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.
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.
“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/ )
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.
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.
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
Joe Cortright, 2018. Quantifying Jane Jacobs. In City Commentary, full article and image available here
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.
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
Twitter Chat with Roberto Rocco/ Tuesday 30.01, 14:00-15:00 (GMT +3). Extract from the brief:
The way in which planning and design are generally taught does not cater for the need to create sustainable, fair and inclusive cities. Many planning and design schools follow an old paradigm of architectural education that privileges individual genius and design creativity and do not prepare students to understand the implications of social, economic and environmental sustainability, spatial justice and the right to the city (…) This poses the question: what can spatial planning and design schools actually DO in order to help deliver the city we need? What do we need to teach, and how, in order to be able to deliver enlightened professionals who are able to work in a transdisciplinary way, incorporating grassroots participation and multiple stakeholders in planning and design processes that embrace complexity and are embedded in local social, political, economic and cultural landscapes?
Organization: The World Urban Campaign/ Image available here
It presents a shared vision/ a paradigm shift based on the science of cities (…) The following articles are indicative of the document’s content:
10. culture and cultural diversity are sources of enrichment for humankind and provide an important contribution to the sustainable development of cities, human settlements and citizens, empowering them to play an active and unique role in development initiatives.
11. equal use of cities/ promotion of inclusivity/ no discriminations
13. toward cities that: a. fulfill their social function/ b. promote civic engagement/ c. achieve gender equality/ d. meet the challenges of economic growth/ e. fulfill their territorial functions. f. promote age and gender responsive planning/ g. adopt and implement disaster risk reduction/ h. protect, conserve, restore and promote their ecosystems
14. Leave no one behind/ ensure sustainable economies/ environmental sustainability
15. readdress the way we plan/ recognize the leading role of local governments/ adopt sustainable, people-centered integrated approaches to urban development
The Habitat III Conference and the city of Quito welcomed 30,000 participants from 167 countries, with online platforms and tools that enabled people all over the world to follow principal events online
In the context of increasing pressure on public administrations to become entrepreneurial, financial capital has had a growing role in shaping cities across the world (…) In the financialised city, buildings are “no longer something to use, but to own (with the hope of increased asset-value, rather than use-value, over time).” When the exchange-value of buildings gains prominence over their use-value, they lose all relationship with actual needs and become acting “similarly to how financial products are being created and sold that have lost any connection with real production or a real economy” (…) In the context of the crisis, many local and cultural communities witnessed their spatial and economic resources diminishing with the drainage of funding and the withdrawal of institutional support (…) as a response, many of these communities set themselves to create spaces and services on their own (…) These new forms of governance contributed to the formal or informal extension of the field of actors in urban development and to the outsourcing of “former public tasks and services to volunteer organisations, community associations, non-profit corporations, foundations, and private firms” (…) The engagement of non-institutional and non-profit actors in renovating, operating and managing civic spaces brought participation to a new level: instead of expressing consent or dissent related to a planned development project, or even contributing to the program or design of a new urban area, many communities took the initiative into their own hands and became developers – urban pioneers, spatial entrepreneurs or city makers – themselves.