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ecosistema urbano at recoded city : co-creating urban futures | book launch

Category: ⚐ EN+city+ecosistema urbano+events+news+publications+urbanism

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We are very glad to announce that next Monday 11 January 2016 there will be the official launch of the book Recoded City : Co-Creating Urban Futures, written by Thomas Ermacora (@termacora) and Lucy Bullivant Routledge (@Urbanista_org), where some of ecosistema urbano recent projects are featured.

Recoded City is a global survey of participatory placemaking and distributed urbanism, burgeoning movements engaging citizens in advancing visions for their cities and towns, and supporting their well-being through localised design and self-governance.

Co-authored by regeneration architect and impact entrepreneur Thomas Ermacora and writer and curator Lucy Bullivant, Recoded City examines the potential of citizen-led collaborative neighbourhood renewal strategies emerging in the interstices of rigid, top-down masterplanning, which has seen identity stamped out of place. During the years 2010-13 the number of city dwellers increased by 200,000 per day. In our urbanised world it is vital that we make cities which are more resilient, future proofing neighbourhoods by making them relevant to and reflective of the people who live there.

But the top-down city has alienated people. In the modern globalised world extreme forms of capitalism overshadow human rights, and government resources are increasingly depleted. Whether by repairing the damage of natural disaster or healing the pains of uninspired planning, communities are starting to work proactively to pursue a localised placemaking which is more responsive, resource-efficient and holistic in its approach. At the same time architecture has been expanding as a multidisciplinary field.

The authors advocate architecture and urban design which is socially engaged and motivated by a civic duty to help the 90%, not the privileged 10%. In the Recoded City architects are enablers and facilitators, working with citizens for a better future.

See more at www.clairecurtrice.co.uk

The lauch event will take place at House of St Barnabas in London from 6.30 to 9.00 pm.

Limited availability – mail@clairecurtrice.co.uk

If you are in London, don’t miss it!

recoded city

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ecosistema urbano at 2015 Shenzhen — UABB bi-city biennale of urbanism and architecture

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+ecosistema urbano+events+networkedurbanism+news+research+technologies+urban social design+urbanism+video


overall view

Between November and December 2015 we spent one week in Shenzhen on the occasion of the 2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, being invited by curators Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner to be part of the Radical Urbanism section of the exhibition. The brief of this edition of the Biennale is “Re-Living the city”, a reflection about reuse and rethinking existing buildings, the reimagination of our cities, and the remaking of our daily lives by design. The main location of the event was connected to the topic of the Biennale: the former Dacheng Flour Factory has been transformed into a massive container of thoughts and innovative practices in urbanism without hiding its recent past of industrial activity and its uncertain future.

The Dacheng Flour Factory_ Image: UABB

Our installation at the UABB Biennale, called Networked Urbanismdisplays a selection of pilot projects exploring physical and immaterial urban improvement, a critical catalogue of their urban contexts, the understanding of urban complexity and the new tools developed to address it. The colourful multimedia exhibition displays 10 pilots projects, implemented during the past 10 years in different contexts around the world, but also displays 1 mockup, a real scale version of an urban furniture design.

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The Networked Urbanism Installation reflects the working method: an overall strategic vision that relies on short term punctual and powerful interventions in specific and emblematic spots (pilot projects), rather than long term and high resources urban strategies. Ecosistema Urbano’s projects empower people and engage citizens in the tangible transformation of the places where they live.

The definition and final layout of the installation was an intense process of research and real scale experimentation to find interactions between graphic design, communication, animation and optical effects. We tried to show the common philosophy behind each project in a very visual and communicative way. Each pilot project is communicated with a graphic slogan synthesizing the nature of the intervention and its message, a reference to the city where the project is implemented, and a description of the overall urban strategy.

slogan

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10 pilot projects

Moreover, a digital layer of information is added to the graphic display. 5 multimedia dioramas provide an intriguing representation of the following pilot projects: Exuma Garden of Dreams, Dreamhamar, Asunción Open Lab,  Voronezh Sea Revitalization, and Encarnación Sustainable Development Territorial Plan.

Diorama for the project Dreamhamar

The other 5 pilot projects presented in Networked Urbanism installation are described throughout short movies displayed as holograms, thanks to a DIY fascinating technique. The videos of the projects Ecobulevard, Air Tree Shanghai, Ecópolis Plaza, Energy Carousel, Escuela Febres intervention in Cuenca , explain with 3d holograms the complexity of this interventions, showing the different layers and their several possible points of view and configurations.

Hologram of Ecobulevar project

1 Mockup
Well centered on the main wall of the space lays the message “Customize public space“, surrounded by drawings of the possible configurations of Madrid Chair. In the central area of the exhibition there are 18 pieces of this flexible and multipurpose urban furniture in red and orange versions allowing visitors to interact and create their own favourite exhibition layout.

Assembly phase of Madrid Chairs

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The UABB Biennale will be open until March 3rd 2016, if you are planning to visit Shenzhen, don’t miss it!

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UCJC | Encarnación y el Máster en Arquitectura y Energía 2015

Category: ⚐ EN+⚐ ES+architecture+arquitectura+colaboraciones+educación+sostenibilidad+sustainability

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⚐ ES – Como ya comentamos anteriormente, desde el pasado mes de Octubre nos hemos incorporado como docentes en el Máster en Arquitectura y Energía (MAE) en la Escuela de Arquitectura y Tecnología UCJC.  

El MAE, en su VI edición, profundiza en la nueva suma de conocimientos para la gestión de los recursos, la reducción de la demanda energética y el aprovechamiento de las fuentes renovables en el actual contexto global de crecimiento asimétrico y agotamiento de los recursos, que supone un 40% de la energía consumida en el mundo.

En este contexto, se ha optado por trabajar en una ciudad con una vocación por diminuir su gasto energético como es la ciudad de Encarnación, Paraguay, a través de su Plan de Desarrollo Sustentable en el que llevamos trabajando varios meses. Todos los departamentos del Máster y sus diferentes asignaturas trabajarán en esta ciudad investigando soluciones bioclimáticas para viviendas sostenibles, sistemas constructivos pasivos, un urbanismo en red o fuentes de energía alternativa, con las que encontrar soluciones extrapolables a otras partes del mundo.

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⚐ EN – Last October we joined as faculty at the Master in Architecture and Energy (MAE) at the School of Architecture and Technology UCJC.  

In the current global context of uneven growth and the depletion of resources, the construction sector accounts for 40 per cent of the energy consumed worldwide. Any work carried out on the land, be it urban, architectural, infrastructural or landscaping, should include strategies for resource management, the reduction of energy demand and the use of renewable sources. The sixth edition of MAE looks in depth at this new body of urgent and essential knowledge, identifying the tools needed to create a development model that is compatible with environmental balance.

We have chosen to work in an emblematic city in terms of energy consumption and new sustainable policies: Encarnación, Paraguay. For the last few months we have been working on the Urban and Territorial Planning and Sustainability Plan for the city, making of Encarnacion a pioneer case study in sustainable urban development.

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ecosistema urbano at ISU talks #3: Ruralism | international conference in Braunschweig, Germany

Category: ⚐ EN+landscape+news+sustainability+urbanism

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Next November 18th, Belinda Tato will be keynote speaker at the International Conference, ISU Talks #03: Ruralism organised by the Institute for Sustainable Urbanism. Other speakers include Snøhetta, OMA/AMO, etc…

The institute is located in Braunschweig, Germany and according to their own definition is part think-tank, part design laboratory, committed to promoting research and scholarship on sustainable urbanism in an international and interdisciplinary setting.

Since October 2012, ISU is lead by Prof. Dr. Vanessa Miriam Carlow, within TU Braunschweig’s Department of Architecture, Engineering, and Environmental Sciences. ISU has worked with partners in Africa, Asia, South America, USA, and all over Europe. ISU has four themes under which its teaching and research projects fall: Space as Resource, City in Society, Impossible Sites, and Urban-Rural Relations.

Here is a brief introduction to the Conference:

In the current city-centred discourse, rural spaces are often dismissed as declining or stagnating. However, rural spaces also play a critical role in sustainable development, as an inextricably linked counterpart and complement to the growing city, as extraction sites, natural reservoirs, providing for ecosystem services or leisure spaces.
The city and the countryside are evermore increasingly mutually reliant. A closer look at the countryside unveils a set of dynamics overlaying and changing rural space, beyond trends of depopulation and shutdown of public facilities. The once remote and quiet countryside is now traversed by global and regional flows of people, goods, waste, energy and information, interrelating it with the larger urban system, even bringing it to the frontlines of regional transformation and sustainability.

The conference proposes the following questions:
– How can the contemporary rural be conceived of and described?
– What new concepts for rural living currently exist?
– How are urbanisation and ruralisation processes connected?
– Can impulses for the design of urban space be drawn from the imagined and practiced connections between the urban and the rural?
– How can we formulate a (new) vision for ‘ruralism’?

More info

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Ecosistema Urbano en HABITAT III – Naciones Unidas

Category: ⚐ EN+⚐ ES+city+eventos+events+mobility+news+urbanism

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⚐ ES – Hábitat III es la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre Vivienda y Desarrollo Urbano Sostenible que tendrá lugar en Quito, Ecuador, del 17 al 20 de Octubre de 2016.

Dentro del proceso preparatorio hacia Hábitat III se organizan las Reuniones Regionales y Conferencias Temáticas que involucran a una amplia gama de participantes para debatir las prioridades de la Nueva Agenda Urbana y las recomendaciones políticas en forma de una declaración final.

La próxima semana tiene lugar la Conferencia Temática Ciudades Intermedias: Crecimiento y Renovación Urbana, en la ciudad de Cuenca, Ecuador. Ecosistema urbano tomará parte en dicho evento, moderando la Sesión plenaria sobre “Crecimiento inteligente: Movilidad, espacio público y sostenibilidad ambiental” el próximo Martes día 10.

El panel incluye a expertos como Francisco Arola, Cátedra UNESCO, Univ. Lleida; Horacio Terraza, Coordinator Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative, IADB; Adalberto Maluf, Director del Departamento de Asuntos Gubernamentales y Marketing, BYD Brasil; Jose Cañavate, entre otros.

Más información y programa

A continuación un extracto de la temática:

Ciudades Intermedias: Crecimiento y Renovación Urbana

Los procesos de urbanización y desarrollo acelerado de los asentamientos humanos dieron entre los resultados, a las grandes metrópolis o megalópolis, escenarios poco favorables en los que, a menudo, ha sido difícil alcanzar buenos niveles de calidad de vida. Sin embargo, también han puesto en primer plano a las llamadas ciudades intermedias como centros que acogen la mayor cantidad de la población urbana a nivel global y que son sometidas a continuos cambios en su “nicho” ecológico por su propia dinámica económica y social.

Es en este marco que estas ciudades, también denominadas como ciudades “secundarias o menores”, surgen como “intermediarias” no solo en tamaño y escala, sino fundamentalmente en funcionalidad. Estas ciudades sufren procesos de construcción y reconstrucción que no se equiparan a los trascendentes cambios sociales y culturales, que conllevará asumir también múltiples desafíos, puesto que es preciso “modificar lo existente”, extraer todo aquello que ha sido identificado como “obsoleto” e insertar nuevas estructuras de “soporte vital” para la urbe y especialmente su periferia.

Varios espacios hablan a nivel mundial del “poder de las ciudades intermedias”, como si de ellas dependiera encontrar una apuesta o alternativa a futuro para responder las exigencias identificadas para los próximos años, o si su pronunciamiento fuese una voz calificada a nivel mundial al momento de formular propuestas y soluciones prácticas que funcionen y sean asumidas como buenos ejemplos para alcanzar un desarrollo urbano sostenible en diferentes áreas geográficas y culturales.


⚐ EN – Ecosistema Urbano will be participating in an advisory board meeting next Tuesday,  November 10, in Cuenca, Ecuador, together with several other participants. The event is part of “The Urban Dialogues”, which host a series of e-discussions over the course towards Habitat III (October 17-20, 2016) with the aim of integrating all voices and bringing forward new and emerging thinking in the elaboration of the New Urban Agenda.

The Urban Dialogue on Intermediate Cities will enable people all around the world to join the debate, bringing together a broad range of stakeholders, as well as citizens, to discuss major ideas and issues of topic of the Thematic Meeting to be held in Cuenca, 9-11 November.

The online debate will provide inputs for the Final Declaration.

More info and program

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What does it all mean for an architect? Geography, “soil and blood”, I mean. Is it destiny?

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture

Luigi Ghirri, Marina di Ravenna

Today we publish an article written by Nathan Romero Muelas, a Spanish architect living in Denmark for more than ten years now. The article has been published in the danish blog arkfo.dk

Immigration is setting Europe in a defensive mode, a state of mind that politically ranges from reluctance to paying lip service to universal solidarity. At the same time, we architects, and not only in Denmark, are busy again with questions of national identity and cultural legacy. Within academia and other architecture institutions, eyes are turning inwards to examine, for instance, all things “Nordic”. There are seminars galore on Nordic urbanism, or for example, on the possibility of a Nordic high-rise.

I’m interested in the timing of these two phenomena. Introspection is important. I guess societies, like human beings, need periodic diving into the oracular “know thyself “ of the Greeks. It usually happens when they feel questioned, or under pressure. I would like to know if this insistence in what we are, (Nordic or whatever), shares this menaced condition.

There have never been so many foreign architects and architecture students, working and living in Denmark. However, how different the situation, the mood, from not yet fifteen years ago, when I first arrived in Denmark. The Europan competition, the Erasmus program: Europe seemed open and enjoying, if I’m not mistaken, a moment of expansive optimism. Today foreigners populate our studios, working as interns mostly, in economic conditions at times worse than their Danish peers. They resemble more the southern immigration of the sixties, a working force that for some threatens the professional establishment, the architectonic version of the very publicised Polish travelling construction workers in Denmark.

COULD THERE BE, I WONDER, A RELATION BETWEEN THIS IMMIGRATION WAVE, MOTIVATED NOT ONLY BY CURIOSITY, BUT ALSO NECESSITY, AND THE URGE OF PROFILING AND BRANDING A NATIONAL OR REGIONAL ARCHITECTURE? BRANDING IN THE COMMERCIAL SENSE (ARCHITECTURE POLITICS) BUT ALSO IN THE ORIGINAL LIVESTOCK SENSE: TO TELL THIS CATTLE FROM THAT CATTLE.

But home is best 

In a refreshing essay, (“Drømmen om de smaa samfund”, 1977), Steen Eiler Rasmussen lucidly demolishes the myth of a well functioning small society. He remembers a priest during the German occupation of Denmark. After having spent some time at the Frøslev concentration camp, this priest praised emphatically the experience in the camp. It was a humane experience he wouldn’t have liked to miss: under a common pressure, facing a common enemy, solidarity, mutual care and….a certain cosiness (“hygge”), flourished!

The Biannual competition Europan, with all its limitations and flaws, is a visionary idea, the perfect antidote to nationalist architecture. In the next edition, Denmark has decided not to participate. I imagine there are well founded motives, and surely unrelated to my reasoning here. But let me propose a perverse motive, for argument´s sake: the outcome of Europan is uncontrollable, in principle everybody can win. There follows a compromise, (sadly a weak compromise, in some countries), to build the winning project. Now, let’s say a Chinese architect wins. Frankly folks, what can a Chinese architect possibly know about the arcane secrets of Nordic light? And more importantly: where do we fit this Chinese in the promotion politics of Danish architecture?

 

Photo: Kim Høltermand

Soil, blood and onions

Ever since I arrived to Denmark I have had the unsettling words of the Spanish architect Jose Antonio Coderch at the back of my mind. In 1960 he wrote an essay-manifesto, which was interesting, coming from the most individualist of architects. Its title was It is not geniuses we need know. In it, he wrote: “Let architects work with a rope tied to one leg, to stop them from staying too far from the earth where they have their roots, and the people they know best”. It made then a lot of sense: facing the all pervasive international style, it was a call for attention to the remainder of local building traditions but also hints at the idea that the artist, the architect, should only talk about what he knows well. And that meant then his origin. Despite of his connections to the Smithson’s, his belonging to Team 10 and winning the Milan Triennale golden medal in 1951, Coderch never really left Barcelona. But today I would argue that the exception is an architect that spends his entire life in the place he was born.

I go back to Altea, the Mediterranean town where I was born. I haven’t been here for a long time.  Instantly upon arrival, I realize I’m home. That is, my body does. It remembers. The pine trees, the agave, the hills. And, yes, the light, different from any other, and very dear to me. But then I realize that I have spent more time in Copenhagen or Madrid than in Altea, which I left at thirteen. What does it all mean for an architect?  Geography, “soil and blood”, I mean. Is it destiny?

I start thinking about notions like Mediterranean, and then Nordic. These are rich, multilayered concepts, and deserving all the scholarly attention they can get…provided we understand that we will not find a single valuable work of architecture that is pure, that isn’t changed, enlivened by the crossing of frontiers. Jacobsen, Aalto, Asplund, Utzon, carry their Mediterranean experience all through their work.  Sota, Fisac, Moneo, (who worked for Utzon), were in turn transformed by the Nordic lesson.

I GUESS I’M HINTING AT THE THOUGHT, FRIGHTENING POSSIBILITY, THAT IN AN INCREASING REFINING AND DEFINING OF A NATIONAL OR REGIONAL ARCHITECTURE, NOT JUST ACADEMICALLY BUT IN ORDER TO SELL IT, EXPORT IT, PROMOTE IT, BE IT BALKAN, TEUTONIC, MEDITERRANEAN, SOUTHERN OR NORDIC, WE MIGHT END UP WITH SOMETHING RATHER STERILE, OR ILL VENTILATED: IN SEARCH OF THE QUINTESSENTIAL IDENTITY, WE MIGHT FIND…REDNECK ARCHITECTURE.

Because despite my beloved Coderch and today’s pushers of national architectures, architects do choose now the soil they live and work on. Unlike onions.

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looking at the invisible side of cities | the role of relationality in the urban context

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+city+research+urbanism

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Today we publish a text written by Claudia Scholz and Louise Brandberg Realini.

 

What is the surrounding that influences the way we evaluate and imagine a single architectural building? The following text sets the stage for the interdisciplinary research project The role of relationality in urban transformation processes, about the conception of space and time in urban transformation processes. The study was driven by the question how the relational texture of a city influences urban transformations and how these transformations in turn change the city’s relational web over again. The text looks at the definition of the relational texture.

A building can never be isolated from the environment that surrounds it; and that does not merely include the landscape, which visually embrace the site, but also the images born out of diverse associations, all of which are legitimated by reasons of sensations. Memories and affections existing only in our imagination are not less real or of less importance. Their visual absence in the material world does not prevent them from influencing our behaviours and judgments in the same manner as physical objects do. We walk along streets for the most irrational reasons: for a particular bakery, a past encounter or just the way it makes us feel. Sometimes places become associated with an event, and we treasure them for that rather than for their form. Even if the proper buildings are gone, the memories linked to them may live on and continue to influence us. At other times, the arrangement of buildings may have become lived up with meaning. The buildings do not matter themselves but only as a configuration. Space in-between them makes them meaningful.

Beside the ‘invisible’ reality a single site may have, we also need to consider the ‘invisible’ relationships that every site has with its surrounding. Sometimes other sites are used to explain a specific situation; sometimes other sites make important issues more evident. Sometimes also buildings in their development process can be changed by their context, as the situation in itself could alter the building welcoming it to the context or rejecting it. Discussion around apparently unrelated objects may push the development in one or the other direction.

Hence, before intervening with something new in an existing network we need to understand and make sense of the situation we are in, what the surrounding is like beside its emblematic manifestations, its famous monuments, what are the visible and invisible relations, past and present ones, that may act on the new projects. Our thought is that in the ‘invisible’ we find important hints on how to handle transformation processes, set up projects and cues from which a particular architecture, something new, may emerge.
We would like to offer another view on the urban reality that may help to ground projects on the stories, not only the histories, of places. It is a loose framework for the design of architectural intervention, one that includes other views beside the one of the architect, the planner or the investor. The thought is to inspire architects and planners to generate new projects that emerge from within as being part of an existing reality.

The challenge therefore is to come up with something that would surface the underlying and rather ‘invisible’ relationships and reveal the finer nuances of our environment. These nuances escape the conventional reading of space and are not easily captured with the traditional tools of the architect. Synthetic observations rarely illuminate all existing dimensions.

To trace the invisible, the complicity and imaginative gift of the citizenry must be taken advantage of. Thus, we need to interview them about their day-to-day life, about their way of looking at the built environment. Starting with more personal questions as a way to warm up and to get to know each other, then we may question more general questions: What do they see? What do they cherish? Where do they pass day-after-day? Which places serve the people’s well-being? Which are their affective places? Is there something that could improve their quality of life? Afterwards we need to be more specific in regard to specific sites asking rather specifically for their perception of them: Do they know them and what do they think of their relationship to the surrounding? What followed should be a 10 to 30 minutes’ walk, where citizens show us a piece of their city bringing us to sites they like or even dislike, to places they often walk by or find particularly interesting in Lugano.

We end with a wide collection of urban stories: from a child’s accident on the main square, the routine of nightly walks in an inner urban green valley to the last singular tree along the lakeside, that subsequently can be coded to one of the five temporal time-frames (see table time-frame). It offers an understanding for which places may be altered and to which point, what would be welcomed and what would probably be rejected.

The urban stories are not only personal episodes. Many of the stories also belong to others or might have been experienced by others. Hence, they have a higher collective significance and are more present in the collective memory. These ‘collective places’ are not only conventional representative places, but also smaller venues like bars, bakeries and nameless streets.

An emotional colored map will emerge around the objects of investigation, where also series of links among sites become evident. These may help to understand its surrounding and hence, frame future intervention. This vision is another reading of today’s reality, where sites – beyond functionality, form and usability – represent the territory from the citizens’ point of view with its atmosphere, its emerging problems and themes. More than a must follow manual it is ‘food for thought’ that may help architects to take position, build structure and unite diverse parts of reality. It wants to unfold the values of those we build for today. Ignoring them, we risk that our designs are rejected or misunderstood. These values need a continuous assessment because as society change, also our behaviours change. To bring it further and work with digital tools would be a next step to do.

More information:
Scholz, C. & Brandberg Realini L. (2012) Multiple perceptions as framing device for identifying relational places, Swedish Design Research Journal, 2: 38-45
www.urbanrelation.org

Authors:
CLAUDIA SCHOLZ (March, BArch) and LOUISE BRANDBERG REALINI (March, BArch) are both
co founders of CODESIGNERS, a Lugano-based studio for architectural designs, strategies and research. The studio is involved in landscape design, strategic planning and consulting.

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Networked Urbanism: The real learning begins when things go live | part II

Category: ⚐ EN+creativity+ecosistema urbano+network design+networkedurbanism+publications+urban social design

This is the second part (see the first part here) of our conversation with Paul Bottino, cofounder and executive director of TECH, Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard. Here you can read the first part.

BT&JLV The learning experience includes the possibility to learn from consequences, mistakes, and successes. This methodology emphasizes the value of the process itself, in contrast to a teaching approach primarily focused on the end results. How would you value the process versus the end results? Can we introduce failure/uncertainty as part of the development of the learning process?

PB You are being charitable because we people have proven ourselves pointless predictors! And our ever-growing connectedness and complexity are going to give computer power and big data analytics a long battle before we get much better. So as far as I can see, the value is in the process, and the end results are more or less kaleidoscopic: when the twirling stops for an instant, we see a pattern, rationalize how we got there, codify explanations, and issue predictions based on the code. The twirl resumes and reminds us of our folly but we can’t give up the game and our illusion of control. My response is to emphasize good practice—valuing process over results—in the hope that more often than not good results will emerge from good practice. Part of any good practice is periodic reflection intended to prolong the period where one is open to discovering the right practice for the right situation. That reflection includes looking at how the failure and uncertainty inherent in the process affects our practice; asking how we respond to and perceive failures; and how we perform and make decisions and communicate in uncertain circumstances.

BT&JLV Think Big / Start Small are two of the ten guidelines for the course, and are also key concepts for innovation in general. Do you have any advice about how to fill the gap between the “think” phase and the “start” phase? What are the most common challenges in the transition between the design phase and the actual implementation of the project in the real world?

PB Your eighth guideline for the studio is a great start, “Act Now!” (and ask questions later and along the way). Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to transform thoughts and words into actions and to test them with people. It is the formulation of something that people can see, touch, and experience that stimulates the most useful feedback. It is much easier to close this gap with virtual designs than it is with physical, but you can shrink it with models and simulations. In the virtual cases, the transition isn’t a bright line but a continual back and forth—two steps forward, one step back—of testing with people and redesigning until you realize your test subjects have become users and you feel you’ve made a phase change to implementation. With physical designs and more complicated virtual designs, there are clearer phase distinctions and cut-over moments. The real learning begins when things go live. The greatest challenge I see designers face in these moments is handling the pressure and responding to the unforeseen requirements that are now coming from stakeholders external to the design team, whereas before they were self-imposed. These events stress the entire design organism, from the belief that what you are doing is valuable to the little details that make it work. The best teams use systems thinking and parallel processing to tend to the entire organism in order to be as ready as they can be for these moments.

BT&JLV Historically, design schools have been somewhat segregated from other disciplines, and have been considered to be niche institutions. In the last decade, design has emerged as an overarching discipline, and design methods (design thinking) are strongly influencing other fields. These methods are frequently adopted by a wide range of disciplines, from scientific to humanistic ones.
How would you explain this opening? Has the role of the designer shifted from designing a building or product to “enhancing society”?

PB Design thinking fits a classic technology innovation paradigm, which is it takes on the order of 30–years to emerge from inception to widespread adoption. Ideas spread faster now but the 30 year rule still works for big changes. Design thinking is “process know-how” that fits the broad definition of technology. I would trace its origins back to 1961 and the publication of Synectics by William J. J. Gordon2. So many factors contribute to where it is today but perhaps the two main ones are increasing complexity frustrating a purely analytical approach and the shift from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy where the emphasis moved from labor, equipment, and capital to people, engendering a natural embrace of the human-centered precept of design thinking. The designer’s role changed right along with that. With a focus on people, the essential question is not what to make or how to make it, it is why to make it; so inexorably, designers (which includes makers by many other formal names) engage the issue of why, embody it in their designs, and find themselves working at the highest level of value creation.

BT&JLV You work as an educator with students and professionals coming from various institutions, with different backgrounds, education, and expectations.
In your experience, do designers and/or students of design have special capabilities for creative problem solving?

PB All children have the basic capabilities and unfortunately it seems mainstream schooling retrains them to concentrate on solving right-answer problems with predetermined tools. Design students seem to have either never lost or have managed to reawaken the childhood ability to see things differently, dive into open-ended challenges and try to figure things out without knowing the “right” way. That and a healthy quotient of cultivated empathy and the energy to exercise it regularly is what I see setting design students apart.

BT&JLV Networked Urbanism provides students with a toolbox of 10 guidelines to use during the research process:

1.EXPLORE
2. RESEARCH
3. NETWORK
4. SHARE
5. BE OPEN
6. THINK BIG
7. START SMALL
8. ACT NOW!
9. COMMUNICATE
10. MOVE BEYOND

Which other ingredients would you add to it?

PB This is a tremendous set to which I’d add:

11. DECLARE your ignorance: embrace what you don’t know and can’t explain and cultivate it as an energy source to ward off the tendency to believe you have an answer before you do—and the tendency not to risk losing what you think you have.
12. DEFY known authorities: their dissonance is as good an indication of value as your adopter’s resonance.
13. FOCUS on the meaning of your design: value springs from metaphorical shifts.
14. NARRATE the story of your design complete with round characters, rich settings, true heroes, and real villains.

You can access the complete publication here

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Networked Urbanism: The real learning begins when things go live | part I

Category: ⚐ EN+creativity+ecosistema urbano+network design+networkedurbanism+publications+urban social design

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#networkedurbanism is a series of studios taught in the Urban Planning and Design Department at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design between 2010 and 2014.

The #networkedurbanism studio aims to bring network-design thinking to the forefront of design disciplines and strives to solve real-world problems on the ground, providing an alternative to the traditional approach of designing urban environments from a bird’s-eye view, and a single designer’s perspective. Networked Urbanism not only examines the physical dimension of the city, but also its social processes and fluxes, developing initiatives that generate spontaneous transformations and set up conditions for change.

The #networkedurbanism studio provides the framework for students to pursue their own interests, find their own means of expression, and create their own paths. They are encouraged to work with others, to create connections and to search for new problems and opportunities that underlie our society, visibly or subtly. Overall, they are expected to explore the city and design new tools to creatively improve urban life.

The following conversation with Paul Bottino is an excerpt from our publication Networked Urbanism, Design Thinking Initiatives for a Better Urban Life

Paul Bottino is cofounder and executive director of TECH, Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard.
TECH’s mission is to advance the understanding and practice of innovation and entrepreneurship through experiential education: by initiating, advancing and informing student projects. TECH helps faculty create and deliver innovation and entrepreneurship project courses, provides students with project support and sponsors and advises student groups working to build the Harvard innovation community.TECH is based on the belief that boundaries—between disciplines, people, organizations, and ideas—need to be crossed continually to create the insights that lead to innovations because socially useful and commercially viable advancements require the right mix of scientific and engineering knowledge, entrepreneurial know-how, and worldly perspective.

Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo (BT&JLV): TECH promotes experiential education, a pedagogical approach that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase their knowledge, develop their skills, clarify their values, and develop their capacity to contribute to their communities.
Networked Urbanism studio incorporates this methodology, requiring participants to leave their comfort zone in order to introduce them to realities in today’s society – outside the walls of Academia—in which designer’s skills are needed. Do you think that this non-academic, feedback-driven process should be used more often in design courses? Does it help to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among students?

Paul B. Bottino (PB): Absolutely. Though it is only non-academic in the sense of that word that means concerned solely with matters of theoretical importance. I consider it academic because it is central to learning, which is my chosen sense of the word. The kind of experiential education that my students and I practice does have practical ends as well as theoretical. But in a creative economy, where knowledge is the primary means of production, education is inextricably linked to practical ends. All of the educators and learners I know—be they at the lifelong, higher, secondary, elementary, or natural level—want to create useful knowledge for their desired ends, and those ends include everything imaginable on the spectrum of human experience. In my case, and I believe this is true of the Networked Urbanism studio, the end goal is to help build students’ innovative capacity.
In order to do that, educators and students must jointly go on an implicit knowledge exploration.

It is obvious but worth saying that knowledge about the future and the new designs that will inhabit it is not explicit, meaning you can’t enter search terms in Google and get answers, even if Google had access to every bit of knowledge available. Instead, it is a research process in which you craft a probe in the form of a design concept and take it to people to educe knowledge about it. If it is a new concept, which it must be to qualify as a potential innovation, then it is going to generate new thoughts. The designer takes those new thoughts not as answers, but rather as feedback. The endeavor of the designer is to transform concepts into value. Value is a utility function; it derives from the use of designs by some number of people. So the essential way designers create value is by engaging in a process of formulation-feedback-reformulation that transforms neurons firing into words, visuals, prototypes, and designs. In my experience, learning via this process is the only way to develop the kind of embodied knowledge that lasts and evolves. Willingly engaging in this full experience and being vulnerable to it is the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit. And, as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., is quoted, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

BT&JLV Networked Urbanism encourages students to choose a topic at the intersection of their interests and society’s needs. They have to take the initiative and make decisions. Projects become unique and linked to their personal stories and many of them live beyond the term. This isn’t the traditional academic approach but it is a common entrepreneurial construct, and designers are increasingly expected to define both the problem and the solution. Do you think that “problem finding” skills have become a fundamental base for innovation?

PB Yes, most certainly. I would say those skills always have been essential to innovation, but it is probably more apt to call them something else because in many cases you don’t need to find the problem, it is in clear view. Consider certain diseases where the problems are well known—when a treatment or cure is discovered, invented, and developed, it is very likely immediately deemed an innovation. This is a process of innovation that occurs almost entirely by devising a new solution to an existing problem. I think it is fair to differentiate creative problem-solving, where the problem is given or known, from innovating, where it is not, yet still call creative solutions that are widely used, innovations. To this way of thinking, the full experience of innovating starts with some kind of finding—finding problems people don’t know they have or finding opportunities others don’t see. These kinds of findings emerge from change. Change causes uncertainty about the meaning of existing things and whether they are still useful and valuable. The designer interprets change, sees things differently, and creates new meaning and value. Because there is so much change, the possibilities are endless so it is essential to filter them through one’s values, interests, and capabilities to make a starting choice. This is wonderful for the educational experience because it supplies personal purpose, relevance, and intrinsic motivation to the exploration.

BT&JLV One of the crucial benefits during the Networked Urbanism studio has been the cross-pollination of students with many different backgrounds from all the programs within the GSD. Moreover, the collaboration with people outside of the studio enhanced the innovation of the projects exponentially, since students are required to build up connections with others, creating a network of advisors and professionals within the field, as well as existing and potential community members. Is interdisciplinary collaboration now a necessary ingredient for successful entrepreneurship and innovation?

PB It is probably too much to say that it is absolutely necessary in all cases because there will always be instances of people seeing things differently and innovating without too much assistance, but it feels like those are edge cases that are more and more extreme. More the norm is where the challenge is complex, and seeing and approaching things differently comes from a combination of perspectives and abilities. It is often hard for one person to see things differently. Some people are more agile than others at changing frames internally; most need collaboration and other inputs to do it. I think this is due to a combination of the way our neural pathways are formed and maintained and a lack of meta-thinking practice. That combined with increasingly specified knowledge domains and the training and concentration necessary to master those domains means collaborating with people from other areas, worldviews, and walks of life increases your chances of seeing things differently, getting the diversity of feedback you need and finding the knowledge resources you need to create value.

The second part of the conversation with Paul Bottino has been published in this post.

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New workspaces, connecting the physical and digital spheres

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+competitions+creativity+ecosistema urbano+research+technologies

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During the past months, in the framework of a shortlisted competition for a new working+retail space in the Middle East, we developed a research about the possibilities of contemporary workspace and how the digital layer influences the physical configuration, enhancing and multiplying the possibilities.

Last Fall we were teaching at the Master in Workspace Design at IE University, leading the Technology Lab; so this exploration became a continuation of our previous research and work.

We have been studying the contemporary way of working / thinking / living, analyzing the current phenomena affecting the spaces where the working activities take place. We believe that the digital revolution and contemporary socio-political dynamics call for reflection on the way we work. Spaces and instruments for working, methods and hierarchies, places and distances have all been brought into question. Beyond and around working, there is an ongoing change of paradigm that involves almost every aspect of culture and society. The way we address and manage processes, products and knowledge is evolving aided by new technological possibilities and critical “meta” reflections: From competition to collaboration and cooperation; from centralization to P2P; from pyramidal structures to grassroots, horizontal ones; from professional secret to transparency; from private R&D to crowdsourcing; from intellectual property restrictions to copyleft and free/open source initiatives, from well finished products or services to open roadmaps that embrace perpetual beta…

Our research focused on the following challenges:

How can architectural, physical work space, aided by its digital equivalent through hybrid interfaces, incorporate those emerging ways in order to support further exploration?

How can we, architects/designers, provide the best built environment for these emerging impulses to become fully developed?

Our philosophical approach divided the subject into three main spheres of research:

+ The Physical Sphere
Understanding the contemporary workspace as an innovative and experimental balance between design (size, material, color, behaviour, structure, relative position between elements,…) and conditioning (hygrothermal comfort, privacy, noise levels, lighting,…) to be implemented so as to be responsive and truly supportive.

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+ The Digital Sphere
We focused on the digital “cloud” associated to each space to enable experimental environments, unprecedented interactions and ways of communicating, or wider, faster, more open-access to knowledge. We considered the digital sphere in workspaces as a unique open environment, extremely user-friendly, flexible and customised according to the specific circumstances it will be used for: supporting internal work, influencing digital marketing strategies, involving customers and external visitors, instigating social activities.

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+ Physical-Digital Interaction
We design spaces that enable the best interaction between users relying on a physical comfort and the digital layer. We focus our work on how mutual management, communication, control, connection and interaction can work between the physical and the digital. This specifically involves physical interfaces that operate on the digital side and digital interfaces that influence the physical space.

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In order to achieve the integration of physical and digital spatial configuration, we developed a design strategy around four main actions we believe as relevant for an innovative workspace:

4 actions

– Inspiring
Innovation requires firstly an inspiring environment in order to provide an experimental incitement to creativity through different channels.
We believe in the possibility of feeding creativity through a series of activities that inspire our brain and stimulate it to go beyond boundaries and create big ideas.

– Well Being
A workspace should provide a high comfort level for the people using it. The environment should be equipped with all the facilities that ensure the best ambience for every particular situation and need.

– Challenging
Being satisfied by its own conditions, sometimes is not the best way to bring innovation. The only possibility to improve is going beyond and accepting challenges. In the contemporary work scene, innovation is an indisputable fact. But, for instance, how to stimulate a company that is already in the innovation sector to exceed and excel constantly? We believe that a good training in accepting new challenges even in the small everyday things could help a lot. Through simple dynamics that boost self confidence, cooperation between members of a team, enthusiasm towards the new and unknown and establishing an informal and playful way to invent new solutions for everyday issues as well as exceptional conditions is an excellent way of ensuring high levels of performance.

– Networking
We believe the strength of a successful company is in the quality of its structure and components, but just as important is the network that is able to create, expanding its connections and sharing an learning with/from others.

We keep this line of research open. So, if you want to contribute with it, by sharing a paper or article around the topic, we will be happy to publish it, to spread the ideas and inspire others!