create design strategies that will make them more responsive to rising sea levels. The winning research team, Happier by Design, focused on how specific types of public spaces may increase the wellbeing of people who use them, and conducted a pilot study analyzing the health benefits of more complex and engaging urban landscapes.

By testing environmental psychology principals with tactical urban interventions, Happier by Design found that public space designs that boost feelings of fascination foster wellbeing. The research team also recommended that designers focus individuals’ attention on nature and create spaces that are both comfortable and interactive, including such features as movable seating and adjustable lookouts that frame the landscape. The team’s recommendations affirm the dynamic and engaging designs proposed by Ecosistema Urbano. The combination of innovative research and original design in Shore to Core reflects Van Alen’s mission to use research and design to inform the planning of new civic spaces.


To read the final reports, see:

Key Findings | Van Alen Institute
Open Shore | Ecosistema Urbano (Design Winner)

Happier by Design | Happy City, University of Virginia, StreetPlans and Space Syntax (Research Winner)
Adapt to Thrive | Perkins + Will (Design Finalist)


Competition Jury:

Raphael Clemente, Executive Director, Downtown West Palm Beach
Colin Ellard, Associate Professor, University of Waterloo, Department of Psychology
Patrick Franklin, President and CEO, Urban League of Palm Beach County
David van der Leer (Jury Chair), Executive Director, Van Alen Institute
Jeri Muoio, Mayor, City of West Palm Beach
Penni Redford, Sustainability Manager, City of West Palm Beach
Manuel Clavel Rojo, Clavel Arquitectos (substitute for Terry Riley, K/R Architects)
Jon Ward, Executive Director, West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency
Lilly Weinberg, Director of Community Foundations, Knight Foundation
Claire Weisz, Founding Principal, WXY Studio
Nancy Wells, Professor, Cornell University, College of Human Ecology, Design and Environmental Analysis Department

Ecosistema Urbano Team:

A multidisciplinary Madrid and Boston-based team comprised of principals Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo; Marco Rizzetto, Carlos León, Antonella Marlene Milano, Luisa Zancada, Jorge Toledo, Marta Muñoz, Pablo Santacana, Lola Pouchin, Maria Vittoria Tesei, Andrea Bertrán, Ana Patricia Maté, Lucía De Retes Cascales, Cristina Rodríguez, Elizabeth Kelleher, Lorena Tselemegkou, Luana Scarpel, Silvia Sangriso, Daniela Menendez, Julia Casado, Constantino Hurtado, Andrés Walliser.


To view high-resolution images for this project, including work by the winning team, click here

To view animated images of Ecosistema Urbano’s proposal, have a look here

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LAB1 Bogotá: reactivando la ciudad desde el trabajo colaborativo y la creatividad

Category : ⚐ ES + arquitectura + ciudad + creatividad + cultura abierta + laboratorios urbanos

Hace unas semanas, en el marco del Jurado del concurso BID URBAN LAB organizado por el Banco Inter Americano de Desarrollo, tuve la oportunidad de conocer a Leonardo Velasquez, miembro de uno de los equipos participantes y que resultaron finalistas en este interesante concurso, del que os informamos el pasado mes de junio.

Leonardo, durante su presentación, mostró el trabajo que desarrolla junto con otros estudiantes y creadores en la ciudad de Bogotá. El proyecto se llama LAB1 y hoy compartimos con vosotros algunas imágenes de esta interesante labor colaborativa así como una breve descripción de su actividad, facilitada por el propio Leonardo.

Podéis ver su página web y seguirles a través de Facebook e Instagram. ¡Esperamos que su actividad os resulte inspiradora!

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Ecosistema Urbano, design finalist of ‘Shore to Core’ competition in West Palm Beach

Category : ⚐ EN + architecture + city + eu:live + news + urbanism

Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach waterfront

West Palm Beach waterfront – Photo by Ecosistema Urbano

Today we are excited to share with you that we have been selected as finalists for the ‘Shore to Core‘ design competition in West Palm Beach, Florida.

This competition, commissioned by the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency and organized by the Van Alen Institute, was launched in order to gather innovative visions and develop forward-looking proposals for the future of the city’s downtown and waterfront area. Participants were asked to address in their projects, general issues that affect the area, from social transformation to rising sea levels, but also to deliver site-specific proposals for several locations: Flagler Drive —the waterfront—, some of the narrow alleyways, the Great Lawn and the city’s Banyan parking garage building.

We are to be one of the 2 teams selected among 41 teams —comprising 159 participants from 13 countries— to further develop our proposals. For us this is another great opportunity to rethink the way urban environment is connected —and responds— to society, culture, economy and the environment.

You can read other news about it and have a look at the official website:

Shore to Core | Van Alen Institute

We are now focused and working for the second stage of the competition, looking deeper into the urban challenges the city faces and transforming them into unique opportunities of improvement of public space and social life.

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The Political Lab: How Can Urban Design Facilitate Socio-Political Engagement?

Category : ⚐ EN + design + open culture + urbanism + video

Last year Mirian Calvo, postgraduate student of the Glasgow School of Art, contacted us to ask our vision on topics that have been very present in our own work lately: the relation between citizens and institutions, the role of “urban labs” or “urban kitchens” in urban development, and the use of urban mockups or prototypes to create spaces for interaction, engagement and transformation.

Some months later she sent us the the result of her research, turned into a proposal for the George Square in Glasgow. Here you can watch a short video and read a summary about the project. Thanks, Mirian!

The aim of this final Masters’ project is