Comments: (2)

Ecosistema Urbano, first prize in the Voronezh Sea Closed Competition

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

Aerial view of the "Leisure Island"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our proposal

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

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

Floating macrophytes in action

Floating macrophytes in action

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

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

Floating mobile cleaning infrastructures

Floating mobile cleaning infrastructures

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

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

New development of a mixed-use zones at the lakefront

New development of a mixed-use zones at the lakefront

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

Typologies of cleaning and activity-hosting infrastructures

Typologies of cleaning and activity-hosting infrastructures

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

Swimming-pools

Leasure-Island-Day

Leasure-Island-Night

Eco-path

Related links (in Russian):

EU project ideas
Results of the competition
Voronezh news

Comments: (0)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related link: Report of the jury

Comments: (0)

Mass culture: How to not die of

Category: city+sustainability+urbanism+⚐ EN

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!

If you want to get your own article published, see this.

Comment: (1)

Bicycle-friendly houses

Category: architecture+mobility+sustainability+urbanism+⚐ EN

Cities, organizations increasingly vast and uncontrolled, crystallize today most social and environmental issues. Intensification is a hot topic as antidote to urban sprawl and overconsumption of the territory, but how to live in the dense city, make it livable and desirable? This paradox between individual aspirations and the need to contain the growth of cities is a challenge for the architecture, the opportunity to imagine new types of habitats, for the collective economy of the soil, but offer a sense of independence and freedom in the use of space, from within and without.

Let’s find a simple example: to reduce private car use, many  cities are trying to promote green transport methods, including cycling, which is highly valued by the local population that exhibits a strong “scientific, sporty and green” image. The cycle path network is growing, but the problem lies at the two ends: What do you do with your bike when you get to your destination?

The bicycle is the most efficient form of transportation ever devised, and it delivers a whole-body workout. Cycling consumes far fewer calories per mile travelled than cars, buses, or even walking. It is sometimes the fastest way to get around a city. Cyclists can zip around traffic jams and don’t have to fight for a parking spot because they can bring the vehicle home… maybe: Many homes aren’t bicycle-friendly, so bikes are either not used or not purchased.

The French architectural studio ‘HERAULT ARNOD architectes’ was faced with that problem in Grenoble, where they designed a sustainable residential house.

Image is made by Herault Arnod architectes | L’IMMEUBLE À VÉLOS |Grenoble 2006-2010

The project ‘Bike building’ has a system which makes possible to take one’s bike to the door of one’s apartment. The lifts are big enough to carry bikes; the corridors are wide and form a panoramic walkway with views over the mountains. People enter their homes as they would a house, from the outside. The architecture of the storage and distribution system is designed for a project situated at the end of the cycle path network. People will be able to reach their front doors on rollerblades, scooters, bicycles, etc., and then store their wheels in a safe place.

‘…This project was conducted as part of an order placed by the architects to 8 City of Architecture and Heritage, on the theme of a “Habitat densified environmentally responsible.” These projects were gathered in one part of the traveling exhibition “Living Green”, which was provided by the police Gauzin-Dominique Müller, and which was presented to the City of Architecture…’ say Chris Younes and Isabel Herault

Since the outskirts of Grenoble are layered with districts of detached houses which generate traffic flows that grow more intense and more extensive each day, it is time to think about urban housing that is more in tune with contemporary aspirations. What does a detached house have that an apartment does not? Amongst other characteristics, we identified the relationship with the exterior, which is more direct and special, the greater privacy, and storage capacity: according to a recent study, 40% of the surface area in detached houses is used to store various objects, food, clothes, tools, bicycles, windsurfers, skis, etc.

‘…>80% of the population would rather live in a detached house than in an apartment block in town. What does a detached house have that an apartment does not? Amongst other characteristics, we identified the relationship with the exterior, which is more direct and special, the greater privacy, and storage capacity: according to a recent study, 40% of the surface area in detached houses is used to store various objects, food, clothes, tools, bicycles, windsurfers, skis, etc….’  say Chris Younes and Isabel Herault

The façade on the street side is made up of several layers which reveal the building’s unusual design, and make a feature of it through the system of outdoor corridors and the individual storage “boxes” placed in front of each apartment: the image is created by usage. People enter their apartments via a private balcony. Located between the walkway and the building’s main structure are the storerooms and bathrooms, which alternate with empty spaces running the whole height of the building. The “storage units” are clad with different coloured corrugated steel sheet, which individualize the apartments and together create an expansive, dynamic and contrasted façade – an unpatented and lively composition.

This project is not the only one example of bike-friendly houses designed by Herault Arnod architectes.

’24 apartments house’ project is located on a new BIA to Green Island, an eclectic neighbourhood of Grenoble composed of villas, workshops and small buildings on the banks of the Isere. It meets the certification BBC with 40% renewable energy, according to the requirements of the specifications of the ZAC. The building was designed to allow residents to live in the city as a house, with a privileged relationship to the outside. The twenty four units are through and have a large terrace facing west continues. Ends of the apartments have a triple orientation. All are served by an outdoor walkway sheltered east side. The building is intended to facilitate the use of bicycles in everyday life: each unit has a storage room, protected by winks perforated (over 50% vacuum), in which residents can store several bikes. The elevator is generously proportioned to allow everyone to borrow his bike.

Image is made by Herault Arnod architectes | 24 APARTEMENTS |Grenoble 2011-2013

The building is very compact, its organization to optimize the stairwell and the elevator are grouped in a separate volume, which they are connected by a walkway. This volume is wrapped in open vegetation: a linear bins, equipped with an automatic watering, home to vines that invade gradually cables and nets stretched between floors.

The other example of bicycle friendly building is the EcoFlats mixed-use apartment building, along North Williams Avenue in Portland with its co-developer, Jean-Pierre Veillet of Siteworks Design Build.

Williams Avenue, once the heart of a thriving African American community, is today well known as a popular bike route as well as a burgeoning retail area of restaurants, cafes and shops.

Image is made by Jean-Pierre Veillet | the Eco-flats |

On the ground floor of the building, for example, is Hopworks Bike Bar.

“Some 3,000 riders a day pass by Mr. Ettinger’s new brewpub,” the New York Times’ Linda Baker writes of Hopworks in a recent feature about the neighborhood and catering to cyclists. “It has racks for 75 bicycles and free locks, to-go entries that fit in bicycle water-bottle cages, and dozens of handmade bicycle frames suspended over the bar areas.”

There are no automobile parking spaces for tenants, but the 18-unit building has storage for 30 bikes.

“Cyclists are a great potential market for businesses that want people traveling at human-scale speed and will stop and buy something,” Roger Geller, the city’s bicycle coordinator, also told Baker.

Eco Flats is one of 15 building projects aiming toward net-zero operations through a pilot program launched in 2009 by Energy Trust of Oregon. Co developed by Doug Shapiro, it was designed to use approximately 60 percent less energy than a building constructed to code stipulations. Veillet says actual savings have been higher, approaching 80 percent. In the ground-floor entry to the apartments via elevator, a flat-screen TV affixed to the upper wall conveys in real-time the amount of energy being used by each unit as well as how much energy is being generated by a rooftop array of solar panels.

If you decided to become bike user, but the house you live in is not bicycle friendly, try to make your home bicycle friendly by yourself. A bicycle doesn’t ask for much. It just needs a safe, dry spot away from thieves and vandals.

By the way, in a humorous note, there is also the opposite way: you can make your bike the main element and attach your house to it, as this man did for the Burning Man festival, or as seen in various creations involving a bike and a tiny home.

RV-Camper bike by Kevin Cyr

RV-Camper bike by Kevin Cyr

For further reading:

‘Bicycle friendly area’ – Design workshop at Auroville- PDF

Comment: (1)

International summer course (update) | Urban design and sustainable architecture

Category: architecture+sustainability+urbanism+⚐ EN

Architecture in Alicante

The international summer course in Alicante we presented a couple of months ago is finally going to happen!

So far, 14 international – from quite diverse places like the US, Ucrania, Lebanon or South Corea – and 8 local students have already registered, and the University of Alicante just extended the registration period over June, so you still have a chance to join!

More Than Green international summer course

Sustainability is not just an environmental issue but, and above all, a social, cultural and economic one. This course about URBAN DESIGN and SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTURE proposes a complex incursion within the subject of sustainability understood not only as a problem but as an opportunity to meet new approaches to the city in a creative, innovative, playful and unprejudiced way.

Sustainability in an international environment: Experts in sustainability, teaching and design from all around the world meet in Alicante.
Learning by the sea: Meet friends from all around the world and enjoy the Mediterranean culture, a different way of understanding architecture, the city and life.
Challenging yourself: A fresh and playful approach to sustainable design.
Finding your way: We offer a wide variety of thematic contents as well as plenty of activities for your free time.

Faculty

We will be taking part with PLAYstudio – the organizers –, Transsolar and Urban Think Tank. Looking forward to meet you there!

Place and date: University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain. 15-26th July 2013
Learn more: International summer course (by the sea)Versión en español
Official website: summercourse.morethangreen.es

Comments: (2)

International summer course (by the sea) | Urban design and sustainable architecture

Category: architecture+sustainability+urbanism+⚐ EN

More Than Green international summer course

The people behind More Than Green have organized a great summer course on July 15-26, 2013 in the mediterranean city of Alicante (Spain), where we will also be taking part together with PLAYstudio, Transsolar and Urban Think Tank.

Sustainability is not just an environmental issue but, and above all, a social, cultural and economic one. This course about URBAN DESIGN and SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTURE proposes a complex incursion within the subject of sustainability understood not only as a problem but as an opportunity to meet new approaches to the city in a creative, innovative, playful and unprejudiced way.

More Than Green

Contents + Objectives

Architecture in Alicante

Improve your design skills: based on an open criticism of the “only green” approach for the construction of our future sustainable cities, this course offers a much wider, complex and playful perspective at the same time. Students will combine the design of a team project –about an specific case‐ with the supervision of guest experts and their master classes.

Build a knowledge frame –examples of good practices told by guest experts‐ where students take consciousness of the importance of broadening their understanding of sustainability according to the new world policies.

Create a typical multicultural situation of an international course where students coming from different places exchange their various backgrounds and modes of undertaking the sustainable urban project. The diversity of the faculties contributes to enrich this situation.

Methodology + Course Structure

Architecture in Alicante

Master classes, teamwork and project reviews within the context of four different ways of understanding sustainability: ENVIRONMENTALLY, SOCIALLY, ECONOMICALLY and CULTURALLY.

Faculty

Faculty

DIRECTOR: José Luis Oliver Ramírez  (University of Alicante) + TRANSSOLAR: Matthias Schuler (Harvard GSD) + URBAN-THINK TANK: Alfredo Brillembourg (ETH Zurich) + ECOSISTEMA URBANO: Belinda Tato y Jose Luis Vallejo (Harvard GSD) + PLAYstudio: Iván Capdevila y Vicente Iborra (University of Alicante)

Alicante + Free time

Lively Alicante at dusk

It’s summer, you’re by the coast… who would dare to keep you away from having fun?  Within the course structure, it is programmed a considerable amount of free time so the students can visit other cities or some interesting spots on the surroundings, enjoy the sun and the beach, or take part in different summer activities organized by the University of Alicante.

Acommodation

University of Alicante

The University of Alicante offers you a wide range of facilities and affordable accommodation in several lovely locations from the historic city centre to the university campus surroundings.

You can download the brochure here: MTG International Summer Course  – PDF
For a more information on fees, acommodation, organization, etc. check the official website: summercourse.morethangreen.es

Comments: (0)

Serena Chiacchiari | eu collaborators

Category: colaboradores+⚐ EN

Today we introduce Serena Chiacchiari, an Italian architect who’s doing right now an internship with us, being mainly involved in our proposal for the competition in Kiruna. Enjoy her introduction and the great photos from her trips around the world!

Serena in Patagonia

In November 2010 after graduating in Architecture in Rome I decided to go to Australia and New Zealand for a period. I was there 2 months, trying to visit as much as I could, from big cities to wild nature. When I came back I decided that what I had studied wasn’t enough so I started a professional master about sustainable architecture in IED Torino. The trip around Australia, where everything is so extreme, inspired me. I started asking myself “Is it possible to live without wasting what nature gives us?”, “Can we as architects help not to waste it?”. So I moved to Turin where I started studying the main elements of sustainable architecture.

Apart from theory, we had 3 workshops, one of which was held by “Arcò”, a young group of Italian architects, who helped us to understand how to build in extreme conditions with poor materials like earth, sand and tires. This workshop was awe-inspiring for me and I decided that I would like to start my architectural career in a young and active studio. I was very happy when I knew that I could have my internship in Ecosistema Urbano, which reflects perfectly my idea of what architecture should be: FUNNY, SUSTAINABLE AND PEOPLE’S.

This experience is very important for me because my passion has always been to travel and meet different cultures and this is the best way to do it!

Serena in Jordania

Here is a short summary about Serena:

Occupation: Architect
Interests: Architecture, photography, travel, sports
City/country: Rome/Italy
Web: www.serenachiacchiari.com
Online profiles: Facebook, Linkedin

Comments: (3)

Herligheten, urban gardening in Oslo

Category: placemaking+sustainability+⚐ EN

Do you have a dream about planting your own mango tree? The statistic probability that you who are reading this live in the city is over fifty percent, and the number is increasing. This means that fewer and fewer of us have the opportunity to grow our own fruit and vegetables, but are entirely dependent on the increasingly industrialized and transport-based large-scale agriculture.

Urban food production is a growing trend in many cities, and productive green spaces emerge on rooftops, in ditches, between buildings and on the left-over spaces without a specific use. The motives for cultivating food are diverse, some see it as part of a strategy to increase awareness and knowledge about the food we eat (food safety), others will create a focus on local food as one of the solutions to environmental challenges, while others grow their own garden just because it’s pleasure and to save money. Jennifer Cockrall-King claims in the book Food and the City that we are facing a food revolution as we have passed both the oil peak and peak water, and this begins to affect a growing global population:

Food and the City examines alternative food systems in cities around the globe that are shortening their food chains, growing food within their city limits, and taking their “food security” into their own hands.

Working at Herligheten - Photo by Christoffer Olavsson Evju

In Oslo, Norway, urban farming occurs in a smaller scale, including the Geitmyra allotment garden where you can be assigned a soil patch for cultivation, and as guerrilla gardens, a more freely and actionist activity where the city’s leftover spaces are used for food production without formal permission of the landowners. The latest addition to this green trend where you can grow your own vegetables in Oslo is Herligheten (The Glory), an ecological initiative and project about urban food production initiated in April 2012 and developed during April and May 2012.

As part of a long-term development and urbanization of the waterfront in Oslo, the developer Bjørvika Utvikling has carried out several temporary projects from stunts to pavilions which have been standing there for a few years. The events and installations are bringing human activity into an area that for many years has been characterized by construction activities, but Herligheten differs from previous projects by a greater degree of activation of users and visitors, who are now shaping the new area of the city with green and consumable pleasures.

Working at Herligheten - Photo by Christoffer Olavsson Evju

Herligheten is located at Loallmenningen in Bjørvika, a rocky “island” in the middle of a rough building site surrounded by roads, railway lines and the ventilation towers for the submerged tunnel underneath. It has found its home in an apparently gray and idle landscape between the Medieval park and the Oslo fjord, which has for many years been seen as a lifeless place in wait for better conditions. But during a few hectic weeks during spring the area has experienced a small, green revolution worked out by diligent volunteers who have transformed it into an oasis consisting of consumable plants, in what was previously a closed area for city residents.

Herligheten - Photo by Christoffer Olavsson Evju

As of today Herligheten consists of three main parts: Herligheten Allotment Garden with 100 allotments, a field measuring 250 m2 where several types of ancient grain such as spelt, emmer, einkorn and bere barley will grow, and an activity program consisting of a number of events and seminars for learning and exchanging ideas. As many as 3790 people applied in April to take part in Herligheten through the disposal of one of the 100 allotments, so it is clear that the people in Oslo have ambition to develop their green thumbs. We wish them good luck with the green revolution!

Read more:

About Herligheten in English
Flickr gallery. It will be updated soon with photos of the growing plants!

Comments: (0)

Urban land teleconnections and sustainability

Category: research+sustainability+urbanism+⚐ EN

Review of the paper “Urban land teleconnections” by Karen C. Seto, Anette Reenberg, Christopher G. Boone, Michail Fragkias, Dagmar Haase, Tobias Langanke, Peter Marcotullio, Darla K. Munroe, Branislav Olah and David Simon.

Recently a research paper was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) concerning the conceptual development of global sustainability, in relation to both urbanization (urban sustainability) and land change. The paper argues that land change and urbanization dynamics are explicitly connected, and suggests “urban land teleconnections” as a new framework for dealing with global sustainability.

Urban Land Teleconnections

“We propose urban land teleconnections as a process-based framework for integrating urbanization and land change, for revealing their linkages and pathways across space and time, and for identifying potential intervention points for sustainability. Through the lens of urban land teleconnections, new and surprising diverse urban forms and processes, such as periurbanization, can be better understood and foreseen. The urban land teleconnections concept could also be useful to the wider research community to anticipate implications for global land resource use.”

More and more people live in the cities. The increasing urbanization is raising many discussions about sustainable planning, and this recently published paper feeds the debate with new inputs. Encouraging a reconsideration of the terms on which we base sustainable policies, the research is widening again our perception of the relationship between the urban field and land. The term “teleconnections” refers to climate science, where it is understood that events have impact over large geographic areas – when the waters of the North Atlantic go through a warm phase, fire incidents increase in the western United States. Just such urban land teleconnections explain the interrelation and invisible bond between urban processes and land use processes, which we must consider when planning our sustainable future. The key to develop strong sustainable planning, is to stop thinking of urban sustainability and land use sustainability as limited to local scale and place, and instead start to take into account the processes and global connections merging urbanization and land use.

“The virtual shrinking of distances between places, strengthening connectivity between distant locations, and growing separation between places of consumption and production are emerging topics in “telecoupled” human–natural systems and tropical teleconnections of deforestation […] In an increasingly urban world, characterized by global flows of commodities, capital, and people, where land that provides goods and ecosystems services for people is becoming more segregated from the space of habitation, teleconnections captures links between distant processes and places, and can be used to explore consequences of urbanization and land changes at great distances from points of origin that would otherwise go unrecognized.”

Urban Land Teleconnections

Urbanization and land change have so far been treated as parallel processes. Apparently this has limited the progress of the concept of sustainability. The paper states that a simultaneously treating of urban sustainability and land change as interwoven, non-separable processes is the keystone to advance in developing sustainability:

“The magnitude and accelerating rate of contemporary urbanization are reshaping land use locally and globally in ways that require a reexamination of land change and urban sustainability. Worldwide, urban populations are projected to increase by almost 3 billion by 2050 and the total global urban land area by more than 1.5 million square kilometers—an area three times the size of Spain—by 2030. Urban economies currently generate more than 90% of global gross value added, meaning few rural systems are unaffected by urbanization (3). Given such trends, we must reconsider how we conceptualize the many connections and feedbacks between urbanization and land change processes.”

The paper is confronting three understandings of the urban – land relationship that so far have been key themes in sustainability policies.

One is the Land Classification Systems, on which the paper states:

“By definition, because urban is human-dominated, urban areas “appropriate” natural ecosystems, ecosystem services, and natural capital. By this logic, urban cannot be natural capital. However, such a conceptualization contradicts underlying principles of urban ecology as well as sustainability.”

The second theme is Place-Based Definitions:

“The place-based conceptualization enforces the idea that urban sustainability requires urban self-sufficiency. […] However, decisions and behaviors that are local or even regional in scope do not account for critical consequences of teleconnections, which may undermine sustainability efforts at great distances or influence the overall sustainability for the entire system. Eating locally might undermine livelihoods of distant farmers who may be using less energy-intensive methods to produce food than local growers. Put another way, sustainability initiatives often focus on the importance of place while ignoring the processes of urbanization that may have farreaching effects on distant places and people. These processes can generate uneven and undesirable outcomes that may be undetected when focusing solely on place.”

On the third theme, Land Transitions, the paper argues:

“[…] Although not always explicit, a common assumption is that land transitions in Europe and North America can help understand future trends in Asia, South America, and Africa. Such assumptions disregard the realities that cultural differences influence conceptions, codifications, and uses of space and land, and that use of distant land to meet demand for local populations can significantly alter the pathways of change. As a result, there is no universal or linear transition process; phases identified in one context can be shortened, prolonged, overlapped, or even omitted or transgressed elsewhere.

Urban Land Teleconnections

Urban Land Teleconnections is suggested as a new key theme, a framework to address sustainability. In an immediate invisible network, urbanization and land change are constantly in a process of affecting one another. The term itself indicates that the concept of sustainable urbanization and sustainable land use has merged. Conceptualization of sustainability should contain both processes at once.

“By using an urban land teleconnections framework, we move away from conceptualizing urban sustainability and land as attributes specific only to a place, to begin to link dynamic global processes to their spatial “imprint”.”

This means that changes in nonurban places affects urban places and that change in urban space affects nonurban space. In this way, urban and land relations are interwoven in a global network wherein neither the themes Land Classification Systems, Place-Based Definitions nor Land Transitions can stand alone to define the framework for developing sustainable concepts.

“ […] we can study multiple urban regions jointly, rather than trying to aggregate and generalize across many disconnected sets of case studies, and consequently provide a more organized way to integrate knowledge globally. A more holistic analysis of the underlying and spatial effects of production, consumption, and disposal will enable development of policies that promote viable and fair solutions, and ultimately global sustainability.”

Further reading: Urban Land Teleconnections paper – PDF