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Posts in category 'Urban development'

7 February 2013

Book: Beyond Smart Cities

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(Wow, it covers Turin!)

Beyond Smart Cities: How Cities Network, Learn and Innovate
Tim Campbell
Routledge, 2012

The promise of competitiveness and economic growth in so-called smart cities emphasizes highly educated talent, high tech industries and pervasive electronic connections. But to really achieve smart cities — that is to create the conditions of continuous learning and innovation — this book argues that there is a need to understand what is below the surface and to examine the mechanisms which affect the way cities learn and then connect together.

This book draws on quantitative and qualitative data with concrete case studies to show how networks already operating in cities are used to foster and strengthen connections in order to achieve breakthroughs in learning and innovation. Going beyond smart cities means understanding how cities construct, convert and manipulate relationships that grow in urban environments. The eight cities discussed in this book — Amman, Barcelona, Bilbao, Charlotte, Curitiba, Portland, Seattle, and Turin — illuminate a blind spot in the literature. Each of these cities has achieved important transformations, and learning has played a key role, one that has been largely ignored in academic circles and practice concerning competitiveness and innovation.

With Forewords by Dr Joan Clos, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, and Wim Elfrink, Executive Vice President and Chief Globalization Officer, Cisco

CONTENTS
1- Overview
2- The Slow Emergence of Learning Cities in an Urbanizing World
3- Cities as Collective Learners: What Do We Know?
4- A Gamut of Learning Types
5- Light on a Shadow Economy: City Learning in 53 Cities
6- Informal Learners—Turin, Portland and Charlotte
7- Technical Learning: Curitiba and City Think Tanks
8- Corporate Styles: Bilbao, Seattle and Others
9- Clouds of Trust in Style
10- Taking Stock: Why Some Cities Learn and Others Do Not
11- Turning the Learning World Upside Down— Pathways Forward in Policy and Research

THE AUTHOR
Tim Campbell has worked for more than 35 years in urban development with experience in scores of countries and hundreds of cities in Latin America, South and East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. His areas of expertise include strategic urban planning, city development strategies, decentralization, urban policy, and social and poverty impact of urban development. He is chairman of the Urban Age Institute, which fosters leadership and innovation between and among cities in areas of strategic urban planning, urban policy and management, sustainable environmental planning, and poverty reduction. Campbell retired from the World Bank in December 2005 after more than 17 years working in various capacities in the urban sector. Before joining the Bank, he worked for over 13 years as a private consultant and university professor. His consulting clients included private sector firms, governments, and international organizations. He taught at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. He lived in rural and small town Costa Rica for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

2 February 2013

Dan Hill’s critique of the smart cities movement

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Dan Hill (of CityofSound, ARUP, Sitra and now Fabrica fame) is not only extremely prolific, but his writing is also very much to the point.

His latest Smart City (or better “Smart Citizen”) manifesto is a case in point. Weighing in at 10,000 words, it is a “cleaned up” and “stitched together” version of two separate pieces he wrote for the London School of Economics and Volume magazine, which he is now sharing on his CityofSound blog as “one single critique of the smart cities movement”.

The goal, he says, is entirely constructive, and to shift the debate in a more meaningful direction, oriented towards the raison d’etre of our cities: citizens, and the way that they can create urban culture with technology.

The essay surveys three types of activities, and scenarios, demonstrating active citizens, noting some issues along the way, and then critiques the opposite—the production of passive citizens—before asking a couple of questions and suggesting some key shifts in attitude required to positively work with the grain of today’s cultures, rather than misinterpret it.

“The promise of smart sustainable cities is predicated on the dynamics of social media alloyed to the Big Data generated by an urban infrastructure strewn with sensors. Feedback loops are supposed to engage citizens and enable behaviour change, just as real-time control systems tune infrastructure to become more energy efficient. Social media dynamics enable both self-organisation and efficient ecosystems, and reduce the need for traditional governance, and its associated costs.

Yet is there a tension between the emergent urbanism of social media and the centralising tendencies of urban control systems? Between the individualist biases inherent within social media and the need for a broader civic empathy to address urban sustainability? Between the primary drivers of urban life and the secondary drivers of infrastructural efficiency?

And in terms of engaging citizens, we can certainly see evidence of increased interest in using social media for urban activism, from crowdfunding platforms to Occupy Everywhere and the Arab Spring. Yet does it produce any more coherence or direction for the new cultures of decision-making required in our cities, or simply side-step the question of urban governance altogether? And what if the smart city vision actually means that governance becomes ever more passive, as it outsources operations to algorithms or is side-stepped by social media, whilst citizens also become passive in response to their infrastructure becoming active? Or might they be too distracted to notice as they’re all trying to crowd-fund a park bench?”

Bruce Sterling’s reaction:

“*After reading this I feel that I understand myself better: I like *other people’s* cities. I like cities where I’m not an eager, engaged, canny urban participant, where I’m not “smart” and certainly not a “citizen,” and where the infrastructures and the policies are mysterious to me. Preferably, even the explanations should be in a language I can’t read.

*So I’m maximizing my “inefficiency.” I do it because it’s so enlivening and stimulating, and I can’t be the only one with that approach to urbanism. Presumably there’s some kind of class of us: flaneuring, deriving, situationist smart-city dropouts. A really “smart city” would probably build zones of some kind for us: the maximum-inefficiency anti-smart bohemias.”

20 January 2013

Book: Ethnography and the City – Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork

ethnography_and_the_city

Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork
Richard E. Ocejo (Editor)
Routledge, 2012, 272 pages
(Amazon link)

The only collection of its kind on the market, this reader gathers the work of some of the most esteemed urban ethnographers in sociology and anthropology. Broken down into sections that cover key aspects of ethnographic research, Ethnography and the City will expose readers to important works in the field, while also guiding students to the study of method as they embark on their own work.

> French book review by Daniel Cefaï

16 January 2013

Helsinki Design Lab closing in June 2013

hdl

Marco Steinberg, who directs the strategic design efforts of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, announced last week that Sitra’s Helsinki Design Lab will close in June 2013.

Helsinki Design Lab is an initiative by Sitra to advance strategic design as a way to re-examine, re-think, and re-design the systems we’ve inherited from the past.

According to Steinberg, “design at Sitra is shifting from a strategic to a service role. The current members of the design team (Bryan Boyer, Justin Cook, and myself*) are committed to strategic design and will therefore pursue this interest beyond Sitra. In the spring Sitra will hire for a new role to grow service design within the organization.”

[* The fourth member of the team, Dan Hill, left earlier, and is now the CEO of Fabrica in Treviso, Italy.]

During the next five months Brian, Justin and Marco will be converting the site into an archive of the most recent phase of HDL. The archive will be legible, free, and open, they write, so that the “work and experience of Helsinki Design Lab be useful not just for the next phase of design at Sitra, but for the community as well.”

The team is now compiling the case study research from Helsinki Design Lab 2012 into a forthcoming publication on stewardship, with a tentative publication date of May 2013. This completes the existing publication “Recipes for Systemic Change,” which you can download for free.

We can also expect a public event in Helsinki on June 10th, 2013.

Over the last years, Experientia has worked intensively – and to our great satisfaction – with Sitra and with the team of the Helsinki Design Lab in particular, through our involvement on the Low2No project. We wish Sitra and the HDL team the very best in the coming months and afterwards, and we are sure that we will find many ways to collaborate in the future.

(For more reflection on the closing, check also this post by Bryan Boyer).

5 December 2012

No one likes a city that’s too smart

Songdo smart city

This week London hosts a jamboree of computer geeks, politicians, and urban planners from around the world. At the Urban Age conference, they will discuss the latest whizz idea in high tech, the “smart city”.

“But,” writes Richard Sennett in The Guardian, “the danger now is that this information-rich city may do nothing to help people think for themselves or communicate well with one another.”

“A great deal of research during the last decade, in cities as different as Mumbai and Chicago, suggests that once basic services are in place people don’t value efficiency above all; they want quality of life. A hand-held GPS device won’t, for instance, provide a sense of community. More, the prospect of an orderly city has not been a lure for voluntary migration, neither to European cities in the past nor today to the sprawling cities of South America and Asia. If they have a choice, people want a more open, indeterminate city in which to make their way; this is how they can come to take ownership over their lives.”

28 November 2012

The skyscrapers of tomorrow: Experientia features in eVolo 2012 competition

eVolo2

Working together with Marco Visconti architects, Experientia has created a forward-looking skyscraper concept, addressing the theme of global warming.

The Visconti/Experientia skyscraper was created for the eVolo 2012 Skyscraper Competition, which encourages designers and architects to redefine skyscraper design through innovations in technology, materials, programs, aesthetics and spatial organisation.

Our entry is a building which is not only constructed with the latest in sustainable technology and methodology, but is also designed to evoke the idea of a melting glacier, reminding people of the urgent need to live more sustainably.

The building design aims to reduce energy demand through improved methods for heating and cooling, use of sustainable energy sources, and, where necessary, more efficient use of fossil fuels. Experientia’s contribution is the urban informatics approach to visualizing energy flows within the building.

The building is designed to be self-ventilating based on heat stacks and using passive heating and cooling mechanisms. Our approach visualizes these principles from the outside of the building.

The skyscraper design is a passion project for both Marco Visconti and Experientia. Marco Visconti is well-known in the field of sustainable architecture, searching in his work for the best relationship between man, energy and environment in architectural terms. Experientia works extensively on sustainability projects, exploring the links between behavioural change, technology and quality of life.

To see more of the Experientia/Visconti design, check out our original competition entry.

The skyscraper can also be seen in the limited edition poster of the eVolo 2012 Skyscraper Competition.

4 November 2012

Leaving our mark: What will be left of our cities?

neworleans

From our cities, to our farms, to our rubbish, humans have firmly stamped their mark across the planet.

Humanity’s impact on the globe is so great and varied that we have launched a new geological time period in the Earth’s history. Its name is the Anthropocene – the human epoch.

In part one of a two-part feature, Andrew Luck-Baker, from the BBC’s Radio Science Unit, explores the legacy our civilisation will leave in the rocks of the future. You can read part two here.

22 October 2012

How Xerox uses analytics, big data and ethnography to help government solve “big problems”

XEROX-Logo-copy-300x81

Through the application of analytics to Big Data, as well as ethnography — the design and implementation of qualitative field studies to observe cultural patterns — Xerox is answering important questions about traffic congestion, our reaction to it, and how city governments most effectively can provide services to address this and related needs.

To explore these issues, Ben Kerschberg of Forbes interviewed together Ken Mihalyov, Xerox Chief Innovation Officer for Transportation Central and Local Government; and David Cummins, SVP, Parking and Justice Solutions.

Here are the ethnography questions:

Q: At what point do you think technology reaches its limits and thus requires ethnography to make the program as efficient as possible?

Ken Mihalyov: I think we’ve found that we like to get ethnography involved as early in the process as possible. There are things that we can certainly accomplish with our algorithms and Big Data alone. We can look at the data and see trends that we would not otherwise see. Ethnography is a strong counterpart to looking at the data a certain way and drawing conclusions from it. We can confirm that we’re working on the right problem, that we haven’t missed something and that our interpretations are correct. Ethnography helps us confirm those factors and that we’re seeing the bigger picture that includes human interaction.

Q: I can imagine that ethnography could be as important to observing a manufacturing line as it is to dynamic parking. Do you think there is an over-reliance on Big Data without looking at important human elements such as expertise gained by years on the line or on the streets?

David Cummins: I’m not sure that it’s Big Data versus ethnography, but rather we’ve found that they complement one another in indispensable ways.

Ken Mihalyov: Data can take you a long way, but when people are involved it’s not always the whole story. You need to understand and document the way things really work, especially the interactions between different processes. There’s very often a difference between what you expect to have happen and what’s actually happening when people are involved, and that’s very enlightening.

18 October 2012

The Club of Helsinki – co-creation of urban development projects

Student_rafael_club-of-helsinki

The Club of Helsinki is a non-profit organization that offer possibilities to co-create urban development projects that prototype new integrated and sustainable business and management models. The organization is founded by designer Ilkka Suppanen and strategist Tanya Kim Grassley, in close collaboration with innovator Karina Vissonova and ambassador Brent Richards.

In 2013 The Club of Helsinki will launch its pilot project, Angels of Sao Paulo, together with research partners University Sao Paulo (USP) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – in close collaboration with a recyclable materials collecting cooperative in Sao Paulo, Brazil, called Coopamare. The project’s corporate ‘pathfinder’ partnership model offers companies an opportunity to combine social responsibility with business and brand development.

The pilot project focuses on four areas:

  • The first, in cooperation with MIT SENSEable Cities Lab, will create a GPS platform and digital services to help make the collection, processing and delivery of recyclable materials more effective.
  • The second focus area, together with Umbilical Design from Sweden, will develop tooling for a new material product.
  • The third area developed in cooperation with the University of Sao Paulo focuses on business development and new business models for the activities.
  • The fourth area focuses on community development and needs such as healthcare, housing and education.

More info on David Report

16 October 2012

BMW’s electric experience

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Martin C. Pedersen reports in a long article for Metropolis Magazine on the 2014 BMW i3, the company’s first fully electric vehicle aimed at city driving.

The article focuses on how BMW’s new business strategy is all based on the core importance of the product experience:

“An ambitious experiment, with hefty up-front costs estimated to be as high as $200 million, the roll-out has the potential to both shift the company’s business model — from selling a product to selling the experience that product provides — and redefine the car’s role in an increasingly connected urban world.” [...]

BMW has gone all-in on the urban mobility angle, taking several pages out of the car- and bike-sharing playbooks. The system uses the emerging connection between mobile devices and BMW that already exists in a nascent form in Germany. Don Norman, the noted designer and author, does consulting work for the automaker and has seen the system in action: “In Munich, when I’m with the BMW crowd, if we’re in the city and decide to drive someplace, one of the guys will take out his cell phone and open up an app that tells him where a car is located. He reserves one that’s a block away. We walk over, he waves his BMW badge, and the car unlocks. The car is not just available to BMW people. Anyone who belongs to the subscription service can do it.”

Read article

16 October 2012

Brave New City

cover_1012_t185

Metropolis Magazine asked seven visionary design teams, both established and up-and-coming, what they predict a fully accessible city might look like (and better yet, how it would function).

“We broke the city into its component parts and then, like casting directors, asked, “Who would we like to tackle this one?” The eager and inspired responses from our dream team thrilled us.”

“What follows are imaginative, practical, funny, high-tech/low-tech, humanistic design solutions that make room for everyone and, in the process, invent new ways of making cities.”

Getting Around: Transit Hub
by Grimshaw Architects
Grimshaw Architects, which designed the award-winning Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, Australia, believes that a seamless transportation network is the key to our future. Grimshaw designed a hub that adapts to the evolving city and provides all people, whatever their needs, with a way to get around town.

Picking Up the Groceries: Public Market
by West 8
Farmers’ markets in parking lots aren’t the only solution to sustainable commerce. In 1995, the urban design and landscape architecture firm West 8 reinvented Binnenrotte Square in Rotterdam, closing it off to traffic and letting the locals take over. The firm used that experience to create our inclusive marketplace.

Sharing Resources: Community Center
by Interboro Partners
Interboro Partners has been compiling The Arsenal of Exclusion
& Inclusion (www.arsenalofexclusion.blogspot.com), to look at how cities admit or exclude people. The firm’s ideas for the community center in our new city draw upon the book, which will be published by Actar later this year.

Taking a Walk: Streetscape
by Linearscape
Linearscape have made it their mission to understand the built environment’s relationship to landscape, so they take an integrative approach to streets, applying existing technologies and reconfiguring the sidewalk for people of all ages and abilities. Linearscape’s won the 2012 Emerging New York Architects competition for imagining a future urban landscape.

Finding Your Way: Urban Navigation
by OPEN
OPEN believes in continuously reinventing itself. Yet it doesn’t always look to the future; sometimes the old way of doing things is the best. Its way finding system for our new city isn’t technological. OPEN suggests that people who are lost in the city do something unusual—ask someone for directions.

Living Together: Multi-Generational Home
by John Ronan Architects
John Ronan Architects is concerned with how a design takes into account building performance over time. So for our new city, the firm “interviewed” a 120-year-old great-grandmother in the year 2120. John Ronan Architects won a 2012 AIA Institute National Honor Award for their design of the Poetry Foundation in Chicago.

Working Virtually: Workspace
by LUNAR
The key to good design is knowing what people need. This is what the product design firm LUNAR focused on when considering how people in our new city would work. Addressing the growing number of virtual offices, the firm created products to encourage natural interactions even when people aren’t physically together.

6 October 2012

Understanding the sensing city

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Consultant Roger Dennis, who identifies himself as “serendipity architect”, has been writing a series of posts on meetings he had related to the sensing city. Together they give a good overview of some of the most recent initiatives and thinking on smart cities.

Singapore meetings
Meetings with the MIT Sensable Cities Lab and the ETH Zurich Future Cities Lab – both part of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology

Intel meeting in London
Meeting with Duncan Wilson at Intel, who heads up the newly created Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Connected Cities – a partnership with two universities. The aim of the initiative is to understand how technology can be used as a tool to create better cities.

Cosm meeting in London
Meeting with Usman Haque, who founded the company Pachube, which has since been bought and its name changed to Cosm. He also now has an Urban Projects Division that works on special projects with cities around the world.

Siemens meeting in London
Meeting with Elaine Trimble of Siemens, who works with the (relatively new) global cities team based at The Crystal. It opened a couple of weeks ago and is “the world’s first center dedicated to improving our knowledge of urban sustainability.

Arup meeting in London
Meeting with Volker Buscher, one of Arup’s smart city people. He has a massive range of experience with cities around the world.

University College London (UCL)
Meeting with Dr Andy Hudson Smith who is the director of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), a UCL research lab. Among other things the group is responsible for the fascinating London Dashboard.

Cisco meeting in London
Meeting with John Baekelmans, the CTO for the Smart Connected Communities initiative and JP Vasseur, who is a Cisco Fellow.

> See also this frog design interview with Cisco CGO Wim Elfrink on the same topic

New York meetings
Meetings with Ashok Raiji of Arup; Bjarke Ingels, founder, and Iben Falconer, Business Development Manager of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG); Naureen Kabir of New Cities Foundation; and David van der Leer, the Curator of the BMW Guggenheim Lab.

2 October 2012

Smart cities in Italy and France

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The European House-Ambrosetti, an Italian economic think tank/management consultancy and organisers of the very prestigious annual international economic conference in the Italian town of Cernobbio, has – in partnership with ABB Italy – published a report on Smart Cities in Italy.

Entitled “Smart Cities in Italy: an opportunity in the spirit of the Renaissance for a new quality of life“, the report includes 7 proposals aimed at optimizing conditions for Italian cities to become “smarter” in the years to come.

Although the report underlines the importance of real benefits for citizens, it suffers from a top-down approach to how smart cities should be planned for and implemented.

(Since the executive summary publication download has the English pages upside down and in reverse order, I made these small corrections and posted the English summary pdf here. All Italian language materials are available on this page.)

This top down approach stands in stark contrast to the position argued for a few days ago in the Wall Street Journal (see earlier post) and to the position argued for in Can the Internet set the world on fire? A political territory lying fallow (French title: Internet peut-il casser des briques ? Un territoire politique en jachère), edited by Philippe Aigrain and Daniel Kaplan, and with contributions by Philippe Lemoine, Philippe Aigrain, Marjorie Carré, Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay, Jean-Louis Frechin, Vincent Guimas and Ewen Chardronnet, Daniel Kaplan, Sophie Le Pallec, Valérie Peugeot, and Benoît Thieulin.

“The Internet, a matrix for creating utopia? This is certainly the premise on which this book is based. The Internet is both the height of capitalism and the factor for crystallising new popular movements. This duality, which is intrinsic to the Internet ecosystem, should be taken as a signal of positive transformation: new modernity is based precisely on the fact of learning to disassociate and put back together differently that which comes from the market and that which comes from the emancipation of people.

Through utopias that exemplify the impact of new technologies on our lives, that illustrate the new organisation models of a knowledge and innovation economy, or that reformulate the social and political pact, Internet energy indicates the direction of its transforming potential.”

On InternetActu you can read Ta ville, trop smart pour toi, Daniel Kaplan’s contribution to the book (in French).

1 October 2012

‘Smart City’ planning needs the right balance (WSJ)

 

In the pantheon of Next Big Thing trends, the concept of “smart cities” is one of the trendiest, writes Ben Rooney in the Wall Street Journal.

The idea is that by harvesting the incredible amount of data “exhaust” that every one of us generates as we traverse a city, planners can optimize services in the city to make them more efficient, cleaner and cheaper. But there is a fear that such top-down programs may threaten the very vitality that attracts people to cities in the first place.

A very different kind of smart-city initiative has had success in cities as diverse culturally and geographically as San Francisco and Singapore, and is coming to Europe. Called Urban Prototyping, the movement approaches cities from a bottom-up—not top-down—viewpoint.

Read article

29 August 2012

Report: Managing Megacities (by UX Lab at Ericsson Research)

Managing-Megacities-External-report-cover1

Megacities may be congested and complex, but are also among the planet’s most exciting places to live. They have proven effective at stimulating creativity, innovation, freedom and economic development.

Today, 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities, a figure expected to reach about 70 percent by 2050. Almost all demographic growth over the next 30 years will be urban, and there is a constant stream of people moving from rural areas to cities.

The rise of the megacity has made an enormous contribution to the development of modern society. However, bigger populations also create challenges that megacities must address in order to retain their advantages.

The maturity level of a megacity is often closely connected to its ICT maturity, and therefore affects which types of ICT solutions are relevant and most effective. Megacities have a huge range of ICT opportunities, with countless potential connections, but on a very general level there are similarities between the most appropriate solutions for megacities within each maturity level.

There is no single set of solutions to suit every megacity and all their residents with their subjective views on quality of life. Any solutions must take local conditions into account. This is also one of the most important considerations for us at Ericsson when we create the fundamental building blocks for ICT solutions to meet megacity challenges around the world. They must be designed for diversity, flexibility, locality, transparency and uniqueness.

This report – compiled by User Experience Lab at Ericsson Research – highlights some of the effects of, and challenges stemming from, rapid urbanization and the emergence of megacities. It looks at how governments can manage the largest cities in the world, the significance of a city’s maturity level, and what “good quality of life” means for city dwellers around the world. The sources include publicly available material such as reports and data from international organizations, academic studies and business papers from management consultants. In-house research conducted by the Ericsson Networked Society Lab and Ericsson ConsumerLab is also among the key sources.

29 June 2012

Low2No smart services and informatics workbook published

low2no_informatics

The Helsinki Low2No project team just released a smart services and informatics workbook that was developed by ARUP and Experientia.

Low2No is a broad project, initiated in collaboration with the Finnish innovation fund Sitra, aimed at the development of a Helsinki mixed-use city block called Airut on the Jätkäsaari peninsula, which will have low or no carbon emissions.

The 110 page booklet describes work-in-progress on the smart services and urban informatics component of the Low2No project activities.

In the words of Dan Hill, “the aspect of ‘smart services‘, also known as urban informatics, explores the potential of contemporary technologies – particularly those increasingly everyday circling around phrases like social media, ‘internet of things’, ‘smart cities’ and so on – to enable residents, workers, visitors and citizens in general to live, work and play in and around the block in new ways. These are predicated on the same low-carbon outcomes that drives the Low2No project in general, but also a wider “triple-bottom line” approach to sustainability, which might include beneficial social and economic outcomes, as well as environmental.

“Today,” he says, “we’re sharing some of the work-in-progress as it developed, in the form of the “informatics workbook” developed by the design team, as a tool in the design process.”

Hill describes that the team wanted “to use the building project as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to warrant a reason to look at this potentially powerful combination of smart technologies and services — with an emphasis on the latter — and in enabling positive behaviour change amongst the various groups who will use the block.”

“This work often involves positioning these otherwise technology-led areas in a more human-centred, and behaviour-oriented, framework — getting well beyond the hype about “smart cities” — whilst also trying to connect it to business drivers (the lack of the latter has hampered pretty much any serious progress in smart cities.),” he adds.

Arup and Experientia worked on this aspect of the project, together with partners Sauerbruch Hutton and clients Sitra, SRV, and VVO. Over a couple of years of engagement, with Experientia leading and driving, and Arup working on the informatics aspects in particular, the project’s design team produced some rich thinking about how to embed the potential of this area at the core of the project, that are now presented in the workbook.

Read more and download booklet

11 June 2012

Charles Leadbeater: Why cities need to be hospitable rather than smart

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Guimarães (Portugal), European Capital of Culture 2012, is commissioning a number of thought leadership pieces and artistic interventions to explore the concept of “Openness” as it relates to all aspects of City development – from personal to political, infrastructure to innovation.

The first one is by Charles Leadbeater, a renowned thinker on creativity, collaboration and innovation (and author of WeThink). He provides an overview of “openness as a methodology for achieving positive change’ – seen particularly through the lens of a small city such as Guimarães.

“Cities that aspire to be truly creative, need to combine cultural creativity with a broader agenda for social creativity. Truly creative cities are as creative about transport, housing, energy and waste as they are about culture and the arts.” [...]

These social challenges have traditionally been tasks for specialists – planners, architects and engineers – to re-imagine the city from on high. Most famously this gave rise to the modernist vision of the city as a machine, a lattice work of roads, factories and high rise apartment blocs. The failure of many of these schemes for planned problem solving in cities means there is a growing emphasis in many cities on more bottom up solutions, that require more distributed, social creativity, which often involves a combination of top down investment in new infrastructures – for example for energy, transport or waste– combined with changes in mass behaviour – using electricity, mass transit, household recycling. Creative cities are too large, open and unruly to be regulated in detail, top down by an all-seeing state or experts. They have to encourage collective, voluntary, self-control. A city that could be planned from the centre would also be dead. There are plenty of examples of cities around the world which are busy and rich in infrastructure and yet dead, socially and creatively, precisely because they allow little or no room for people to come together in unprogrammed ways. Successful cities allow a lot of room for adaptive mutation, encouraging their citizens to invest their ideas in the spaces they inhabit.”

Read essay

18 April 2012

The Smart City starts with you

Smart_City

Wired UK has published a guest post by Usman Haque, founder of Pachube.com and director at Haque Design + Research and CEO of Connected Environments, where he argues that current Smart Cities initiatives are looking for a one-size fits all, top-down strategic approach to sustainability, citizen well-being and economic development, and that their strategies focus on the city as a single entity, rather than the people — citizens — that bring it to life.

“Any adequate model for the smart city must focus on the smartness of its citizens and encourage the processes that make cities important: those that sustain very different — sometimes conflicting — activities. Cities are, by definition, engines of diversity so focusing solely on streamlining utilities, transport, construction and unseen government processes can be massively counter-productive, in much the same way that the 1960s idealistic fondness for social-housing tower block economic efficiency was found, ultimately, to be socially and culturally unsustainable.

We, citizens, create and recreate our cities with every step we take, every conversation we have, every nod to a neighbour, every space we inhabit, every structure we erect, every transaction we make. A smart city should help us increase these serendipitous connections. It should actively and consciously enable us to contribute to data-making (rather than being mere consumers of it), and encourage us to make far better use of data that’s already around us.”

Read article

5 March 2012

Low2No featured in ARUP Design Yearbook 2011

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The Design Yearbook 2011 of ARUP — the global firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists that Experientia collaborated with on the Low2No project in Helsinki — is a gorgeous overview of the power of (sustainable) design in the firm’s recent work.

Pages 70-71 of the book (38 in the pdf download) feature the Low2No project, which is now called Airut. The striking visual is by Lamosca.

Below is the text that accompanies it:

Leading by example

Our approach to the design of the Helsinki’s first carbon-neutral district – formerly known as the Low2No project – encourages residents to make more informed choices about energy, transport, food and consumer goods, with the goal or reducing energy demands in the district by more than 40% compared with the Finnish average.

We are pioneering a new model of urban design on this 22,000 m2-mixed-use project that demonstrates how design can empower people to live a healthier, creative and more sustainable lifestyle. We are showing how every lifestyle choice has an impact upon their carbon and ecological footprints.

We have undertaken a broader carbon assessment that takes into consideration the site’s likely total consumption of carbon. This enabled our client to chart an achievable and replicable course from the low-carbon norms of Finnish society to a fully decarbonised model.

More than 15% of the project’s electricity will be sourced from photovoltaic sources and heat from a biomass heat network. The seven-storey office is a pioneering all-timber building and the carbon impact of in situ concrete will be cut by 20% compared to conventional specifications.

Download ARUP Design Yearbook 2011

25 January 2012

The city as interface. Digital media and the urban public sphere

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On 23 January 2012, Martijn de Waal defended his Ph.D. thesis ‘The city as interface’ at the Philosophy Department of the University of Groningen.

Abstract:

The main concern of the study ‘The City as Interface’ is the future of the urban public sphere. It investigates various scenarios that describe how the rise of digital and mobile media technologies, such as the mobile phone, GPS-navigation, and the usage of social networks through smartphones, change the way the urban public sphere functions.

Most studies on the urban public sphere have so far theorized it as a spatial construct, a physical place for encounter and social interaction. Yet, such a purely spatial approach has become problematic now that new media technologies, from the mobile phone to urban sensor networks, have started to play an important role in the experience and organization of everyday urban life. The experience of the city has become extended by media technologies that bring absent others or distant (either in time and space) contexts into the here-and-now. The infrastructure of these new technologies and the way they are programmed now co-shape urban life, just like the physical infrastructures and the spatial programming of urban planning have always done.

This may lead to two different (non-exclusive) scenarios that enforce a broader trend in which people sort themselves out geographically, that is: people are more and more keeping in touch with people who share a similar identity or particular goal. Citizens may use digital media as ‘filters’ that allows them to find the spaces where they are likely to meet people who are similar to them. Institutions may use these same technologies to target particular audiences and make places more attractive to them, or even to exclude access to those who do not belong.

A second scenario also builds upon a broader geographic trend that has been called ‘Living Together Apart.’ This is a development in which various urban publics live in and use the same geographic areas, but do not interact much. An example is found in the former working class turned migrant quarters near European inner cities that have become gentrified over the last decades. Local working class people, young professionals and migrants share the same neighborhood. A Turkish coffee house might be located next to a designer coffee bar. They are geographically close, but are separated by a large symbolic distance. The filtering mechanisms of mobile media could enforce this scenario. The chaotic experience of all those different worlds on top of each other becomes ‘navigable’ and ‘inhabitable’ through the use of urban media that help users locate those microvariations in space that are relevant to them.

That, however, is only one part of my findings. Urban media also have the affordance to create a public sphere in new ways. Urban media can create a new type of platform that can bring forth collective issues around which publics can organize. Data from various sensor networks can be mapped to, for instance, show the air quality or energy use of a city. These mappings can become a condensation point around which publics start to organize themselves. In addition, the use of urban media can be used to make individual contributions to such communal issues visible. This could mean that it becomes easier to turn resources into a ‘commons’, a communally used and managed resource. First examples of these are the bike and car sharing schemes that have sprung up in various cities around the world. There is a chance that the communal use and management of these practical collective issues could lead to the formation of publics around these issues that bring together people from various backgrounds. I have shown how ‘open data’ initiatives could perhaps play a similar role. These too could create new platforms on which urban publics can form.

At the same time I have also argued that the introduction of a new platform by itself is not enough for a public realm to come into being. To function as a public realm, platforms need a program that provide one or more functions that will attract citizens from various backgrounds. This is true for physical spaces as well as for urban media platforms. Studies have shown that digital platforms can enhance the sense of a local community or public in a particular neighborhood, but that this does not happen by itself.

(via SmartMobs)