On the reliability and validity of meaning in arch and urban research

ACTIVITYTHEORY BIGGS 3

  • Gibson_affordances: how it is that some situations and objects seen to present themselves to us as things we can use
  • Wittgenstein_language games: in which we share common attitudes towards the world and what it presents to us (constructivist view where we make an interpretation of the world that facilitates certain interactions and limits others) Questioning is a kind of malady, a disquiet that can only be satisfied by an answer that makes the question go away.” Our questions occur in a context.
  • Scientific worldview contrasts the constructivist one as “everything about the real world lies out there to be discovered.”
  • Popper_Science is as speculative as other disciplines
  • Feyerabend_ science is much more creative than is stereo-typically assumed
  • Latour & Woolgar_have exposed the the human, interested, motivated world of the science laboratory that is usually excluded from accounts of scientific inquiry
  • Bloor: all kinds of knowledge is motivated and arises in a context of values and beliefs. Many scientific or sociological advances are themselves based on ungrounded assumptions, or on a persuasive narrative, in favor of a particular position at the expense of the alternatives. “Unmotivated decisions are impossible”

ACTIVITY THEORY: An activity is an organized set of actions that combine together to construct our reality; activities are central to our knowledge production; activities are considered as corresponding methods in research and the worldview within which these activities are perceived as meaningful by the actors who deploy them, as methodologies. Methodologies are value and belief sets that provide an interpretative framework for understanding the impact and significance of those activities.

Activity situated in a social context and in an interpretative community of users provides us with evaluative tools, not only for assessing the appropriateness of the proposed methods, but also of assessing the appropriateness of data (…) one can use an activity-theoretic account to explain why an architectural activity is appropriate in response to an architectural question, i.e. a question posed in the context of architecture; or one can use it to identify the architectural worldview and values within which a response is perceived as meaningful by the interpretative community of architects (..) it is false to assume that data alone, or evidence-based assessment, has the potential to point us towards a single narrative or argument leading to an incontrovertible conclusion in research.

By legitimizing alternative ways of interpreting data, and indeed what we might accept as data, the field of architectural research is given a voice with which to express alternative socio-cultural values and to describe how these values give rise to alternative, productive insights and understandings to traditional models of academic research, i.e. significant research outcomes, based in professional practices, which have potential impact.

Science tries to make claims about an external world that exists independently of the observer/ The sociologist is interested in the social interaction of human beings that includes the opinions and personalities of the individuals concerned, it is essentially a science of the social world rather than a science of the material world

 

References

Biggs, M.A.R., 2014. An Activity theory of research methods in architecture and urbanism. In City, Territory and Architecture 2014, 1:16, http://www.cityterritoryarchitecture.com/content/1/1/16

Image available here

#The City we need

ROCCO

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

HABITAT III, Quito/ New Urban Agenda

NEW URBAN AGENDA

It presents a shared vision/ a paradigm shift based on the science of cities (…) The following articles are indicative of the document’s content:

VISION

  • 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

PRINCIPLES

  • 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

 

References

New Urban Agenda, 2017. United Nations, Habitat III Secretariat

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

Image available here

Funding the Cooperative City by D. Patti & L. Polyak

FUNDING THE COOP

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. 

 

References

Daniela Patti & Levente Polyak (eds.), 2017. Funding the Cooperative City: Community Finance and the Economy of Civic Spaces, Vienna: Cooperative City Books

Funding the Cooperative City is a research and advocacy project initiated by the Rome- Vienna-Budapest-based organisation Eutropian.

Image available here

Circular Buiksloterham report

landscape-architects-urbanism

This report contains the final results of a study on Buiksloterham’s potential to
become a leading example of Circular City development in Amsterdam. The study was commissioned and executed by a consortium of local stakeholders who are active in the area of Buiksloterham and see its potential as a global example for a new kind of sustainable urban development (…) Though Buiksloterham is unique in Amsterdam, it also has many features that make it a good case study for the transformation of other post-industrial neighborhoods in cities around the world (…) Its polluted lands and open spaces can become the center of the implementation of new clean technologies and a hub for the closure of urban material cycles. The activities needed to close these local material flows can be used as a driver for local industry and the strengthening of local social networks.

Action Plan

  • Designate Buiksloterham as an official experimental zone or Living Lab
  • Develop an inclusive governance and management structure for Buiksloterham
  • Create new incentive structures and financial vehicles
  • Build capacity for urban sensing and open data
  • Implement a Circular Neighborhood Action Plan

Technical Interventions

  • Fully Renewable Energy Supply
  • Water Innovation
  • Alternative Mobility
  • Soil as Natural Capital
  • Close the Loop

Full Report and Image available here

Artist (Residency) and the City (article)

ARTISTS AND THE CITY

Arrow Factory founders Pauline Yao, Rania Ho and Wang Wei standing in their space, mid-bricking, August 2017.

Introduction by Livia Alexander

Art and artists today are identified as a key instrument in urban development and community planning (…) Artists are being invited to engage in the most unexpected corporate settings, recognized as critical, outside-the-box thinkers as business entrepreneurs are enlisting their services to propel innovation and growth. Government officials and departments are deploying artists to address pressing problems of public policy and governance. These developing practices frequently take the form of artists working in newly formed residencies situated in communities, business places, government offices and a wide range of other settings (…) Are there ways for art programs to build the communities, and wealth for the people already living in them?

The article sets out to respond via five examples:

  • Community-Based Artist Residencies in China, by Kira Simon Kennedy
  • The African Artists’ Foundation, by Azu Nwagbogu
  • The Sharing Economy that Keeps Brooklyn Artists Going, by Livia Alexande
  • Social Drawing as a Model for Community-First Engagement, by Francesca Fiore &
  • Amsterdam: Counting our Precarious Blessings?, by Nat Muller

Full article available here

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) was pioneered in the 1980s by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva, two professors at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University (…) Its assumption is simple: Every human system has something that works right–things that give it life when it is vital, effective, and successful (..) AI begins by identifying this positive core and connecting to it in ways the heighten energy, sharpen vision, and inspire action for change (1)

 

AI is a fundamental shift in the overall perspective taken throughout the entire change process to ‘see’ the wholeness of the human system and to “inquire” into that system’s strengths, possibilities, and successes (2)

 

Positive Core: human systems grow in the direction of their persistent inquiries, and this propensity is strongest and most sustainable when the means and ends of inquiry are positively correlated (…) the future is consciously constructed upon the positive core strengths of the organization (…) Discovery: to identify and appreciate the best of “what is.” (…) Dream: to imagine and envision its future (…) Design: attention turns to creating the ideal organization in order to achieve its dream (…) Destiny:  delivers on the new images of the future and is sustained by nurturing a collective sense of purpose (…) Stakeholders are invited into an open-space planning and commitment session during this phase (3)

 

References

  1. The center for Appreciative Inquiry, available here 
  2. Stavros, J., Godwin, L., & Cooperrider, D., (2015). Appreciative Inquiry: Organization Development and the Strengths Revolution. In Practicing Organization Development: A guide to leading change and transformation (4th Edition), William Rothwell, Roland Sullivan, and Jacqueline Stavros (Eds). Wiley
  3. David Copperrider and Associates: What is Appreciative Inquiry?, full article available here

Image available here

ZARCH Publication now available!

cover_issue_188_es_ES

I am very pleased to see our articlePedagogical approaches to embodied topography: a workshop that unravels the hidden and imaginary landscapes of Elaionas,‘ get published in ZARCH Journal and I am also very happy to share this with you. It is based on a collaborative project that began in 2015 with Prof. Nelly Marda and Christos Kakalis from the University of Newcastle along with the students of our postgraduate course in NTUA.

The article highlights the importance of mapping in urban design and uses the concept of embodied topography to describe how activating the human body through a series of sensory motor tasks can help individuals immerse themselves in the landscape to acquire a better understanding of the urban phenomena. This process is presented here as a tool of mapping and managing the complexity of the urban landscape as it enables the individuals to recover the more hidden or even imaginary aspects of the city and their own relation to it.

As this is an ongoing research I hope that there will be plenty of opportunities to discuss what we are doing with more people involved in this kind of research in urban design. So, feel free to comment and write back your own experiences on the matter.

ZARCH: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Architecture and Urbanism, Num. 8, image available here

The culture of architectural competitions in Europe


Architectuur Lokaal along with A10 new european architecture cooperative have published their latest results of an EU Survey regarding architectural competitions in Europe. This issue constitutes their primary contribution to the discourse and is presented in this international conference in Amsterdam today. I am very happy to be part of this audience and share insights with the rest of the team. This volume is a valuable tool in understanding how the competition system works in Europe and I look forward to the next phase! 
The research is an ongoing project of Architectuur Lokaal and is programmed to be implemented over a period of four years with the aim to improve access to competitions, to analyze procedures, to establish a network of organizations and to collect case studies of good and bad practice. 


Images (c) Indira Van’t Klooster

Urban Design as a Catalyst for Advancing Architectural Education by Joongsub Kim

 Architecture

This paper underlines the potential urban design has for architectural curricula. It also explains why an urban design course is a better choice for the experimental study of architectural blended learning as online technology enables the inclusion of a greater number of resources and stakeholders to be part of the learning process.

 

Urban design (replaced ‘civic design’ in 1960’s) plays a role in not only establishing the infrastructure and the underpinnings for building design, but also in bridging the gap between architecture and other disciplines that apply principles of urbanism in various ways (…) Urban design is an interdisciplinary profession, integrating urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, environmental studies, and the social sciences (…) Urban design is, arguably, more process-oriented

 

Four approaches to advancing architectural education and pedagogy:

  • facilitating: promoting consensus about design/place making (place  intended a. as a set of visual attributes/ b. as product/ c. as process/ d. as meaning) is inherently multi-faceted, urban design incorporates more players and interests and UD is more likely to offer diverse tools to handle such a process/ place as meaning deals with subjective perceptions as translated from group experiences/ many scattered views maybe combined into a more unified, shared vision through consensus-based design, architects act as facilitators rather than directors
  • grounding: promoting logical underpinning, inquiry by design, and evidence-based design/ managing and making sense of complex information (process based)/ studying how a place looks-functions-is influenced, how it makes people feel (the spirit of a place)/ basic techniques of grounding are to be found in contextualised findings (infrastructure-networksbuilt env.-biogenic env.)/ designers in this case respond to questions asked during study-they keep searching for a design rationale
  • convening: promoting social design/ desirable places provide us with public meaning and positive environmental sociability/ it pointedly addresses the needs of underrepresented individuals in design- service learning and thinking of architecture as public art/ this approach envisions place as a final ‘product’ with tangible attributes
  • designing therapeutically: promoting a holistic environmental sensibility/ desirable places foster the holistic well-being of place users, urban designers reduce environmental stresses/ New Urbanism and Green Building/ a desirable sustainable design or sustainable urbanism goes beyond dealing with physical and environmental considerations, rating systems, and energy concerns to address social and psychological concerns

 

References

  • Joongsub Kim, 2009. Urban Design as a Catalyst for Advancing Architectural Education, in ARCC Journal Vol 6, issue 1

Image available here

Teddy Cruz-Fonna Forman

Chicoco Radio _en cours_Port Hartcourt, Nigéria

Teddy Cruz has spent a number of years studying the growing divisions and inequalities evident in the neighboring communities of Tijuana and San Diego in the region spanning the US/mexico border. He claims:

It is, in fact, in the most depressed, disenfranchised and underrepresented neighborhoods that some of the more interesting social and political agendas have begun to emerge (…)  In slums and other informal spaces, there are certain procedures— social, political, and economic actions, exchanges, and transactions —that suggest an alternative political economy (…) The notion of the neighborhood as a site of experimentation is fundamental to rethinking our institutions in the wake of the economic crisis (…) This is what I consider to be the political in art or architecture: not the production of political architecture, but the construction of the political itself, towards an architecture of social relevance (…) I’m not interested in the image of the informal, but rather what’s behind it: the procedural, political, social, and economic characteristics of a place, and the process of translating them into operational devices that enable us to rethink urbanization

 

Link 01Link 02Link 03/ Link 04/ Link 05/ Image 

Urban Memory Infrastructure by Ben Vershbow and Shannon Mattern

TreeCensus

NYPL Labs’ work provide a new, and deeper, understanding of city streets, buildings, and society, over centuries of change (…) Turning vast collections into usable data, connecting maps, photographs, menus and community memories, NYPL Labs created a series of multilayered projects that point the way to a new information ecosystem.

Full article available here/ Image available here