8/03/2011

Wednesday Brew: to-read list: urbanism (mostly)

How urban lighting can improve quality of life? This is the question that Denise B. Fong poses in her essay Transforming our Cities from Day to Night; from Places for Cars to Places for People. According to Denise B. Fong, livable cities are places for people in both the day and night. When citizens become involved and suggest their input, urban spaces can transform. A neighborhood in Copenhagen asked their community for input on improving their space. The two things requested were public art and lighting. The city installed lighting which lit street names but didn't cause glare into people's bedroom windows, added "pocket parks" which have their own unique light fixtures that don't appear anywhere else in the city, and cobblestones sidewalks interspersed with blue LED backlit tiles.

After a long discussion with a friend, we conclude that this infographic: Why China is Kicking Our Ass in Clean Tech is a good illustration of competition between cities to become the most sustainable city… sigh…

There is no need to repeat that Cities' most important challenge is climate change, cutting emissions of CO2, population growth, expanding cities, among a few. There is rush to implement plans to respond to these challenge. A target: transportation. Here is one suggestion that urban planners and policymakers can consider: Electric transports. Whatever it is new or not, it may bring first solutions to replace energy-consuming transport in megacities. This is what Asian Urbanist suggested in an interesting article Electromobility Key in Megacities, an article available on Sustainable Cities Collective. According to Asian Urbanist, future high-density compact megacities, will require shorter travel distance which will be favorable to deploy personal EVs. (…) EVs potential lies in the ability to effeciently use renewable energy sources to power our daily trips. Electric motors on average can convert 75% of chemical energy in batteries to power the wheels while current engines can only convert 20% of the energy stored in gasoline. Provided the electricity comes from renewable sources, there is no emission of pollutants from EVs.

Mitch McEwen wrote an interesting op-ed titled Detroit: the Death of Manhattanism for Domus. Apparently Detroit illustrates the emergence of a new kind of global city. I have never been there. Apart from this, McEwen's op-ed reminds me a Interboro Partners' project published in the latest Actar Verb Boogazine issue Crisis. This project titled was Improve your Lots! The New Suburbanism, in case you forgot, revealing a growing interest of architects and urban planners for this city of Detroit. McEwen's article is part of his exhibition titled "Detroit: A Brooklyn Case Study" that opened in Los Angeles in January 2011. Yet Detroit seems to be embarrassed with this growing interest. Very funny…

A modest yet beautiful eco-friendly emergency pediatric clinic built in Darfur. As architect Raul Pantaleo and surgeon and founder of Emergency NGO Gino Strada wrote, this NGO children's hospital functions as a large "thermal machine" designed to adapt to extreme environmental conditions. A combination of traditional and modern techniques — like these woven bamboo shade-screens and the roof of the lowered brick tile vaults according to the technique called jagharsh (from harsch meaning "arch" in Arabic) which is protected from direct sunlight by a false roof in metal creating a ventilated air chamber — have been used to design a building in symbiosis with Darfur's architecture. One aspect, this combination of tradition and modernity aside, is this inspiration of traditional Iranian systems of natural ventilation for the air recycling. This system is called bagdir. These systems are combined with a mechanical system that uses industrial-type water coolers, architect Raul Pantaleo said. Very interesting project and congratulations… Raul Pantaleo and Gino Strada's op-ed titled Emergency Pediatric Clinic Darfur is available on Domus Web as well as in their July issue.
Emergency Pediatric Clinic Darfur © Tamassociati for the Emergency NGO
The simplicity of the construction is in complete harmony with local traditional building systems, Pantaleo says.
The roof of the lowered brick tile vaults (the traditional jagharsch) is protected from direct sunlight by a false
roof in metal which creates a ventilated air chamber.
Image originally appeared on Domus Web.

An excellent review titled How to Design Better Cities With Urban Interventions and Computer Code? I found on Volume Magazine on the Cognitive Cities Salon in Amsterdam. This review is written by Martijn de Waal and is originally published on The Mobile City. I have a particular for Edwin Gardner's lecture The Algorithmic City — a techno-utopian scenario. This is Gardner's ongoing research work on the algorithmic city posing the following questions: What happens to urban planning when adding algorithms to the urban planning process? How to use algorithmis to make planning and urban design a more generative, adaptive process, that works in the interest of citizens rather than that of project developers or investors? Gardners developed three levels in which algorithms could play a role, de Waal reports: 1. Building Code; 2. Algorithmic Masterplanning and; Algorithmic zoning. I would like to know more…

If you have a strong interest on biological urbanism, or to say simply the growing relationship between biology and urbanism, here is an interesting paper found on Inhabitat titled Biologists Studying NYC's Interesting Impact on Urban Wildlife Evolution. This paper is written by Will Giron. These biologists study the biological changes and evolutionary patterns of the city's plants and animals, ranging anywhere from mice and fish to bugs and bacteria. Apparently plants and animals have mutated in response to the pressures of the city. One example, bacteria in hospitals, like this Klebsiella Pneumoniae, known to cause pneumonia and other life threatening infections, has become resistant to antibiotics, Giron reports. But these aside, despite pollution, and others such as urban pressures, through Urban Evolution, one easily see that cities have a natural environment far more diverse then originally thought.

Arup continues to propose his solutions to shift into smart megacities with his Urban Life: The Smart Solution for Cities. You can read this report in pdf format available on Arup's website.

Another pdf format file that I would like to share is Future Cities published on Raconteur with among others Vicky Richardson's text "Far From The Madding Crowd", Siemens' "Our Green City Future", A discussion between Reinier de Graaf, Gordon Gill and Herbert Wright titled "Facing up to the Environmental Challenge", etc.

The Polic Blog posted a recorded presentation by Erik Swyngedouw, a professor of geography at the University of Manchester School of Environment and Development, on "Designing the Post-Political City and the Insurgent Polis."Erik Swyngedouw calls for open institutional channels for enacting dissent, fostering a democratic politics based on equal opportunity for all in shaping the decisions that affect our lives. He envisions the city as "insurgent polis" — a new agora where democratic politics can take place, where anyone can make a case for changing the existing framework. A very good recorded presentation and a good lecture.

Let's follow with this question of the articulation of political and cities, with this brilliant essay Post-political Attitudes on immigration, Utopias, and the Space Between Us written by Ethel Baraona Pohl and César Reyes (dpr-barcelona). Both Baraona Pohl and Reyes were guest-writters for The Funambulist. They call for post-political attitudes on immigration, utopias, and the spaces between people. According to them, architects, planners' creativeness should be oriented to address real challenges faced by humankind as a result of their economic and geopolitical relationships. Finishing with this interrogation-cum-remark "given that a world with no borders is still far away from our mental framework, why not get involved in provide solutions for this huge "mobile nation" of 191 millions of inhabitants? A giant mobile mirror reminding that all of us are also immigrants, passing through this life." How to do with instead of against The Other.

Apparently urban bees are much more adaptive that we expected. Those from Chicago profit from the city's abundant and mostly pesticide-free flowers so that they may have a leg up on country bees because of a longer nectar flow, with people planting flowers that bloom from spring to fall, and organic gardening practices, according to Carla K. Johnson of Associated Press.

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