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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See more at www.clairecurtrice.co.uk

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

Limited availability – mail@clairecurtrice.co.uk

If you are in London, don’t miss it!

recoded city

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

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


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

The Dacheng Flour Factory_ Image: UABB

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

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

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

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10 pilot projects

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

Diorama for the project Dreamhamar

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

Hologram of Ecobulevar project

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

Assembly phase of Madrid Chairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a brief introduction to the Conference:

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

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

More info

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Ecosistema Urbano en HABITAT III – Naciones Unidas

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

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

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

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

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

Más información y programa

A continuación un extracto de la temática:

Ciudades Intermedias: Crecimiento y Renovación Urbana

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

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

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


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

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

The online debate will provide inputs for the Final Declaration.

More info and program

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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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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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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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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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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.

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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.

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