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Tag "planning"

It hase come a bit out of fashion to build new cities. It sort of comes in waves or trends when suddenly a lot of cities are being planned and built, but then the ide dies out again. The Romans build a lot of cities, then it was quiet in Europe until the Medieval times when cities came back into fashion with market rights and privileges but really was a topic during the renaissance period. Of course during the industrialisation cities were all the topic again but for all the negative reason, leading to the planning of new cities, the garden city idea. Later on during the 20th century the New Town movement brought us some new settlements. Since then with the acknowledgement of the associated problems, the conflict between structured objectivity and perceived livability.

Skolkovo Innovation Center
Image taken from Univers Utopia / A drawing of the city of Palmanova near Venice.

The ver idea of a new city and the theories around building a new place however are kind of persistent. Its a sort of statice vision. With the search for better conditions and the idealistic vision of the sustainable city, the beginning of the 21st century was marked with a few city planning projects mainly in connection with the boom in the Middle East. One of the projects Gateway City with the Dead Star by OMA and the other project, Masdar City by Foster and Partners.

Russia has not hada prestigious urban planning project for a while and has now after the Middle East boom relaunched the idea of planning a new city. Here again the focus is on technology and innovation with the promise of better quality, better conditions and of course peace of mind with numerous sustainability promisses.

The new development lead by French planners AREP Ville is branded as the Russian Silicon Valley (Press Release) using big global companies to demonstrate the attractiveness of the plans. Amongst them are according to the Fast Company Intel, Nokia, Siemens, and Cisco

The new city will be planned in Skolkovo just outside Moscow. The project came out of competition that also featured for example OMA, Foster and Partner, ARUP or Albert Speer.

In their article the Fast Company puts it as: “The 15,000-person, $4.3 billion city will feature five zones, each focusing on a different area of research: IT, nuclear, biomedical technologies, energy, and space research. Residents will get the benefit of picturesque tree-lined walkways, bike paths, and foot bridges. And, presumably, free-flowing vodka.” The cities project manager, Viktor Maslakov, is quoted as saying: “The pedestrian will come first, followed by cyclists and public transport. It will be linked to Moscow by high-speed trains taking 17-20 minutes.” This will mean a very drastic change in Russa, where the car is very much still the dominating the traffic landscape.

Architects plan for the town to generate its own electricity using solar panels, wind farms and wells that tap into geothermal energy.

Skolkovo Innovation Center
Image taken from the Fast Company – Overview of the new planned innovation centre by AREP.

With the latest series of cities, from Masdar to Skolkovo, the talking of new cities has change quite substantially. It is now about figures and performance, about technology and numbers. The city has become a product in a sense, usually branded as a science park with inovation cluster promoted to save the global problems. Where New Towns still had this strong Garden City ideology to improve peoples live, enable them to live in their individual house and play a role in the local community. The science cities are positioned as global hubs for urban nomads on business trips bringing fresh ideas and reinventing the wheel. These new cities are promoted as entities in a global market with very little concept of locality beyond icons.

Urbanisation is however still trending to increase and as Mike Batty discusses in his Commentary in the latest Environment and Planning A volume 43 is likely to increase. Batty discusses the urban growth from looking at the historic development and out of this developing a longterm perspective. He calls it ‘When all the World is a City‘ as the predictions are that everybody will be living in cities by the end of the century, but also points out the there are indications that it is likely not all will be connected to the giant cluster.

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The Fukushima nuclear disaster that is ongoing in Japan as a result of the devastating earthquake and the massive Tsunami has now been reassessed and the severity leve is now raised from level 5 to level 7, the same as Chernobyl. This means it is not just an accident, but the worst case scenario with massiv impact on environment and people on a long term scale.

Long term in this case is really a different matter. Talking nuclear material is blowing all human timescales with numbers beyond anything comprehensible. As the New York Time has put it in a recent story: “The death of a nuclear reactor has a beginning; the world is watching this unfold now on the coast of Japan. But it doesn’t have an end.”

Fukushima Plant
Image taken from socio-economics history, source www.digitalglobe.com / The Fukushima nuclear power plant after the earthquake and tsunami.

The use of nuclear technology around the world has been for the past 70 years and is ongoingly generating nuclear wast for which no real solution has been found as of yet. The wast is continuing to be active and dangerous even as wast and so far simply the only solution is to store the was safely. The problem is the time scale at which a safe storage will need to be found. It is not for a hundred years, not for a thousand years, not ten thousand years, actually no one really knows how long it would need to be. Some say twenty five thousand, that would be the half live of some of the radioactive materials, but it is likely to be a lot longer, Plutonium-239’s half-life is at 24,000 years. Some of the radioactive materials have a half-life of more than 100’000 years. This means a wast storage solution would need to be safe for this amazingly long period.

This brings planning problems with it that are far beyond anything human kind has been challenged with. One of these problems is a practical one that illustrated the dimensions very nicely. How to make sure the storage is known about and safe for the duration of it being there? How to marke the location in a way that people in ten thousand years still can understan they should not be digging in this area because the nuclear waste is still extremely dangerous? This brings very simple questions with it, for example what language do people speak in ten thousand years, or in fifty thousand years? Or maybe what signs would they understand if we don’t know about the language?

Klenze Akropolis
Image taken from wikipedia, source www.digitalglobe.com / One of the very old site and structures dating very, very far back, the Acropolis in the city of Athens. Here in a painting by Leo von Klenze “Reconstruction of the Acropolis and Areus Pagus in Athens” (1846).

In comparison cities are about 4000-7000 years old. Some of the very old elements of London are for example about 2000 years old. The oldest cities data back to about 7000 years to the times of the very first permanent settlements. Urban structures have evolved and increased in size, but planning is dramatically short termed in this over all context. Some infrastructures are amongst the long standing elements, like the Roman viaducts for water delivery and of course the longest standing elements are the elements relating to traditions, rites and practices. As of which elements the very fundamental concept of permanent settlement actually rests.

Taking this back to the question of how we can possibly manage to maintain the safety for hundreds of generations from the radioactive waste, it becomes clear how far beyond everything we know this goes. Its not that we have a memory as far back as the earliest cities, but at least this we have a conceptual history for the past 7000 years. However, this is about it, this far in the past a lot of things are pretty blurred and unclear. But what we need here for the radioactive mountain of waste is going a lot further into the future than that. So we better have a pretty good solution, it really is a timeframe more appropriate for mythology.

WIPP
Image taken from wikipedia, source www.digitalglobe.com / Schematic plan of the WIPP facility with a system of underground tunnels.

The United States of America have in recent years made a move towards a more permanent storage solution. plans for a storage facility in the Yucca Mountain has been put on ice, but the nuclear wast is currently delivered to a Waste Isolation Pilot Plant WIPP, located approximately 26 miles (42 km) east of Carlsbad, New Mexico, in eastern Eddy County, for longterm storage. It is mainly for radioactive wast from the production and testing of nuclear weapons. The project planners do claim the site is safe for at least 10’000 years and have received the official confirmation to run it. Even though this is likely to be not long enough it is a hell of a lot of time.

A film documentary by Peter Galison, Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics, and Robb Moss, who teaches filmmaking in the Visual and Environmental Studies department, is soon to be coming out about this project with very fascinating background information about this US storage project and how the problems were approached.

They have decided on some form of granite pillars to mark the site with some plates describing the danger plu s the dissemination of the information to libraries world wide in order to increase the chance of the information to survive. However this part of the project is not to be placed on site before 2028, so plenty of time to redesign. A call for ideas was run earlier by the ‘Zeitschrift für Semiotik’ in 1982/83 and several ideas were proposed. Including nuclear priesthood, programable DNA or the genetically modified cats that can actually change colour upon coming near radiation.

I guess the call on this is still open and it will remain a challenge to deal with the wast we are producing in many sense but definitely here it is opening dimensions we are incapable of handling using traditional planning tools.

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Picking up on the recent topic of how urban areas deal with water this new Nai Publisher book ‘Amphibious Housing in the Netherlands‘ offers a very methodological discussion of different approach and strategies for living with water in urbanised areas.

THe authors Ane Loes Nillesen and Jeroen Singelenberg highlight the change in attitude toward the water in a wider planning context and the move away from the defensive approach towards a more integrated practice in te recent decade. This change is to be observed in both a quality sense as for that people discover the beauty of the water and want to have access to it, but on the other had also the pressuring issues of the rising sea levels with increased flooding. The book offers in this context a structured overview of the different typologies and solutions developed in traditional and more recent water housing project and offers an overview of the current state of the art in the Netherlands.

Het Nieuwe Water
Image taken from dein.gs / Het Nieuwe Water by Waterstudio.

In the first part the book discusses in detail the different elements. This methodological is extremely useful and presented with a lot of passion for the topic. The authors discuss the different water types, from sea to rivers to lakes, then the different dwelling typologies, with floating homes, pile dwelling and Dyke Houses. From these elements they move in to the discusion of urban principles and how the different types can be structured. In detail are the solutions for privacy and access presented. The authors put a very strong focus on the organisation within a new water dwelling community, but offer little on how it can be integrated with for example normal land housing in terms of larger urban structures.

The second part of the book is the presentation and discussion of recent water housing project in the Netherlands. The authors have drawn together an extensive and very interesting selection of project to illustrate the more theoretical discussion in part one of the publication. The projects range from the Haven City in Hamburg, to the Acquavista in Almere, to Sausalito Bay in California. It also includes proposed projects such as the Het Nieuwe Water in Westland.

Sausalito, California
Image taken from davidcmc58 on Panoramio / Floating Homes at Shores of Richardson Bay, Sausalito, California.

No only in the Netherlands, but throughout the urban planning discussion water has dramatically risen in importance both from a pleasure as well as a safety perspective. This book offers a very hands on and ‘it can be done’ discussion of the topics. The practical perspective offers for a lot of reading between the lines and interpretation of cross typologies. definitely something that suits the flexible requirements for planning with the fluid element of water.

Sausalito, California
Image taken from bookplu.fi/ / Amphibious Housing in The Netherlands. Architecture and Urbanism on the Water, book cover.

Nillesen, A.L. & Singelenberg, J., 2010. Amphibious Housing in The Netherlands. Architecture and Urbanism on the Water, RotterdamNAI Publishers.

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Copenhagen is growing fast and with its 539,542 citizens and about 1.2 million in the metro area its a rather busy place.

One of the very famous examples in the Copenhagen planning history is the Finger Plan of 1947. Quite interesting how the formal shape of the human hand serves here as an icon for a strategy. It is not very modernist to use such this reference in such a direct way. But nevertheless also Le Corbusier referred occasionally to the body in urban planning projects as a reference. However, here it is a very litteral translation and it has never grown out of it. The different elements are still, aso on Wikipedia, called the Ringfinger, the little finger, and so on. In a very modernist tradition one would maybe expect a stronger interpretation of the function of the hand, in the sense of form follow function.

But there are many more interesting projects. A great Timeline of the Copenhagen urban planing history can be found on Engineering-Timelines.

Finger Plan 1947
Image taken from Skyscrapercity / The Finger Plan 1947 provides a strategy for the development of Greater Copenhagen, Denmark. According to the plan, Copenhagen is to develop along five ‘funger’, centred on S-train commuter rail lines, which extend from the ‘palm’, that is the dense urban fabric of central Copenhagen. In between the fingers, green wedges are supposed to provide land for agriculture and recreational purposes.

One of the latest additions, not yet on the above timeline, in the BIG contribution of a new and of course BIG rethinking of the wider Copenhagen area. It is entitled: ‘1947-2047: From Finger Plan to Loop City’. The project was presented at the 12th Architecture Biennale in Venice 2010 and was really a collaborative project. It goes with loads of credits: Presentation developed by BIG + Kollision + CAVI. Loop City Vision by BIG + Tom Nielsen + ReD Associates + ARUP. Presentation sponsored by Realdania.

The key idea is to develop a ring around the the Øresund Strait combining Sweden and Denmark into a one urban area. By connecting the fingers with a light railway and then extending along the little finger clockwise around the Strait all the way down to Malmö and back across the bridge connecting to the thumb.

A very bold gesture with even bolder infrastructure-architecture hybrids. It features the reinterpretation of a Roman aquaduct or a highway loop in the style of model racetrack features. Landmarks I suppose, the point comes across.

Loop City
Image taken from Danish Architecture Centre / The ten rings of the Øresund region by BIG et all, 2010.

Interesting are the ten layers the team has based the project on. Of course transport and sustainability are at the very top of the importance list, but the layer 10 with the nationalities reflects a very specific attitude to wards foreigners and migrants. The nationalities already established and presumed to grow in the near future feature as an important argument of the project. Its not something negative that has to be hidden, but something that can be built upon become a driving force. There are of course some elements embedded in this like the “København M” as a reference to the rivalry between Danmark and Sweden, but its and key part. Danemark is living a very liberal culture, this is reassuring.

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The different manifestations of the city and cities are something that slowly is gaining ground. Today planners and project managers have started to think of the subject they are working with as being fluid and to some extend ephemeral in nature. There is no one solution, thats already hard, but everything keeps changing.

This understanding is the basis for the Jovis ‘Multiple City: Urban Concepts 1908-2008‘ publication by Sophie Wolfrum and Winfried Nerdinger. They argue that “the complex and multi faced city becomes the multiple city”. This is also based on the observation that there is no sovereignty of interpretation of individual position.

This leads to a very interesting position of multiplicity which is present through out the book. The argumentation is constructed in sixteen chapters all addressing different aspects. Usually for urban concepts, they are simple and aggregated. You get to read about the three point plan or as Kevin Lynch divides the elements into five groups, but having so many is unusual.

However, all of the proposed aspects today are well known concept, both theoretically and practically. Take for example the ‘Netzstadt – Network City‘ coined also by Franz Oswald and Peter Baccini at ETH in Zuerich in the 1990s or the ‘Patchwork City’ concepts as well as ‘Urban Icon’
and ‘Telepoli’ which recently with availability of new data and technologies has a sort of revival (eg see John Reades) are all very familiar key words.

This is however the point. Multiple City reflects on current urban development against the background of urban concepts over the past 100 years. It is possible to trace the history of multiple manifestations, parallel strategies and diametrical developments.

For example the chapter Situational Urbanism, Performative Urbanism discusses theories such as ‘la derive’ developed by the Situationists with Guy Debord and continues the though process with a contribution by Ian Borden ‘Performance, Risk and the Public Realm’ of course on skateboarders.

L'architettura della città
Image taken from Library ETHZ / Aldo Rossi, L’architettura della città, 1968, Kat. Nr. 7.10

Another chapter “‘Tessuto Urbano, the city s collective memory’ Sophie Wolfrum combines three concepts into one that beautifully works in this context. Those are Maurice Halbwachs ‘The Collective Memory’, Also Rossi’s ‘L’Architectura della Citta‘ and Karl Schloegel‘s ‘Im Raum lesen wir die Zeit (In Space we Read Time)’.

The book is set in the context of the hundredth anniversary of the Department of City Planning at the TU Munich in 2008. The department was founded by Theodor Fischer in 1908. He was a visionary city planner and contributed extensively to the expansion projects of the Munch urban Area.

Palm Jumeirah
Image taken from eikongraphia / THe Palm Jumeirah in Dubai features in the book Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown in the chapter ‘City as Image, Urban Icon’.

This is picked as the starting point for the book. Instead of just looking back, the editors let the authors developed the sixteen key concepts taken from the past 100 years into virulent topics of todays cities. This approach goes beyond the normally dominating topics of sustainability and mobility, which are of corse part of many of the discussed topics. But the book manages to introduce new perspectives and especially establish links between them. With this the ‘Multiple City’ really comes to live and a picture of many possible multiplicities emerges showing the complexity urbanity can be thought of today.

The publication is in German and English, some preview pages can be found HERE.

coverMultipleCity

Wolfrum, S. & Nerdinger, W., 2009. Multiple City: Urban Concepts 1908-2008: Stadtkonzepte 1908-2008 Bilingual., Jovis.

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Strong concepts and approaches in planning, shaping and maintaining urban areas are very scarce these days and it is more a ‘we figure it out by ourselves’ climate. At least if one dwells in the romanic admiration of past epochs. Looking back, from a different standpoint, puts a different perspective on things and relating this to current or upcoming tasks, one is tempted to believe everything was simpler and better in the old days. (But it was not! as a statement to move on.) Still the lack of a strategy, an overall idea or a concept one can relate projects, processes and task to is a problem. Not so much for the quality of the output or the individual project, but for the discipline and the communication. So much effort needs to be put in for the translation or the connection that too often this is neglected. In this sense it hinders the progress, the richness and the ability to react on different levels.
A approach that has been recently dug out and is now published in a book with a lot of contextual information and supported by case studyes illustrating the point is by Luuk Boelens ‘The Urban COnnection – An actor relational approach to urban planning‘ published by 010 Publishers. The concept of an actor oriented practice contrasts directly with the traditional retrospective analysis of studies. The benefit is the concrete aspects of the examples as well as the suggestions and solution orientated conclusions well suited for a globalising but fragmenting world. Speaking of globalisation, this, I believe, forms an important part of the context in which this publication stands. On one hand reflected in the choice of case studies represented in the ‘referencial argument’ presented as ‘boxes’ or special inter chapters, looking at Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth, the Pearl River Delta, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo. On the other hand this reflects the topics raised in the current debate concerned with global phenomena as well as the vanishing identity of local areas.
This is obvious a massive task, but strikingly successful. By touching on and integrating a multidisciplinary perspective on planning, economics, social geography and governance this starts to paint a holistic picture. Explained in a few words, Jaqueline Cramer, Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning, tried to summarise the concept as: “It’s not them, it’s just a whole lot of us.”
For me this is the central and most important argument for a new approach, claiming back owner ship of the urban areas, the spaces and landscapes. It is not a service out there that we enjoy, its not a shopping mall and its not a place we payed for an entry ticket! On the contrary as Cramer puts it it is us, we make the city.
This of course brings with it the responsibility a;; of us have to carry, the most normal thing in the world, one could argue, has become the privilege of the elite role models.
The content of the publication is structured in two parts. First as a ‘scientific argument’ in five chapters: ‘Dutch spatial planningin transition’, ‘Main and brainport planning 2.0’, ‘Transnational communities’, ‘Institutional order via association’ and ‘Outlines for a new planning future’. This is followed by the second part of the earlier mentioned ‘Referential argument’ in two chapters: ‘A relational tale of metropolises’ and ‘References as suggestion for further research’.

book_urbanConnection02
Image by 010 Publishers / Spread 60-61 ‘The Urban Connection – An actor relational approach to urban planning.

The examples in the ‘boxes’ examine one example each in specific detail and wider context. The first box focuses on Rotterdam: from staple port to main port and further. Here the usual historical facts and stories are presented, but with a special focus on the actors. In a lot of detail the individuals or companies are portrayed to find out about their role and actions in a wider context. This not only makes the story a lot more interesting but actually allows for an additional perspective. It does require to some extend a courageous stand to tackle the historic problem with this sort of a standpoint, since the author has to leave the tall platform of objectivity and take on a more subjective position. This is, as beautifully demonstrated here, however very beneficial.

book_urbanConnection03
Image by 010 Publishers / Spread 108-109 ‘The Urban Connection – An actor relational approach to urban planning.

In the chapter transnational communities South America stands a the centre with a focus on Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo who both are largely immigrant cities, not least based on the fact both are founded by European Colonials, the Spanish and Portuguese respectively. These immigrants forme large communities in these urban areas and in general identify clearly with the place. This is for me a very interesting point of view that is argued here, how these transnational communities play a major role in the running of these cities portrayed as actors and not as usual as part of the problem. This completely changes the picture and disarms all the standard arguments and solutions on the spot. A joy, opening new perspectives that were thought to be lost in the haystack.

A book that outlines an approach that doe not only sound promising but actually looks promising. The richness of examples and concrete conclusions and suggestions make this a perfect starting point for experts of the trans disciplinary field and global community to change their minds and perspectives. For many I imagine this will be spoken from the heart. Finally something to hold in the hands as a ‘leitmotif’ for everyday practice.

The book can also be found online at Google Books for a first read, but as usual the previe is restricted in parts.

book_urbanConnection01
Image by 010 Publishers / Book cover ‘The Urban Connection – An actor relational approach to urban planning.

Boelens, L., 2009. The Urban Connection: An Actor-relational Approach to Urban Planning, 010 Publishers.

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A book with a great question: what do we owe the planning and building rules? An for a change, this is a different approach to try and explain what the urban form, the urban morphology is and where it comes from.
Traditionally, this seemed very easy, being simply the sum of all the individual buildings. becoming more complicated with for examples Kevin Lynch’s Image of the city were the idea settled that individuals perceive the city and this in turn influences how we understand and then obviously it became even more complicate with the introduction of the social dimension as a informing parameter of the built form, as for example in ‘the Social Logic of Space’.
So it is complicated and the search for the identity of the place is going round and round.
Going back, picking up a very pragmatic element and start rolling up the question from a completely different angle could be a very good idea. This is what I thought when I saw the book.
Grand Urban Rules by Alex Lehnerer and published by 010 Publishers “is a tribute to the city’s will to form…”) as it says on the book back cover. The concept is then, nevertheless introduced using two aspects. One is to base it on the building rules or regulations exemplary taken from cities of central Europe and the United States with the exception of Vancouver and Hong Kong. The second aspect is then already the social connection with the statement “Setting standards is first and foremost a cultural act.” So we are back in the social business, but that is most likely a very good move.

GUR01
Image taken by urbanTick / Book spread with an overview of urban rules.

The book might encounter a difficult problem, a certain resistance from readers to engage, specially from practitioners side. Very often the rules and standards are something that is seen as a negative force engaging in the creative process. This often creates the two sides of the planning an building process. On one hand the authority setting out the rules and on the other hand the planner or architect who has to ‘implement’ them. It often ends in a battle between the two. To some extend this is ok and part of the ongoing process of finding and defining the position of the current culture, to refer back to the statement on the book back cover. But too often this ends in useless, consuming debates.
Refreshing then here, that this publication manages to completely avoid this topic and present, discuss and ‘implement’ regulations as a positive part of the planning process. As you start diving in to the publication and flip through the first 51 pages skimming all 115 examples chosen here you kind of forget about the battle and the misery it turns most debates into. Slowly but steadily a feeling creeps in to your mind, that actually this discussion is a lot larger than the battle between the parties of one building and the personal emotions involved and that it could actually be a cultural, society based discussion that authority and planner could lead and develop together.
Having said that, the book is much more fun and not at all as heavy as my thoughts on this topic. It is actually fun and present the ideas and concept with a certain implicit humor that you will have a constant smile on your face as you read along, that it very rear with architecture, planning publications.
It presents the ‘2h Shadow’ used in Zurich, Switzerland “A high-rise may not place a neighboring residential building in shadow for more than two hours per day.” and the ‘London View Management’ “Through the heights of the adjacent buildings, the upper space around the cathedral shall remain unencumbered by visual interference. Tall structures will be permitted to stand in the cathedral’s view shadow.” or the ‘5-Story Rule of Paris’ “Buildings cannot be taller than the height residents and users are prepared to climb using stairs. For buildings without elevators, this threshold has been reached at a height of five stories.” to name a few examples.

GUR02
Image taken by urbanTick / Book spread discussing the London View Management

Using these 115 examples the book then develops a clearly structured understanding of rules and regulations by comparing situations, implementations and outcome of different locations. For this it uses plenty of illustrative examples and makes beautiful use of illustrations. By the way the book is designed by Joost Grootens, who also did ‘the New Dutch Water Defence Line’.
To sum up, this is a brilliant read and a book that could lead a new and much more open debate around the implications and possibilities of identity of the place.

Lehnerer, A., 2008. Grand Urban Rules, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.

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A truly nice book worth having. Well, yes I know it is odd to start the review with the conclusion, but there is not much more needed to be said. A Birkhauser publication usually would not let you down and this one is no exception. But however, a good publication also needs some good substance to it and only if the two meet up it will be a truly nice book. Probably the only thing irritating is the preface, which you’d better skip because this puts you definitely in the wrong mind set.
Cities of Change Addis Ababa – Transformation Strategies for Urban Territories in the 21st Century‘ by Marc Angelil and Dirk Hebel is, as mentioned above by Birkhauser. The book reports on the progress of an ongoing research at the ETH under Professor Marc Angelil (His practice is AGPS). The work published here is the result of three years of student work dating from the years 2006/07, 2007/08 and 2008/09. The introduction summarizes: “The research investigates the performance of cities in view of resource fluxes – the interplay and transformation of stocks and flows of recourses according to changing parameters in time.” The reoccurring ‘awareness’ here really is “…that the only constant is change, …”


Image by urbanTick / Cities of Change Addis Ababa book cover.

Since this is research conducted in the learning environment with students it has adopted a rather strict and structured approach. This makes perfect sense, in the light of changing groups of students over the duration of the investigation, but especially to allow for a structured leaning environment, while still keeping an open mind for the research. This is a very challenging setup, but I believe this publication demonstrates that any academic research short comings are definitely made up by the quality of the students learning output. It is to some extend a catalogue of student work produced, but the integration as research work is so clever that you wont necessarily notice.
The investigation is structured in two trajectories: “The first … follows the principle of conducting in-depht academic work in specific fields of inquiry, highlighting particular themes and integrating input from supporting disciplines. THe second trajectory, on questions of urban design, situates the work in the context of design research studio, a workshop setting in which concepts are tested through specific design propositions, aiming for the synthesis of findings from an array of fields.” Clearly the publication explores the intersection of the two trajectories. This is organised in seven topics called the ‘flux model’. These areas of change are: Stocks and flow of ‘people’, ‘space’, ‘material’, ‘capital’, ‘information’ and ‘energy’. Each chapter is introduced with a theoretical text, outlining and extending on the explanations given in the introduction part. Mixed with the design projects each chapter also contains theoretical, subject or contextual text pieces.
The surprising element here probably is that the publication does not close with a summary or conclusion. But probably this has to be looked for in the introduction, like in this review, the important things can be said up front without sliming away any of the interest for the further content.
To open the debate here, one of the points I believe to be important to discuss is the structure chosen for such a research project. As outlined before, the context of design studio work clearly has its requirements, but for a truly ‘in flux’ practice the static outline of the seven chapters can probably not sustain itself over a longer period, since “…that the only constant is change, …”


Image taken from Google Maps / Addis Ababa aerial view of the city centre.

Angelil, M.M. & Hebel, D., 2009. Cities of Change: Addis Ababa: Transformation Strategies for Urban Territories in the 21st Century, Birkhauser Verlag AG.

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