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Rethinking Public Spaces in Dhaka: an Urban Design Scheme

Category: ⚐ EN+city+design+dhaka+movilidad+urban social design+urbanism

Introduction: the Dhaka City Neighborhood Upgrading Project

During our trip to Dhaka, the last march, we wandered through public spaces and we experienced what it is like to be a pedestrian in one of the densest megacity of the world. Our assessment was clear: the capital of Bangladesh really needs to improve its public spaces. Because of the city’s urbanization pace, public spaces tend to be approached as an afterthought and become the residual and scarce space between the buildings. And, as such, it is usually lacking the most basic comfort, accessibility or healthiness.

Public place, however, is one of the most valuable assets of every city. A common ground where public life finds its way regardless of the economic or social status of its inhabitants. That inclusiveness is the basic condition for providing quality of life and equity, especially in a developing city like Dhaka. As we explained in our previous article “5 things you can do in Dhaka´s public spaces”, public spaces host a wide mix of uses. For the poorest in Dhaka, public space is also a place of livelihood, one of the only resources available for a large part of the population. They use public space as an extension of private space or as a place to make commercial exchanges, to organize public or private events, to do sports or to meet with friends, among many other uses.

In Dhaka, public spaces are inconsistent with their uses and don’t meet the inhabitant’s needs in a supportive way. Thus, through the Dhaka City Neighborhood Upgrading Project, we took on the challenge of rethinking public space and adapting it to the context of a dense developing megacity. The resulting combination of general principles, specific design guidelines, and sub-project maps is what we refer to as an Urban Design Scheme within this project.

Urban Design Scheme: A new typology of public spaces

The focus of this project is to invest in what is sometimes seen as the last priority in the urgencies of developing countries: public spaces. It focuses on the rapid improvement of streets, open spaces and public buildings. The proposed strategy has three main drivers: maximizing the benefit for disadvantaged communities, leveraging on the specific potentials of each place, and enhancing connectivity and capacity of building a larger system. Each intervention is considered in connection to a coherent network, as a way to scale up the impact of the proposed improvements in the daily urban experience of Dhaka’s citizens.

According to these goals, we proposed to rethink three typologies of public spaces:

  • Comfortable streets
  • Natural Open Spaces
  • Active buildings

In order to turn this “framework approach” into specific proposals, around 70 sub-projects have been identified: specific streets, open spaces, and buildings where these guidelines can be applied and tested during the forthcoming 5-year long implementation phase.

A map of the proposed locations and networks, colored by type.

Comfortable streets: Making urban space livable

At this project’s scale, which leaves out larger scale planning actions regarding complex aspects like traffic, the main challenge regarding the streets of Dhaka is improving their comfort and accessibility, especially for pedestrians, which most intensely suffer the current conditions. The “Comfortable Streets” approach seeks to improve climatic aspects, accessibility, safety, and walkability.

Recreation of a wide road with a “curbless” design, vegetation and urban furniture, improving walkability and comfort while respecting the flow of traffic.

Actions will vary depending on the dimensions, character and current situation of each street. Some streets will be newly developed, and others will be improved in certain aspects like pavements, sewage system, lighting or shading.

The general approach is to establish a “soft” delimitation of areas in order to improve safety and accessibility without completely denying the spontaneous flexibility of movements that can be observed in Dhaka. This is why, for example, we proposed a “curbless” design instead of creating elevated sidewalks… but that will be explained in our next post.

In order to improve resilience and mitigate floods, the proposal is to integrate passive water retention, drainage and infiltration systems in street sections. Another proposed action is adding vegetation to increase attractiveness, comfort, climate and the diversity of the local urban ecosystem. This natural shading will be completed with the installation of artificial shading (made of textile and/or bamboo structures) in several streets as a city-wide pilot project to evaluate their design, function, and maintenance.

 

Natural Open spaces: A more sustainable and resilient city

The scarce open spaces in Dhaka are one of the most valuable assets of the city. The “Natural Open Spaces” approach treats them as opportunities to reintroduce nature in the city, improving aspects like resilience through water management, air quality, attractiveness and general quality of life.

View of a Natural Open Space. A direct relation between the water and the street, and a strong presence of nature and people.

Under the definition of “open spaces”, different typologies can be differentiated: Playgrounds, parks, squares, ponds and jheels, and open spaces along the riverbank.

In order to create more continuous urban experiences and improve adjacent spaces, one of the first proposals is to remove walls and steps, connecting those spaces to the surrounding streets and between them, creating a network of public spaces at the scale of each neighborhood.

To increase the general quality of open spaces, they will be systematically equipped with urban services like public toilets, waste management facilities or drinking fountains.

The multiples jheels in Dhaka´s public spaces are an opportunity to integrate them as a unique landscaping feature and a system for stormwater management. Adding vegetation will increase attractiveness, comfort, climate, and biodiversity.

A flexible spatial design, combined with some permanent infrastructures and the installation of temporary structures, can support a greater variety of uses: street markets, small food and drink related businesses, meeting areas that enable sitting, resting or eating, sport facilities, play areas for children, open spaces for cultural events or for the concentration of big crowds, etc.

Active Buildings: Stacked public spaces with a rich mix of uses

In the highly dense urban center of Dhaka, there is a clear need for public facilities that enable the cultural, social and institutional life of the city as “urban catalysts”. Active Buildings are a new urban typology defined by the mix of uses, the sustainable design, the creation of open floors and the integration with urban services and public spaces.

View of an Active Building in front of a public space, offering flexibility, bioclimatic comfort and a sense of openness

These Active Buildings will be implemented in the existing network of community centers owned by the DSCC (Dhaka South City Corporation), and other buildings in vacant lots will be built.

Such buildings will permit the concentration of uses that could not find a place in the scarce public spaces and public building of Dhaka. Floors with permeable facades, shaded rooftops, and open ground floors will actually work as “stacked” public spaces with a higher level of comfort and security, making them accessible to children, women, elderly people, and other vulnerable urban collectives. These new public spaces will include sports facilities or areas for meeting and relaxing. Closed, more protected floors will host offices, libraries, computers and other equipment to enable educational, social or cultural activities.

One aim is to create more continuous urban experiences, by connecting the building with the surrounding spaces and the nearby streets. The ground floor will be left open, acting as a protected extension of the adjacent public spaces. It will increase the surface devoted to public spaces, enable a more flexible use and achieve more visibility and safety in the affected spaces, avoiding black spots. These new public spaces will integrate urban services like public toilets and waste management.

The buildings will be built according to bioclimatic principles, adding shading and vegetation on rooftop and facade to protect against the direct sunlight and to filter air pollution. Open floors and permeable facades will permit natural ventilation. Energy generation and water accumulation will be integrated at rooftop level in order to increase energetic sustainability and decrease their dependence on the city’s overloaded services.

Conclusion: Three Ways of Making Dhaka more livable

One of the main urban design related challenges in Dhaka was to think of new types of public places that can fit in the dense urban fabric of the city and meet the inhabitants’ needs. These three redesigned typologies of public spaces were proposed in the hope of improving comfort, security, sustainability, inclusiveness and several other aspects that can take a city towards the more general goal of livability.

In following articles we will dive into specific ways of approaching other important issues like traffic and walkability in congested cities, informal activity and use of public spaces, and gender inequality.

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Ecosistema Urbano finalist of 2016 Taipei International Design Award

Category: ⚐ EN+competitions+Cuenca Red+design+espacio público

We are very pleased to inform you that Ecosistema Urbano is one of the finalists of the 2016 Taipei International Design Award

With the aim of enhancing the image of the capital of Taiwan as an international leader in design and innovation, Taipei City Government organizes this award, which is divided into three categories: Industrial Design, Visual Communication Design, and Public Space Design.

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New workspaces, connecting the physical and digital spheres

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

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

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

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

Our research focused on the following challenges:

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIAGRAMA workspaces-03

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

4 actions

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Guillermo Aroca | eu collaborators

Category: ⚐ EN+colaboradores+ecosistema urbano+Uncategorized

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information at:
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Museum of Childhood, un espacio para los niños en pleno Londres | eu:KIDS

Category: ⚐ ES+art+city+creativity+design+eu:kids

Museum of Childhood, London, UK

Museum of Childhood, London, UK

A pocos pasos de la estación de metro de Bethnal Green está la primera sede del Victoria & Albert Museum que hoy alberga el mismo museo dedicado a la infancia: ¡el Museum of Childhood!

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Ecosistema Urbano at the IE Master in Architectural Design

Category: ⚐ EN+ecosistema urbano+news

ie master in architectural design - click to visit official page

Jose Luis Vallejo and Belinda Tato will be taking part in the IE Master in Architectural Design kicking off this Autum in Madrid.

The IE Master in Architectural Design seeks to bridge the gap between the existing fragmented post-professional architecture courses and the ever shifting reality of the professional practice. This will lead to a strengthening of two fundamental foundations of the profession: scientific-technological knowledge and an awareness of the underlying contemporary cultural base. This knowledge, combined with entrepreneurial and management skills, clearly plays a key role in understanding the complexity and scope of the profession when it comes to preparing architects to lead interdisciplinary professional teams.

You can read more about the program, faculty, facilities and admissions at the Official website

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Resolution planning and design for peace

Category: ⚐ EN+city+findings+urbanism

Is Peace a matter of design? Do designers have a role in it? During our stay at Harvard GSD last Fall semester, we had the pleasure to meet architect Karen Lee Bar-Sinai who is a current Loeb Fellow there. Last January she launched the workshop DESIGNING PEACE, looking into how designers can envision peace for the city of Jerusalem. Below is a description of the course and the links to some of the contents and results. We hope you find them inspiring.

designing peace

Architecture and Planning may seem to be of little relevance to Conflict Resolution. However, territorial conflicts occur in space, and so are their solutions. It is time architects, planners and policy makers approach disputed territories together to plan viable, peaceful futures for disputed areas.

This workshop invites you to join an exploration of how design can aid envisioning peace in conflicted territories. We will explore the possible meaning of Resolution Planning – originally a concept and practice developed by “SAYA/Design for Change” (sayarch.com) . Together we will try to give broaden this term, and find new ways to encourage policy makers to think as architects, and to encourage architects to think as policy makers.

Palestinian and Israeli zones on Jerusalem

The 5 day solution-oriented workshop will focus on Jerusalem as a case study for other contested cities such as Belfast and Nicosia. We will plan, think and design at various scales, and propose innovative ideas for peace. Several sites will serve as case studies (one will encourage a landscape intervention, another an urban design strategy, and a third will call for a more general policy oriented vision for the future Jerusalem seam-line). The workshop is planned to be followed by a publication.

Goals and Outcome:
The goal of the workshop is to develop spatial-based concepts to aid peace. We also plan to gather the various proposals into a publication which will include both the theoretical framework and examples of various tools for planning peace.
Above all, we wish for this effort to truly aid overcoming the stalemate in the peace process, which we believe it is crucial to future of both Israeli and Palestinian. We therefore wish this event to be as interesting, meaningful and involving as possible, in order for its fruits and visions of peacemaking to be of highest impact.

Among the contents and results of the workshop we highlight here an introduction to resolution planning and a lecture by Karen on the topic:

More info:

Results: Gallery of the workshop | Same in slideshow mode
Homepage: designing-peace.com
Related website: ispeacepossible.com

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Francesca Rotundo | eu collaborators

Category: ⚐ EN+colaboradores

Today we introduce Francesca Rotundo, a young architect who is doing an internship with us, being mainly involved in our proposal for the competition in Kiruna and the Reggio Children experimental centre.

Francesca

As she tells us:

I’m a quite curious person, careful observer of what is happening around me. My interests are many, but somehow the architecture field seems to contain or connect to a lot of them, giving me everyday something different to think over.
I’ve studied architecture at the University of Ferrara, graduating at the end of 2012, and, as Erasmus student, at Chalmers University in Göteborg, Sweden, a great experience that made me fall in love with the nordic atmosphere, and made me more passionate about my work, in particular about investigating the relation between citizens and the design of the city.
As I wanted to keep widening my horizons, I was especially excited about gaining a Leonardo-program grant and having the chance to join EU, here in Madrid. Participating with them in a university-workshop about the regeneration of borderline areas, organized by Ri-Generazione Urbana, I had the possibility to know them more and I found their way of working very inspiring. I think it’s awesome to collaborate with such a great studio, matching my interests.
Apart from the complexity of the city, which I enjoy so much, in my quite small home town I take part in a cultural association called Primola together with architects and artists, working to make vital the local territory and preserving its landscape. We organize events and activities related to culture, entertaining, designing and realize sets and installations using lights and “poor” building materials, like straw bales.
Trying to conceive design in a playful way, I always keep in mind the social impact of architecture and, as we never stop learning, I keep looking for answers and new questions as well.

Francesca

Here is a short summary about Francesca:

Occupation: Architect
Interests: Architecture-landscape-city, urban safaris, travelling, Illustration, fashion & industrial design
City/country: Cotignola-Ravenna, Italy
Web: Portfolio
Online profiles: Facebook, LinkedIn

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The Bureau of Doing Something About It

Category: ⚐ EN+critical city+design

Bruce Mau Design, a design and innovation studio centered on purpose and optimism, set up design exhibition “The Bureau of Doing Something About It”. The exhibition took place in the Propeller Centre in Toronto, Canada.

During the past year over 1000 grievances, gripes, and annoyances were collected from people across the city. The Toronto Complaints Choir transform this complains into “disappointed people’s song”.

BMD studio decided to do something about it.  Studio designers Amanda Happé, Kar Yan Cheung, Chris Braden, Michal Dudek, and Paul Kawai team set up a pop-up studio, working in real-time in the Propeller Centre. They tried to design solutions in response to the complaints. A book of these ideas was also simultaneously designed, and sent throughout the city of Toronto and their citizens.

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Appstorming: un taller de ecosistema urbano en el IED

Category: ⚐ ES+ecosistema urbano+talleres

ied-dreamhamar

Durante esta semana (17-21 octubre) ecosistema urbano dirigirá el taller Appstorming en el Istituto Europeo di Design de Madrid con la participación de José Luis Vallejo (@jlvmateo) y Jaime Eizaguirre (@eiza) continue reading