Porto Alegre, the coordinative model of a smart city

Image available here

(Olivio) Dutra (Workers’ Party) was elected mayor of Porto Alegre with 34% of the votes (…) Dutra’s term as mayor of Porto Alegre, starting in 1989 and ending in 1992, was the first of four consecutive terms of the Workers’ Party in the city, totaling 16 years of administration (…) Porto Alegre became a sort of display cabinet for the party in the rest of Brazil: A place where it experimented successful and innovative initiatives such as participatory budgeting (…) participatory budgeting has led to direct improvements in facilities in Porto Alegre (…) According to Fedozzi and Costa, this system has been recognized as a successful experience of interaction between people and the official administrative spheres in public administration and, as such, has gained a broad impact on the political scene nationally and internationally, being interpreted as a strategy for the establishment of an active citizenship in Brazil.

Wiki & Wiki

The process began in loose neighbor assemblies (…) access was open (…) the data were organized so that they could be debated (…) Conflicts between neighborhoods were dealt with by elected reps (…) The system flourished for 20 years but was later squashed down by top down power (…) it began to loose coherence (…) vast waves of migrants were not integrated (…) with the advent of big data, smartphone etc, it is now possible again to coordinate participation at a megacity scale (…) a system including organized, debatable data, online chatrooms that assemble views and feedback is now running in over 250 Brazilian cities (…) use of technology helps people choose (…) people have to get engaged in the data, interpreting it (hermeneutic) and acting on it (…) the coordinative city is democratic whereas the prescriptive is authoritarian

Richard Sennett’s, Building and Dwelling, Penguin Books, 2019, pp. 164-165
Porto Alegre – RS, 11.05.2011 Temática de Habitação, Organização da Cidade, Desenvolvimento Urbano e Ambiental. Local: Teatro Dante Barone – Assembléia Legislativa Foto: Ivo Gonçalves/PMPA, Image available here

La MéMé experience of participatory design

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Students protest the classical pastiche designs made for the Medical School (1968) at the University of Louvain/ University agrees to the formation of a student committee/ Students produce a counterproposal by Lucien Kroll who had no ties to the University/ Kroll organises collaborators and students into teams and turns design into an assemblage of disparate political fractions/ Work is done in his studio at a distance from the institution to ensure freedom/ Collaboration becomes “a kind of architectural method acting” accepting every outcome even if it defies prevailing arch conventions (de Graaf)/ Kroll, when denied the participation of le Roy, his preferred gardener, also engages the adjacent community into participating in the landscape component/ For two years this is an harmonious collaboration/ However, University representatives who visit the site oppose the outcome and the budget increase and fire Kroll/ Kroll exposes the contractor for high pricing but is then accused of vandalising the building site during his open call to the neighbouring community/ The building is highly criticised as a “failed experiment” and “less than a sum of its parts” (de Graaf)/ Petitions for the building’s demolition are opposed by massive support (Excerpts from Reinier de Graaf’s book: Four Walls and a Roof)

In a DOMUS article dated back in 2010, Kroll is presented as “icon of democratic architecture”:

Communication through architecture is an eminently political act, Kroll maintains: the architect is the catalyst of a creative process and social dynamic, in respect to which they make their knowledge available for the translation of interpersonal relationships into a suitable space (…) architects must step out of themselves and put themselves in the shoes of future residents.

Full article available here
Image available here

Recycling Spaces, Addis-Ababa

Image taken from here

Text taken from the site:

African cities have growth rates of up to 5%; this makes them the fastest growing cities in the world today. Extrapolations show that the urban population in Africa currently doubles every 10 to 15 years. Also Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, is in transformation. Currently the home of approximately four million inhabitants, the city might triple its size within the next 30 years due to the increasing rural to urban migration, as well as natural growth. Already today, Addis Ababa suffers from a housing shortage of estimated 700.000 units. And, according to UN-Habitat, 80% of the existing dwellings are in ‘sub-standard, slum like’ conditions. Thus, in 2004, the government launched a large-scale mass housing program with the ambitious plan to erect 200.000 condominium units within 5 years. To date, 100.000 units were built during the last 7 years, out of which nearly 70,000 are handed over to end users so far. In 2011, the Addis Ababa City Administration announced to redevelop all ‘informal’ and ‘unplanned’ parts of the city until 2020.

Throughout the years, Addis Ababa, informally, developed a sophisticated recycling system in all parts of the city. “Kuré-Yalews” are roaming the streets in small neighborhoods, collecting anything that might still be useable from households. Sharing resources, they rent taxis collectively to transport their goods to Merkato’s “Minalesh Terra”, where different “workshops” immediately start to reuse and transform them. In the course of a few days, these items are returned into the cycle, being sold to the owners of small neighborhood shops as “new” products.

This recycling process is not only the source of income for many families in the city, it also keeps Addis Ababa clean to a certain extend. Most importantly, this cycle also appropriated space for recycling in the city throughout the years, which is now endangered by the current transformation of Ethiopia’s capitol.

The movie “Recycling Spaces” is a cinematic documentary on the use of space allocated to this recycling cycle in Ethiopia’s capital. Based on the daily routine and experiences of one selected Kuré-Yalew, this movie tries to tell a generic experience of thousands of inhabitants in Addis Ababa. Interviews with the Kuré-Yalwes and experts give further insight into the topic.

Link to vimeo site
Video available here

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 ‘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 Circular Kitchen @Pakhuis de Zwijger


https://dezwijger.nl/programma/the-circular-kitchen?fbclid=IwAR3esnKWeVtnw5U4UkeAW-3MLtm5Q2lBVra-T-7U7U7BKrWTrI8rX3QEWPQ

AMS Science for the City #12 – May 7 at Pakhuis de Zwijger – on creating a circular kitchen: the business model behind the components, the products and food you use, and choices you make – share your ideas on the topic! 

With a.o.: Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment TU DelftDe Ceuvel

More info: https://dezwijger.nl/programma/the-circular-kitchen

Impact Hub event

I happened to see the add for this event the other day and I said why not(?) and today it turned out to be a very interesting day. Given the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the Impact hub initiative a three day event is dedicated to discussing how technology can change everyday life; how collaboration can be achieved at an urban scale and what is circular economy and how can cities profit from it. The day started with a panel discussion between Charles Landry, Sebastian Schlueter representing Actors of Urban Change and Tom Fleming from tfcreativeconsultancy.

All three speakers shared their experience from projects they are currently involved in that enhance open participation and seek to bring people together in joint activities or causes. Landry spoke of the need of a systemic change that draws attention to how the individuals can perform better.This is an idea he has already experimented with in his Creative Bureaucracy concept (and book) and through the related festival that bares the same name*. Schueter spoke of the need to be critical of public initiatives for they sometimes tend to obscure some other important perspectives. In particular, he spoke of the Berlin Tempelhof Airport and how peoples’ persistence to keep it as a park blocked any discussion on how this vast area could be used for the common good. Finally, Tom Fleming, spoke of cultural activities as a means of bringing people together. He specifically mentioned how we need art festivals more than museums as a way of being with others and interacting in real time with them instead of simply observing them from a distance. The panel discussion ended with a few inspiring comments from Miograd Kuc who claimed that art cannot necessarily provide all the answers in terms of raising public interest; instead, art is supposed to question society’s power dynamics in the first place and therefore it needs to maintain its independent character.

In the second half of the day, we split in four different workshops. I joined Sebastian’s workshop on collaborative practices in cities. It was a great round table discussion between people representing various agencies whether civic; public; or private. The two questions that were raised were a. what are the difficulties we come up with in collaborations that involve multiple parties from different fields/interests and b. what can sustain such a collaboration in time.

This three-day event will culminate tomorrow at Kypseli Market with a series of live events. As Landry eloquently put it, a city is a drama in time.

*The second Creative Bureaucracy festival will be held in Berlin from 20 to 22 September 2019

Delhaize store in Brussels grows its own vegetables

Delhaize created this farm back in Autumn with the idea of producing super fresh food for their customers (…) On the top of their store, they grew strawberries, lettuce, and tomatoes as well as small amounts of other fruits and vegetables. It recycles water, recovers heat from its greenhouses and relies on solar energy making it a permaculture farm (…) In the summer, Delhaize took their Urban Farm to a new level (metaphorically, as it’s already on the roof…) by introducing people up to the farm to attend workshops (…) The food is harvested at 8 am every morning and is on the shelves of the supermarket by 9 am

Image and article retrieved here

Park Slope Food Coop

Image retrieved here

I was amazed to see this documentary yesterday as I had no idea that such coop existed, especially in the US. This coop was originally founded in 1973 and it still is a very successful model of co-managing food resources in a way that the costs are decreased and the quality of the products gets better. Doc says that also Le Louve market in Paris was founded on the same principles more recently (2010). While here in Greece access to grocery is still very direct through local, open markets or smaller grocery stores, in the US and especially New York, this is not the case. People in the documentary explained how scarce and expensive quality food is and how the coop changed all that for the better. I was impressed by the coop’s organization; its principles and the way it brought people together not only as consumers, but also as members of a community. I got the following description from the doc’s webpage: 


FOOD COOP explores how ordinary people working together can upend the received wisdom of corporate America. Instead of treating shoppers as cash cows to be milked dry through infantalizing and manipulative marketing schemes, the Park Slope Food Coop believes in making its shoppers real stakeholders —literally the store’s sole shareholders— expected to shoulder the banal responsibilities that keep the massive machine going: receiving deliveries, cleaning floors and grease traps, putting stickers on produce, shelving cans, cutting cheese, putting spices in bags, scanning and weighing groceries—and standing at the exit to check the receipts of shoppers, who are almost physically forced the store by the constant crowds. It’s brutal, simple cooperative commerce—and no grocery store in New York City can touch its success.

It’s worth the shot to watch this. Very inspiring.

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.

 

The Hackable City

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Excerpts from the Hackable City Blog

The Hackable City (normative definition): 
In a hackable city, new media technologies are employed to open up urban institutions and infrastructures to systemic change in the public interest. It combines top-down smart-city technologies with bottom-up ‘smart citizen’ initiatives. 
In a hackable city, the urban (data) infrastructure functions as a platform that can be appropriated and incrementally improved upon by various stakeholders.

The Hackable City (research project):
 The goal of this research project is to explore the opportunities as well as challenges of the rise of new media technologies for an open, democratic process of collaborative citymaking. How can citizens, design professionals, local government institutions and others employ digital media platforms in collaborative processes of urban planning, management and social organization, to contribute to a liveable and resilient city, with a strong social fabric?

Hackable citymaking revolves around the organization of individuals into collectives or publics, often through or with the aid of a digital media platform.