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Ecosistema urbano working for the urban transformation of Grenoble

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+competitions+ecosistema urbano+news+sustainability+urbanism+work in progress

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We are proud to share our success in the competition for the Master Plan for ZAC Flaubert in the city of Grenoble. It is the result of a collaboration with Sathy, TN Plus,  OGI (Engineering), Res Publica, and VPEAS. Our candidature has just been selected to lead this great urban transformation and revitalization process in the very center of Grenoble city.

The project deals with the urban transformation of an underused area: ZAC Flaubert. This is currently a 90 hectares transition area at the crossing of a North-South axis and an East-West one, both important for the city. Being a strategic part of the city and its inhabitants, this huge project has various stakes and raises one question: How to give an identity to this area which is now a cluster of micro-identities?

The mayor, from the Ecologist party, wants to integrate citizens in an ambitious co-construction process that would start with Flaubert to spread across the whole city. He is committed to involving residents, shop owners, citizens at each step of the co-construction project. In addition, various other stakeholders are to be involved in the process thanks to different formats such as debates and discussions to exchange points of view and possible visions for Flaubert’s future.

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City Splash! for Copa Cagrana Neue | ecosistema urbano + transform.city proposal for Vienna

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+city+ecosistema urbano+landscape+news+sustainability+technologies+urbanism



Last November we were selected, in collaboration with Transform.city, to participate in the Neue Copa Cagrana International shortlisted competition in Vienna (Austria). The scope of the competition was the urban revitalization and definition of the Master Plan in the area Neue Copa Cagrana defining an urban proposal and the relationship of this part of the city with the river.
We were selected along with other 8 teams, including renowned firms such as Dominique Perrault, AZPML, or West 8.

The context: Donau City, Vienna

The study area is located next to Donau City, on the left bank of the new Danube Canal, Neue Donau, passing through the city of Vienna. It is a neighborhood of mainly tertiary character with office buildings of great height, developed in the last 20 years, including the Vienna International Centre.

Copa Cagrana – the intervention area, between the Danube and the new urban area with the D. Perrault’s tower

Despite the good connection with the city center, the large number of buildings and the excellent existing natural qualities, the area is almost deserted during day and night. This is mainly due to the lack of variety of uses, commercial facilities and recreational areas.
The proposal develops a series of strategies to revitalize an area that already has the optimal conditions to become a landmark for the city of Vienna:

FOUR OBJECTIVES

1 – Increase density and urban mixture

The proposal aims to incorporate urban, commercial and leisure life at a time when Vienna is starting to look for other forms of identity for the river area. It is important to bring new residents to help to create urban activity throughout day and night, summer and winter seasons by permanent and temporary uses. The mixed-use and residential functions in the first row, including the urban boulevard, have the potential to complete and complement the existing urban fabric and establish, for the first time, the necessary connections to make Donau City a functioning and exciting neighbourhood.

Activity diagram for the different seasons

The project proposes a high density urban prosthesis, combining housing, office, commercial and public space, in order to create an active urban spot connected to the surrounding, improving its identity and multiplying the possibilities of use.
The proposal seeks to make Donau City easier to be understood and perceived, with a clear connection to Danube river and its waterfront. Therefore, the proposal is the missing link to the completion of the Donaustadt and is, at the same time, the necessary catalyst to enable the urban regeneration in the area.

2 – Create new urban spots

Copa Cagrana will be an exciting new urban spot in Wien, which is perfectly connected to the city network thanks to the transport connectivity and subway line. Through the physical proximity with existing Donau City, Donau Insel and surrounding neighborhoods, the area will increase popularity and will offer more attractions to the users.
The newly created waterfront will be an urban catalyser with a variety of urban functions, with uses according to the seasons and day and night time:
The FILTER ZONE is a more quiet area free of commercial activities.
The TEMPORARY ZONE changes according the different seasons, with beach bars in the summer, pop-up restaurants, terraces and platforms, etc.
The WATERFRONT is an enjoyable walkable strip with piers and exciting water activities for summer and winter.

The FILTER ZONE

3 – Renaturing (urban+nature landscape)

A new urban and natural environment intrinsically connected with surrounding nature.
It will be the connecting environment between Donauinsel and Donau Park but also extending its limits over the water landscape of Neue Donau to create a vibrant and diverse waterscape.

 

Masterplan 1:1000

4 – Digital Identity – web app strategy

It is important to create the communication channels in order to advertise and share information about the ongoing activities and as a way to share potential ideas to be implemented. This web APP is thought to work as a social network that provides information for the citizens of Copa Cagrana on what kind of activities they can do on this renewed urban area.
Users will be able to register and create a user profile, with this, they will have the opportunity of proposing activities that will make use of the beautiful surroundings and installations of this urban space. The commercial sector will also have their own space. They will have the possibility of creating a profile which will allow them to publicize their products and business, as well as invite and inform citizens about special deals, offers, events and other celebrations.

 

FIVE NEW URBAN ZONES

Cross Section

Seeking to achieve these four objectives, the proposal creates 5 zones acting together and related to each other:

Zone C+: Infiltration city

The energy of city life will splash towards Donau City and the urban plinth will extend its limits to bring activity and reconfigure the public spaces around the corporative and residential buildings. These urban tentacles will extend urban plinth limits with linear and small scale pavilions, pop-up stores and cafes, etc. reconnecting and renewing the pedestrian pathways of the Donau city.

Elevation

Zone C: Social life city

Zone C proposal is the most powerful urban energy boost, as it provides a large amount of overlapped new programs and public spaces easily accessible at different levels.
Areas:
Urban plinth: fragmented construction from 1 to 4 stories high, multiple programs with predominance of commercial spaces overlapped with public spaces at different levels.
Vertical ecosystems: housing towers with a myriad of different typologies to create a diverse neighbourhood. The housing units help to create a dense neighbourhood with urban life throughout the day.
Urban bridge: On the tenth floor, same level as the top terrace of the existing linear building of social housing, a bridge is creating connections between semi public spaces, with diverse programs within the vertical ecosystems.
Public peaks: the top floor of the different towers is also part of the network of semi public spaces within the vertical ecosystems. These spaces can hold multiple programs and part of their success will be the privileged point of view of the city (terraces, cafes, common spaces,… )

Zone B: nature city

This is a zone where nature is predominant and the urban plinth is melting its limits with the landscape. At the same time, the natural character of this area helps to make the transition between the bigger, urban scale of zone C and both the lower scale of zone B and the waterscape towards Donauinsel, combining natural areas with paths for soft mobility.

Different cross sections in zones A and B

Zone A: Leisure city

Leisure cityscape to allow the transition between the formal city and the vibrant and ever changing new waterscape of zone C+. It will hold multiple permanent uses but also temporary programs and seasonal activities. There are multiple temporary and permanent uses in small buildings with similar language, as well as a new riverside walk that will extend to create a comfortable linear space. The relationship with water and the elevation difference will be resolved with a wooden platform that will act as an urban sofa to relax and enjoy the presence and proximity of the river.

Zone A+: Water city

Vibrant and ever changing waterscape in continuous evolution. It will extend the activities of the new urban spot towards the water.

Masterplan 1:2000

+ water pier: permanent pier, water thematic. Light structure with indoor and outdoor spaces to allow the creation of different bathing experiences. The use will change seasonally, during the winter, outdoor and indoor climatized pools will allow the user to be in connection with the surrounding natural landscape while having a pleasant bathing experience.

The water pier for summer activities

+ ice pier: permanent pier, ice and climbing sports oriented. Light structure with a strong seasonal connection. During the winter, part of the structure will be a huge frozen and faceted vertical surface to practice ice climbing, while the lower platform will host different ice skating outdoor rinks to practice in connection with the water and natural landscape. During the summer the ice surface is transformed into a huge waterfall falling from the upper level into the river.

ice pier_con nieve

The ice pier for winter climbing

+The urban archipelago: big modular and floating ever changing extension of the waterfront. The different seasons and uses will dramatically transform its configuration. This mutant landscape is built with modular floating platforms/barges that can be combined to create larger flat surfaces if necessary. These platforms can be connected to the limit line of the waterfront to extend its surface.

If you want to know more about the proposals you can download the competition panels here:
Panel 1   Panel 2   Panel 3   Panel 4

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UCJC | Encarnación y el Máster en Arquitectura y Energía 2015

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

DSC_0495 rec

⚐ 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.

DSC_0523

⚐ 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.

DSC_0521 rec

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

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

Snoehetta_Petter-Dass-Museum_04

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’?

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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

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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.

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Sostenibilidad y movimientos sociales: entrevista a David Harvey | eutv

Category: ⚐ EN+⚐ ES+eutv+sostenibilidad+sustainability

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Como os contábamos en un post anterior, hemos actualizado www.ecosistemaurbano.tv, nuestro canal de vídeos sobre sostenibilidad urbana, integrándolo con nuestro canal de Youtube. Aprovechando esta circunstancia, vamos a rescatar una serie de vídeos, principalmente entrevistas, que hemos re-descubierto y que aún nos parecen interesantes a día de hoy.

Hoy os traemos las respuestas de David Harvey a nuestras preguntas cuando, en octubre de 2009, le preguntamos su opinión sobre el concepto de sostenibilidad.

Harvey es uno de los grandes de la geografía moderna, un pensador e investigador de referencia, con un posicionamiento claro contra las desigualdades e injusticias generadas por el sistema capitalista. Precisamente con una de nuestras citas favoritas de David Harvey comenzamos el artículo Network Design: Dream Your City que publicamos hace poco en la Harvard Design Magazine:

El derecho a la ciudad es mucho más que la libertad individual de acceder a los recursos urbanos: es el derecho a cambiarnos a nosotros mismos cambiando la ciudad. Es, de hecho, un derecho común más que uno individual, ya que esta transformación depende inevitablemente del ejercicio del poder colectivo para reformar los procesos de creación de ciudad. La libertad de hacer y rehacer nuestras ciudades y a nosotros mismos es, sostengo yo, uno de los derechos humanos más valiosos y olvidados.

Es asombrosa la validez casi profética de lo que dice en esta entrevista en concreto, especialmente viendo cómo ha evolucionado el panorama desde entonces. En esta breve entrevista Harvey enlaza la sostenibilidad con la necesidad de emprender proyectos de transformación desde la sociedad civil, llamándonos a actuar desde esa posición:

Mi mensaje es: Pensad en ello, activaos, empezad a trabajar de verdad con los movimientos sociales porque de ahí es de donde van a venir los cambios.

En estos 5 años han sucedido muchas cosas —Primavera Árabe, #15M, #occupy, etc— que confirman la importancia del impulso social como lo veía Harvey: como elemento regenerador de la sociedad y su posicionamiento en relación con el mundo.

Sin más, os dejamos con el vídeo —subtítulos en español incluidos—, ¡disfrutadlo!

 

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Exuma Garden of Dreams

Category: ⚐ EN+ecosistema urbano+sustainability+technologies+urban social design

Sobrevolando el Caribe

Puedes ver la versión en español de este post aquí.

Exuma is a district of the Bahamas, consisting of over 360 islands (or cays). The largest of the cays is Great Exuma, which is 37 mi (60 km) in length. The capital and largest city in the district is George Town founded 1793 and located on Great Exuma. The Tropic of Cancer runs across a beach close to the city. The entire island chain is 130 mi (209 km) long and 72 sq. mi (187 km²) in area.

Last February, Ecosistema urbano has started a cooperation with the project A Sustainable future for Exuma: Environmental Management, Design, and Planning, a multi-year ecological planning project as a collaboration among the Government of the Bahamas, the Bahamas National Trust and Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD).

Situación de Exuma

The location of Exuma

The goal is to facilitate the design and management of a more sustainable future for the Exuma archipelago, and The Bahamas more generally.
The project has two parallel and mutually informing components: research and education. These components work to inform the development of proposals and interventions as well as the building of capabilities for local empowerment.

Resumen del trabajo de campo - Fuente: Exuma Topics

Field work summary – Source: Exuma Topics

Ecosistema Urbano’s role, within the overall framework of the project, has been to design a series of activities and workshops to promote dialogue within the local community, reflecting on the future of the islands and publicizing the existence and content of this future project. As a final outcome of this debate, there is a need to implement a catalytic intervention in the public space of Georgetown, as a sign of change and transformation for the future of the island.

While interacting within the local community, we obtained key information about how residents feel, what their expectations, perceptions and needs are, etc…The debate essentially stood between two scales: the general area of ​​Exuma and the local environment of George Town, the main town of the district, where most social activity takes place.

Among the many topics that emerged, some are as important as food, energy supply, education, waste, water, transport, tourism, identity or infrastructure.

There have been great moments of collective reflection on the present and future of this beautiful and fragile environment, and it has been particularly interesting to listen to the younger generation, who despite their young age, have a very clear vision of what are the challenges and problems they face to improve their future prospects.

Llegando a Gran Exuma

The toolkit and workshops that have been implemented to probe the wishes and aspirations of the local community are as follows:

1. Street photo tour

Our friend and extraordinary photographer, Emilio P. Doiztua, accompanied us on this trip, making a great record of many of the participants and activities.
We thought it was important to collect the testimonies of those who wanted to participate in more organized activities, but also of those who preferred to express their ideas spontaneously in the street, just off the Church or the market. People were very open to participate and eager to answer our questions.

Algunas de las fotografías tomadas durante el "tour"

Some of the photographs taken during the “tour”

2. Creative workshops

During the week we have been active in the primary schools of St. Andrew’s, Moss Town, George Town, Williams Town and the LN Coakley High School, working with young people between 7 and 18 years. In parallel there have been two meetings with adults, both in St. Andrew’s Community Center.

We designed a set of 2 questions, as a triggering exercise, using the colors red and blue, to symbolize the changes needed and the desired dreams respectively. Each participant was interviewed and answered these two simple questions, as an individual exercise and then proceeded to the collective exercise, in groups of 4 or 5 people.

Azul y rojo, sueños y cambios

Blue and red, dreams and changes

Many and varied were the answers, and it has been very interesting to see the clarity of ideas of the youngest (7-10 years) who suggested changes and proposed ideas fluently, both about their immediate surroundings (their school, their neighborhood, their town) as well as for the broader context, Exuma.

At the end of each workshop, through a simple origami exercise, the red and blue pages symbolizing the desired changes and dreams for the future, were converted into petals to later become paper flowers.

Plantillas usadas para las propuestas y el origami

Templates used for the proposals and the origami – click to see and download in high resolution

Proceso de plegado del origami

Folding origami

For the collective exercises we worked with aerial photos, words, producing collages and staging. There has been a reflection to 3 scales: Exuma, Georgetown and at a more local scale, around a vital public space in town, the daily most frequented place by children, youth and families.

"The park", el principal espacio público de Georgetown

“The park”, the main public space in Georgetown

This space is a natural meeting place for the teenagers and has got a great potential as a space for social interaction on the island due to its proximity to Lake Victoria and for being in the center of Georgetown.

Ubicación de este "parque" en Georgetown

Location of this “park” in Georgetown

features and allow it to be more active, inclusive and comfortable public space. Some of the ideas collected included: shade, playgrounds, street furniture, water, wifi, stands, community gardens, garden, sports facilities, cultural events, concerts, etc.

Añadiendo propuestas al panel de exposición

Adding proposals to the exhibition panel

Puesta en común

Presentation

Puesta en común

Presentation

Trabajando en los "pétalos"

Working on the “petals”

Algunos niños posando con sus propuestas

Some kids with their ideas

Aprendiendo y enseñando a plegar el origami

Learning and teaching how to fold the papers

Some “flowers” start to appear

Mostrando el resultado

Showing the result

In a local highschool

Using the digital application

Using the digital application

Adults workshop

Workshop with adults, both tourists and locals

Sharing results and reflections

Sharing results and reflections

3. Digital Exuma: www.exumadreams.org

As in previous occasions, and after adapting the graphics, we used Whatif [Edit 2015: now called local in] for digitally collecting ideas from participants. The resulting platform www.exumadreams.org, is and will remain active for the next few months as an open communication channel with all those who want to maintain the dialogue and continue to participate.

For those of you who are not familiar with the tool, Whatif is a web and mobile application designed to the publication of geolocated messages: Users write their ideas, opinions or proposals in 140 characters and classified by category and location so that they can be consulted, valued and shared in real time. We developed it as a tool to assist public participation processes and collective creativity, facilitating the tasks of consultation, exploration and visualization of a wide variety of data.
The application is open source and available for free download on the official website, which will soon be announcing a new, improved version.

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la pantalla principal

exumadreams on whatif – screenshot of the main page

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la entrada al formulario

exumadreams on whatif – screenshot of the entry form

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la vista de mapa

exumadreams on whatif – screenshot of the map view

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la vista de mensajes

exumadreams on whatif – screenshot of the messages view

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la vista de etiquetas

exumadreams on whatif – screenshot of the tags view

www.exumadreams.org

4. Origami garden of exuma dreams- Jardín de los sueños

The last day of our stay, we arranged an installation with all the ideas compiled during the entire process, an ephemeral and symbolic collection of wishes for Exuma, George Town and the public space of the city. A red and blue paper flower garden, each containing 5 petals with different ideas and desires embedded.

The Garden of Dreams allowed us to show the local community the work done throughout the process of workshops and activities, while temporarily transform a public space in Georgetown, drawing attention to the need to revitalize this space.

Boceto de concepto para la instalación

Concept drawing for the installation

La "flor" resultante

The resulting “flower”…

... y las flores formando un jardín

… and the garden these flowers form.

Personas visitando la instalación

People visiting the installation

Personas visitando la instalación

People visiting the installation

Vista nocturna de la instalación

Night view of the installation

Vista nocturna de la instalación

Night view of the installation

Otra vista nocturna de la instalación

Another night view of the installation

Now we are back and the ‘lab’ work begins. It is necessary to process all the collected material and transform the hopes and dreams of the citizens of Georgetown designing a catalytic intervention for this important public space for the community life.

More information about the project:
www.sustainableexuma.org
www.exumatopics.org/about

More pictures about the project at their Facebook page

El equipo visitante, de izquierda a derecha: Gareth Doherty, Jose Luis Vallejo, Belinda Tato, Jose María Ortiz y Mariano Gomez

The visiting team, left to right: Gareth Doherty, Jose Luis Vallejo, Belinda Tato, Jose María Ortiz and Mariano Gomez

Cheers from Exuma!

Cheers from Exuma!

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Some unpublished photos of Ecopolis Plaza featured in the book “Make_Shift City”

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+ecosistema urbano+publications+sustainability+urbanism

Last year, the Summer already burning over Madrid, a photographer went back to Ecopolis Plaza on an uncertain mission: to capture the life and spirit of the place, three years after the completion of the project.

The reason: the people from Urban Drift, working with the German publisher Jovis, had proposed us to include the project Ecopolis Plaza in their book “Make_Shift City – Renegotiating the Urban Commons” and asked us for some updated photos showing the life of the place. We realized we didn’t have nice, recent pictures of it,  so we called our favourite photographer Emilio P. Doiztúa and invited him to go and register whatever was happening there.

So there went Emilio, armed with some photography gear, and this is what he brought back:  the  images of a grown and lively  Ecopolis Plaza.

Ecópolis Plaza - Ecosistema Urbano - Photo by Emilio P. Doiztúa

Time to go back home!

Ecópolis Plaza - Ecosistema Urbano - Photo by Emilio P. Doiztúa

Relaxing in the shadow. Notice the tall macrophytes in the artificial lagoon.

Ecópolis Plaza - Ecosistema Urbano - Photo by Emilio P. Doiztúa

The slides are a great attraction

Ecópolis Plaza - Ecosistema Urbano - Photo by Emilio P. Doiztúa

Ecópolis Plaza - Ecosistema Urbano - Photo by Emilio P. Doiztúa

Some teenagers hanging around…

Ecópolis Plaza - Ecosistema Urbano - Photo by Emilio P. Doiztúa

… and, well, having some fun in front of the camera.

Ecópolis Plaza - Ecosistema Urbano - Photo by Emilio P. Doiztúa

A not so common point of view of the building

Ecópolis Plaza - Ecosistema Urbano - Photo by Emilio P. Doiztúa

This is probably the first photo published from this side of the building!

Ecópolis Plaza - Ecosistema Urbano - Photo by Emilio P. Doiztúa

Ecópolis Plaza - Ecosistema Urbano - Photo by Emilio P. Doiztúa

Parents and children going to/from the kindergarden

Ecópolis Plaza - Ecosistema Urbano - Photo by Emilio P. Doiztúa

For more pictures of this and more projects, you can get the book “Make_Shift City” here.

Makeshift implies a temporary or expedient substitute for something else, something missing. Make-Shift City extends the term to embrace urban design strategies. “Make-Shift City” implies a condition of insecurity: the inconstant, the imperfect and the indeterminate. It also implies the designing act of shifting or reinterpretation as a form of urban détournement.

In case you happen to be in Berlin in March, you will have the chance to attend the official presentation:

Wednesday, 19 – March 2014 –  19.00
AEDES auf dem Pfefferberg
Christinenstraße 18, 10119 Berlin

Make_Shift City: Renegotiating the Urban Commons
More info on Ecopolis Plaza, including these and more photos

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Mass culture: How to not die of

Category: ⚐ EN+city+sustainability+urbanism

Last summer, different cities from different parts of the world screamed through their squares and streets, and the messages from their voices revealed more than what we could see at first sight.

2013 Taksim Gezi Park by Flashstorm

2013 Taksim Gezi Park by Flashstorm

In Turkey, protests clashed initially in Gezi Park in Istanbul, where the government wanted to impose a new shopping center in the middle of the city, where a green park stood. The protests appeared trivial and useless, as the decision to build another shopping center, commonly and always justified as part of innovation and development of a country, could not compete with citizens’ willingness to keep a green area in the city center. Anyway it appeared incredible that due to this occupation, government military forces started a real fight against the ‘riots’, so that from a little episode, the phenomena started to expand to the whole country, augmenting the size of the protest and people’s involvement.

Photo by Diren Gezi Parki on Facebook

Photo by Diren Gezi Parki on Facebook

Likewise, Brazilian people began to occupy their streets in the name of stopping their Government for what they considered a waste of money and resources: the forthcoming World Football Championship. As it is known, the investment for this is a huge cost, involving the building and the re-organization of new spaces. Citizens occupied the streets asking to invest that money in more urgent sectors, as education, health and security. For sure, behind this people movements, behind their complaints and their need of being listened to, there are several dimensions of a same problem.

The ‘problem’ is that people would like to be part of a democracy, as the Governments define themselves, and have access to a democratic life, having the chance to be active part of the decisions taken. Mass culture takes part as a dimension of the phenomena. We can try to understand why and to what extent.

The context for much of the current interest in material culture is a fear. It is a fear of objects supplanting people. That this is currently happening is the explicit contention of much of the debate over postmodernism which is one of the most fashionable approaches within contemporary social science. (Miller, 1998:169)

This statement is extracted from an article where the author explains that the fear described is an overrated feeling in sociology. If we consider the Marxist position, it uses to refer to a distinction between an assumed pre-era, far from material objects, and the modern one, made or dominated by material; anyway there is actually no evidence of this historical distinction from ethnography or past studies, as even old societies were rather engaged with cultural media (Miller, 1998). However, Miller’s thought is contextualized in a different discourse, whilst the theme, that hereby is going to be explored, touches that argument in the most ‘materialist’ way possible: Indeed it will be the consideration of mass culture intended in its symbolic and representative meaning, and especially in which way the symbolic and the representative are intertwined with the material objects and massive quantitative consequences of its use as media tools.

In this case, I would argue that fear is not overrated, rather it is underestimated. Indeed, fear is real as much as deaths due to climate change and revolutions; fear is real to the extent that some people have too much and others have nothing. In this essay mass culture will be discussed from the aspect of its weight on people and planet lives, in particular inside our cities. I would try to discuss mass culture from an ethic point, not asking if we are dominated or whether there is the domination of a Western or capitalist culture, but rather inquiring if we are dominated by mass culture without recognizing its cost in terms of social justice, sustainability and depleting resources, and thus, if we could change something before crashing indirectly also due to mass culture’s effects.

Mass culture and the city

Image by AlexandraGalvis

Image by AlexandraGalvis

Mass culture is, first of all, an incredible phenomenon itself. With this term, I will refer to the huge flowering of cultural products and cultural media that surrounds our daily life, often strongly driven by markets, and that, due to the global streaming, reach masses and are consumed quite globally. Thus, it is clear that within the phenomena, arts, events, shopping and most of the rituals and media we experience daily are directly involved. Above all, mass culture has a relation with the consumerism system and technology development. Furthermore, when we talk about mass culture, we talk about a collective culture production, and thus of a result due to human interaction. (Grazian, 2010).

It is not so difficult to imagine the particular relationship that mass culture engages with cities. Not just because it is possible to observe it directly, but because cities are primarily the first concentration of masses where people live into the network of relationships, where their lives are indeed organized and intertwined within the social system. Literature supports various different traditions and points of view: For sure the city has always been seen as a great place for commercial, business, capitalist trades and often cities have been built according to these interests. For instance, Marx Weber in his classic ‘The city’ (1958) discusses it in these terms, trying to identify their main features, stressing what defines a city and what is not enough:

Both in terms of what it would include and what it would exclude size alone can hardly be sufficient to define the city. Economically defined, the city is a settlement the inhabitants of which live primarily off trade and commerce rather than agriculture.

Certainly, due to chances of trades, relationships and exchanges, the city is the realm of business. Weber also considers citizens according to their consumer role:

Similar to the city of the prince, the inhabitants of which are economically dependent upon the purchasing power of noble households, are cities in which the purchasing power of the other larger consumers, such as reinters, determines the economic opportunities of resident tradesmen and merchants.

Moreover, he claimed that:

Thus, we wish to speak of a ‘city’ only in cases where local inhabitants satisfy an economically substantial part of their daily wants in the local market (…). In the meaning employed here the ‘city’ is a market place. The local market forms the economic center of the colony in which, due the specialization products, both the nonurban population and urbanites satisfy their wants for articles of trade and commerce. (1958)

So, as a central crossroads of activities made of relationships and exchange, soon the city became the symbol of economy, gathering around itself both producers and consumers, and creating for them a whole life, including mainly rituals and tools of innovation concerning demand/buying and offer/selling. This is well explained by Jayne in his essay ‘Cities and Consumption’ (2006). He conducts an analysis about the rising of the industrial revolution, mass production and the consequent mass consumption, and the rituals of shopping and entertainment that had developed around these, collocated in the spaces of the cities, according to class distinctions, social system and capitalist interests. And mainly it is from this process that mass culture developed for the most as we know it today. Jayne stresses also how the dominant class pictured the shape of cities basically operating on the re-organization of spaces in order to respond functionally to a social meaning of class division, but also to respond to new needs of rituals primed by economic growth and capitalist fuel (2006).

It is in the first years of the 20th Century that the consumption of objects as media tools of culture in a massive style starts to be established and spread, thanks to the incentive of mass commodification and the technology advances. As it has been described by Veblen (1899), and Bourdieu later (1984), consumption and possession became icons of status. Precisely, as affirmed with the concept of cultural capital, the consumption of a specific culture and lifestyle became the symbol of distinction within the capitalist societies, where agencies and institutions worked to perpetuate the status quo (Bourdieu, 1984).

A kind of economic frame-centrism seems to exist, indeed economy is often the most considered starting point for analyzing society, as an invasive factor that defines all that it touches. Anyway, according to me, it is necessary not to forget that economy is not the only working force, because, not considering the phenomenon exactly in its whole, we risk to fall into determinism, being partial, and not seeing alternative ways of operating.

Robert Park, the major exponent of Chicago School, in 1916 talks of the city from another point of view, in my opinion also changing the vision of mass culture related. I found his words extremely interesting:

The city, from the point of view of this paper, is something more than a congeries of individual men and of social conveniences-streets, buildings, electric lights, tramways, and telephones, etc.; something more also, than a mere constellation of institutions and administrative devices -courts, hospitals, schools, police, and civil functionaries of various sorts. The city is, rather, a state of mine, a body of customs and traditions, and of the organized attitudes and sentiments that inhere in these customs and are transmitted with this tradition. The city is not, in other words, merely a physical mechanism and an artificial construction. It is involved in the vital process of the people who compose it; it is a product of nature, and particularly of human nature. (1916)

Considering that, I would see mass culture more like something belonging to the city in a virtual and potential way, then created by people and by their relations built there, and as something that is not just derived by economic forces and consumerism traditions. Again, the city characteristics assume a more human look. Park doesn’t forget the economic side and recognizes its importance:

The city is not, however, merely a geographical and ecological unit; it is at the same time an economic unit. The economic organization of the city is based on the division of labor. (…) Much of what we ordinarily regard as the city-its charters, formal organization, buildings, street railways, and so forth-is, or seems to be, mere artifact. But these things in themselves are utilities, adventitious devices which become part of the living city only when, and in so far as, through use and wont they connect themselves, like a tool in the hand of man, with the vital forces resident in individuals and in the community.

Another last important aspect:

The fact is, however, that the city is rooted in the habits and customs of the people who inhabit it. The consequence is that the city possesses a moral as well as a physical organization, and these two mutually interact in characteristic ways to mold and modify each other… (1916)

Thus, the city is first of all the space of human action and the shape and personality of its citizens. It is the place where culture and ideas flourish, as a fruit of human interaction.

Image by Oleksandr Hnatenko

Image by Oleksandr Hnatenko, www.pohtography.com

Following this pattern, we can look at analysis that see the representative idea of a city today, as the core of creativity, the essence of innovation, and the development and growth of a contemporary era. The same Richard Florida best seller ‘The rise of creative class’ (2002) contributed to expand the idea of a different city representation. Together with the ‘The creative city’ by Landry (2000), the authors indicated culture in its whole manifestation as the best creativity booster factor to attract the main potential resource of innovation: creative people.

By the way:

Hall unfolds a very important aspect of urban creativity, i.e. the people involvement. In fact, in the view of many scholars concerned with popular culture, people are not only passively consuming goods, as ‘mass’, they are also creatively determining the production and circulation of culture (Chambers, 1986; Fiske, 1989a, b) and shaping accordingly their view of the city. (Botta, 2006)

Mass culture could be seen as created, influenced, inspired by and consumed in the cities. But, in a double way, the same city is protagonist of mass culture, of narrative and imaginary, recounted and repurposed as representative of an idea of the city itself.

Mass culture, consumption and sustainability

Once the interrelationship between city and mass culture has been observed and after having stressed how there is not an only way to intend this liaison, we could now focus on the weight of mass culture. This weight could seem invisible to most, in first place because they don’t want people to see it, and then because people don’t want to see it either. Indeed, I am talking of a complex plot process among mass culture, consumerism and mass consumption, something that concerns deeply our ‘normal’ representation of daily life, as the best life possible.

Every day we get up and go to work. We work to earn money and with that money we buy everything that can permit us to conduce a comfortable life, possibly happy, healthy and rich. The more we work, the more we earn, the more we want to have. Having objects, first of all, does not imply them to be stupid ones. We love design, we love to show off concern for our culture: So we fill our houses with books, compact discs, vinyls, vintage pieces, clothes, shoes, cars. We love of course an independent big house with all comforts, hot in winter and cool in summer. We love culture, we love style and good food, we love travelling around the world, we love a comfortable life, we love shopping. We love sports, we love concerts and dancing. And above all, we love doing everything in a single very amusing and cozy place: a big city that can offer this and more.

That above seems almost one of those pictures or statements that we can commonly find on the teenager’s timeline on Facebook. A real statement about ideal life underpinned by mass culture. Unfortunately it is a sad reality if observed under another point of view. I regret to communicate that our planet is not big nor rich enough (not anymore) to grant the same treatment to all the teenagers of the world. I am sorry to communicate to my friends that their passion to collect rock compact discs is increasing the garbage that someone else will probably find as plastic junk in the sea. I am sorry to communicate to citizens that our big cities are not going to be livable anymore if the presence of toxic gases will increase. I am sorry to communicate that while your favorite an-alcoholic drink brand, Coca Cola, launches its new advertise, assessing their will to help people and make the world a better place, with children singing in the background, in India their factories are exploiting the country’s water resources to produce their drink and the company is collaborating with Government to privatize the same water, taking it away from people.

Image seen in Global Environments & Societies wiki

Image seen in globalenvironmentssocieties.wikispaces.com

It is not easy put in discussion the best lifestyle possible people’s idea: but it is time to really face the cost of our lifestyle, and our lovely mass culture. Maybe mass culture has become a natural part of our life that it is really difficult try to reason on it in terms of sustainability for the planet in which we live, the only one. This is because mass culture currently concerns almost all the rituals of our everyday life, including education, cultural capital, identity, wealth, traditions, and all the ‘soft’ symbolic part turned on rituals.

Anyway, at this point, it could be useful to make a distinction. For me, when we talk about mass culture we are not talking just and necessarily of consumerism, but perhaps more of rituals and activities that are deep-rooted within the consumerist society; this has then for sure been emphasized to an excess, in quantity and in stimulation and expansion of people’s needs. Indeed, Chandra Mukerji (1983) has historically described examples of consumer culture in the 15th Century Europe, where the exchange of media culture, such as books, exotic pieces from far places, jewels, spices and textures, was usual among royalty and upper classes (Wilk, 2002). Moreover, Peter Corrigan argues that the concept of ‘fashion’ was already well known in the Elizabethan times, when London was the center of trends (1997).

Today the modern consumption and the consumerism culture has achieved an exaggerate level of production of goods, if not waste. We could think that the human nature aims to have as much as possible or that being greedy is a natural component of human behavior; instead it is fairly reasonable that not in all societies, in the past nor now, people have the same need of possession, nor the same notion of richness or comforts. Nowadays, we can also say that not even the whole population belonging to the same society has the same notion of values in life and of our cities. Coming back for a moment to Turkey and Brazil, it is clear that a great number of people doesn’t agree with their Governments about which are the priorities for a good life in their cities. Could another shopping center create better conditions for people or enrich people more than a green space? Could a world event solve the social basic issues of inequity and poverty of a country? People are recognizing more and more that what is really important for their cities are adequate spaces for themselves, where they have the chance to choose their rituals or maybe to create them.

We are in a cyclic system that resembles a treadmill, where the whole society is involved, into the process of producing needs, old and new, and then producing goods. The index to indicate the level of wealth and growth is the GDP that measures the quantity of goods – products in one year per country. Is the huge quantity of goods produced seriously making our societies better and prosper?

Whereas mass culture (or mass cultures) is made of tools, symbols, icons, practices, rituals and it is something concerning people and their consumption in a certain way, what distinguishes pure consumerism today is: The quantity of goods produced; the stimulation and the expansion of needs; the pushing, by few stakeholders, of society towards consumption and possession. For sure marketing and selling strategies have always done a good job to lead practices, rituals and symbols around their products.

Buy More Stuff, Black Friday 2009 - Photo by Michael Holden

Buy More Stuff, Black Friday 2009 – Photo by Michael Holden

Consumerism affects mass culture so much that is primarily a mean of identity and interaction with others, because historically our Western capitalist societies consider money and the quantity of goods as distinctive symbols of wealth and success in life. Sure is that, the existence and the use of mass culture both suffer this deal. But in a society where we are conscious of the issues concerning the exploitation of resources and the return of it under the shape of garbage and where the first value is keeping safe life conditions, mass culture could change look. Already now we are adhering to style trends for smart cities, car sharing, waste recycle and other practices, that if inserted as pieces of mass culture into our lives could help to change mass culture too.

Thus, we cannot just criticize our consumerism society in terms of the damage that we are causing. We should start to reflect on our daily cultural practices, which are indeed made of mass cultural media tools, starting by city spaces, where our activities are concentrated and where more than other we could see the rituals and the proliferation of mass culture. And thus, we should begin thinking of a new approach based on them. I am persuaded that we could indeed change mass culture through mass culture itself.

According to the anthropologist Margaret Mead, there is no single approach working successfully in every society; rather, each one has a “culturally appropriate” approach, concerning the specific characteristics of its individuals (1953). In this perspective, Wilk argues:

They imply that no single set of solutions, technological, legislative, or cultural, is going to work in every society. On the contrary, we should expect great diversity in the ways different countries and cultures deal with sustainability problems. How can we expect things to change in the countries that presently consume so much more than their share of global resources? (2002)

When we talk about cities, we then talk about mass culture too, thus maybe cities could live by a different mass culture. As the city has been the protagonist of growth of mass society and mass culture of consumerism, it could also happen that the city may see the birth of a new and fairer society. Indeed, change should begin from here, from the set of organizations and citizens, in creating different rituals and use of the spaces.

Image by Starkart

Image by Starkart

Bibliography:

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: a Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice. Harvard University Press.
Corrigan, Peter. 1997. The Sociology of Consumption: An Introduction. London: Sage.
Florida, Richard. 2002. The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Basic Books.
Grazian, David. 2010. Mix It Up: Popular Culture, Mass Media, and Society. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
Jayne, Mark. 2006. Cities and Consumption. New York: Routledge.
Landry, Charles. 2000. The creative city. New York: Routledge.
Mead, Margaret; World Federation for Mental Health. 1953. Cultural patterns and technical change. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Miller, Daniel. 1998. “Coca Cola: A Sweet Black Drink from Trinidad.” Pp. 169-187 in Material Cultures: Why Some Things Matter, edited by D. Miller. London: UCL Press.
Mukerji, Chandra.1983. From Graven Images: Patterns of Modern Materialism New York: Columbia University Press.
Park, Robert. 1916. “The city: suggestions for the investigation of human behavior in the urban environment” Pp. 90 -130 in Classic Essay on the Culture of Cities. New York. 1969, edited by R. Sennett. New York Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Weber, Max. 1958. “The City.” Pp. 23-46 in Classic Essay on the Culture of Cities. New York. 1969, edited by R. Sennett. New York Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Wilk, Richard. 2002. “Culture and Energy Consumption” Pp. 109-130, in Energy: Science, Policy and the Pursuit of Sustainability, edited by Robert Bent, Lloyd Orr, and Randall Baker. Island Press: Washington.
Veblen, Thorstein. 1899 [1973]. The Theory of the Leisure Class. Introduction John Kenneth Galbraith. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

This is a guest article by Simona Ibba (@PenniLeyn). Thanks, Simona!

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