1/02/2012

Today's Interview: An Interview with Charles Waldheim: Landscape Urbanism Now

Firstly, Happy New Year, Happy 2012.
To begin the year, this interview with Charles Waldheim by Meg Studer for Landscape Urbanism Magazine titled: An Interview with Charles Waldheim: Landscape Urbanism Now.

As Meg Studer points out, in the 21th century, landscape urbanism will be (better: is) playing a more and more important role. It draws together the infrastructure intensities of "territory, communication, and speed", and the "explicit" deployments of ecological efficiencies. Some projects such as Toronto Waterfront by West 8, NYC High Line by James Corner/Field Operations/DillerScofidio + Renfo, are among examples of reuse of downtowns, reconditioning of waterfronts or old industrial areas. In Tokyo, a current debate about the reconversion of an unused area in Shimo-Kitazawa, Setagaya Ward, into a recombinant landscape, a bit similar to the New York City High Line, illustrates the increasing role of landscape urbanism to improve quality of life of dwellers in congested cities. At least, the aim of this project can be understood as such: reconciling urban dwellers, cities and nature, in a city that suffers from a lack of green areas and open areas which makes the city vulnerable in face of natural disasters. To this project I can add that of urban planner Hidetoshi Ohno titled Fiber City Tokyo 2050 that aims at transforming Tokyo into a green fiber city.
Landscape urbanism, as we will see below, will embrace critical issues such as waste, energy and oil crisis, global warming while remaining open to a large range of issues.

As Charles Waldheim argued, to the extent that landscape urbanism is a set of practices, then it is not connected to one particular culture or geography. It is available to various contexts and, if urbanism is the expression in space of relationships of capital or power, then any shift in the relationship of the structure of capital or power will impact urbanism. [L]andscape urbanism continues to be of value because of its unique ability to reconcile contemporary economic systems with the underlying ecological conditions in which urbanism is situated.

Below is an abstract of the interview published in Landscape Urbanism website:

Meg Studer: There are a lot of things that have been at the edge of the landscape urbanism research agenda. Some examples that come to mind are the Canadian oil sands minings, the logistic maneuvers of the Arab spring, like the Suez canal strikes and their impact on US/Chinese trade-routes or US/Middle East trade-routes; and the tsunami/nuclear crisis in Japan, including their single-stream, mdoernism approach to fail-safe mechanisms.
So, there's been a lot of topical and timely interest in energy ecologies and energy resource management. So many of these have been showing up in the news and yet Im not sure that I'd say they belong within an "urbanism" category. As someone involved in and supportive of this research, what sort of descriptor might you give these operational tactics, strategic strikes, or incidents in energy management?
Charles Waldheim: I think that one of the more interesting areas for research for landscape urbanism today is the question of energy, resource extraction, production, and flows in relationship to urbanism. From its origins, landscape urbanism aspires to build an understanding of urbanism in which the ecological forces and flows that support urbanism are considered as part of the city as opposed to external to it. This offers a response to and critique of older models of urbanism in which the city is distinct from the countryside or the continent. Often, in those old models, energy, as well as water and food and other sustenance, are viewed as externalities to the city problem, which made the city vulnerable. If landscape urbanism wants to reframe that model and place urbanism in relationship to those flows, it makes sense that there's been quite a lot of interest in energy in schools of design and current discourse, finding ways to think about energy production in relationship to urbanism. Our challenge is to find models in which both the questions of sustainability and the renewability of energy sources can be explored, while also looking to reform and improve the global systems of production and distribution.
The Prospect of finding renewable resources of energy and their impact on the city is one of the most interesting lines of work today. This past summer, the Bauhaus Institute in Dessau organized a summer school focused on the question of energy landscapes, and in many schools of design, GSD included, we're looking at studios and research projects about renewable energy and technologies, but also thinking about energy more akin to agriculture — it is both renewable, locally sourced, and embedded in our cities as opposed to external to them. I think the topic of renewability does a couple of interesting things: Unlike our current dependence on vast reverses of coal or our global system of oil production, refinement, and distribution, renewable energy sources have a series of local impacts, a very different logic at many levels in terms of their production and distribution.
For example, wind and solar and hydroelectric based energy production: While they can be thought of as large mono-functional engineering systems, they can be thought about instead as distributed, embedded, highly localized conditions where each house or each block or each urban system are essentially both producing and consuming and feeding a larger system of supply and demand — which is a very different logic than the logic of consumption at the heart of our cities today. And if that research and practice continues, at the rate that it has, I think we'll be seeing a very insteresting approach to urbanism than the current consumption system that is externally extracted, refined and pumped in, where the entrained energy, waste implications, and carbon implications are viewed as external to the city.

More: Here.

To finish, a video of Charles Waldheim responding to a question on automobility:
This video has been posted on Youtube by a certain Iloydalter on November 7th, 2008. Charles Waldheim was asked for his opinion about the issue of automobile at the dawn of the 21th century

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