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Ecosistema Urbano, first prize in the Voronezh Sea Closed Competition

Category: ⚐ EN+competitions+ecosistema urbano+eu:live+news

Aerial view of the "Leisure Island"

Aerial view of the “Leisure Island”, one of the proposals

The Department of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Voronezh region decided recently to organize a closed competition in order to develop a strategy for the future of the Voronezh Sea, a currently contaminated reservoir. The aim was to gather ideas on the use of the reservoir so it can be more attractive for the population and be a resource for the development of the city once the water is clean.

Today we are pleased to announce that our proposal has been awarded the first prize!

Click on the image to see some cool panoramas of the Voronezh Sea!

Click on the image to see some cool panoramas of the Voronezh Sea!

The proposal developed by Ecosistema Urbano after being selected for the second round of the competition works at different levels, addressing both the diverse sources of contamination and the potential uses of the existing reservoir. Our vision combines various solutions bringing new opportunities for leisure and activities for people to enjoy and experience the lake.

Our proposal

Addressing the different sources of pollution by providing customised solutions for each of them. These actions are framed as Phase 0. Among the actions we propose to place macrophytes on the surface of the water treatment plant tanks. This action can improve the performance of the Plant up to 40% and it is more efficient not only in the short term, but also in the long run as it reduces energy consumption and requires low maintenance.

Working with floating macrophytes which can absorb many different contaminants. They would be located in the shallowest areas of the lake to stop algae from blooming and emitting a specific smell that comes from the reservoir in summer.

Floating macrophytes in action

Floating macrophytes in action

Creation of bathing areas both in the urban and at the natural environment of the lake, incorporating the macrophytes as part of the water purification system.

A series of floating mobile cleaning infrastructures. These barges help to control water eutrophication as it is important to reduce the amount of phosphorus. They have tanks filled with alum for phosphor sedimentation at the bottom and incorporate various leisure programs and possibilities on the top, so they can be used in different areas of the city during the summer season. At the same time, these floating barges include sampling and analysing systems so that real time information about the water conditions and quality is made available for everyone through the web platforms and mobile app, specifically developed for this purpose.

Floating mobile cleaning infrastructures

Floating mobile cleaning infrastructures

Two areas are proposed to be developed through Public-Private Partnership. These new developments will help to shape a new identity for Voronezh and a new relationship of the city with the water.

The first is a mixed-use zone including housing, offices, retail, public and cultural buildings etc. This new development must be a pilot experience incorporating all the current sustainable technologies, as well as incorporating good practices in water management. Rainwater and surface water runoff is collected and purified through small ponds with floating macrophytes for being used afterwards for irrigation. Pump system for ponds and aeration fountains receive energy from micro wind turbines located on the shore.

New development of a mixed-use zones at the lakefront

New development of a mixed-use zones at the lakefront

As a second development opportunity, ecosistema urbano proposes turning the existing Pridachenskaya dam into a Leisure Island with different activities, becoming a new infrastructure for the city incorporating clean water areas available for swimming and bathing. The island also includes bicycle and jogging paths, boat station for water-sports, urban beach, gardens and parks, playgrounds and sport facilities.

Typologies of cleaning and activity-hosting infrastructures

Typologies of cleaning and activity-hosting infrastructures

Next you can see some more images of the proposal, showing how water treatment and environmental regeneration could work together with social reactivation of the reservoir along the day and through the seasons.

Swimming-pools

Leasure-Island-Day

Leasure-Island-Night

Eco-path

Related links (in Russian):

EU project ideas
Results of the competition
Voronezh news

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Digitas Meets Humanitas: The Projects of Networked Urbanism | By Blair Kamin

Category: ⚐ EN+networkedurbanism+urban social design+urbanism

Image by Flickr user Richard Schneider

Image by Flickr user Richard Schneider

The book ‘Networked Urbanism’ included this article by Blair Kamin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic of The Chicago Tribune, who served as a visiting critic for our “Networked Urbanism” studio.

There was no Internet in 1938 when the eminent Chicago sociologist Louis Wirth wrote his classic essay, “Urbanism as a Way of Life.” Taking note of the phenomenal growth of such industrial cities as New York and Chicago, as well as the lack of an adequate sociological definition of urban life, Wirth articulated parameters of enduring relevance.

Cities should not be defined by the quantity of their land mass or the size of their population, he wrote. Rather, they were best understood by pinpointing their distinctive qualities: “a relatively large, dense, and permanent settlement of socially heterogeneous individuals.” 1 That heterogeneity, Wirth observed, had the effect of breaking down the rigid social barriers associated with small-town and rural life. It increased both mobility and instability, causing individuals to join organized groups to secure their identity amidst the city’s ceaseless flux. “It is largely through the activities of the voluntary groups,” Wirth observed, “that the urbanite expresses and develops his personality, acquires status, and is able to carry on the round of activities that constitute his life-career.” 2

Image by Marco Rizzetto

Image by Marco Rizzetto

Implicit in his analysis was the notion that these networks would be formed through the technologies of their time: By letter, by telephone, by telegraph, by the newspaper, and, of course, by face-to-face contact. Amid today’s ongoing digital revolution, that part of Wirth’s otherwise prescient analysis seems antique.

In that sense, nothing has changed and everything has changed since the publication of “Urbanism as a Way of Life” more than 75 years ago. Half of the world’s population lives in urban areas; that share, the United Nations predicts, will rise to roughly two-thirds by 2050. As in Wirth’s time, urbanization has spawned acute problems, from China’s acrid skies to India’s vast slums. Yet while urbanites still ally themselves with groups, the means by which they do this has shifted entirely. Think of the recent spate of “Facebook revolutions.” Human communication is now overwhelmingly digital, and digital urbanism has become a pervasive part of city life, whether it takes the form of sensors embedded in highways or apps that let us know when the bus is coming.

The question is whether we are fully realizing the potential of these tools to improve the quality of the built environment and, with it, the quality of urban life. In short, can the virtual enrich the physical?

Image by Carlos León

Image by Carlos León

Madrid architects Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo, principals of the firm Ecosistema Urbano, believe in the value of this link and have set out to prove its worth through their practice and their Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) studio, Networked Urbanism. The architects belong to a new generation that decries the self-referential “object buildings” enabled by digital design. Yet like Frank Lloyd Wright, who viewed the machine as an agent of progressive social and aesthetic change, they see the computer as a friend, not an enemy.

This perspective has helped them realize such socially-conscious projects as the Ecopolis Plaza in Madrid, which transformed an old industrial site into a child care and recreation center that is as visually striking as it is ecologically sensitive. Tato and Vallejo have imparted this creative approach to their students and the students have run with it, as the impressive results collected in this book show.

The first thing that distinguishes Tato and Vallejo’s pedagogy is its starting points, which are unapologetically practical and local–an anomaly within the theory-driven, globally-focused world of academic architectural culture. Instead of parachuting in to some far-flung locale, their students engage the place where they live: greater Boston. This affords the students time for repeat visits to their project sites and a deeper understanding of people and their needs than can be gleaned on a lightning-fast overseas tour. But it would be inaccurate to characterize the process and product of “Networked Urbanism” as parochial. The architects subscribe to the philosophy of “going glocal.” As they have written, “every urban project is born in a constant movement between the direct experience and specificity of the local context, and the global, shared flow of information and knowledge.”

One of the “glocal” issues American cities face is the rapid expansion of bicycles as a mode of transportation–a stark contrast to China, where members of the new middle-class abandon bikes for the status symbol of a car and, in the process, worsen traffic congestion and air pollution. But the growth of urban cycling has brought a dramatic increase in bicycle thefts. The vast majority of these thefts go unreported to police because the stolen bikes are rarely found. The victims feel powerless. Harvard student Lulu Zhizhou Li used to be one of them. She’s had her bike stolen twice, once from the racks in front of the GSD. “When I started talking to friends about it, I quickly realized that most everyone has had some sort of bike theft experience,” she said in an interview with Harvard’s Office of Sustainability.

BikeNapped by Lulu Zhizhou Li

BikeNapped by Lulu Zhizhou Li

Li’s response was to design a successful online platform, “Bikenapped!,” which maps where bike thefts occur. The Web site allows bike theft victims to avoid these trouble spots, share their stories and perhaps even prevent future thefts. The interactivity afforded by digital technology is crucial to the enterprise, as one posting from August 2013 shows. “Flexible Kryptonite lock was cut between 4:30-6:20 p.m. at the bike rack outside Fenway movie theatre,” a victim named Deborah wrote about the loss of her white Vita bike with small black fenders, a white seat and a value of $550. “Busy intersection, loads of people. No one saw anything. Cameras point at doors, not bike rack.” The theater’s owners are now on notice that they should reposition one of their cameras. More important, Li has drawn upon her individual experience to frame a collective digital response, one that was technologically impossible when Wirth penned “Urbanism as a Way of Life.”

The students in Networked Urbanism have taken on other pressing problems of our time, such as the need for recycling that helps protect the environment. But waste doesn’t happen by chance; it’s a result of bad design.

Consider what two students came up with as they analyzed the very Bostonian problem of discarded oyster shells. The students, Jenny Corlett and Kelly Murphy, devised a way to break the cycle of restaurants mindlessly throwing out used oyster shells, which, in turn, wind up in landfills. Their solution: Collect and dry the shells, then use them to help grow new oysters and rebuild oyster reefs in Boston Harbor.

Aquaplot by Jenny Corlett + Kelly Murphy

Aquaplot by Jenny Corlett + Kelly Murphy

The plan would have a disproportionate impact because oysters affect many other species in their ecosystem. They improve water quality by removing algae, plankton and pollutants from the water. And the oyster reefs provide a habitat for small species like snails and shrimp, thereby increasing a region’s biodiversity. It’s hard to argue with projected outcomes like that– or with Corlett and Murphy’s marketing skills. Before their final presentation, they served their visiting critics oysters on the half shell.

Those who believe that architecture schools solely exist to teach students how to be heroic designers might smirk at such examples. Recently, the dean of one prestigious American architecture school provocatively argued that the problem of people complaining about object buildings is that people are complaining about object buildings. Making memorable objects, this dean said, is the core of what architects and architecture are all about.

Yet such a myopic world view privileges a formalist approach to architecture at the expense of the field’s rich social promise. Architecture isn’t a large-scale version of sculpture. It shapes the world in which we live.

The genius of Networked Urbanism is that it isn’t teaching students to be geniuses. It’s teaching them to be creative problem solvers, builders of smart digital networks and thus, builders of smarter urban communities. That’s a brighter, more responsible vision of the future than the dumbed-down version of digital urbanism you see on sidewalks today–people staring at their smart phones, lost in their own private worlds. In contrast, the projects of Networked Urbanism offer a new, intelligent way to form and vitalize the social networks that Louis Wirth identified as crucial to the continued well-being of urban life. Together, these designs confer fresh relevance upon the sociologist’s ringing declaration that “metropolitan civilization is without question the best civilization that human beings have ever devised.” 3

Blair Kamin has been the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic since 1992. A graduate of Amherst College and the Yale University School of Architecture, he has also been a fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. The University of Chicago Press has published two collections of Kamin’s columns: “Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago” and “Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age.” Kamin is the recipient of 35 awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, which he received in 1999 for a body of work highlighted by a series of articles about the problems and promise of Chicago’s greatest public space, its lakefront. Another recent story is Designed in Chicago, made in China.

1. Footnote 1 Louis Wirth, “Urbanism as a Way of Life,” American Journal of Sociology 44, no. 1 (July 1938): 8.
2. Footnote 1 Ibid., 23.
3. Footnote 1 Louis Wirth, “The City (The City as a Symbol of Civilization),” The Papers of Louis Wirth, the Joseph Regenstein Library, Special Collections, University of Chicago, box: 39, folder: 6.

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Presenting the 'Networked Urbanism' Book | Available Online for Free!

Category: ⚐ EN+networked design+networkedurbanism+urban social design

Book Cover Book Cover

After several months of work here in Madrid, collaborating with our associate editors at the GSD in Boston, we are happy to announce that the Networked Urbanism book has finally been published online and is making its way through the printing process!

We have been presenting the work of the “Networked Urbanism” students in a series of posts on the blog and they have been publishing many of their ideas and the results of their efforts on networkedurbanism.com, but having the book finally printed on paper is an important milestone considering that the book also contains 4 unpublished essays and an exclusive interview. For those of you that haven’t been following our updates during these years at the GSD, here comes the short story of the book and its contents.

The book is the product of three different studios taught by Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, in Boston, during Fall Term of 2010, 2012, and 2013. The three courses shared the same approach while focusing on slightly different topics; this approach, what we call network-design thinking, is an alternative to the traditional way of designing cities from a bird’s eye view, and a single designer’s perspective.

What is Networked Urbanism?

In today’s connected world, urban design can no longer be addressed from a singular perspective, but should result from an open and collaborative network of creative professionals, technical experts, citizens, and other stakeholder, we need to explore the new role of the designer as an activator, mediator and curator of social processes in a networked reality, but above all, we must develop and test tools that allow citizens to be active participants at all stages: before, during, and after the design process.

Networked Urbanism promotes the exploration of new tools that can become the catalyst to spark creativity and multiply the possibilities of interaction and connection among individuals in the search for more healthy and sustainable communities. The studio challenges future designers to develop initiatives that reconcile existing physical conditions with the emerging needs of citizens through network-design thinking, and promotes active participation in the redefinition of the contemporary city.

The pedagogical approach: the toolbox

The Networked Urbanism studio adopts a framework of experiential education that promotes learning through direct action on the ground and reflection in a continuous feedback loop. With this approach, students actively engaged in posing questions, assuming responsibilities, being curious and creative, investigating, experimenting, and constructing meaning. They became intellectually, emotionally, and socially engaged. This involvement produced a perception that the learning process is authentic, necessary, and real, as a starting point, the Networked Urbanism toolbox provided a set of guidelines that could be applied sequentially throughout the design process:

1. EXPLORE: Choose a topic at the intersection between your personal interests and societal needs.
2. RESEARCH: Become an expert on the topic.
3. NETWORK: Create a network—from citizens to experts—and explore connections at both the official and grassroots level.
4. SHARE: Confront and experience ideas outside your own desk: feedback is a treasure.
5. BE OPEN: Start with a detailed plan but be prepared to disrupt it, responding to its natural development.
6. THINK BIG: Focus on a small-scale design that has the potential of the larger scale, and design a strategic overall vision.
7. START SMALL: Any aspect can be the starting point; the concept will grow as your project develops.
8. ACT NOW!: Prototype and implement in real life at least a small but significant part of the design.
9. COMMUNICATE: Take your initiative to a broader audience.
10. MOVE BEYOND: How can you develop your project beyond the limits of the studio?

The book contents

GIF animation of the contents of the book

The book dives deep into the exploration of these principles, first through four essays: “Digitas Meets Humanitas” written by Blair Kamin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune; “A Different Design Education” by Lulu Li, a former student and creator of bikenapped.com; “Out of the Studio onto the Streets” by Scott Liang, Thomas McCourt, and Benjamin Scheerbarth, also former students and now entrepreneurs with their project Place Pixel; and “Reflection in Action” by Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo containing the famous 10 points of the Networked Urbanism Toolbox; and then with an interview on the importance of design thinking with Paul Bottino, the co-founder and executive director of TECH at Harvard.

The second part of the book contains 19 selected projects organized by their main area of intervention. Even if, obviously, they all can not be easily categorized under a single topic, the first projects are more focused on Environmental issues followed by the ones centered on Social interventions and finally by projects considering more the Digital realm, which are reconnected to the Environmental ones closing the conceptual circle of topics.

Until the printed version is released, you can read the book online and download it in digital format:

Enjoy!

If you want to explore the projects briefly, you can have a look at the list of posts with the projects organized by different thematic categories:

1- Bicycle Culture

2- Turning waste into resources

3- Active awareness

4- Better communities better places

5- Your digital opinion is importat to us

6- Physital social networks

7- Time, space, and memories

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Norway: Next Version | Lecture in Bergen by Ecosistema Urbano

Category: ⚐ EN+events+news+urbanism

Belinda Tato will be lecturing next Thursday,  September 11 at the USF Verftet cultural centre in Bergen, Norway, together with 8 other speakers.

Kollasj_620

The conference, organized by the National Association of Norwegian Architects, will explore the relations between the cities, the suburbs and the rural areas, trying to gather insights on how to make them more productive, locally driven and sustainable while preserving Norway’s own character and exploring new lifestyles.

More info (in Norwegian): www.arkitektur.no/kurs6

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Ecosistema Urbano Wins the Master Plan Competition for the Historic Downtown of Asunción

Category: ⚐ EN+Plan CHA+sustainability+urban social design+urbanism

We are very pleased to announce that our Master Plan proposal for the revitalization of the Historic Downtown District of Asunción, Paraguay (Plan Maestro del Centro Histórico de Asunción), in an international open competition held in the past months. We are surprised and thrilled with the great reception that the project has had, and eager to continue its development side by side with the people, the organizations and the institutions in the city.

continue reading

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#networkedurbanism: Time, space and memory

Category: ⚐ EN+networkedurbanism

MyPS: see below

MyPS: see below

Earlier this year we introduced to you #networkedurbanism, now that the “studio report” book is almost ready, we are publishing a series of posts showing some of the projects that the students have developed during the 2010, 2012, and 2013 studios at the GSD.

In this last #networkedurbanism post we present to you three projects held together by the common thread of time. The first one deals literally with our personal time organization, the second with the transmission of memories tied to a specific place, and the last with the the permanence of personal memories through time and beyond life. continue reading

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#networkedurbanism: ‘Physital’ Social Networks

Category: ⚐ EN+networkedurbanism

Hyper activated place of connection - Table Talk

Hyper activated place of connection – Table Talk

Earlier this year we introduced to you #networkedurbanism, now that the “studio report” book is almost ready, we are publishing a series of posts showing some of the projects that the students have developed during the 2010, 2012, and 2013 studios at the GSD.

In this sixth #networkedurbanism post we present to you two projects that apply the concepts of a social network, like the ones that we generally use—twitter, facebook—to the physical world using digital locally-targeted apps or physical objects. continue reading

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#networkedurbanism: Your Digital Opinion is Important to us

Category: ⚐ EN+networkedurbanism

Place Pixel

Earlier this year we introduced to you #networkedurbanism, now that the “studio report” book is almost ready, we are publishing a series of posts showing some of the projects that the students have developed during the 2010, 2012, and 2013 studios at the GSD.

In this fifth #networkedurbanism post we present to you two projects that share the aim to enrich the physical space with a digital layer, the connection between real and virtual worlds was one of the recurrent themes in the studio and these two projects truly create a strong link between them allowing people to express their opinion about the physical city using digital means. continue reading

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#networkedurbanism: Better Communities, Better Places

Category: ⚐ EN+networkedurbanism

My Little Public - See below

My Little Public – See below

Earlier this year we introduced to you #networkedurbanism; now that the “studio report” book is almost ready, we are publishing a series of posts showing some of the projects that the students have developed during the 2010, 2012, and 2013 studios at the GSD.

In this fourth #networkedurbanism post we present to you three projects focused on social issues and placemaking, their main goal is trying to involve the local communities in the construction process of the future of the cities. continue reading

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Ecosistema urbano selected for the second round of the Voronezh Sea Closed Competition

Category: ⚐ EN+competitions+ecosistema urbano+eu:live+news

Voronezh and the reservoir - image via prorus.net - click to visit source

Voronezh—which became popular in the late 80s because of a controversial UFO incident—is a city of over 1 million inhabitants, situated 500 km south of Moscow. It is located on the banks of the Voronezh River, which in 1972 was transformed into the Voronezh Reservoir or “the Voronezh Sea” as it is called by the inhabitants —a huge lake, 30 km long and 2 km wide. You can read more about the history of the reservoir here.

During the following decades the population enjoyed the cool water during the hot Voronezh summer, but in 1992 the authorities labelled it as “not fit for swimming” as a result of the increasingly polluted water.

Click on the image to see some cool panoramas of the Voronezh Sea

Click on the image to see some cool panoramas of the Voronezh Sea!

The Department of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Voronezh region recently decided to organize a competition in order to develop a strategy for the future of the Voronezh Reservoir. The competition consists of two parts:

  • An Open Ideas competition meant to gather ideas that show the potential of the lake for urban and nature development.
  • A Closed Competition for teams of landscape architects, urbanists and ecologists that should combine ideas about possible future uses of the lake with technologies for cleaning it up. The strategy should include both a project and proposals for implementation.

We are glad to communicate that we have been selected among the four finalists of the closed competition. Over the following weeks we will be working hard on putting together a creative approach and a comprehensive strategy in a great presentation. More news soon!

Related link: Report of the jury