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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!

 

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Archiprix International – ecosistema urbano takes part in the Awards ceremony

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+creativity+ecosistema urbano+events+urban social design+urbanism

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In the past two weeks, Madrid has been the capital of the most innovative and vibrant ideas coming from the academic environment worldwide. In fact, Madrid was chosen for the 2015 edition of Archiprix International, a biennial event that involves all schools worldwide in Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture to select their best graduation project.

The event consisted of two sections:

Towards a middle-out urbanism

All participants were invited to participate in the Archiprix International workshop, that took place at ETSAM. These best graduates from around the world form a unique group of young talented designers. From surgical interventions to visionary statements: the best graduates from all over the world were invited to Madrid and challenged to develop plans and design proposals in a multidirectional approach to the city. The workshop was conducted by DPA-ETSAM and Los Bandidos AG and tasks were led by emerging local practices.

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We were invited to be part of the jury to evaluate the projects resulted from the 7-day workshops and to present our overview and conclusions about this work during the final Award Ceremony that took place at Cine Callao on Friday May 8th.

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In our talk we reflected on the topics that emerged throughout the different proposals and groups. In addition to this, we presented our vision of how designers and architects need to equipe themselves to be able to deal with contemporary urban issues, what we understand is the new designer’s role and the importance of incorporating new tools in architecture.

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Belinda Tato talking about the variety of topics related to architecture

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Jose Luis Vallejo explaining the concept of “one-man band” in architecture

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Iñigo Cornago talking about the importance of bottom up actions

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Four projects from the Archiprix workshops

Archiprix International Madrid 2015

Extensive presentation of the world’s best graduation projects, selected by 351 schools from 87 countries.

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Map of participants in Archiprix 2015

The jury comprised Eduardo Arroyo, Luis Fernández-Galiano, architect and editor of Arquitectura Viva, Anupama Kundoo, architect with her own practice in Auroville (India) since 1990; Zhenyu Li; and French landscape architect Catherine Mosbach. The jury reviewed all submitted entries at the ETSAM | UPM – Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, the co-organizer of the eighth edition of Archiprix International. The jury nominated 21 projects for the Hunter Douglas Awards and selected 7 winners out of these nominees.

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Winners of Archiprix International

Here you can have a look at all the selected projects and the seven winning projects.

The 9th edition of Archiprix International -2017- will be held in Ahmedabad, India.

It has been a great pleasure to be part of this inspiring event and getting a chance to see and hear how the most talented architects are thinking throughout the world.

We wish all of them the best luck for their brand new careers!

More info about Archiprix 

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Chatter: Architecture Talks Back, Exhibition at the Chicago Art Institute

Category: ⚐ EN+design+dreamhamar+ecosistema urbano+events+news+technologies

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Photo: David Schalliol

Last February we were invited by the Art Institute of Chicago, the second largest museum of United States after the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to participate in the exhibition Chatter: Architecture Talks Back, an exhibition curated by Karen Kice and Iker Gil. The exhibition explores the new possibilities that technology offers to communication in architecture, aiming to establish an ideal dialogue between architecture’s present and past. The thesis of the exhibition is that Chatter is the new way for architects to communicate their ideas; social media as Twitter and Instagram are nowadays working tools for architects to produce and present their work. The exhibition focuses on the creative process of some international architectural firms, such as: Bureau Spectacular, Erin Besler, Fake Industries Architectural Agonism, Formlessfinder, and John Szot Studio; and highlights how they conceive new designs and ideas that reflect upon and expand the legacy of their field.

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Cartoonish Metropolis, 2011. © Bureau Spectacular.

In this framework we were invited to exhibit our project Dreamhamar in the Gallery 283, in the section curated by Iker Gil, Director of the design publication Mas Context. In this part of the exhibition, that explores the multiple ways in which architecture can be communicated, our work represented the section “Empowering”, one of the concepts used to support the thesis of this section, together with others as “Challenging”, “Satirical”, “Collective”, “Revealing” and “Diagnostic“.

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Photo: David Schalliol

 

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Photo: David Schalliol

The projects presented in this space were produced by a range of practitioners worldwide: Ecosistema Urbano; over, under and pinkcomma; Mimi Zeiger and Neil Donnelly with the School of Visual Arts Summer Design Writing and Research Intensive; Koldo Lus Arana (Klaus); Project_ with Sarah Hirschman; 300.000km/s with Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona; Luis Úrculo; and Christopher Baker.

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Photo: David Schalliol

 

twitter installation

Photo: David Schalliol

If you are planning to go to Chicago, don’t miss it! It will be open from April 11th, 2015, through July 12th, 2015 in the Architecture and Design galleries in the museum’s Modern Wing.

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Francisco Mota | eu collaborators

Category: ⚐ EN+colaboradores

Today we introduce you to Francisco Mota, a young environmental engineer who has been helping us with our proposals for Voronezh and Asunción during the last months. The office felt a bit more boring the very moment he left back to Portugal!

Hi, my name is Francisco Mota and I’m a Portuguese urban planner/environmental engineer, vegetarian, environmentalist, stuff maker, and midnight poet. I like to surround myself with a creative environment, and I do believe creativity, passion and having fun are key for a good work, even if it is slowly killing you.

No cameras, please!

No cameras, please!

My interests are many. Sometimes I feel like what Fernando Pessoa said, tenho em mim todos os sonhos do mundo (I have within me all the dreams of the world, in The Tobacco Shop). I love to write and play music, and I would like to experiment with other types of creative professions. I’m also an art enthusiast, I like the kind that can, somehow, challenge or touch me. And I do have to say that 90% of Prado bored me to death. [Editor’s note: This is not part of that 90%, right?]

Most of my work wanders around sustainable mobility and urban planning strategies and solutions. Coming from an environmental engineering background has given me some good strengths. I’m quite sensible with ecological and environmental problems, all my education was moved towards sustainability and I enjoy working with data. Actually, I do believe that collecting and analysing urban data can provide us, planners and designers, some important answers. Other thing that also excites me about this field is the collaboration with professionals of different areas, we all have so much to learn and it can lead to bright results.

Since the moment I graduated I was looking for an international experience and I was really glad to meet Ecosistema Urbano and to have the chance to join them for a four month internship. They have a very interesting vision and approach on planning, with a great emphasis on the social and sustainable layers, and not forgetting the importance of creative ideas. During the internship I had the opportunity to work on three different projects: the Voronezh Sea Revitalization, where we had the stimulating task of finding a strategy for cleaning a contaminated reservoir and making it suitable for leisure activities; the Creative Placemaking in South Loop competition, where we developed an artistic/public participation idea to bring some light to the most boring city in Minnesota; and the development of a Master Plan for the historic downtown of Asunción that will make this paraguayan city be stunning.

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These four months were great and productive. I had contact with subjects and perspectives on city projects that I always wanted to try, and I did really learn a lot, not only from these projects, but also in the morning coffee breaks and from all the conversations we had while cooking lunch. We really were a small family there.

And there’s another thing, somehow beautiful and sad: the man is the only living being capable of changing and creating (this is, designing) its own ecosystem and, through centuries, we managed to create some amazing cities all around the world. The sad part is that somewhen we forgot to build them for ourselves. Nevertheless, I’m pretty optimistic about the future, once the change to turn our cities into sustainable, attractive and livable places is already happening. I want to use my skills and creativity to help this movement. If you share this vision and want to work together, please write me a line.

Cheers!

Occupation: Urban Planner and Environmental Engineer
Interests: Urban Planning, Mobility, Info-structures, Design, Sustainability,  Literature, Music
City/country: Lisbon, Portugal
Web: efemotasurbanstudies.tumblr.com
Social profiles: @efemota, linkedin
Check the Posts by Francisco Mota on this blog

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Networked Urbanism – Ecosistema Urbano workshop at Hong Kong Design Institute

Category: ⚐ EN+city+creativity+ecosistema urbano+networkedurbanism+social software

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Last January Ecosistema Urbano was invited to Hong Kong to take part in activities at two different events. We were invited to give a lecture and run a workshop at Hong Kong Design Institute and also be part of the MaD ASIA FORUM 2015 program.

Hong Kong Design Institute is an educational institution that adopts a “Think and Do” approach through contemporary curriculum and active collaborations with industry. HKDI brings together the strengths of the Design departments and offers programmes spanning across Foundation Studies, Communication Design and Digital Media, Fashion and Image Design, and Product and Interior Design.

1_ HKDI

Our workshop aimed, not only at examining the physical dimension of the city, but also its social processes and fluxes, focusing in the quality of HK public spaces.

We believe that the reactivation of a public space cannot be addressed only by a conventional piece of art or urban design. A lively public space is a complex balance of overlapping layers which should also allow for improvisation and interaction; it is the platform for conversation and socialization and it should respond to the demands, desires and expectations of an increasingly plural society.

The transformation of a public space is not only about physically implementing a new creative urban environment, but also, and far more important, it is about building a community to support it, to care for it, to use it – before, during, and after its materialization. A designer’s role is not only to deliver high quality public spaces, but also to reflect on the many ways public space can contribute to foster or discourage social interaction. It is interesting to understand how the physical configuration of a space can condition our personal and social behaviour.

At ecosistema urbano we believe we have to work at different levels in order to achieve a healthy and sustainable public space. Our methodology focuses on three key factors:

Society. We believe it is necessary to empower communities to drive the projects that affect them, and therefore involve social layer in the design process, so social relevance can be guaranteed. It is necessary to invite citizens to take an active role in urban transformation.

Technology. We embrace technology as a means to enhance citizens’ interaction with each other and with the environment around them. As the digital-physical divide narrows and the possibilities multiply, technology becomes an increasingly significant element in urban social life.

Environment. Sustainability is not only an option anymore, but a must. Our work promotes the comprehension of the city as an open environmental classroom to raise awareness about ecological issues among citizens.

Within this framework, Jose Luis Vallejo and I led a 3-day workshop at Hong Kong Design Institute with students from the landscape program. The purpose of the workshop was to encourage students to reflect on the public space surrounding the school.

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The workshop consisted of three different actions:

FIRST ACTION

During the first task students had to explore the area, identifying both challenges and opportunities in the public space of this part of the city: East Kowloon, a newly built area with a lack of attractive public spaces. They had not only to observe and experience the space themselves but also to gather inputs and fresh ideas from other users and passersby.
In order to communicate and express their learnings and findings, they were expected to elaborate their ideas by producing a video.

WORKSHOP 2

Today’s strong culture in the use of new media pushes us, designers, to find innovative ways of communicating our ideas beyond the conventional disciplinary tools. The easiness of spreading information through social media, reaching out a larger audience, presents new opportunities of raising awareness about urban issues, increasing social interest, and building up a stronger urban culture.

The definition and the testing of these tools is a fertile creative space where students and future designers can find new opportunities for development and innovation, where not only the very concept is important, but also the skills of storytelling and narration.

We believe Design Schools should explore these new ways of communicating and transferring ideas and knowledge to bridge the distances between disciplinary language and society’s interests. It is necessary to develop the appropriate tools and to establish a creative and efficient conversation between us, designers, and the citizens, as we no longer can think about creating a healthy and sustainable city without their engagement.

Many topics emerged from this explorative approach: the space for the visually impaired, the lack of activities and programs, the monotony of the current design and existing solutions, etc.

You can watch the videos produced here.

 

SECOND ACTION

The second purpose of the workshop was to launch the Hong Kong version of the local_in platform, an online platform designed to publish geolocated messages: users write their ideas, opinions, proposals or concerns in 140 characters and classify them by category, tags and location so that they can be viewed, rated and shared in real time.

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The digital platform enables users to work at two different levels:

Mapping: situations, problems, opportunities through images, video, descriptions, etc.
Getting into action: posting their designs, strategies, and solutions to reactivate and dynamize the existing spaces.

There is a color code in which RED stands for problems or challenges and BLUE for ideas and solutions.

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The interface is very intuitive and allows the user to visualize the information by topics and interests in any given area of the city. Students directly uploaded their findings and reflections to the online platform. The application is open source, designed and developed by Ecosistema Urbano and released under GNU GPL license.

The platform hongkong.localin.eu will remain online and open for further use by citizens.

 

THIRD ACTION

As a final and symbolic act representing the result of this reflection, a temporary balloon installation was implemented in the main public space at HKDI, the boulevar.

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A series of 500 balloons were put into place, red balloons standing for problems and blue for ideas, recalling the color classification used in the local_in platform.
The installation is a symbolic representation of the digital platform and the ideas shown were a selection of the many gathered by students during the neighbourhood exploration. The ideas written in the balloons drew the attention of other students and passersby, and many of them also became engaged in the process and decided to contribute with their own thoughts. This simple mechanism became a social catalyst, sparking conversations along the space, connecting people and encouraging the reflection about the space we live in, and finally also the ideal background for many selfies, instantly shared on the social networks.

MATRIZ

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MaD ASIA FORUM 2015

In addition to this activity we also took part in the MaD ASIA FORUM 2015, a platform cultivating creativity and global vision among young people in Asia.

Founded in 2009, MaD (Make a Difference) inspires and empowers young people all over Asia to come up with creative responses to our time’s challenges. It has evolved as a collaborative platform of creative changemakers that works at the intersection of creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation and discovery to bring about positive changes in Asia.

MAD

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Jose Luis and I gave a lecture within the program and led two workshops titled “Designing Human Cities for the Digital Age” in which participants were challenged to interact and collectively think about ways of improving cities.

WORKSHOP MAD

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Here you can find an interview (in chinese) published in NHET magazine.

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Guillermo Aroca | eu collaborators

Category: ⚐ EN+colaboradores+ecosistema urbano+Uncategorized

Dear all! Today we introduce Guillermo Aroca, a young architect who is collaborating with us from September 2014. He is bringing a critical fresh view of urbanism and architecture. A sharp observer who gives the perfect touch to our reports. Below, in his own words:

 

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I was born in Madrid in 1989 and I have always had a special interest for design, society and politics. I developed my passion for politics through my participation in the Model European Parliament (MEP), a debate program organized by the European Union.

I have learned architecture at the Architecture School of Valladolid and I have studied the fifth year of my career at the University of Technology and Economics of Budapest (BME). I have presented a selection of freehand drawings, photographs and collages that I have made during my career to the Association of Architects of this city (FUGA).

I began to practice as an architect at the architecture firms M57 and ODImasP, the former is based in Granada and the latter in Valladolid. I have also worked in the gallery of contemporary art Álvaro Alcázar, where I got in touch with the most active professionals in the Spanish creative scene.

In 2013, after volunteering in a Spanish NGO and submerging myself into the Spanish crisis, I conducted a final thesis project of a social nature, with the desire to serve the most disadvantaged part of the population.

During my stay in Ecosistema Urbano, I have developed an interest for urban social planning with citizen collaboration. These past months I have focused in the execution of a Master Plan for Asunción (Paraguay), I have also been working in the preliminary phase of the development of a Master Plan for Encarnacion (Paraguay) and a group working space in Barcelona. This commission has allowed me to mentally travel to South America without moving from my own city. Apart from learning how to trace a Master Plan full of content and without losing any attention to its design and appearance, I have also enjoyed an extraordinary work environment, full of great energy and fellowship.

In the future I look forward to further developing my passion for architecture, fashion, photography and writing. I have been able to cultivate these interests through various collaborations in many magazines, such as Curador, Doze and Metal Magazine.

More information at:
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The Bicycle as a Tool to Understand the City

Category: ⚐ EN+city+mobility+movilidad+sustainability+urbanism

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Bicycle parking in Copenhagen, photo gently borrowed from Olmofin on Flickr

All the arguments are known. All the benefits of using a bicycle as a means of transportation have been discussed, on words, speeches, infographics, funny drawings, and all other sorts of communication. We all know it is an efficient vehicle, with zero fuel consumptions and pollutant gases emission, requires less space, eases traffic congestion and is good for one’s wallet and health.

However, the most valuable and meaningful aspect of this two-wheeled vehicle has not yet been discussed. Cycling is a really intimate way of blending with the landscape, urban or rural. The bicycle is, therefore, an instrument for understanding the city, being this a key factor for the future of urban areas.

In a car, the world is reduced. The driver is inside a box, focused on getting rapidly from A to B. He moves through sections of asphalt roads and highways. Everything that surrounds him is a secondary plan. The environment, the architecture, the landscape, the life. All part of a canvas blurred by the circulating speed.

In the city, the bicycle it’s not just a ride, it is also a tool, a device for understanding the city and experiencing the true meaning of urbanism.

Being on the side of those who believe cities should be (much) more human centered, more livable, attractive and sustainable is certainly not easy, especially if you’re living in a car-centered society. Have you tried to talk with your friends or family about these problems? Have you tried to talk about how much space in a street is reserved for the cars, compared to the little sidewalk? They won’t understand, most of them drive a car, they want their space, their parking spot. They still believe more and wider car lanes will ease urban congestion.

I cannot approach them, or any random citizen, about energy efficiency in cities, about air pollution; I cannot tell them that part of the solution is a system based on walking, cycling and on public transport. I cannot tell them that the key for urban sustainability relies on density or about how the highways had fragmented the landscapes (and this is clear in Lisbon).

It doesn’t matter how eloquent we are, nobody wants to change their lifestyle when they understand it as life quality.

And this is why the bicycle is such an important tool, as a way to experience urbanism. Go for a bike ride along the city with someone who’s driving a car on a daily basis and even the best sustainable cities presentation will fall short of this exercise.

They’ll see the world with different eyes. There’s so many cars here and they’re going too fast, he’ll say. This cycling track should be larger, but generally there should be more in this part of town. I never noticed this building before. Oh, this cafe looks very nice, let’s stop, thank god they got bike racks. And, all of a sudden, those problems are not that far away from their reality.

Here’s the deal, everybody was already liking to ride a bicycle since they were kids. We don’t need to sell it. It’s cool, it’s fun, easy and economical. It’s just a matter of trying, becoming thrilled about it, and maybe they’ll see the benefits of a car-less or even car-free living. It’s all about experiencing it.

And this elevates the importance of pilot projects in the city, the importance of giving the opportunity for citizens to enjoy and feel the city as their own. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s enlightened with life: a car-free saturday, a naked bike ride, some parklets or occupying a street for a month. Personally, I love when the traffic is cut in some random street, I instantly jump from the tiny sidewalk to the car lane. People will love it and the city will benefit from it, short and long-term.

This is what we need, less talk and more action.

A do-it-yourself bike lane in Asunción, Paraguay

A do-it-yourself bike lane in Asunción, Paraguay