Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Stadtraum - UrbanDiary


The data collection in Basel is well under way and the second series of participants are now collecting data for the study. For ten people we already have a complete set of two month of tracking data using the new GPS trackers.

There are a number of very interesting observations that has been made also in comparison with the previous study undertaken in London. The scale differences are striking what is a regular commute is completely different. It might be on average one hour for Londoner, but is probably stretched for Basler if it is thirty minutes. As a consequence work and leisure journeys do tend to much more similar in Basel than in London where certain trips have a stronger specification.
However there are a lot of similarities too. Foremost the extension of the direct and persistent interaction in the urban realm is very much directed and selective. There is in both cases a strong local activity around the 'known' territory.

The study was also presented to representatives of the Basel Department of Town Planning who were interested to hear about the research undertaken. A summary of the presentation can be previewed below, it is in German though, but there are enough images to illustrate and communicate.



Essentially it explains the method and uses illustration taken from all three sample studies in London, Plymouth and London. The Basel data is still in development so only some preliminary information could be provided. However the maps 'drawn' by the participants using the GPS, beautifully illustrate the focus each individual puts on the city.

UDp_Basel_101026
Image by urbanTick / Visualisation of GPS tracked movement in Basel, Switzerland. The nine different individuals have been tracked over a longer period and it beautifully shows the individual focus on the city that is developed.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Urban Portrait - Identification


Get your head out and pump up the volume. While vizzing around on ground level following everyday trails from one spot to the next one the overall picture might sometimes get a bit lost. But there are these moments when al of a sudden the sky clears up and things become clear, the focus sharpens and the pattern emerges. While leaving the hedgerows and brick walls far beneath one gets to see what is really out there. The beast we are battling while trying to establish a routine that in the end only lasts while we are on it. So what does it look like then, the urban legend?

city portrait
Images by Volk / 'The city of sounds, the city of words'

The more you start to identify with the city you live in, I guess the more you become like the city and the city becomes like you. And once more 'You are the City'.

The graphic was produced by Enrico Bonafede from Volk Graphic Studio. It was produced for Radio Citta' Futura.

city portrait
Images by Volk / 'The city of sounds, the city of words'

via urbansynergies.ca

Monday, 18 October 2010

Micropatches - an Ecology of Space


----
Wrapping up the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.
----


IMG_9399
Image by Krystian Czaplicki / Thruth - london england (2008).

----
Click the image to read this post on DPR-Barcelona
----

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Zoom in, zoom out Focusing our cities under a microscope


----
A post by DPR-Barcelona, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.
----


IMG_9399
Image taken from earth.geologist / Polarising microscope, wild M21.

----
Click the image and read this contribution on Urban Lab Global City.
----

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Connectivity and Sustainability in 21st Century Cities


----
A guest post by Duncan Smith, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.
----


Connectivity and Sustainability in 21st Century Cities
Transportation is only one domain of urban sustainability, yet it is a critical aspect as connectivity is (arguably) the fundamental social and economic purpose of cities. Furthermore transportation has widespread consequences for urban quality of life, and of course for energy use and carbon emissions. This discussion is a reflection on a talk given by Prof Michael Wegener at CASA UCL.
The history of urbanism is one of massively increasing mobility, both within urban regions and between them in terms of travel, trade and globalisation. The graph below illustrates the dramatic change in vehicle miles over the last fifty years in the UK. This has been enabled by greatly reduced costs of motoring, through unprecedented fossil fuel exploitation and growth in the global car industry. Yet this change is fundamentally a result of social behaviour, that is the desire of people to maximise their opportunities and choice by using increased mobility to live, work, shop and socialise over greater and greater distances.

travelDistance_01
Figure taken from Department for Transport, 2009b / UK total travel distance by mode 1952-2008.

Wegener argues this era of increased mobility has ended. The threat of anthropogenic climate change compels us to massively reduce transportation carbon emissions, and commitments made for example at the EU level to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 require massively reduced motorised travel and subsequently mobility. The second strand to this argument comes from the finite nature of oil supplies and the inevitable price increases as global supplies dwindle. Unfortunately these demands are in sharp contrast to major economic trends of increased globalisation, with greater interaction between cities, and specialisation with intensive spatially segregated economic functions requiring greater travel. Current urban form solutions to this potential conflict revolve around ideas of ‘networked’ and ‘polycentric’ cities, with multiple nodes closely integrated through public and active transport links.
Just as modernism fetishised speed and motorisation, technological fixes to urban transportation sustainability are constantly promoted and are always just around the corner. Amazing innovations in electric drive train vehicles can remove local pollution from cities, but will not overcome energy and carbon emission challenges. A more radical overhaul of the automobile is required. The humble pedestrian, bicycle and the tram/streetcar currently remain the best tools we have for providing connectivity and liveability, and the most successful cities for sustainable travel (e.g. Copenhagen, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Munich..) prioritise these modes. Progress relies on planning and design that enables connectivity through less energy intensive means, as well as a political consensus to tax fossil fuels, which research shows is the powerful means of influencing travel behaviour.

----


Duncan Smith is a researcher in GIS and urban geography at CASA UCL, completing a PhD on the topic of polycentric urban form and sustainable development. He also works as a research fellow at the Greater London Authority Economics Unit.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Can Ecological Urbanism be a planning tool for an ecologically sustainable and liveable world?


----
A post by Annick Labeca, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.
----


IMG_9399
Image by footprintnetwork.org / United Arab Emirates’ Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity.

----
Click the image and read this contribution on DPR-Barcelona
----

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Book - Small Scale - from an Ecology of Space


----
A post by urbanTick, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.
----


barnet_greenbelt
Image taken from virgin / Don't go Zombie ... Go Virgin Trains.

----
Click the image and read this contribution on Urban Lab Global Cities
----

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Dross and Stim in Hertfordshire


----
A guest post by Martin Gittins from Kosmograd newsfeed, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.
----



For a while, I was contemplating buying the Last House in London. It appealed to me, the idea of living at the very edge of the city, as far north as it is possible to go, on the outskirts of High Barnet. But on closer inspection it turns out that it isn't the edge of the city at all. Next to the house is a cemetery, then a paddock and stable, and a little further on 2 golf courses. Then there are a couple of fields before you get to a pub, then the estate of Dyrham Park Country Club (one of a string of large country estates encircling London), then a gypsy encampment, the M25 motorway, and the curious environs of South Mimms, a village consumed by a motorway service station.

barnet_greenbelt
Image taken from Google Maps / The area to the north of High Barnet appears to be lush, verdant, sward, but on closer inspection reveals a hidden urbanism.

The city has a fractal edge, bleeding urbanity into the countryside, which conversely seeps tendrils of nature into the city. Yet our innate desire to see town and country as two separate realms means that at the edge of cities this landscape becomes a strange hinterland, a secretive fictive space. Development here is almost always ad-hoc, piecemeal, a gradual process of urbanisation - a garden centre or golf course as a vanguard - with the occasional flurry of infrastructural activity, usually a new road, a moment of intensification, seeding new developments.

Interwar planning dogma in the UK threw up the Green Belt (London and Home Counties) Act 1938, designed to stop the untramelled growth of London into the country, to protect against urban sprawl. It arose after vigorous campaigning from the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, and carried with it the overtones of protecting the wealthy country folk, the landed gentry, from the great unwashed lumpenproletariat. (For a town planner Abercrombie was a secret ruralophile). The Green Belt became a politicised landscape, the buffer zone between the haves and have nots. It was a concept that was soon adopted by other metropolitan areas of Britain and then exported to the world.

london_greenbelt
Image on the left taken from Building Land UK, image on the right taken from treehugger / The Green Belt was exported from London to the rest of the world.

Iain Sinclair, in the wonderful London Orbital, wrote:
"By the time Londoners had seen their city bombed, riverside industries destroyed, they were ready to think of renewal, deportation to the end of the railway line, the jagged beginnings of farmland. Patrick Abercrombie's Greater London Plan 1944 (published in 1945) still worked through concentric bands: the Inner Urban Ring (overworked, fire-damaged), the Suburban Ring (to which inner-city casualties would migrate), the green belt (ten miles beyond the edge of London), and the Outer Country Ring, which would extend to the boundary of the regional plan.

Visionary maps, in muted Ben Nicholson colours, were produced. Lovely fold out abstractions. Proposals in soft grey, pale green, blue-silver river systems. But as always with the blood circuit of ring roads, the pastoral memory ring at the edge of things, at the limits of our toleration of noise and speed and grime. There must, said William Bull (in 1901) be 'a green girdle around London's Sphere ... a circle of green sward and trees which would remain permanently inviolate'".


greater_london_plan
Image taken from CBRD website / Abercrombie's 1944 Greater London Plan. View larger image HERE.

Post WW2, with London and other urban areas ravaged by bomb damage and with a large displacement of people, a new vision of London arose. It was led by Abercrombie's 1943 County of London Plan, followed in 1944 by the Greater London Plan, and led to the New Towns Act of 1946, with its plan for the extensive enlargement or creation of a ring of towns around London within the Green Belt. Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield were the three designated towns in Hertfordshire.

abercrombie
Image taken from CBRD website / Part of Abercrombie's County Plan of 1943. View larger image HERE.

welwyngardencity
Image taken from BBC / Welwyn Garden City was founded by Ebenezer Howard but expanded as part of the New Towns Act.

New Towns, heavily inspired by Ebenezer Howard's Garden City Movement, were conceived as places that would not be allowed to grow too big, and maintain a healthy relationship between Town and Country. Certainly Howard thought that Garden Cities could be self-sustaining communities, solipsistic enclaves, with just enough people to support just the right amount of amenities, light industry and offices, enough to provide employment for all the inhabitants. It's a concept that was also mooted for the flawed ecotowns boondoggle of the late 2000s in the UK. But, inevitably, any town is plugged into an infrastructure larger than itself, and so there is a network of transport links, water and sewage systems, power lines and telecoms links that has grown up to meet the needs of these towns.

junctions
Image taken from CBRD website / 3 types of arterial road junctions. Abercrombie's Greater London Plan included proposed layouts of road junctions, but gave little thought to what might happen around these junctions, outside of the city.

This infrastructural life support system criss-crosses the green-belt, connecting the towns of Hertfordshire together and plugging them into the beating heart of London. Physically it also carves the landscape into a number of small, leftover spaces. It is into these leftover space that secret urbanism seeps in, the parasitic typologies of golf courses, garden centres, caravan parks, and those other things that spring up along transport interchanges, such as business parks, retail parks, travel hotels, distribution warehouses. The Green Belt seems in places to be little more than one or two fields that keep a satellite town, Bushey, Potters Bar, Broxbourne, from merging into the Great Wen of London.

london_colney
Image taken from Geograph.org.uk / The Green Belt, as it is today. Retail park, London Colney.

'Abolish the green belt' is an provocative clarion call that periodically raises the hackles of the folks in the Shires, the Home Counties home guard, whether it comes from design figureheads like Kevin McCloud or anti-establishment tyros like James Heartfield. The problem with a Green Belt is that it does nothing to really save the countryside from the encroachment of the city, and instead of presenting sprawl, actually encourages it. But rather than simply abolish it, we need to recognise it for what it has become, and design within it.

The green belt has become not a verdant sward of pastoral beauty but an interzone of pure infrastructure. Instead of resisting the growth of the city, and pretending the resulting drosscape doesn't exist, a new form of continuous urbanism is required, one that can operate at a variety of densities, with points of stim and dross, to use Lars Lerup's terms, more consciously defined.


References
Sinclair, Iain, (2002) "London Orbital", London: Granta Publications
Lerup, Lars (1995) "Stim & Dross: Rethinking the Metropolis." Assemblage 25, Cambridge & London. MIT Press


----


Martin Gittins writes the Kosmograd newsfeed, a blog largely about architecture, disurbanism and urban identity, viewed primarily through the lens of Soviet Constructivism. Trained as an architect, but now working in the field of interactive design, Martin lives in north London with Ms Kosmograd, 3 children and a collection of bicycles. Martin spends most weekends cycling around Hertfordshire considering the 'problem' of London. Martin also writes occasionally at SuperSpatial.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Techno-friendly or Techno-lazy


----
A guest post by Luis Suarez from estudio-arq, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.
----


IMG_9399
Image taken from Saidaonline / Balloon helps Parisians breathe easy By Jim Bittermann, CNN September 20, 2010 9:15 p.m. EDAir de Paris balloon tells Parisians whether the quality of the air is good, bad or indifferent.

----
Click the image and read this contribution on DPR-Barcelona
----

Monday, 11 October 2010

Ecological Urbanism - Design Explorations Through Systems Mapping


----
A guest post by Jonathan Kendall, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.
----


UD01_10_CrisMitry_007
Image by Cris Mitry / A view of the extended viewpoint area and the social element of the scheme - commmunity allotment gardens. MA Urban Design project 2010.

----
Click the image and read this contribution on Urban Lab Global Cities
----

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Periplastic


----
A guest post by David Bruce from davidbrucestudios.com, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.
----



Space is the periplastic medium of the city; forming as necessary to meet the needs of an ever-changing society. Ideas developed by Lefebvre, Gottdiener, Deluze and Bachelard are among those that shape the foundation of contemporary architectural and urban practice. At the height of the urban experiment lie far reaching goals articulated through computational geometries applied to the architectural form. Yet in the wake of these new and engaging visions for the future we remain deeply rooted in existing physical infrastructures and traditional means of engagement. So what does it mean to reconfigure the space of the city in relation to ecological urbanism? And how do everyday citizens, including artists, designers and other professionals, work together to explore new ideas and affect change as we develop the ecological ethos necessary to generate the “new ethic and aesthetic of the urban”?

These are broad questions that require a multidisciplinary approach in order to address complex social, cultural, political and environmental aspects of space in the city. As an artist with an ear to the ground of this discourse I am drawn to spaces where people interact to creatively address these issues. Contemporary artists often work to alter existing infrastructures and create new sites where everyday people engage new ways to view the city. These spaces contribute to the diversification of the everyday experience and in doing so increase the richness of urban environment.

John Roloff’s conceptual studies of piers 15-17 in San Francisco, CA offer a brief insight on this subject. Roloff was trained as a geologist in the 60’s. Over the past 50 years he has employed his knowledge of environmental systems to create art. His work examines relations between man and nature through an array of projects situated somewhere between art, research science and architecture. He specifically engages the concept “synthetic ecology” while integrating a systemic awareness of ecological processes with the built environment. For Roloff, “Synthetic ecology morphs into trans-scientific forms of empathetic aesthetics, meta-ecology, and themes of alignment, indivisibility and equilibrium between living and non-living systems.” As a point of entry into the spatial inquires of ecological urbanism this idea captures something beyond the typical discourse on sustainability to bridge the gap between aesthetics and pragmatism.

I became specifically interested in Roloff’s studies for this site due to a strategic inversion of the pier assembly. The proposed inversion is a didactic sculptural maneuver. It exposes the hidden dimension of the pier’s structural elements by reassembling them upside down on top of the pier along with representations of the marine and terrestrial strata through which the pylons pass. This upturning of the spatial and structural character of the pier creates a site of exposure. The mundane aspect of passage over, onto and off of a pedestrian element of the bay’s infrastructure is suspended by an intrusion of the unusual; an infrastructural presence that punctuates a moment of aesthetic reflection.

johnRolloff_pier15-17
Image by John Roloff / Future Exploratorium Site: Pier 15/17, San Francisco, CA

Roloff’s inversion offers a window to the larger questions approached through this series. As concepts of ecology, systems theory and cybernetics transform our perception of the city how do everyday citizens access the infrastructural counterparts of these concepts? If methods of production are subject to mystification, veiling and erasure then how can we expect everyday “users” to develop an awareness of these mechanisms, participate in a dialogue about them and in turn cultivate the ethos necessary for real transformation? In the case of these questions Roloff’s maneuver provides a starting point and a valuable strategy for an exposition of urban complexity. Were there strategically excavated sections of a streetscape exposing below ground systems and the layering of asphalt, concrete, and rubble used to establish a foundation, or meticulously carved away cross sections through the city, these ruptures in the urban matrix could give rise to a new aesthetic appreciation for the complexity of our daily environment; in turn creating new public sites where ideas surrounding urbanism become prevalent topics of discussion. Gordon Matta-Clark was a pioneer of this aesthetic procedure. His “building cut” installations of the 1970’s garnered attention throughout the art, design and architectural community worldwide. What I imagine could be conceptualized as an extension of his procedures into a far more dense amalgamation of civic infrastructure to produce an overwhelming sense of exposure capable of engaging the everyday citizen in new ways of looking at the city.

gordon_matta-clark
Image by Gordon Matta-Clark, “Building Cuts” 1970’s

Strategies like Roloff’s inversion or Clark’s building cuts can be designed to function as public sites in which the evolution of building systems, materials and technologies can be highlighted and directly experienced. They are sculptural marks that create windows into the hidden dimension of urban ecosystems as well as primary reconfigurations of the urban matrix that open the system to new possibilities; Roloff’s seeks to inform while Clark’s seeks to disrupt. Both strategies can be of use to the artist, architect and planner aligned with sustainable practices because ecological urbanism must simultaneously seek to maintain some degree of coherence within the established social, political and economic systems, while at the same time challenge these structures in an effort to cultivate a new praxis.

While planning communities remain focused on practical transformations of the cities infrastructure with respect to ecological urbanism, today’s cities must have affordances for spatial experimentation like those presented above. Sites of adaptation, experimentation and exhibition are the materiel analogues of open source programming. Within the existing fabric of the city these sites are often relegated to interstitial spaces between commonly authorized uses. They go unnoticed until an unforeseen artist or subculture engages the site; marking or deploying an unplanned, unusual or unwanted incursion. Spaces like those mentioned above become socially, culturally and politically charged through the action of artists and designers who take an alternative approach to accepted modes of practice. But the marginal status of these spaces and practices is changing. Social entrepreneurs are cultivating, absorbing and transforming them into viable models for generating creative capital.

Scott Burnham is one of those entrepreneurs. Burnham charts innovation at the edge of urban culture. In 2008 he collaborated with Droog Design to curate Urban Play; a public exhibition of “3D Graffiti” placed in the streets and public spaces of Amsterdam. Burnham assembled a team of artists, architects and designers to collaborate in the creation of 12 innovative projects aimed at “Reversing the traditional approach to urban design, in which objects and areas are created explicitly to discourage public interaction and intervention, this collection of objects were created to encourage interaction and physical engagement by the public.”

urbanPlay
Image by Urban Play / 2008

Burnham’s approach is one of many aimed at advancing issues of urbanism and public engagement. In the past many of these works would have fallen into the category of gorilla art (and still would be were it not for their assimilation under the umbrella of a design festival). But as these incursions become more prevalent they gain momentum and take on a more mature role in mainstream culture. As the professional community continues to support a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving civic spaces will adapt and artists will continue to transform existing infrastructures into sites where diverse publics can experiment with new technologies, experience the new ways of imaging the city and generate new social relations that alter the urban lexicon.


----

David Bruce from davidbrucestudios.com is an artist living and working in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania while perusing a Masters Degree of Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. His current work revolves around changes in environmental perception and behavior in relation to urbanism, network culture and technology. He received his bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning with a minor in ecology from East Carolina University in 2003. Focusing curatorial interests on the intersection of art, architecture, and urbanism he plays an active role as gallery manager for Temple University’s Exhibition and Public Programs department.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Shepherds, Scouts and Experimentation


----
A guest post by Brett Milligan from FAD, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.
----


IMG_9399
Image taken from DPR-Barcelona / Joseph Beuys’ I Like America and America Likes Me, Manhattan interior, 1974. Artist Joseph Beuys spent three days sequestered in a room with a wild coyote. Props included felt blankets, gloves, a walking stick and copies of the Wall Street Journal.

----
Click the image and read this contribution on DPR_Barcelona
----

Friday, 8 October 2010

Art & Urbanism


----
A guest post by Pieter Vandendorpe from PYTR75, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.
----



image 0
Image by Xing Danwen / Urban Fiction, image 0 (detail) (2004)

----
Click the image and read more on Urban Lab Global City

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Beyond the City and Capitalism?


--
A guest post by Professor Colin Fournier, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.
--



Although the city attracts most of our attention in the discourse on sustainability, primarily on account of the undisputable fact that it consumes 75% of the world’s energy and produces 75% of its waste, one should not lose sight of the fact that it’s very existence has always implied, by definition, the opposite of sustainability. Historically, the splitting of the city from the country was the moment when, both symbolically and materially, the culture of non-sustainability became consecrated and took off.http://www.flickr.com/photos/40984848@N04/5058192720/

IMG_0187
Image by Colin Fournier / Las Vegas: nostalgia for the lost medieval city.

Towns and, later, cities were created as intentionally unsustainable singularities embedded within the productive landscape. They could take form in the first place - and continue to exist for centuries - only because they were supported by a vast hinterland, a "footprint" that grew larger and larger and continues to grow, almost exponentially. But is this process in itself necessarily a cause for concern? Is there not something positive about the division of labour, the splitting of roles between town and country, between built-up and non built-up land? Why do we now see so many projects - and some of them are highly sophisticated and well intentioned designs - suggesting the development of "urban agriculture" within the city fabric, i.e. the hybridising of town and country, when this amalgam is clearly not the optimal use of scarce resources, neither for the city nor from the point of view of food production?

The Experience of Recovery
Image by Professor CJ Lim / The Experience of Recovery.

What is of vital importance is for the whole mode of human settlement on this planet, town and country together, to become sustainable as a comprehensive system: sub-optimising any particular part individually cannot lead us to meet sustainability objectives comprehensively. The question has to be rephrased within a broader universe of discourse: it is not the sustainability of the city that we should be seeking to achieve, but that of the territory as a whole. The city alone cannot be sustainable, only the territory can. In our contemporary culture of globalisation, this territory, the relevant universe, has clearly become the planet itself, “spaceship earth”, as Buckminster Fuller already called it in the middle of last century, not some parochial segment of it, no matter how large. It is indeed not possible any longer to determine the size of the unit of space that could be considered sustainable: it is too late to do so because we are now globally connected, irrevocably.

As a result, such frequently used terms as "sustainable urbanism", "ecological urbanism", "eco-city" have become oxymorons, contradictions in terms leading to the perverse result that they may actually pre-empt the very possibility of a solution to the issues they claim to address, because the question is wrongly phrased, because the universe of discourse is wrongly defined, both conceptually and geographically. Not only do these terms give the false impression that the city could eventually, through careful design, be sustainable in itself, they also imply that cities are inevitable, that they are not only a currently predominant form of human settlement contingent on a particular set of socio-economic circumstances, but also the only possible one, the primary object to be analysed, the scene of the crime. But this is not the case: large cities have only been in existence for a relatively short period of time historically; they are a recent development dating back to the Industrial Revolution, related to very specific conditions of mass production and consumption. It is essential to look at the city as only one of several possible alternative forms of colonisation of the planet and to look carefully at these other forms of colonisation. In this respect, it may be also of considerable interest to analyse how other species have evolved to develop different kinds of habitats.

IMG_9399
Image by Colin Fournier / Las Vegas: liberty stranded in the sum of all unsustainable cities

It could well be that, despite lingering appearances to the contrary, cities are no longer, as massive concentrations of concrete, glass and steel, the key components of our contemporary mode of settlement on this planet. As our economic system has understood and is exploiting fully, our settlements have actually shifted paradigm: their reality is constituted of interconnected networks linking such diverse elements as cities, arable land, forests, oil fields, coastal ecologies and even outer space, within a vast global system. The recent oil slick in the gulf of Mexico is as much part of the ecology of Manhattan as a traffic jam on 5th avenue, suggesting that "Global sustainability", as Fuller anticipated, may be the only relevant term to use. Global systems are made up of intersecting and reconfigurable realms of which cities are only a part, and maybe no longer the most significant part.

Believing that the city as we know it is our only possible form of human settlement, although it is possibly already in the process of shifting, leads us to perpetuate the phenomenon of rural-urban migration from which so much of the world’s problems originate, environmentally, socially and economically.

Fuller floating city
Image taken from DPR-Barcelona / Buckminster Fuller designed this tetrahedronal floating city for Tokyo bay in the 1960′s.

Believing, also, that capitalism is our only possible form of ideology and political system may be the other key obstacle preventing us from successfully achieving the goals of sustainability. This underlying political issue is seldom raised by designers and urbanists, although it is clear that while sustainability requires long term planning in the interest of society as a whole, the ideology of capitalism, at least in its pure form, encourages short term profits in the interest of the few, irrespective of the resultant social, economic and environmental damage to our planet. This fundamental divergence of goals raises the key question of whether sustainability can ever be achieved under capitalism as we know it or whether a profound mutation of our political system would be needed, both in terms of its underlying ideology and in terms of its praxis. Since it has shown so far a remarkable ability to survive and recuperate dissent, capitalism will most probably find ways of adjusting to the different set of goals required by the search for sustainability: it is already changing, to ensure its own sustainability, but will these adjustments be sufficient?


--

Prof. Colin Fournier is Director of the MArch course in Urban Design at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, University College London. He joined UCL in 1996, where he has also been directing a Diploma unit. He is the co-designer, with his partner Peter Cook, of the new museum of modern art of the city of Graz, Austria. He was Bernard Tschumi´s partner for the planning and design of the Parc de la Villette project in Paris and was the former Planning Director of Ralph M. Parsons Co. in the USA, in which capacity he planned and implemented several major new town projects and comprehensive development programmes.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

An Ecology of Space - Introducing the Second Ecological Urbanism Discussion


----
An introduction to the second series of the Ecological Urbanism discussion put together by Annick Labeca and urbanTick.
----



The Ecological Urbanism discussion series is back with a very exciting line up of contributors. It has been a while since the first series was hosted here on urbanTick back in May, but the topic has not faded, nor have any of the challenges disappeared from the league table of actualities.

In various formats across disciplines this summer has seen a multitude of debates, show, documentations, but also magazines, books, blog posts, wiki and even twitter messages or facebook statuses. Sustainability is hot, or cool, urgent, or desired, politics, or media, but it all helps. We are all in this together.

This second series is now hosted by Annick Labeca, DPR-Barcelona, Taneha Bacchin and urbanTick. The posts will rotate between the three platforms of Urban Lab Global City, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick. No worries we'll guide you well with pretty links. No need to search for it, we'll bring the discussion to you. We strongly believe in team work and collaboration, therefore a networked platform seemed appropriate for a dissuasion as complex and multidimensional as this one. Nevertheless this is an experiment so bear with us on this one.

WilliDorner@LisaRastl
Image taken from tanz im august / Bodies and the city by Compagnie Willi Dorner. Performance around the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

To quickly look back to the last series, where we focused on three different topics, social and society aspects, technology advantages and practice with a a total of nine contributions.
Aspects of sustainability and the social context were discussed by Luis Suarez and DPR who proposed the open formula based on the entropy of sustainability that puts the relational goods into a context. Annick Labeca examined that practice of R&Sie, pointing out how current practice could engage with the topic in a very creative and productive way and developing new solutions at the same time. The technology discussion was present through posts by Martin J. Callanan and Stanza. Where Callanan discussed the impact of technologies migrating from other fields in to the urban context showed Stanza the implementation of bottom up small scale urban sensors as independent units even allowing for interaction. Duncan Smith and Kiril Stanilov put the focus of their contributions towards the urban as a whole. Smith discussed the potential of an sustainable geography in the sense of an overview and clarifying approach to structure the discussion where Stanilov illustrated a comprehensive critique on the ongoing debate, reminding us of past attempts and their results.

Already in the first series it was important to integrate different perspective and a range of backgrounds and disciplines, more so it should be this time. The topic at hand is clearly to be addressed on all levels and in all aspects of activity and usage. In this sense we want to continue the discussion with a group of invited guests to share their angle on Ecological Urbanism and contribute to an collective approach.

As mentioned above this summer has seen the whole range of contribution to the topic. Not surprisingly the marketing branch has discovered the topic and quickly adapted. Term like sustainability have become a selling argument in a profit oriented society. A range of ‘promotion’ books started filling the shelves presenting specific planning companies under a sustainability aspect, see reviews HERE and HERE for example. This is to some extend positive, since it shows there some promotion for the discussion included, but sadly this makes, in the long run, look the discussion and even more so the term look really cheap. I guess this is already something ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable’, but also ‘ecological’ are struggling with.

However, there were some very good publications too, some of them not necessarily directly addressing the topic but proposing new processes as in ‘The urban Connection’ for example or indeed in ‘Grand Urban Rules’ or the ‘SpaceMatrix’. Also there was the ‘Infrastructural City’ book with a in depth discussion on mammoth. This is to link just a few.

One of the concerns and shifts we have discovered during and also after the first discussion is the heavy focus on technology throughout. Efficiency and smart solutions are in the foreground and get pushed quite intensively. That is to some extend because companies have realised that there is an opportunity to deploy their technology and make some money.
This has again different aspects to it. On the one hand it is a great way to develop technologies that push the state of the art and invent ‘greener’ solutions. On the other hand we see a lot of hitch hikers taking advantage of the topic.
What we now see is that technology however has taken over and dominates the discussion, leaving little room for other aspects of the topic. This is little surprising in the currently gadget obsessed urban culture, where the communication via ‘check in’ or ‘just checked in at...’ on the touch scree operates. So a few more sensors and an intelligent network of data collection and some really clever statistical visualisation drawn from a massive data base linking to multiple sources seems the appropriate answer. This is to a large extend not a new phenomenon in the practice of urban planning and is, as Kiril Stanilov discussed it in his post ‘Ecological Urbanism - Redesigning the City 2.0’, very much in the tradition of modernist city planning. Solving the urban problems employing technology has worked well in many areas and ha evolved dramatically. The machine city has been adapted into our everyday lives and the flaws and down hours ‘Ooops, something has gone wrong’ or ‘The city is over capacity’, are gracefully ignored. I guess this comes with the user agreement one has agreed to at sign-up. But this user attitude has its down sides. One is given the instructions on how to properly use on which one is constantly reminded and more importantly one is not part of it but a mere outsider and therefore not responsible. Does this city come with a warranty?

No, actually, it doesn’t and what ever you do will affect your city and your neighbours city. As opposed to the strengthening of the city as a well performing machine in a modernist sense we see the current series of the Ecological Urbanism discussion as a platform to explore potential aspects beyond just technology and the pure reduction of emission of one specific process.

conversions
Image taken from Oliver Bishop-Young's 'Skip Conversions: London, 2008. / Skates using the skip as a playground.

The second sequel on Ecological Urbanism focuses on space and the design thereof. This sequel is an opportunity to question how space, as a product of cultural and social organisation, has to be reconfigured in order to allow for a more sustainable performance.
Another aspect of space as the raw material in cities is the place of the so called ‘user’, the citizen as a fundamental part of the discussion. Ecological Urbanism begs an important question: how do (and will) we create, use and interact with urban space? This very much in the sense of the recent ‘Urban Interventions’ Book.

Discussing aspects of sustainability on a much more substantial level leads to interrogate crucial points such as the impact of environmental crisis on urban space. Issues among others water shortage, pollution, are much less developed. We all agree that a sustainable approach of urban design is needed to address existing and future cities. Can Ecological Urbanism be a response for a more livable city? Following the debate around Ecological Urbanism, this second series provide keys of understanding of existing cities and how they might be in the future. With a focus on space as the raw material in cities we want to discuss aspects of sustainability on a much more substantial level, as a change to how we create, use and interact with urban space and most important include the so called 'user' , the citizen as a fundamental part of the discussion. One aspect might be the social dimension of space in the way design can engage with people, involve them and let them take responsibility.

What we need to achieve is a balance of contribution and benefit in a very spatial sense, covering a lot more than the simple task of recycling materials or using energy responsible. Ecological Urbanism could cover the whole range, starting to understand the citizen as the essential element requiring them to act responsible in a spatial sense. Even though this sounds very 68, but taking care of the city ecology as a shared achievement via responsibility.

This mean of course negotiation and solving conflicts, but I am sure someone will come up with an iPhone or Android app for that. And yes I am very much aware that this call for more social space, more collaboration, more shared society responsibility comes at a rather awkward point in time. All the signs are on privatisation. World crisis, financial downturn, banks are losing money we have to cut the budget everywhere. The political wind has changed and large scale privatisation projects are back on track. Starting with schools, because the public transport has already been privatised, moving on to health and public services. So the city might well be next.

Actually, this is not far off and certainly projects in this direction are gaining momentum. Promising clean annual statistics, a healthy and happy population and of course prospering business conditions, various companies are lining up to secure a share with the new deal. Public space potentially could be worth something and there might well be a possible profit.


Note the cleaver use of extremely popular visualisation techniques. Basically you can find them all in this clip, there is animation, 3D rendering and CGI, tilt shift and time lapse.

IBM is one of these candidates, having just launched a new virtual city game called ‘CitieOne’ aimed at businesses and decision makers, but accessible online.
Funny enough it it focuses on four key areas ‘banking’, ‘water’, ‘energy’ and ‘retail’. Wow, now that’s a city. However for not to go too deep into criticising this project the key aspects are important to mention. The topics are clearly economical and take any cultural, social or health aspects as directly linked to ‘banking’. Also the introduction makes it clear how this new vision governed, the player is playing the role of the CEO. This is how you rule a city nowadays, the machine is no longer trying to hide beneath the surface of services it has become a factory, with ford style flexible working hours, but nevertheless a profit oriented,and cross financed by various shareholder groups, investment business.

This opens the discussion to include the aspects of collaboration, process and interdisciplinary. As Mohsen Mostafavi argued, Ecological Urbanism is essentially interdisciplinary. Collaboration with other fields, economics, technology, expertise, social sciences, ecology, botanics and even mathematics, opens new opportunities for existing cities and future cities. Similarly the traditional architecture and urbanism ways of thinking about cities and designing cities are obsolete.
As mentioned earlier in the introduction this is what we believe to be the essential element of the Ecological Urbanism discussion series, to get these various aspects into the discussion and bring the different disciplines to express their views and start developing new approaches. However this collaboration is a balancing act, where planners play a key role. Not some much because the city was traditionally their territory but because they could potentially play a negotiation and coordination role because of the way the training and education is structured. But to do so, they probably have to first find a way out of the identity crisis they are currently completely busy with.

With the focus on space and the role it could play in this discussion, we also want to touch on this topic and discuss the role of design as a profession and a contribution to culture and society in general but the city specifically.

In some sense we can look at Ecological Urbanism as a conduit, a transmitter and a receiver, constantly balancing out the progress of input and output from varying sources. Ecological Urbanism has to plays this dual role in order to perpetuate itself into practice and back.

So in this sense, the city is not a machine and neither is space. How can we configure an Ecological Urbanism that is not only an update to existing structures?

Another aspect of space as the raw material in cities is the place of the so called ‘user’, the citizen as a fundamental part of the discussion. Ecological Urbanism begs an important question: how do (and will) we create, use and interact with urban space?
Discussing aspects of sustainability on a much more substantial level leads to interrogate crucial points such as the impact of environmental crisis on urban space. Issues among others water shortage, pollution, are much less developed. We all agree that a sustainable approach of urban design is needed to address existing and future cities. Can Ecological Urbanism be a response for a more liveable city? Following the debate around Ecological Urbanism, this second series provide keys of understanding of existing cities and how they might be in the future.”

With this we would like to introduce the contributors to this second series of an Ecological Urbanism discussion. The contributors in order of appearance are: Colin Fournier Course, director Urban Design, the Bartlett, UCL, David Bruce from davidbrucestudios.com, Brett Milligan from FAD free association design, Marty from Kosmograd, Jonathan Kendall from Fletcher Priest Architects, Luis Suarez from estudia arq, Pieter from PYTR75, Duncan Smith, Annick Labeca from urban lab global cities, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Bacelona.
With this divers group of people from different backgrounds and currently undertaking very different activities/research/practice will be shaping not a specific point of view, but a multi angle perspective. On this can be built in many ways, beneficial as we think to respond to such a multitude of questions.


----
Contributors to this second series
----

Prof. Colin Fournier is Director of the MArch course in Urban Design at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, University College London. He joined UCL in 1996, where he has also been directing a Diploma unit. He is the co-designer, with his partner Peter Cook, of the new museum of modern art of the city of Graz, Austria. He was Bernard Tschumi´s partner for the planning and design of the Parc de la Villette project in Paris and was the former Planning Director of Ralph M. Parsons Co. in the USA, in which capacity he planned and implemented several major new town projects and comprehensive development programmes.

David Bruce from davidbrucestudios.com is an artist living and working in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania while perusing a Masters Degree of Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. His current work revolves around changes in environmental perception and behavior in relation to urbanism, network culture and technology. He received his bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning with a minor in ecology from East Carolina University in 2003. Focusing curatorial interests on the intersection of art, architecture, and urbanism he plays an active role as gallery manager for Temple University’s Exhibition and Public Programs department.

Brett Milligan is a practitioner, researcher, and educator and in the allied disciplines of landscape architecture and urbanism. He is the principal of the collaborative research practice of FAD free association design as well as a design instructor at The University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts, and formerly The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Brett’s research operates in the shared territories of urbanism, biotic infrastructure, applied ecology, and alternative modes of design practice.

Martin Gittins writes the Kosmograd newsfeed, a blog largely about architecture, disurbanism and urban identity, viewed primarily through the lens of Soviet Constructivism. Trained as an architect, but now working in the field of interactive design, Martin lives in north London with Ms Kosmograd, 3 children and a collection of bicycles. Martin spends most weekends cycling around Hertfordshire considering the 'problem' of London. Martin also writes occasionally at SuperSpatial.

Jonathan Kendall is Partner and Director of Urban Design at Fletcher Priest Architects where he has responsibility for the practice's masterplanning and urban design work. He is an architect by training, registered in the UK and Latvia. He has worked on a number of large scale urban projects including the Stratford City masterplan and the new urban centre of Riga. He was recently invited to act as international juror for Europan 10. For more than ten years, Jonathan has also taught on the MSc/MArch Urban Design programme at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. He has spoken at lectures and conferences around the world and has published articles in a wide range of professional journals.

Luis Suarez from estudia arq was born, in Bogotá, Colombia and graduated from The University of Florida in design, construction and planning in 2005. He received a master in science of urban design from The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Bioclimatic Architecture from The Isthmus School of Architecture for Latin America and the Caribbean. He is designing and building multiple projects in South and Central America with his established firm, Estudio ArQ.

Pieter Van den Dorpe from PYTR75 has (°1975, Belgium) graduated at Sint-Lucas school of Architecture in Ghent in 1999 and participated a postgraduate studie “architectural research”. He was a trainee architect at Sauerbruch-Hutton architekten (Berlin) after which he started his career as a project-architect at Christian Kieckens Architects and In&Out Architecture (Belgium). Currently he is project coördinator for the “Open Tender” architectural competition for the city of Ghent. His distinct interest in art, architecture & photography forms the foundation of his internationally known blog “pytr75.blogspot.com” since 2007. Ruimteruis.blogspot.com is a creative outlet to exhibit his experimental design ideas. The focus lies on form & space, architectural surfaces, light & shadow.

Duncan Smith is a researcher in GIS and urban geography at CASA UCL, completing a PhD on the topic of polycentric urban form and sustainable development. He also works as a research fellow at the Greater London Authority Economics Unit.

Annick Labeca from urban lab lobal cities is a researcher on Japanese cities based between Paris and Tôkyô. She has a deep interest on typomorphology and morphogenetic architecture.

Taneha Bacchin is a PhD researcher. She holds a Doctoral Fellowship sponsored by CAPES / Brazilian Ministry of Education for modeling the "co-evolution of cities and environmental crisis". Architect and urban planner (MArch) graduated with honour at IUAV University of Venice, Italy (2006) and MSc. in Spatial Planning & GIS at IUAV, Italy (2009). During her studies in Brazil, she has worked as a research assistant in urban planning and computation sponsored by CNPq / Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology. Since1996 she has worked in architectural and planning practices in Brazil, Italy and Denmark. At the IUAV University of Venice, she has been tutor for the BArch Final International Laboratory.

dpr-barcelona is a young and independent publishing company based in Barcelona, specialized in high quality architecture and design books. Focused on the work of emerging architects and designers and their innovative projects. With an international scope and founded by two architects, all of dpr_editorial books are product of a creative exchange between publisher, author and designer and with the collaboration of some experts that make most complete the overview about each project.

Monday, 4 October 2010

GPS and Twitter - Tracking in Urban Environments


I will be meeting with a group from Steer Davis Gleaves to discuss the value and possibilities of crowd sourcing daat for transport planning. We'll be focusing on twitter, but will also look at the GS stuff.






Street View Art - A Street With a View


What's this oversized feather and headless rooster in Google Street View doing on the free plot next to the road? It is actually a massive 'poulet' and it didn't get there by chance, did it?
As it stands Google Street View gets actually quite boring after the first rush of voyeurism has sort of worn out a bit, but there is something very exciting about this.

SWAV_chicken
Image taken from Google Street View / The chicken at Arch Street/Sampsonia Way crossing.

After these only two years since Google started rolling out the Street View 'service' it ha become so everyday that there is little excitement attached to it anymore. It is handy though at times.
I was reminded of the Street View 'service' a couple of days ago through the 'The Wilderness Downtown' project which reinterprets 'We Used To Wait' by Arcade Fire as a music video which was run through Google Chrome as an HTML 5 promotion. It is great though and producer Chris Milk makes good use of Street View. However, surprisingly few projects have really picked up on the service and used it as raw data or working tool. It has in certain field rather produced a sort of repulsion and anti Google projects were developed as in F.A.T.

However, in the early days, and this was back in 2008, a more subtile project was actually integrated directly with the raw data, the images recorded by the official Google Street Car. "On May 3rd 2008, artists Robin Hewlett and Ben Kinsley invited the Google Inc. Street View team and residents of Pittsburgh’s Northside to collaborate on a series of tableaux along Sampsonia Way." (StreetWithAView)

The resulting images still form part of the imagery accessible through the Google Map platform via Street View. Hewlett and Kinsley staged a series of street scenes around Sampsonia Way in Pittsburg including a Mad Scientists Lab or a Garage Band which was recorded by the passing Google Street View car.

The artists have arranged for a great variety of different activities or scenes across the relatively short length of the road. A complete list of scenes can be found HERE.

SWAV_science
Image taken from Google Street View / The mad scientists lab.

In the making of clip, below, the artists explain the idea. Note how they struggle to explain what Street View actually is: a sort of Quick Time VR for all the road in the city. By now this has changed and Street View as in how-it-works-what-it-is has become a brand and is a term at the same time. Much as Google is for finding something on the internet.



As such the project should actually have had more of an impact and could even in terms of city marketing have a relevance. The 'location factor' has in the past couple of years had a dramatic impact on location and place and the project beautifully illustrates how it could be performed on a rathe rough and globally accessible level.

More so, than opposing and attempting to legally argue about privacy, vintage point and the hight of a fence, communities could in a collaborative effort put together a live show of the neighbourhood and stage their local area as a place as unique and divers as the people who live in it. So get our friends together check the Google Street View car schedule and make up your story of the Neighbourhood. Now thats a show.

SWAV_parade
Image taken from Google Street View / The carnival scene