Perin Ruttonsha. Return to the (Managed) Wild: Interpreting Human Settlements as “Designer Ecosystems”
Human civilizations stand out, recently, among other biotic communities for their instigation of global systems transformations that have been rapid, extensive, and enduring (Steffen, Crutzen, & McNeill, 2007). By virtue of cumulative, collaborative efforts, facilitated through the symbolic codification of knowledge, and stacked across generations and continents, the complexity of human cultures only continues to intensify (Christian, 2004): “Cultural change operates by mechanisms that can validate a general and driven trend to technological progress — so very different from the minor and passive trend that Darwinian processes permit in the realm of natural evolution” (Gould, 1996, p.223). By this means, the species has become a globally dominant presence, the impact of its activities echoed across terrestrial, marine, and atmospheric systems (Steffen et al., 2007; Hobbs, Higgs, & Hall, 2013).
Human settlements might be described as a magnet for, container to, and emblematic expression of human cultural systems. They are socially constructed systems that interface between the human species and the biosphere, directly coordinating and mediating the debated nature-culture relationship. If one embraces Lovelock’s (1979) Gaia hypothesis, whereby the planet is considered to be an interdependent, self-regulating unit, or, McDonough and Braungart’s (2013) upcycle approach, whereby human creative pursuits feed reciprocally into biosphere cycles, then perhaps one can find a place for this domesticated species within the ‘natural order’ of things: “Our human role is to deepen our consciousness in resonance with the dynamics of the fourteen-billion-year creative event in which we find ourselves” (Swimme & Tucker, 2011, p.116). Deeply embedding human activities within the cycles of inhabited ecosystems, calls for designers and ecologists, together, to consider the notion of hybridization: “… ‘urbanization is not merely a … distancing of human life from nature, but rather a process by which new and more complex relationships are created’. The challenge of social-ecological integration, however, is one that requires closer articulation, both philosophically and schematically. For example, it is unclear what an application of philosophies such as Leopold’s (1949) land ethic or Rifkin’s (2009) biosphere consciousness should mean, on practical terms, for highly engineered, urban systems. Simply accepting human activity and its resulting technologies as an extension of nature risks dismissing environmental accountability (White, 2003). No doubt, achieving a state of complete integration with ecosystem processes would entail nothing short of a long-term unwinding of rigid infrastructural and social regimes, through a phased, scaled, and community engaged process of renewal. Thus, the arguments for pursuing this direction as part of a long-range sustainability strategy, and the means by which it might be possible to do so within the current social-technological landscape, are worth examination.
Marie Davidová. Generating the Design Process with GIGA-map: The Development of the Loop Pavilion
This interdisciplinary project involves the team work of the students from the Faculty of Art and Architecture at the TUL in Liberec and the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences at the CZU in Prague under the leadership of myself, Martin Kloda and Šimon Prokop. Various disciplines, such as mathematicians, software developer, structural engineer, mechanical engineers, urban planners and arts managers are included within the design process. The goal of the one semester lasting studio course is to build a wooden, environment responsive, pavilion that will host cultural events in June 2014. The pavilion will absorb the humidity at night, while evaporate it the arid sunny afternoons. It’s panelling will generate the circulation of humid air.
The research method is Systems Oriented Design, Physical Modelling, Parametric Design, File to Fabrication and 1:1 Prototyping, where GIGA-mapping became the all covering working tool of the design process. Besides the literature, the students used my own GIGA-map of performative wood research as a study material for the starting point. The overall knowledge was mapped on the paper board on the table. To use the table instead of wall is recommended by Birger Sevaldson for the reason of better interaction of the participants. (Sevaldson 2014)
After the discussion we decided to map and predict our design process. The timeline with proposed time schedule of the course and different roles and responsibilities of the participants were drafted. All the results and expectations are put on the board and discussed in the team. In that sense, the design process of the overall team is generated and controlled by the GIGA-map.
Serena Pollastri. Drawing Futures Together. Diagrams for the Design of Scenarios of Future Liveable Cities
This work introduces an ongoing research project that seeks to develop appropriate visual techniques for the design of future scenarios that are able to capture interdependencies within and across different systems. These design methods are being explored as part of a wider research on the future of cities and sustainable urban living. The issue of cities as complex systems has been explored by a considerable amount of literature, across different disciplines (for example, Simmel, 1971; Lynch, 1960; Jacobs, 1992; Abrams and Hall, 2004). Cities are not only defined by buidings and infrastructure, but also by the material and immaterial flows generated by the activities that take place in the urban environment, as well as the personal experience of its inhabitants Environmental, social, and economic challenges call for actions of radical interventions in modern urban areas. In order to be truly sustainable these actions must be collaboratively developed in trans-disciplinary sessions. Here, people from various backgrounds and with different interests explore alternative solutions, find a common ground and plan concrete actions towards a desirable future (Holman et al., 2007).
One of the challenges of this approach is to find effective ways to visualize how individual solutions impact the general context and relate to each other. There is a need to develop “means for drawing things together” (Bruno Latour, 2008), a common language to describe complexity and allow hidden interdependencies to emerge. The field of information visualization is rich with examples of how diagrams can be used to describe a complex matter by focusing primarily on the relations between different sets of qualitative and quantitative data. In this context diagrams are processes rather than finished products: they are working tools for design and decision making.
Liveable Cities is an interdisciplinary research project that aims to develop a method of designing and engineering low-carbon, resource-secure UK cities that do not compromise on individual and collective wellbeing. Different areas of the project are investigated by research teams at Lancaster University, University of Southampton, UCL, and Birmingham University, with the help of expert panelists, partners and potential users of future services. Great importance is given in the research to the human dimension of living and working in a city. Quality of life, wellbeing, and citizen aspirations must be assessed and translated into design criteria for transforming the engineering of cities to deliver low-carbon living solutions.
Tim Tompson. Designing towards the leverage points in an open innovation project for digital urban transport interventions
Public transport provision is a wicked problem (Rittel & Webber 1973), in which many stakeholders have a vested interest in the way the services are delivered such as councils, transport service providers, local retail destinations, advertising companies, and citizens. Many of whom have quite different views of what a good design outcome is. Transport provision is one of the most complex, politically charged issues for most cities, and increasingly so in many locations, due to physical capacity constraints in developed areas, with already at capacity infrastructure to service the cities growing needs. Digital customer information systems, have been seen as a low cost means to improve customer experience on the transport network, but also as a means to improve the efficiency of the use of the physical infrastructure for example, stations and train carriages, through assisting to manage crowds at peak periods or at times of disrupted service. But how can these digital information systems exist within the highly constrained transport environments, where physical space and citizen attention are a highly sought after resource from all stakeholders involved?
An academic research team along with four partner organisations have been tasked with designing ‘digital customer information technologies’ in transport interchanges in Sydney’s inner city that will both improve efficiency of the physical infrastructure and customer experience. This research project is funded by an Australian government funded grant operating between three Sydney universities and four major stakeholders; the local council – The City of Sydney, consultancies ARUP and Grimshaw Architects, as well as the state public transport planning organisation – Transport for New South Wales. The academic and industry platform has regular workshops and a consistent level of participation and support from all stakeholders. The major challenge of the project must be delivered in a way that ensures the decisions and effort be applied to those ideas that are valuable to all those stakeholders in the project. As such the emphasis on this paper is on the social, stakeholder interaction of the innovation platform, exploring the evolution from a system-oriented perspective, demonstrating the complexities, and competing goals of stakeholders in the creation of digital customer information systems.
Mahaan Ghose and Praveen Nahar. ACCESSCITY – A Systems Enquiry & Response on Urban Transport in Indian Megacities
ACCESSCITY is based on a core hypothesis — as commute-durations keep increasing, there will be a crisis soon; where an individual will be commuting for 6-8 hrs, and will only be left with time to work, eat, & sleep, but nothing else. Milton Friedman explains “…There is enormous inertia – a tyranny of the status quo – in private & especially governmental arrangements. Only a crisis – actual or perceived – (can) produce real changes.” This crisis: CONGESTION, is not an uncertain problem that we may face in the future, but is affecting us today, growing disruptively. This is urgent & important.
It began with a simple question: What is the utility of a city? Mumbai Metropolitan has nearly equal population as the whole of Australia – what attracts people to cluster so closely? A city offers a citizen access to a social-life, job opportunities, healthcare, service & educational options, shopping & recreational facilities, etc. On the other end: the same city also makes this particular individual accessible to all the other citizens, job market, service market, real estate industry, healthcare & educational institutions, etc. This MUTUAL ACCESSIBILITY, is the core utility of a city. And denser the cluster, the more attractive it becomes. Lets bring another parameter: TIMING. History has lead us to specific activity timing (like office hours) – which clusters us even closer, in extreme densities. These hyper-clusters mostly take place in small areas, exponentially increasing accessibility. This high population flow through the limited street-network consequently leads us to our primary concern here, CONGESTION. Congestion is a very useless and ineffective TIME-TAX, that it is paid to no one, and no one benefits from it. Delhi NCR supposedly looses 14,000,000 man-hours/day due to congestion. The COMPLEXITY of the situation is more grave. Teilhard de Chardin elucidates, “…(Complexity depends) not only on the number and diversity of the elements included in each case, but at least as much on the number & correlative variety of the links formed between these elements.” So, we’re not dealing with just the number of vehicles, but the variety of relationships. When I was looking for a metaphor – the human-body fitted appropriately. A megacity’s transport-system is compared to the body’s circulatory-system – both the systems are indispensable for their meta systems’ survival.
Jasmine S. Palmer. Network mapping of housing systems: the case of medium-density dwelling design in Australia.
Planning and development policies in numerous Australian cities promote consolidation and intensification of activity in existing urban areas. These policies respond to the reducing availability of land for urban expansion, the need to increase infrastructure efficiency, and the desire for a more equitable and sustainable urban future. The medium/high-density housing typologies proposed by such consolidation are readily visualised in the policy documents and sit well within the design capabilities of the local architectural industry. However, these typologies challenge existing Australian housing provision and systemic change is arguably required to enable the outcomes prescribed by the planning and development policies.
The vast majority of existing housing provision is low density, with medium/high-density dwellings viewed as contrary to the ‘Australian Dream’. The 2011 Australian census shows three quarters of Australian occupied, privately-owned houses are free-standing suburban dwellings (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013). Of these, 77% are owner-occupied (Troy 2012) with the remainder being privately rented. This rate of home ownership has been relatively constant since the post WWII period of suburban expansion and increased household mobility. In contrast, privately-owned multi-unit housing (one quarter of the national stock) has a significantly lower owner-occupier rate of just one third (Troy 2012). Hence, for every one owner-occupied dwelling there are two tenanted dwellings, which are characterised by high rates of relocation. Only 13% of people in rental housing are likely to reside at the same address as they did five years prior compared to 71% of owner-occupiers (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2010). These tenure and mobility differences between low density and medium/high-density housing have steered the evolution of two distinct provision systems over time. The resultant built form perpetuates the entrenched perception of medium/high-density housing as an inferior housing alternative to be used as a stepping-stone to the ‘Australian Dream,’ and as an undesirable housing type to have in one’s neighbourhood due to high rental rates. Until such time as this perception is transformed, the planning policies promoting consolidation have limited chance of success and public objections to modifications of existing urban areas are likely to continue.