Posts tagged cities
Posts tagged cities
Shanghai, without lights, under a starry sky.
Beautiful works by photographer Thierry Cohen, showing dark cities under just the light of stars. He visited deserted places that are situated at the same latitudes of the featured cities to take pictures of the sky, and later superimposed these across the matching cities.
See more of the “Darkened Cities” series on Thierry Cohen’s website.
Hong Kong Island. (image: CeeKay)
Free Enterprise published an article titled “How Business is Shaping the City of Tomorrow”. After summing up the notorious statistics of how our planet is expected to urbanize over the next decades, a promising story unfolds about the how the involvement of business in this process can help our cities to adapt to new realities and get ready for the urban age. The article is based on research by the Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC), part of The U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Here’s a list of ways in which BCLC thinks business can provide solutions to the our future cities.
- Traditional modes of transportation will be joined by hybrid solutions like zipcars, Car2go, self-driving cars, and more customized mass transit solutions.
- Highways will become smarter, while traffic congestion will be priced more efficiently.
- Buildings will be interactive, modulating ambient temperatures in different rooms in a more customized fashion and conserving energy more efficiently.
- There are a number of companies working on solutions to bridge the “digital divide,” expanding internet access globally.
- Cities will develop multiple layers of commerce by supporting a “buy local” sentiment while hosting many national brands; examples include Atlanta, New Orleans, and San Francisco.
- The virtual office will become more omnipresent, with home office solutions becoming widespread.
- Cities like Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Shanghai, and Hong Kong are investing in vertical development, with new building materials and engineering solutions enabling urban designs that were not feasible even a decade ago.
London’s “Boris Bikes”, an example of an urban service outsourced: The infrastructure is funded by Barclays, and is simultaneously an enormous branding vehicle. (image: bomvu)
The list includes both examples that are already visible, and some that are still rather visionary (or utopian). For sure, innovation from the private sector can help our urban systems become more efficient, cheaper, safer, healthier and equitable. But how far should a government go in outsourcing services? Worst case scenario’s involve inequality, segregation, unattuned systems, the outflow of financial benefits and an unorchestrated urban landscape. And what about urban development? Is loosening control on zoning, land use and building restrictions a good or a bad thing? Is the marketization of urban space an improvement for a city’s economy and its inhabitants or detrimental to diversity, the uneven spatial dispersion of vulnerable groups, local business viability and identity? What is the right balance between government control and free market urbanism? These and other issues will be discussed during Failed Architecture #09: Sell Out Cities.
I originally published this post on failedarchitecture.com.
Converting construction sites into canvases
Brazilian communication agency Ginga convinced the country’s largest construction company to have murals created on its property, resulting in over 4000 sqm of urban canvas over 8 cities. It’s a nice video and although some of the text is too advertisey to me, it is a great way for a company to work on its visual identity. And I think covering construction sites with art is beneficial to how you experience a city.
Geoffrey West, educating us about how cities work.
According to Geoffrey West, distinguished professor at Santa Fe Institute, we need to develop a “science of cities”. West compares contemporary urbanists to the Wright brothers, who are credited with inventing and building the world’s first airplane and making the first human flight. The Wright brothers got their plane to fly, but they didn’t know anything about, for example, aerodynamics. Nowadays, you need science to build a Boeing 747.
The analogy with cities, as West implies, is that we are now urbanizing at an unprecedented speed and that there is no real science that tells us how to do it. Most of our urban planning is based on assumptions, mostly derived from best practices (which are not always time proof). Given the great challenge of urbanization that we are facing (everyday, 1 million people are moving to urban areas), it is remarkable that there isn’t a science that tells us how our cities should grow.
Cities are mammals
As I wrote before, that science is what Geoffrey West has been working for a while. He is conducting research, using methodologies from biology and physics, in order to understand how cities work. Basically, he is trying to find out whether there are quantative predictive laws of life, because, in the end: cities are people.
West and his team already produced some interesting findings, much of them in line with the biology of mammals. There is a certain sub-linear economy of scale, which, for a mammal, means that it needs less energy for every extra cell (the exponent of this is around .75). And that’s all because of how the networks that make an ecosystem function work.
What West does, is essentially trying to understand cities (which are social organizations) in a similar way. The first findings are interesting. There seems to be a same kind of power law that holds for cities. When a city doubles in size, it doesn’t need a doubling of facilities, infrastructure, etc. It would only need about 85% more.
This systemic scaling also appears to hold for socioeconomic quantities. When a city doubles in size, things such as GDP, wages, the number of ‘supercreatives’, patents, etcetera, will be 15 percent more than double.
According to West, bigger cities work better because of the networks. The multiplier effect of networks in bigger cities cause for the pace of life to increase. I’m not sure this is always a good thing (for example, I would rather work in Berlin than in London, because it is less rushy), but it definitely makes cities more efficient for various purposes.
Social metabolical rate
West finished his talk in a way only a physician could: by quantifying why people live together. He explained that the natural daily metabolic rate of a person is around 90 watts (the energy we need to consume to stay alive), but that the social metabolic rate (everything we need to do what we do) is around 11000 watts. Meeting the social metabolic needs of one person can only be done by aggregation: people need to live together in order to meet the needs of every single one of them.
CITIES did a great video on Amsterdam’s food transportation system, in collaboration with Rabobank and ZTRDG. It researched the opportunities to supply local hotels, restaurants and shops with the food produced in Amsterdam’s surroundings. CITIES proposes bringing together all the separate transportation flows into a shared and sustainable urban food infrastructure. Make sure to check it out! It has English subtitles and wonderful graphics!
This research is part of CITIES’ overarching project Farming The City.
Before Sim City or FarmVille, there was Jerry’s map. In the 1960s, Jerry Gretzinger began drawing a fantastical, growing map of unbelievable scope. It began with just a doodle, but now it takes up almost 2,000 8” x 10” frames.
His meticulous, iterative process intrigued documentary filmmaker Gregory Whitmore, who created this portrait of Gretzinger about two years ago. Very few people saw Mapping the Void, also known asJerry’s Map,until Vimeo’s Staff Picks blog discovered it this summer. Now the video has over 80,000 views, and dozens of comments from fans. Gretzinger posted his reaction on his blog in August, writing, “Wow! Thanks, Vimeo!”
FARMING THE CITY
The online platform for urban agriculture in Amsterdam is online now at FarmingtheCity.net. This video beautifully explains how it works: how local projects and volunteers can be empowered, how they will become visible in the local food system, and how the platform generates info about available space for urban agriculture.
Farming The City is a project by CITIES.
Great visualization of population of 590 cities between 1950 and 2010
Farmingthecity.net, the online urban agriculture platform, will be launched in March.
CITIES has been working on this project for the past year, setting up UA projects, interviewing everyone involved in UA in Amsterdam, organizing events, mapping UA activities, and creating the online platform.
The platform will deal with practical issues and regulations, provide maps, data and information about available and unused lots, and connect different players in the UA field, in order to take urban agriculture in Amsterdam to the next level.
The launch event will take place at ARCAM, Amsterdam’s architecture centre.
There’s also going to be a Farming the City walking tour in NAi’s 3D Urban Augmented Reality app, available for iPhone and Android.
If you’re in Amsterdam this week, you should check out this exhibition.
Tomorrow, September 14th from 17:30-19:00, the launch event takes place.
The exhibition shows examples from different kinds of urban agriculture from all over the world, plus the outcomes of a workshop with the participation from the city’s planning department, artists, architects and other actors. At the launch event, different exhibitors will explain their project and the workshop outcomes will be presented. For more info, check out my previous post about this or the CITIES website.
CITIES has organized an exhibition in Amsterdam, showing local and international examples of urban agriculture projects. The exhibition serves as an inspiration to municipality officials, architects, farmers, designers, engineers, academics, artists and legal experts participating in a workshop. The aim of the workshop is to create ideas for temporary agricultural initiatives in Amsterdam’s 7 city districts.
It’s not just a brainstorm though. Because of the active participation of the municipality and other important actors determined to create a response to urban decay in the form of temporary agricultural activities, it is likely that some interesting initiatives will grow from here.
I strongly recommend you to check out the latest issue of the CITIES magazine about industrial renewal online. I was amazed by it.
I’m looking forward to seeing the documentary Urbanized, which will premiere in 2011. It’s the new project by director Gary Hustwit, whose previous documentaries, Helvetica and Objectified were very interesting.
Being the third in the trilogy, Urbanized will discuss the future of cities. I hope it will be as fascinating as the previous two films, especially since it features my favourite field of interest.
It reminds me of last year’s Dutch documentary Amsterdam Make-over 2040, discussing the challenges the city of Amsterdam is facing in keeping up with other cities from around the world.