Lessons on urban cooperation

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The other day I was watching a documentary (in Greek) on Berlin’s housing problem. According to the researchers up to 2010, Berlin was one of the European cities with the lowest average rent prizes. However, this condition was dramatically changed in the more recent years as private real estate companies made massive acquisitions of state-owned housing units and then doubled the rent. In fact, people appearing on the doc claimed that it has become impossible for the weaker social groups (refugees, single families, unemployed, students) to rent a descent house.

Today I ran into this great article in Places Magazine that described the successful efforts of a band of artists to turn the Haus der Statistik into affordable housing units. This group of artists had originally formed the Alliance of Threatened Berlin Studio Houses to protect people who could no longer afford their rent from evictions. Yet in the light of the continuous privatization they developed another endeavor; to turn Haus der Statistik, a derelict building near Alexanderplatz into a “gentrification-proof island” and turn it into affordable housing units; studio space for artists and communal space for the public. After several months of research and negotiations with all stakeholders they managed to become official partners in the consortium responsible for bringing their ideas to life.

What started as a mere protest has now become a exemplary public initiative based on people’s massive cooperation. Their systematic approach helped them to establish trust and defend their claims in a way that could work. Very inspiring indeed.

The Digital Matatus project (digitalmatatus.com)

https://lsecities.net/archives/transportation-and-technology-urban-age-conference-2018/

Lack of data on popular transport enables official invisibility of (these) mobility systems in planning (…) Rallying against this, a ‘digital commons’ movement has emerged in support of better transport planning globally. This movement leverages the digital revolution to build high-quality, open and standardised public transport data for planning, information services and as the basis for moving towards a new mobility paradigm. Within this paradigm, the ability to access a wide suite of high-quality mobility options via a mobile phone becomes a more compelling ideal of freedom than simply owning or using a car. This transition to freedom of movement by not owning a car but accessing and paying for a choice of multiple transport modes via mobile-phone technology is a key step towards more equitable, clean, safe and low-emissions cities (…) with this vision, civic activists (hackivists) are using basic GPS-enabled mobile phones and other technologies to build high-quality, standardised data for public transport including dominant popular transit modes. This data is made open and shared widely to improve understanding and discussions of how to improve transport planning and build passenger information systems, the stepping stones to a new mobility paradigm (…) The Digital Matatus map and data allow us to see a critical part of Nairobi’s circulatory system (…) Evidence is growing that this kind of trip-planning information can help people make more efficient trips and, when coupled with real-time information, reduce waiting. This, in turn, improves the way passengers interact with and feel about public transport.

https://lsecities.net/archives/transportation-and-technology-urban-age-conference-2018/

Jacqueline M. Klopp, Visualising popular transport, full article available here

The ‘abrazo’ (embrace) ideology

https://www.cinetecamadrid.com/programacion/experimenta-distrito

“Experimenta Distrito” launched by Media Lab-Prado is a programme involving citizens in neighbourhood workshops hosted in the spaces of La Nave, libraries, social and cultural centres (site in spanish only: https://www.experimentadistrito.net/ )

This is one of the many initiatives taken by the mayor of Madrid in promoting the city as a warm and welcoming place as he described them in DOMUS and his interview with Manuela Carmena.

La Nave: Located in Villaverde, a district on the outskirts of Madrid, La Nave Böetticher was once a lift factory owned by the Böetticher company. An industrial building from the 1940’s refurbished for use as a public facility by Madrid City Council, and inaugurated in 2016. La Nave is dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation and hosts a great number of activities and events related to the promotion of new technologies, technical dissemination, training, and employability. Characterized by a central open-plan space covered by a large barrel vault and a skylight, the refurbishment preserved certain historical elements as decoration and added vertical latticework inspired by the colors of fiber optics to the concrete façade. Its main areas are the Pavilion, the Tower, the Classrooms, the Auditorium, and the Containers. The building has thermo-solar and geothermal energy; it collects rainwater for watering, and it features a roof garden. The roof offers a panoramic view of the Villaverde neighborhood. (http://www.lanavemadrid.com/ )

The ‘Metamorphology’ Approach

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Article presents Damiano Cerrone, co-founder of Spin-Lab and his Metamorphology approach by measuring the spatial and configurational properties of urban spaces, local human activity patterns and socio-cultural value to create rankings of the popularity and attractivity of the place.

Having applied this methodology to over 80 Russian cities, the team used its discoveries to ” define knowledge-based guidelines to boost the social and economic life of streets and public spaces and improve the quality of life.” The team is also behind the Turku Open Platform (TOP) initiative for the city of Turku in Finland, an open platform that allows planners access to data of space, activities and value.

Cerrone goes on to claim the role of Interactional Planner instead of an Urban Planner as urbanity is much more than space, he claims, while “urban life is now diffused beyond the conceptual and political borders of one city.”

Circular cities

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Article discusses the efforts of Prof. Williams in UCL in promoting the ideas and practices of the Circular City by establishing UCL’s Circular Cities Hub in 2016.
A book is to be expected in 2020 entitled “Circular Cities: A Revolution in Urban Sustainability” by Williams that will be published by Routledge.

Part of this has involved viewing cities holistically. This means not just looking at resources, but seeing urban areas as organisms that constantly adapt to changes, such as migration and increasing diversity, as well as considering different trajectories of development, from shrinking, post-industrial cities such as Detroit, to places like London, where corporate and foreign investment is squeezing out lower-value, circular activities.

Islais Project by One Architecture

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(One Architecture in collaboration with BIG Group and Sherwood)

Islais Creek is an historic watershed in Southeast San Francisco. This is an historically industrial area once home to a verdant, marshy watershed since channelized and home to heavy industry and logistics which support the entire city of San Francisco.

https://e.issuu.com/anonymous-embed.html?u=one_architecture&d=180926_bluebook_one_raster_pages-lo

By densifying existing industrial and logistical activities, softening shorelines and daylighting a section of the creek currently decked over, the BIG + ONE + Sherwood team sought to reorient the city’s relationship to its historic waterfronts as a vital element in its recreational and industrial economy.

The six pilots arrived at by the design team respond to these concerns and more, proposing the creation of accessible open space with integrated green-blue infrastructure, a food district, vastly improved transportation systems, waterfront access, waste processing, stacked and decked residential and commercial space, and other phaseable short-term solutions to climate and urban risks.

 

Ubiquitous commons

This has made me think of xAPI  and Learning Record Stores. And then, right at the end of the page, I bump into the concept of community yet again (!). I read:

Ubiquitous Commons allows for attributing citizens control over the data which they produce, and also to generate shared, meaningful patterns of perceived sensibility and responsibility, by enabling novel reflections in terms of identity, relation and belonging.

These can be used to foster new practices in which a new concept of digital public space emerges, which is accessible and inclusive, and also respectful of people’s right to self-determination and self-representation and, thus, to be able to more freely express our subjectivities, as individuals and as participants to multiple relational networksculturesbelief systemsFrom consensus to co-existence.

Ubiquitous Commons is the commons in the age of Ubiquitous Technologies.

Ubiquitous Commons is a legal-technological protocol: it positions itself among the other technological protocols which operate at the level of networks and technologies and among their legal implications and the set of laws, regulations, standards and norms which regulate them. Ubiquitous Commons is an open protocol.

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In the Ubiquitous Commons environment, users can define a series of identities, which they hold and manage in what we have defined as their identity pool; each identity corresponds to a digital certificate, composed by a private and public key; identities can be of different types: individual/ collective/ anonymous/ temporary/ nomadic/ or a combination of the above.

Whenever a certain user generates data, this data is encrypted; the encrypted data is coupled with an attribution, stating which Ubiquitous Commons identity generated it (from), and which Ubiquitous Commons identities can access the data (to); this attribution is generated by the “from” identity; the encrypted data goes on to the service or application for which it was generated for; the attribution goes on to a peer-to-peer network or infrastructure –currently the BlockChain – in which the identifiers of the content (data) and of the from-to identities are published; in this way, the user can grant the availability and access to this data to the specified identities, determined autonomously.

A user who desires access to the data, executes a query onto the peer-to-peer infrastructure, asking whether data identifier X has been granted access to the user’s Ubiquitous Commons identity (the “to” identity in the attribution, picked from one of the identities in the accessing user’s identity pool) by the generating user (the “from” identity); if the user turns out to be attributed with the possibility to access (the query returns a positive result), the user obtains the decryption mechanism (recomposing the private key necessary to decrypting the data); the user uses the decryption mechanism to decrypt and access the data; the transaction is logged onto the peer-to-peer network.

 

Excerpts and Image from Ubiquitous Commons Website

Three generations of Infoscapes

art is open source

infoscape: the virtual landscape of information

First Infoscape refers to the information and knowledge generated through the modalities of the pre-industrial city.

Second Infoscape refers to the information and knowledge generated in the industrial city (the second generation city, the city of infrastructures, transactions, sensors…)

The Third Infoscape refers to the information generated through the myriads of micro-histories, through the progressive, emergent and polyphonic sedimentation of the expressions of the daily lives of city dwellers (…) Casagrande uses the concept of the ruin to define the Third Generation City as the «ruin of the industrial city» and as the «industrial city ruined by people – human nature as part of nature.» (…) Uniting all of its elements, Human Ecology transforms the Third Infoscape into a commons, making it accessible, usable and performable, and opening up to the second stage of the working hypothesis, dedicated to creating a transparent, clear, trusted, high-quality relational environment dedicated to co-managing this novel form of public space.

The Third Landscape is the part of the natural environment that grows in-between bricks and stones, it is the grass that lives between train tracks, it is the natural space that finds its life in the cracks of the walls, or in the places of our cities to which we don’t pay much attentionIt is the natural space of our cities which has not yet been encoded. It is not found in the flowerbeds and hedges which our city administrations define through borders and limits: please keep off the grass, this is a bureaucratically instituted flowerbed.

Excerpts from Data and the city by Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico, published in Hybrid City 2015 Conference Proceedings. Quote taken from their Art is Open Source website 

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Paper Cities

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In the early 1960s in the Soviet Union, when all state funds and collective energy of the nation were thrown into the Cold War competition with the US, a group of architectural students, ahead of the official Soviet authorities, had developed a proposal for the communist City of the Future, for a different, fair society. A film rediscovers the work of the unique Soviet architecture group NER (the New Element of Settlement) through a close look into the present lives of its surviving members. Focusing on each character in a unique way, the film reveals how these architects still believe in their early ideas while coping with post-socialist reality of contemporary Moscow. The trailer is available here

PAPER CITIES

Excerpt from Radical Pedagogies

The concept of NER was first developed in 1957 as a diploma project by graduates of the Moscow Institute of Architecture (MArkhI). As students, NER members studied the elements of the city, its quantitative and qualitative characteristics, eventually dismissing traditional planning principles in favor of a new approach to urban development as a dynamic process. Drawing on Marxism, they sought to provide a spatial agenda for the communist ideology, representing the younger generation of thinkers in the radical split of the Soviet architectural profession following de-Stalinization. They actively criticized the state of Soviet urban planning, arguing that “today, the city is not fulfilling its primary purpose to be an organic living environment.”

NER’s new city was based on creative communication in a classless society, in which the city was no longer dependent on its industrial center but instead formed around a center of communication, independent from the economic characteristics of the city. The major shift brought in by this new urban wave—later implemented by one of its members, Alexei Gutnov, within the curriculum of MArkhI—was to see the city as a living organism, in which cells would be born and eventually die. This led to a change in the status of architectural form: it was conceived as temporary and mobile—its birth implied the process of its imminent destruction. This approach anticipated the later understanding of architecture as an activity or as environment—form was no longer relevant because it hindered the organic processes within the dying city. The system emphasized the correspondence between urban structures and social relationships in communism, based on the reading of the urban plan as “simultaneously a symbol of the idea and a program for its realization.”

 

The SULP approach

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SULP: Synergetic Urban Landscape Planning

This is an integrated approach that allows us to explore, imagine and plan synergies so as to accelerate the transition to a liveable, low carbon city. During the research process, SULP has continuously been reinforced by incorporating the results of the separate studies on water, climate, energy, urban agriculture and nutrients. Synergetic urban landscape planning forms the bridge between CO2 and livability goals on the one hand, and principles for sustainable urban development on the other.

More on SULP here

The sidewalk ballet of city neighbourhoods

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A statistical indicator called the Storefront Index measures the number and concentration of customer-facing businesses in the nation’s large metropolitan areas. A series of maps represent location, size and intensity of neighbourhood business clusters down to the street level for 51 metropolitan areas. The Storefront Index, claims the writer, is one indicator of the relative size and robustness of the active streetscape in and around city centers. The index material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license and it is openly available for further investigation to researchers. around the globe

 

References

  • Joe Cortright, 2018. Quantifying Jane Jacobs. In City Commentary, full article and image available here

The workshop as a means for creating & sustaining sociality

 

ROBERT OWEN

The workshop is one of the oldest institutions of human society. like farming, the artisan workshop terminated the wandering way of life. Much of this also depended on the scale of their tools. In China and Greece it was the most important institution anchoring civic life which practiced the division of labor. The workshop spawned an idea of justice, artisans were allowed to choose freely how to practice their craft. Craftsmen, both Confucius and Plato believed, make good citizens. The urban craftsman in the medieval period began producing surplus: from covering the intra-city needs to inter-city needs. Guilds managed conflict

The European roots of the American workshops can be traced to Robert Owen. He originally founded New Lanark in Scotland as a prototype of a modern industry. He later formulated his plans for an autonomous village and tried to diffuse that model first in England (Orbiston) and then in the US (Harmony). He formulated a set of precepts, the otherwise known as 6 Rochdale Principles: workshops open to anyone, one person one vote, distribution of surplus in relation to trade, cash trading, political and religious neutrality and promotion of education. Owen’s idea of workshop is of an institution which combines long-term mutual benefit and loyalty with short-term flexibility and openness. Factory-style science was for him a mechanical testing of hypotheses; a more innovative laboratory engages from experiment, open to surprise discovery.

On the opposite of Owen lay Charles Fourrier version of workshop: its aim was greatest good for greatest number. He created the phalansteries (big hotels) where he crowded the deserving poor. This was top-down planning that inspired the Soviet industrial planning. People in phalansteries worked and lived in the same building.

These workshops lay the foundation for the Settlement Houses and the Hampton and Tuskegee Institutions founded in the US at the second half of the 19th century.

Excerpts from Richard Sennett’s book, Together: The Rituals & Politics of Cooperation, 2012, London: Penguin Books and Leonardo Benevolo’s, Storia dell’ architettura moderna, 1990, Bari: Edizioni Laterza

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