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Buckminster Fuller Institute assesses our work at Ecosistema Urbano. [The Buckminster Fuller Challenge]

CATEGORY: competitions + ecosistema urbano + urban social design

As a current semi finalist for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge award, Ecosistema Urbano is proud to share the Buckminster Fuller Institute’s Summary Assessment with our readers. We are always excited to read that others believe in the potential of our work to inspire and engage architects and residents to become active agents of change. You can find Ecosistema Urbanos complete Semi-Finalist profile here

Ecosistema Urbano is an architectural firm located in Madrid, Spain led by Belinda Tato (@belindatato), Jose Luis Vallejo (@jlvmateo), Michael Moradiellos (@terapiasurbanas) and Domenico Di Siena (@urbanohumano). The core of their proposal centers on contributing to an emergent practice of urbanism that responds more fluidly to the nature of contemporary urban problems. “Creative Urban Sustainability” is the theoretical framework that scaffolds their endeavors, which include built prototypes, an online platform for citizens to engage with their cities and Web 2.0 tools for design practitioners to engage with each other. The idea is simple: combine innovation, creativity and action to generate urban solutions.

Three projects they recently launched highlight their approach. The first is the Plaza Ecopolis pilot, a demonstration site focused on water issues and on transforming local cultural norms. It features a macrophyte water treatment system integrated into a complex of buildings (including a kindergarten) built around a plaza. The second is the What If Cities web platform that asks citizens to imagine what their cities could do and be. Anyone can download it as open-source software and modify it for his/her town/city. It is currently being used in France, Germany, Spain and Italy. The third is a blog and TV station they launched as a solution generator and mode of exchange for fellow design practitioners.

Building a new relationship between the physical and the digital space is important to their practice. They want to overlap these territories to create new ways of informing urban design and city life that point us toward a sustainable world. Electronic social networks are helping open up many new possibilities, as we are seeing in the remarkable youthful political vitality emerging in the Middle East and beyond.

The explorations of Ecosistema Urbano could help accelerate innovation through a radically enhanced democratic participation in urban life and through ramped-up cross-disciplinary collaborations. Their TV station could be used as a kind of culture-jamming vehicle to get large amounts of people to think differently about issues such as water scarcity or energy use. It is too early to tell, but it appears that they are on the cusp of pulling together these different tools, along with some more traditional ones, to advance a genuinely new urbanism. All of these tools were applied in various forms for the Ecopolis pilot but in general the system of tools has not coalesced entirely yet.

Whether their vision and their use of these technologies and processes will be enough to ignite the necessary enthusiasm and participation of whole communities is an open question. Their strategy is a bit hard to map because they seem to be relying heavily on their intuition to drive their next steps. They are straddling the intuitive world of artists with the discipline of architecture. This can be a tough sell to the world of urban planning and policy development, in which a very linear unpacking of strategic approaches is the norm. However, there is no doubt Ecosistema Urbano has great potential to inspire and engage architects to become far more active agents of change, helping design a new sustainable city.

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