Perspectives on the City

Background; We’ve just had an interesting discussion on Facebook when Carl Smith asked Christiaan Weiler of CAB42 if there are any “radical art / architectural examples of how we should be ‘envisioning the smart city as if people mattered’ do you know of any good examples?”

Christian replied “smart to me is close to martial arts : optimizing energy flows, peripheral vision, perpetual in balance, low cost, high output…. so here are some links that reflect that; Calypso 2001

Book – city as loft
Book – make shift city
OfficeMargen lab Barcelona
Projectde ceuvel (Nederland)

Some interesting links developed from this opening comment. Christiaan added that to him ‘”identity requires adaptability”, putting the user-building relation central.’ Which is a part of Christiaan’s architectural philosophy. “Architecture that’s set in the present and destined for the future, adaptive and evolutive, imagined beyond the initial brief, a sustainable investment,” with examples collected on Pinterest.

Carl responded by pointing to the provocation piece; Cr-eAM FP7 EC Provocation: Experience Design and Perceptual Re(Design) through Post-Digital Context Engineering on Vimeo.

Fred responded by saying his work was a combination of creative Heutagogy, allowing serendipities and that he was Curious; Digital. The synergies of which he which he had been testing in the Ambient Learning City project

Ants, bees, new city metaphors; Fernando Mendes broaden the debate by mentioning Stymergy and the trace relationships between people and places in the city. This raised the issue of emergent behaviours, that Steven Johnson had discussed in Emergence. This linked to a question Mike Cooley had raised in discussing Human Technology on whether being Architect or Bee (PDF) is is the best way of envisioning the city. But human technology also needs human scale knowledge, which we might achieve by putting Context into Knowledge.

Some historical context; We’ve referred to Lewis Mumford The City in History & it is also worth remembering that the first City in History was Great Zimbabwe in Africa, but we started this riff with Kropotkin’s Fields Factories and Workshops (edited by Colin Ward of Sociable Cities!). This lead, practically to the Garden City movement, proposed by Ebenezer Howard which in the UK resulted in Welwyn & Letchworth Garden Cities and, of course, for Londoners, Hampstead Garden City. Chris Ealham’s work on how the anarchism of Barcelona emerged from the city between 1898 and 1937 has useful insights too. The Portuguese Quinta da Malagueria (1970) project was concerned to see how housing co-operatives could build new neighbourhoods. The anarchist and the city thread was wrapped up by referring to social anarchist Murray Bookchin’s work on Urbanisation WITHOUT Cities.

Rebel Cities in some ways David Harvey’s new Rebel Cities picks up on this radical city trend, but Mike Davis is a more seasoned observer of cities and his Planet of Slums offers the favela perspective on cities, whilst Owen Hatherley’s A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, argues that even successful city slickers lives are being immiserated by the city when financial decisions are the predominant design criteria…

Smart Citizens; Carl suggested instead of Smart ‘City’ we should talk about Smart ‘citizen’, so that we displace the centre of importance from technology to the people; placing people at the centre. Here is a definition and the manifesto of smart citizens by the Waag society (Amsterdam). Such smarter, citizen-centric approaches can also be seen in the Born Cultural Centre on WikiArquitectura and in the Public Sphere Project in Seattle which uses Pattern Language design (from Architecture) to share workable designs across different urban disciplines. Not unlike the newer open source WikiHouse project. We might want to design Green Cities as in Boulder, Colorado, or even Slow Cities (Cittaslow, Italy)

Internet of People; Maybe the Internet of Things (by turning cities into organisms) approach can help in designing new cities, it needs to be accommodated but has Tim Berners-Lee behind it. Fred likes its links to the possible Internet of Energy (Jeremy Rifkin) as a smart Internet of Things grid, but also agrees with Ben Hammmersley in Internet of People where he points out that a new society is emerging with people who grew up networked but is being held back by people who grew up in hierarchies and who are still in power.

City Futures. The Smart City debate is one about where we would like to live as cities evolve and if we want city managers to manage our lives in a corporatised framework, or if we want to use network affordance to build at least a Cityzen-centric model, or perhaps a new participatory democracy; see Homi & the NeXT one for one idea…


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