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Metropoli Novissima | Exhibition in Naples

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+events+urbanism

If you are visiting Naples you have until the 15th of November to see the Metropoli Novissima, an exhibition dedicated to successful interventions in suburban contexts featuring architectural and urban international projects. Curated by Prof. Cherubino Gambardella and promoted by the Annali dell’Architettura e delle Città Foundation, the exhibition has a free admission at the Monumental complex of San Domenico Maggiore.

Structured as a unique urban route and conceived as a travel card, the exhibition accompanies the visitor through suggestions and ideas from some of the most interesting case studies of urban design and architecture, with a special focus on processes and scenarios that unite cities.
The exhibition is the last moment of the debate promoted this year by the Fondazione Annali dell’Architettura e delle Città which, under the curatorship of Prof. Cherubino Gambardella, has chosen to investigate the topic of suburbia and its environmentally sustainable development, starting from Naples and Campania, at the center of political debate and planning process, aiming then at opening the debate worldwide. Professionals from all over the world have been called to provide their vision of possible interventions in suburban areas, offering a comprehensive view of the evolution of marginal spaces and underlying social dynamics.

Ecosistema Urbano is among the designers invited to present works related to environmental sustainability and urban activation. Ecosistema Urbano’s projects displayed at the exhibition are the Eco-boulevard, an urban recycling intervention in the outskirt of Madrid, Spain, aiming at creating a comfortable public space following the principles of bioclimatic design; Cuenca Red, an urban activation project developed in parallel to a participatory process, leading to the definition of an urban strategy and the design of 6 pilot projects in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador; Open Shore, a complex project proposing actions at different scales to reactivate the Downtown of West Palm Beach, Florida, and redesign the its limit between the natural landscape of the lagoon and the urban environment.

In Metropoli Novissima more than forty designers are called to present new scenarios and resources for the so-called “difficult places”. Other designers invited to share some of the most important works on urban renewal are works by: Alejandro Aravena, Archea Associati, Stefano Boeri, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Andreas Kipar from LAND, Francisco Mangado, Piuarch, and Sauerbruch Hutton, with scenarios that go from Paris to Moscow, from Johannesburg to Sichuan, from San Paolo to Milan.

More information at:
http://www.annaliarchitettura.it/comunicati-stampa.html
https://casabellaweb.eu/2018/10/09/metropoli-novissima/

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Nordic Urban Spaces | Exhibition in Berlin

Category: ⚐ EN+events+news

If you ever wondered how the North builds, this exhibition is for you.  The “Nordic Urban Spaces” shows examples of Nordic architecture and urban planning already implemented that make life in the city better. The Nordic weather tends to be quite extreme, being either a bright and hot summer or a very long and cold winter, so weather particularly affects architecture and urban planning.

This exhibition shows successful, innovative and participatory examples of Nordic construction and planning. The projects not only bring summer into the city (for example, with urban swimming spots) but also provide light and color in winter (for example with brightly colored subway stations). They also try to demonstrate that functionality and sustainability, consideration and elegance are not mutually exclusive.

We are happy to announce that our project Dreamhamar is displayed in the exhibition until the 28th of September. The redesign of the Stortorget Square in Hamar, Norway, through participation and a network design process, took place during Fall 2011. Citizens took part in a collective creative process that helped us shape the future of the square. Our approach was supported by workshops, lectures, urban actions, communication, and participation tools. Dreamhamar was awarded as BEST PRACTICE by the United Nations-HABITAT program in 2014.

If you are in Berlin and want to check it out, go to The Felleshus. This building is the cultural center and event venue of the five Nordic embassies (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden).

Exhibition: Nordic Urban Spaces. Inspirationen für Stadt und Raum
Date: Until 28 September 2018
Place: Felleshus, Nordic Embassies, Berlin, Germany
Find out more: www.nordischebotschaften.org/ausstellungen/nordic-urban-spaces

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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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5 things you can do in Dhaka’s public spaces

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

As a recent project has led us to Dhaka, we are starting a series of posts to share with you some key topics and observations about this very interesting city.

Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh, is one of the densest cities in the world, with 18 million people squishing in 1,528 square km. The average density of the central area of the city has reached a staggering 41,000 inhabitants per square kilometer1. The city is considered one of the least livable cities in the world, ranked 137 out of 140 cities2 in 2017. It is the lowest for any South Asian city surveyed, because of, among other things, air pollution, severe traffic congestion, bad sewage system, hundreds of slums and regular river floodings.

In such a dense and crowded city, the inhabitants make the most of each square meter, making public space a truly multi-layered and multi-dimensional entity. Public space is usually described as an inclusive space, open to everyone, formed by a network of streets, squares and parks. In Dhaka, because of the lack of private space, public space becomes an outdoor extension of living and working spaces. The boundaries between private and public places get blurred because of the way they are being used. Public space becomes a livelihood asset, a channel of flows and a place for recreation and social integration.

Ecosistema Urbano was in Dhaka for two weeks on February of 2018 to study Dhaka’s public spaces within the context of the Dhaka City Neighborhood Upgrading Project (we will write about this soon) and we were amazed by the diversity and intensity of uses in public spaces. Here are just five examples of things Bangladeshi people are doing in Dhaka´s public spaces.

1. Get a haircut enjoying a garden view

Source: Google Street view

In lots of developing countries like Bangladesh, proposing services (or goods) to customers directly in the streets is a good and easy way to make money for people with low level of income, usually migrants. It does not imply any shop or financial investment. Get an old chair, a mirror and some shading and you can offer good and affordable haircuts to pedestrians. This form of entrepreneurship is less risky and more resilient than opening a formal business.

Informal businesses in Dhaka are a huge part of the city’s economy as around 5.000.000 hawkers are working in public spaces3. Most street vendors work on sidewalks, in traffic intersections or even parks or fairgrounds at all times of the day. They contribute an essential service to all socio-economic segments of the population by offering low cost goods and services at convenient locations.

2. Attend a wedding

An ephemeral installation for a celebration in Azimpur Road, Dhaka, Bangladesh

The lack of private and public indoor spaces results in an important need of places to meet and organize events. Inhabitants appropriate public spaces for private events like weddings or celebrations, building bamboo installations for shading and privatizing entire streets for private use. Streets become an outdoor extension of private space, a place for social interactions.

This is why, in every narrow corner of Dhaka, you can find a pile of bamboo poles waiting for their opportunity to become a cheerful shading for any kind of celebration.

3. Repair your car

Outdoor mechanic workshop, English Road, Dhaka, Bangladesh

It is possible to find everything you need in Dhaka, if you know where to look for it. In some streets, it is possible to find car, trucks or rickshaws4 pieces to repair vehicles and even people who would help you for a few Bangladeshi taka. This activity takes place on the sidewalks, often invading the traffic lanes, worsening the traffic congestion, forcing pedestrians to walk among the traffic and reducing the effective traffic lanes by half their size.

4. Play cricket

A cricket game in a playground in Dhaka, Bangladesh

There is a lack of playgrounds, parks and gyms in Dhaka. In this dense context, every open space becomes an opportunity to play and to practice sports. As a result, open spaces host lots of activities like street vending, recycling, begging or playing. These places can have multiple uses during the day, and one of the most typical ones is playing cricket. Bangladeshi people are great fans of this sport, brought by the British. A pile of old tiles can delimit a cricket field and some trees or an old wall can provide shading for an audience, turning a bare plot into a sport field. Dhaka’s inhabitants develop resilient tactics to make the most of every square meter and to overcome the lack of recreational spaces.

5. A street art visit

Rokonpur girls high school, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka is considered one of the least livable cities, but some parts of the city can be more enjoyable than others. Some streets of Dhaka are very colorful, their walls taken by street art. This mural was made in 2014 during the FIFA World Cup by a group of 200 volunteers that transformed a regular street with a colorful space as a part of the Goal-E project to support their favourite football team. “Goal-E” stands for “goli”, a typical Bangladeshi lane. This kind of art is a way for the inhabitants of the neighborhood to reclaim public space and to appropriate the place.

Public space in Dhaka is a multidimensional entity: a space of appropriation, of socialisation, of exchange and a livelihood asset for the poor. All these uses of space are showing how resilient and creative inhabitants of a megacity can be. But public space is also the place for pedestrians, as 37.2% of the trips in Dhaka are made by foot5. In our next article, we will further explore the pedestrian experience in Dhaka.

6. And… a bonus

A goat? A butterfly? An angel?

You can indeed see strange things in Dhaka. Let us introduce you to… the goatterfly! This fairy-dressed animal, trying to find some food among the trash, sums up our impressions of this city: vital, complex, precarious, bizarre, creative and generally difficult to explain.

If you are curious and want to see more, we challenge you to dive into StreetView and let us know any other interesting situations you find.


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. Ranking by Economist Intelligence Unit (2017).
3. Statistics from the Dhaka City Corporation.
4. Unmotorised light vehicle with driver
5. 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.

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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. keep reading about the passageways!

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Banyan Hub: A new urban ecosystem for West Palm Beach | Open Shore Project

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

The Banyan garage is envisioned as a new beacon for activities in downtown. This hybrid and flexible building will be open to the public all day long and will be an active presence in the city, producing culture, knowledge, and goods, while attracting businesses, talent, and innovation with its attractions.

Its configuration allows many different uses to coexist, which also makes it flexible to permit future changes in use.

It is a permeable building, open, and accessible to all citizens, a true part of the city from the ground floor to the public roof terrace. Its bioclimatic design, based on a green permeable facade and two big thematic courtyards -natural and digital- will provide pleasant internal climate moderation throughout the year while reducing environmental impact and management costs.

The Banyan Hub is, not only tightly connected to the street: it takes the street and its energy inside and makes it one of its core features. Folding, twisting and ramping up towards the open terrace on the roof, this new kind of street provides a unique urban-like experience inside the building, but also retains many of the features of an ordinary street.

Section of Banyan Hub, an Urban Ecosistem in the Heart of West Palm Beach

Areas of the building will be open to the public at anytime. The building may be accessed by many modes of transportation such as pedestrians, cyclists, skaters, and light vehicles. It connects different uses along its path — from businesses to cultural spaces to public plazas.

Prioritizing public accessibility is integral in ensuring that this project has a landmark presence in West Palm Beach. Banyan Hub is envisioned as an urban ecosystem where users can satisfy their wants and needs without ever having to leave the building. Banyan Hub is sure to set the tone for the future of West Palm Beach as a collaborative, sustainable, and creative city.

The Banyan Hub includes a series of public spaces located at different levels connected by a re-envisioned parking ramp which provides access to different spaces and twists around the courtyards.  

+A flexible square at ground level which consists of an open hall connected to the surrounding streets and to the passageway at the back of the building.

+A covered but open air plaza at an intermediate level of the building, right where the two courtyards begin. This space is the heart of the Hub and plays a crucial role in its climatic conditioning and cultural activity. 

+A top terrace, overlooking the lagoon which offers a panoramic view of the natural environment and of the whole downtown. Relaxing and breezy like the decks of a cruise ship, it is and an ideal place to begin a stroll through the building and along the waterfront.

 

One of the most important qualities of a city is the ability to evolve by changing its uses and its physical configuration according to the needs of the society that lives in it. The Banyan Hub materializes these principles as it being conceived in a way in which changeability is the only constant. It will remain open to transformation by its managers and users, embracing evolution as a way to stay useful and relevant. This will be achieved by introducing changeable programs and spaces between fixed elements, and designing movable physical delimitations and reconfigurable technical infrastructure.

Change is the only constant

The rich mix of different uses in close proximity helps create situations where activities can complement and benefit each other. This also gives a special character to each part of the building, enabling interactions that would not take place in a conventional building.

In order to become the everbeating heart of West Palm Beach, Banyan Hub will include a diverse and complementary set of programs, balancing the type of activities, desired level of comfort, need for equipment, and profile of the participants throughout the day. The scale of the Hub allows the coexistence of various uses, bringing together diverse age groups, interests, and communities.

Management & Stakeholders

The Banyan Hub operational model could be developed as a public-private partnership. The main partners could be comprised of the City, private companies, non-profits, athletic associations, and other organizations. This would beg the creation of a managing board which would share the funding, ownership, and decision making responsibilities of the building.

This board would take care of the construction and later lease spaces and equipment to other urban stakeholders. It would also create working committees for logistics and maintenance, programming, communication, and participation. It would serve as a mediation entity between institutions, the general public, entrepreneurs, and other potential partners.

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On Cities Workshop by the Norman Foster Foundation

Category: ⚐ EN+city+events+news

Norman Foster Foundation On Cities Workshop

Belinda Tato and José Luis Vallejo will be participating in the On Cities Workshop, organised by the Norman Foster Foundation, which will take place this week (18 to 22 June 2018) in Madrid. The workshop will focus on Autonomous Innovative Communities, selecting a district in Madrid as a case-study for a research project that will be developed throughout the week. The On Cities Workshop will include seminars, lectures, one-to-one tutoring and urban architectural tours to learn more about the context of Madrid and it’s districts. During the course of the workshops, participants will have the opportunity to engage with the Norman Foster Foundation’s archive and research projects.

Can each community locally produce all of the energy, food, and clean water needed for basic living—requiring no centralised infrastructure? Can humans transition from ownership to sharing, while living and working in compact, agile, supportive environments? This workshop explores the premise that emerging urban innovations can dramatically reduce resources consumed by cities while simultaneously creating more livable, entrepreneurial communities.

‘We are living in an era of extreme urbanisation and rapid global warming’, states workshop mentor Kent Larson. ‘The challenges of both call for more than mere incremental adjustments.’

After reviewing applications submitted by hundreds of candidates from around the world, the selection committee awarded ten scholarships to students from the following universities and institutions: American University of Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, United States; London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom; Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago de Chile, Chile; Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen, Denmark; Technische Universiteit Delft, Delft, the Netherlands; Tongji University, Shanghai, China; Tsinghua University, Beijing, China; Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña, Barcelona, Spain and University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

These ten students will engage with a group of specialists through a series of seminars and lectures culminating in a five day workshop led by the Atelier mentor, Kent Larson, Director of MIT Media Lab City Science Group and Initiative, and his team. Nicholas Negroponte, Co-Founder and former Director of MIT Media Lab, Cambridge, United States will act as the Chief Advisor of the workshop tutoring the students through the research process.

The Academic Body spans a wide range of practitioners working in different fields interrelated with the City, including: Beatriz Colomina, Director of Graduate Studies, School of Architecture, Princeton University, Princeton, United States; Luis Cueto, General Coordinator for the Mayor in Madrid, Madrid City Hall, Madrid, Spain; Anupama Kundoo, Principal, Anupama Kundoo Architects, Madrid, Spain/Auroville, India; Winy Maas, Co-Founder and Director of MVRDV and Director of the Why Factory, Delft, the Netherlands; Tim Stonor, Managing Director of Space Syntax, London, United Kingdom; Leonor Tarrasón, Director of Environmental Solutions, Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Oslo, Norway; Belinda Tato and José Luis Vallejo, Founders and Directors of Ecosistema Urbano, Madrid, Spain/Miami, United States.

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An Overview to our Latest Projects in Latin America

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+Centro Histórico Abierto+city+Cuenca Red+ecosistema urbano+Plan CHA+Plan Encarnación Más+sustainability+technologies+urbanism

During the last year we have been busy with several projects and competitions (including the latest Open Shore project for West Palm Beach) which didn’t give us the time to look back and reflect on some of our projects from the last few years.

As maybe some of our readers know, Ecosistema Urbano has been working on several large-scale projects in Latin America since August 2014 when we won a competition to develop the Master Plan of the Historical Center of Asuncion, Paraguay. In 2015, we accomplished another significant project: the participatory process Centro Histórico Abierto for the transformation of the historical center of Distrito Central, capital of Honduras. We also worked on the transformative Cuenca RED project which acted on the Public Space Reactivation Plan of the Historical Center of Cuenca, Ecuador. After the first experience in Paraguay, we had another project in the city of Encarnación, giving origin to the Plan Encarnación Más, composed by an Urban and Territorial Planning and Sustainability Plan.

In these four cases, the urban issues and the peculiar situations that required our intervention were distinct yet shared many common features. More specifically, the enthusiasm and interest shown by the people directly and indirectly involved was apparent throughout all of the projects, but also the opportunities that these experiences have given us as an architecture firm, to test ideas, tools, and methodologies.

CONTEXT

Although they share the same area of origin, each of these cities has developed unique problems and issues. Some of these, such as the ones found in Encarnación, are physical-territorial matters such as the recent loss of the city center because of the controlled rise of the water level in the Yacyretá dam. That event led to the envisioning of a “Sustainable Development Plan” and  “Urban and Territorial Ordering Plan” in order to prepare the city for the future. In the case of Cuenca, the need for a new plan was determined by a series of big changes underway: the definition of a new model of mobility and the progressive emptying of population that afflicts the historical center, World Heritage Site since 1999, and headquarters of most of the commercial, touristic and economic city’s activities. In the case of Asunción and of the capital of Honduras, the project regards the transformation and the regeneration (both physical and social) of their historic centers. The Distrito Central is part of the development framework of the new urban axis “Choluteca River”.

SOCIAL

1 – Participation

The first of the projects’ common keys are connected with the theme of sociability, expressed in the form of participation. The citizens’ involvement, promoted both through a series of organized activities and through online platforms, has been one of the cornerstones of our work in Latin America. We involve citizens because we believe that the citizen is the only force able to achieve a deep and lasting change in the urban environment and so they should not be just a passive receptor of the changes promoted by the city’s institutions. That’s why in some cases, as in that of Asunción with the ASU-LAB, a space was created which could serve as an interface between citizens and institutions: a place for the execution of the city planning but also an open place where each person or group can drive a new regeneration initiative or attend a course.

Organized activities with the citiziens

Organized activities with the citizens

Participatory activities, such as workshops and events, have been geared to address representative members of the city such as children, university students, “active agents”, citizens and institutions. For each of these categories we have developed, project after project, a series of ad hoc initiatives.

Participatory process in Asunción, Encarnación, Cuenca and in Distrito Central

Participatory process in Asunción, Encarnación, Cuenca and in Distrito Central

For the children we created a “toolkit” with which we had them reflect on their perception of the city and with which they could propose their ideal vision for the city. The kit consists of portions of the city map on which they could draw and that, once recomposed, could recreate the overall image.

2 – Urban actions

These activities were followed by a series of urban actions so that the results could be shown tangibly in the city. In the case of Distrito Central, ideas were gathered in a week of workshops with 80 students from the three major universities in the city and have been translated into urban actions like “Las Gradas de la Leona“. The staircases are indispensable spaces in a city with a very distinct topography as Tegucigualpa. But in the city these vertical connections are often perceived as inhospitable, dangerous, and dirty places and therefore they are cut off from any kind of activity. The students’ work was aimed at legitimizing these stairs as a public space through cleanliness,  decor,  lighting, and the organization of a series of activities that achieved resounding success and participation.

Socialization along "Las gradas de la Leona"

Socialization along “Las gradas de la Leona”

In the case of Encarnación, one of the proposals that has distinguished our approach in this project was the inclusion of a series of pilot projects that accompany and translate into concrete proposals within the “Plan de Desarrollo Sustentable” and the “Plan de Ordenamiento”. Among these, one of the most successful pilot projects was the “Proyecto Piloto Bicisienda“, whose purpose is to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants by optimizing the use of alternative mobility and by raising awareness of the value of sports and recreation. Again we have sought the cooperation of citizens by promoting a series of initiatives (such as the construction of bike lanes in the city) in which the citizens could feel protagonistic.

Proyecto Piloto Bicisienda

Proyecto Piloto Bicisienda

3 – Informative events 

The disclosure of the participatory process to the citizenship, promoted both online through the project’s platforms and through open exhibitions, is a recurring phase in all four projects. We felt it important and necessary that each phase of the process was documented and could be easily accessible to all so that the citizens could be informed about the progress made in the project. Among these, the most scenic event, realized in Tegucigualpa, Cuenca and Encarnación, was the creation of a ” mosaico ciudadano“, a wall made of post-it notes with written words, phrases, and ideas about the city.

City mosaic in the several projects

City mosaic in the several projects

SUSTAINABILITY

Another theme of our projects in Latin America is sustainable development expressed in various forms: care and attention to the environment, the introduction of an alternative mobility system, the importance of education to the environment as an engine of sustainability, and the development of the project made in collaboration between private initiatives and institutional management. In the case of Cuenca, for example, our intervention was partly required as a consequence of the municipality’s willingness to define a new model of mobility for the historical center of the city consisting of ceasing car traffic in the center and building a new tramway system. This new model of mobility has direct implications for the current urban dynamics, as well as on the public space, as it tries to reduce the vehicular load of the city, giving priority to pedestrians and cyclists. This, and the creation of quality public space, led to strengthen the social, economic, and cultural role of the city’s historical center making it more pleasant for residents and locals. Our aim is to activate a historical center that promotes social, economic, and environmental development, as well as a more livable, habitable, and inhabited historical center.

Cuenca’s plan is divided into four aspects: an urban acupuncture strategy, which proposes small / medium-scale interventions to recover areas with potential; a development of a network of active courtyards, by transforming the typical patios of Cuenca in catalysts capable of generating new synergies, connections, and interactions between residents, visitors and inhabitants; a guide to the historic center re-design, which defines the main lines for the design of the public space; a process of socialization, to define the “acopuntura” and the active patios network strategies. The intervention strategy in the square “Mary Corilè” in conjunction with the creation of “La casa en el árbol” is part of the active patios network strategy. This square is an unused and degraded space, perceived by the residents as an unpleasant and dangerous place.

The square "Mary Corilè"

The square “Mary Corilè”

Among the several interventions proposed, such as the re-furnishing of the square, traffic closure, and the design of activities in collaboration with the municipality, there’s also the creation of “La casa en el árbol“, a space included in the existing trees of the square where educational activities in relation to the theme of the environment can be carried out. “La casa en el árbol” is set up as a space to get in contact and be familiar with the nature, built in harmony with the surroundings. Inside there are several “environmental” classrooms in which one can study natural resources such as sun, wind, and water. More specifically, one can study: a system of photovoltaic panels that generate the energy needed for the lights, rainwater harvesting structures, and urban gardens as environmental and ecological experiences for schools and kindergartens. It is, ultimately, an open classroom in which a new form of pedagogy built on the respect for the environment is proposed, in order to increase awareness of the natural resources and of their use, as well as increase awareness of existing technologies.


In the case of Asunción we proposed a strategic plan with ten actions in order to promote a connection between the several parts of the city through the development of spaces, named “corridors“, and of individual buildings, named “urban catalysts“, which might act as drivers of change and benchmarks within the city. The corridors are divided into three types: those “green“, which introduce a new green infrastructure in specific parts of the existing roads; those “civic“, which consist of a new network of public spaces along the roads in order to connect the most important historic and government buildings; those “dynamic“, aimed at creating active urban environments and encourage economic and cultural activities.

Configuration of a charateristic dynamic corridor

Configuration of a charateristic dynamic corridor

Among the actions of Asunción strategic masterplan one concerns the economic and landscaping regeneration of the “Green Active Coast”. Due to its topography, this area is subject to cyclical floods because of the rising water level of the Paraguay River. That forces the inhabitants of the informal settlements who live there to move temporally. While fully respecting the identity of the river and of the existing topography, we have proposed the creation of a green lung with a large sports area in continuity with the Bicentennial Park. We also promoted the integration of the informal settlements both within the urban fabric and in the areas of new urban expansion.

The Encarnación masterplan incorporates within its own name the concept of “sustainability”, since it is composed of the “Plan of Sustainable Development” and of the “Plan of Urban and Territorial Organization”. The “Plan of Sustainable Development” will establish the standards and mechanisms for the growth and for the future development of the city according to the criteria of sustainability. The “Plan of Urban and Territorial Organization” aims at directing the use and the occupation of the territory in the urban and rural areas of the municipality. Officially, the city will face in the next twenty-four years an increase of the population amounted to 62,000 people, for whom it will be necessary to provide a massive increase in housing. The model we proposed to face this need refers to the sustainable principle of “the compact city.” Through the identification of a physical border for the city’s urban growth, we have protected the rural areas from new settlements. Moreover, we encouraged, through private and municipal initiatives, the densification of areas already developed, by filling the vacant urban lots and expanding pre-existing single-family homes.

Example of urban densification

Example of urban densification


The new interventions follow the principles of the bioclimatic architecture: large overhanging roofs and vegetation as protections from the hot summer sunlight, the use of wind to moderate the hot and humid climate of Encarnación, the reuse of rainwater, and the increase of the vegetation to absorb CO2 emissions.

TECHNOLOGY

In all four projects, technology represented an important collaborative tool to promote our work and to enable everyone to be constantly updated on ongoing progress, but also as a support for the participatory process, so that the involvement of the citizens would not be exhausted with the end of the activities organized, but could continue to map needs, issues, concerns and initiatives for those interested.

For this reason we have developed a platform, called Local-in (formerly What if ..?), which has been adapted to each project according to their personality and to the peculiarities of each participatory process, while maintaining a common format. Local-in is a free and accessible to everyone application of collective mapping. In it, registered users can add messages, photos and geolocalised links, sorting them into categories and labels. It’s easily installable and customizable, in perfect harmony with the spirit of the projects themselves, and it can be found for each project under the name “AsuMAP” for Asunción, with the name “Encarnación Más” for Encarnación, as “Cuenca RED” for Cuenca and with the name “Centro Histórico Abierto” for Distrito Central.

 

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Ecosistema Urbano at Milano Arch Week

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+ecosistema urbano+events+news

Triennale Milano - Milano Arch Week 2018

Next Sunday 27th May José Luis Vallejo will be giving a lecture at the Milano Arch Week 2018.

This important event, this year under the title “Urbania“, is promoted by the Comune di Milano, the Politecnico di Milano and the Triennale di Milano in collaboration with Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, and includes a rich program of conferences, workshops, installations, exhibitions, performances, events open to citizens to reflect together on the future of the city and the dynamics of contemporary architecture.

Date and time: May 27th, 19:00 h.
Location: Palco giardino – Viale Alemagna, 6, Milano

Location map of the Garden pavillion at the Milano Arch Week 2018

See full program at the website

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What we’ve been up to | Portfolio Review and Current Projects

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

We know it’s been a while since we published something in our blog, but we can assure you that we have been everything but idle. In fact, it was totally the opposite: 2017 was a big year here at ecosistema urbano. We had the opportunity to develop a wide scope of projects, from participatory workshops to urban-scale studies, in countries like Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador, Germany, and even Spain! Let us have a look at the last updates to our 2017 portfolio, and some of the projects that are coming during 2018.

 

Idea Hermosillo

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB/BID) tasked us with the challenge of reactivating urban spaces around the Historical Downtown in Hermosillo, Mexico. For this project, we put in place a brief but intense participatory process involving different stakeholders (institutions, businesses, students, neighbors) from Hermosillo. That way, we were able to identify the key aspects to address towards the revitalization of the city center. The Idea Hermosillo Revitalization Plan consisted of a brief diagnosis, a series of general strategies, and a set of 27 pilot projects which, together, would help reactivating the urban spaces in the area. One of these pilot projects was further developed as proof of concept: the Banco de Ideas, proposing the renovation of an existing building with a creative and mixed program that would act as a catalyst for attracting activity and driving interest about the Historic Downtown.

One of the pilot projects in Hermosillo – ‘Banco de Ideas’

See the “Idea Hermosillo” project in our portfolio

Febres Cordero Mixed-use Building

The Febres Cordero School was identified as one of the key interventions in the the CUENCA RED project in Cuenca, Ecuador. The proposed project keeps part of the original school building while creating a new mixed-used building in side it. The main goal was to create new public spaces and combine local businesses, a civic center, student residences and other uses that would help activating the surrounding area. The new Febres Cordero building also implements sustainable design elements such as locally sourced materials, bio-climatic façades and passive temperature regulation.

Technical design of Febres Cordero complex

See the “Febres Cordero” project in our portfolio

Spielraum – Der Andere Park Competition

In 2017 we were also invited to take part in an international competition to design the conversion of a former military base in Heidelberg, Germany. The City of Heidelberg alongside the IBA hosted a competition for the opening of the -until then- restricted area, and creating new public spaces for the city to enjoy. ecosistema urbano devised a playful layout for the park, concentrating the intervention in the central areas of the open spaces, and integrating the existing pavements and elements whenever possible. The overarching design and pathways of the park were conceived as a “game board”, where elements of the park, such as playgrounds, would become “game pieces”. The program and final design of these elements would be defined by the “game rules” consisting on a series of participatory processes involving neighbors and other stakeholders.

Schematic overview of programs at Der Andere Park

See more about the “Spielraum” project in our portfolio

Thinking Fadura

This project consisted of the preparation of a big participatory project in Getxo, Spain, towards the conversion of a closed sports area into an open park. An urban diagnosis of the Fadura area was made in order to identify the main issues, challenges, and opportunities that the park, the surrounding area and the population currently possess. This diagnosis was intended to inform both the technical development and the participatory process. In addition to this, a social mapping was created by meeting and interviewing all possible stakeholders and representing their relationships, their possible level of involvement and the key topics they were interested in. Over the course of four months, the team conducted multi-stakeholder meetings and presentations to engage the users of the park, as well as to inform and prepare them for the participatory process.

Stakeholder mapping as part of the preparation for the participatory process

See more about the “Thinking Fadura” project in our portfolio

Cervecera – Fadura Community Center 

In the same sports area in Getxo, Spain, a participatory architecture project was commissioned to us, with the aim of building a community center in the place of a public facility which had recently been damaged by a fire. In its final years, the former pub (cervecera) was used as a social facility. In order to create a design that would allow for the same level of engagement and active use, a participatory design process was devised. Three workshops were conducted where stakeholders could take part in the rethinking and redesigning of the building and its surrounding open spaces. At the end of the process, a sustainable and flexible community center was designed, capable of hosting even more activities than before while remaining adaptable to future needs.

Rendering of the envisioned cervecera

See more about the “Fadura Community Center” project in our portfolio

Santa Fe – Resilient Cities

As part of the 100 Resilient Cities program in Santa Fe, Argentina, ecosistema urbano was asked to lead a participatory project for the youth of Santa Fe. In this exciting activity, we had the opportunity to create and run a program which allowed children to get involved with the future of their city. The children were led through an explorative stroll around Parque del Norte where they were encouraged to be creative about what they observed and what they envisioned for the park. Afterwards, the children drew on maps to demonstrate what they hoped to see implemented into the future park. Then they were given materials to create small models of their proposals, micro-landscapes they created using natural materials, sourced from the park itself, in a transparent box. The maps and boxes provided invaluable feedback in order to include the vision of the younger citizens in the future park.

Images of the “participation kits” used for the creation of models

See more about the “Santa Fe – Resilient Cities” project in our portfolio

EU GPP Public Space Maintenance 

In a collaborative project with the European Commission, ecosistema urbano is helping to define the European Union Green Public Procurement (GPP) Criteria for Public Space Maintenance. We are working on creating a guide of best practices that will become the framework for procurement processes regarding public space maintenance. This project will have a big impact due to its scale: the public sector represents 14% of the GDP of the European Union. Therefore, a systematic sustainable change in any part of the public sector will increase the market viability of sustainable products. Our participation in this project will help to augment sustainable change and cost effectiveness in the EU.

Other ongoing projects in 2018

The past few months have been incredibly busy at ecosistema urbano, with more projects happening all over the world. Here are some examples of what we are working on right now:

  • In 2017 we won the competition to become the architectural partner for the Open Shore Initiative in West Palm Beach. We are currently working on the Banyan Hub multifunctional building, as well as the public space improvement of selected passageways. We have recently begun work on a new intervention at one of the key streets in downtown.
  • We started a public space project at the University of Málaga. The project addresses the planning and construction of a central boulevard that will improve the flow of people across the campus, promote sustainability and green space, integrate physical and digital layers of the campus and create places for new activities to happen.
  • We are also currently working with the World Bank in the identification of opportunities for improvement of public spaces and public buildings in one of the most dense and congested cities in the world: Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh.