Category Archives: urbanism
Closing the Loop Documentary
Closing The Loop is the world’s first feature length documentary on the zero-waste / circular economy, supporting UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 on Responsible Production and Consumption. The film is presented by global sustainability expert Prof. Dr. Wayne Visser, in collaboration with Emmy and two time Telly Award winning director Graham Ehlers Sheldon. The film ranges across three continents and includes commentary from global experts and centres of excellence like the World Economic Forum and the University of Cambridge. A number of innovative circular economy cases are also featured in detail. The Circular Economy Club (CEC) is a communication and promotion partner of Closing the Loop. A film by Kaleidoscope Futures Lab. and Stand Up 8 Productions.
The ‘Parques Biblioteca’: the Colombian way to achieving social development and cohesion
They are urban complexes formed by buildings of modern architecture, with large surrounding spaces for public use, green, pedestrian and decorative. These public spaces give the urban complex the name of Park. The central building or axis of the complex is equipped with a library with high-tech computing equipment in broadband, justifying the name of the Library, and hence the compound expression “Library Park”. According to the municipal administration of the city of Medellín, “The Library Parks are Cultural Centers for social development that encourage citizen meetings, educational and recreational activities, the construction of groups, the approach to new challenges in digital culture. And they are also spaces for the provision of cultural services that allow the cultural creation and strengthening of existing neighborhood organizations. ” (wiki)
Sergio Fajardo, governor of Antioquia, Colombia, and the mastermind behind the impressive edifices (…) Today (2014), he continues to push for educational opportunities across Antioquia (…) he discussed his current project to build 80 library parks in his home department (…) Building dignity and providing quality education for those in some of the department’s poorest communities has been a driving force behind Fajardo’s decision to build the library parks in underdeveloped neighborhoods like Santo Domingo and La Ladera and in towns like Anorí, which was overrun by guerillas for 50 years (…) Improving education in Medellín and Antioquia has also mobilized people living in these once-disadvantaged neighborhoods to study and dream of new opportunities.Excerpts from Sarah McClure ‘s article: COLOMBIA: Building on Education, full article available here
Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a form of direct democracy at the local level, where all citizens state annually prioritized sectors to be financed before allocating investment resources in projects of their choice in those sectors. It has four key moments: diagnosis, deliberation, decision-making and follow-up (…) The epitome of PB is Porto Alegre (…) Five criteria required to qualify a PB: all citizens participate to the choice of the allocation of resources, this occurs at an administrative level of power (for example a town, but not a quarter), this process has to be repeated over years, a deliberation must take place in a specific institution, and finally citizens should be informed ex post of the status of the budget and the projects (…) The city government’s “Presentation of Accounts” from the previous year marks the beginning of the PB process in March-April. From April until May, regional and thematic assemblies take place with the objectives of establishing thematic priorities by voting, electing councilors for each region, defining the number of delegates, and repeating the budget review for the preceding year at the local level (…) These meetings are open to all citizens and constitute the central and most inclusive component of the process (…) The five thematic areas discussed in the PB at city-level assemblies are: transport and traffic; education, leisure, and culture; health and social welfare; economic development and taxation; and organization of the city, urban and environmental development. (…) One of the main reasons why Brazilian reforms have moved so quickly after the dictatorship has been the passing of a new Constitution in 1988. This Constitution strengthened municipal autonomy, validated the participation of community groups in municipal decision-making, and attributed important social and economic policy functions to municipal authorities (…) there are four keys for a PB to be successful: a strong mayoral support, an active civil society, self-ruling given to citizens for the mechanisms of the PB, and consequent financial resources to fund the projects selected by citizens (…) The main findings are: a better allocation of resources (more equitably and appropriately distributed among sectors and communities), an increase in the financing of basic needs, and a more inclusive, less corrupted democracy.Adrien Frank, An Overview of Participatory Budgeting, 2015
Porto Alegre, the coordinative model of a smart city
(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 authoritarianRichard Sennett’s, Building and Dwelling, Penguin Books, 2019, pp. 164-165
Songdo, the prescriptive model of a smart city
Built on a polder of 600 hectares reclaimed from the Yellow Sea (…) The idea was to create a genuine ‘business centre in North-East Asia’, attracting investment from all over the world and offering an unrivalled quality of living which would serve as a model to be exported (…) Songdo is also a town under constant surveillance: 500 cameras ensure total grid coverage to regulate the traffic or detect ‘suspicious’ behaviour. Even the opening of a sewer cover is immediately notified to the IFEZ management centre in one of the towers in Songdo (…) As to the environmental aspect, the town, whose name means ‘Pine Island’, is built on a coastal strip which used to be known for the wealth of its ornithology, and includes 32% of green space as compared with 21% in Seoul (…) Sterile and soul-less, the city looks different from Korean cities. There are no poor people, no street vendors, no old peopleLe Monde, full article available here
(Songdo) originally conceived as a weapon fighting trade wars (…) to entice multinationals to set up Asian operations with lower taxes and less regulation (…) big tech was added to make the city more attractive (…) technologically mediated/regulated environment (…) control center (cock pit) has an array of giant screens showing what is happening to the city’s air quality; electricity usage; traffic flows; etc (…) the control center makes the interpretation of what any of this information means (…) the whole city operates at the behest of the big data assemblages (…) (Songdo) it embodies a prescriptive model of smart city, a city in the sense of a luxury good (…) it is not smart at all: it operates in a stupefying wayExcerpt from Richard Sennett’s, Building and Dwelling, Penguin Books, 2019, pp. 159-163
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Nehru Place Informal IT Market, New Delhi
Although intended to be a commercial center with a market that would serve the surrounding residential areas, the development as it came up fifty years ago became a complex consisting essentially of a series of small office units. The two levels of shops in the arcades around the central courts contained few retail outlets, and were mostly occupied by offices and banks. Over the last fifteen years the situation began to change with the influx of shops dealing with computers, cell phones, and all kinds of digital accessories. Today Nehru Place is the country’s largest computer hardware market. This has helped to bring about a qualitative change in the area, including the presence of a number of restaurants. Gradually every single available space at the lower levels, including small pockets of space along lift access corridors, and basement areas, have been taken over by small scale commercial units.Full article available here
Ville vs Cite
French language_ville: the overall city/ cite: it designated a particular place (the character of life in the neighborhood), cite can refer a kind of consciousness. The distinction is old, however, it helps clarify the difference between the built environment (English phrase for ville) and how people dwell in it.
Cite: Engels 1840, The Condition of the working-class in England in 1844, based on his testimony of scenes of daily life in Manchester. He noticed aspects of the life in the streets that did not fit the new language of class like Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert whose characters are crashed in the city. Urban life is unsettled (all that is solid melts into air), modernity consists of the transient, as in Bauman’s term “liquid modernity.” There is also however, a need to balance between change and stability, ” distill the eternal from the transitory.” Only a precise analysis of details will make the cite comprehensible to the the urban dweller; the mental space of complexity consists of analyzing small bits of reality.
Ville-First generation urbanists: Haussmann, Cerda, Olmsted
Network-Paris | The accessible city: hygienic issues (plague), new drainage systems, boulevards to avert rebels and barricades (police state) that however served transportation and more positive social purposes and had a spectacle quality, new housing that serves as a vertical theatrical scenery, glazed facades of department stores. Design of the ville was more than utilitarian; indeed display displaced the ethical reckoning of life on the street. The Haussmannian city privileged space over place: the networked ville had diminished the cite.
Fabric-Barcelona | The equal city: once again hygienic issues, Cerda also wanted to address ethnicities and religions into a kind of cooperative socialism and produce conditions of equality between the residents. He used the additive grid, a system of equal-sized blocks with mixed housing (Dutch model) and green spaces distributed throughout the city. To accommodate turning vehicles Cerda cut off the edges of his blocks diagonally. That created an hospitable site where people could gather, space became place. His idea also embodied a danger: if one block begins to degrade, there is no reason other blocks, exactly similar in form, to succumb (monoculture).
Artifice-New York (Central Park) | The sociable city: social value of nature in the city, Olmsted thought of parks as places where the races could mix; inclusion was more possible in an impersonal space of strangers than in the more intimate space of neighborhoods (from labor to leisure). Rural life was destroyed in favor of an integrated urban life, the park was far from central NY at the time. Modest gates were used to show that all were welcome, the landscape was totally artificial. As the city expanded, the park’s perimeter was filled with mansions for the wealthy: people inside it became less mixed. In CP nature suspends reality, artificial pleasure to promote social integration
References: all notes are excerpts from Richard Sennett’s book “Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City,” Penguin Books 2019
Recycling Spaces, Addis-Ababa
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
The ‘Metamorphology’ Approach
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.”
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
(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.
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.