Notes from The Innovative Metropolis: Fostering Economic Competitiveness Through Sustainable Urban Design
Covering ground from Sao Paulo to Copenhagen, a set of multi-disciplinary discussions were convened in Washington, DC yesterday by the Brookings Institution and the Sam Fox School at Washington University in St. Louis, to explore the synergies between urban design, policy, and finance required to realize innovation in the way we construct our environment. The discussions focused on global case studies relative to urban mobility, technology, and environmental adaptation, against the backdrop of global urbanization and climate change.
While lessons were gleamed, it was clear that what was needed was “not one urbanism,” as Dean Moshen Mostafavi of the Harvard GSD put it, but “Urbanisms,” tuned to the “logic” of a given geography, climate, and culture. While existing within larger ecologies that, as Valente Souza of Mexico City asserted, may contain “their own solutions,” cites are, as Amy Liu of the Brookings Institution emphasized “complex economic systems” and any sustainable initiatives must address consumer demands. As Alex Washburn, Chief Urban designer for New York City summarized, “all change is driven by desire.”
Watch videos of the proceedings of “The Innovative Metropolis” on the Brookings Institution website.
Cities matter. In the Midwest recent headlines have read like an urban planning syllabus: post-industrial rebirth attracts a new generation of urbanites downtown, the roll-out of high-speed rail begins to pick up pace, and while innovative solutions to the region’s well-documented problems abound, a lingering fiscal crisis and unfunded pension liabilities threaten to squash even the most attainable aspirations.
Those topics and more made the agenda at University of Illinois Chicago’s annual Urban Forum held Thursday, whose lineup included the mayors of Columbus and Pittsburgh, as well as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Metropolitan Resilience in a Time of Economic Turmoil” was the topic at hand.
In an ongoing endeavor to blend public art, architecture, and urbanism by artists Siyuan and Hwee Chong, The Doors Project subversively projects a series of doors onto public spaces in Singapore, reflecting the struggles of the urban poor and underprivileged. But while commenting on despair, the real message is one of faith, hope and empowerment. “We wanted to make a statement about life, and jolt people to think,” the artists said in an interview at Yolo. “Instead of following the light at the end of the tunnel, why not carry our own lights, and create our own doors! It’s really about rolling up our sleeves, and creating the opportunities we want for ourselves.”
Layered SPURA: Spurring Conversations Through Visual Urbanism
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Parsons The New School
66 Fifth Ave.
Through February 25
The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) that occupies 14 square blocks on the Lower East Side has remained one of the largest underdeveloped city-owned parcels of land for more than 40 years. Very few of the originally-planned buildings came to pass, and vast parking lots created by slum-clearance on the south side of Delancey Street symbolize a hotly contested renewal plan. Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani and students of the New School’s City Studio have spent three years investigating the complex issues surrounding the site, and in an exhibition highlighting their research and artwork they propose to instigate a new grassroots conversation rather than a top-down planning vision.
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Coffee Break. A fourteen-foot tall neon sign that has been removed from the Knoxville, TN skyline after 50 years is undergoing restoration but needs a new home. Preservation magazine has the story and Knox Heritage has more info on their sign restoration program.
If last week’s story on the apparent shortcomings of the Office of Urban Affairs may have shaken your hopes about the Obama administration’s commitment to cities, planning, and urban policy, fear not. As we tried to point out, these things are happening, just not necessarily at the White House office whose name is synonymous with it. Case in point, two major announcements were made this week concerning sustainability, one at the GSA, the other at HUD.
Despite interest from developers and pleas from activists in St. Louis, yesterday the Missouri Circuit Court ruled that the demolition of the mid-century modern San Luis Apartments can proceed. An appeal brought to the court by The Friends of the San Luis last week attempted to prevent the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which owns the building, from the further demolition of the structure. The Archdiocese wants to build a surface parking lot on the site, creating a large gap in the urban fabric of Lindell Boulevard. Read More
A sublime piece of modern architecture, the United Nations Headquarters is a time capsule that preserves almost intact the spirit of the 1950s. From the head sets to the tapestries, which hide the most breathtaking views of Brooklyn and the East River, everything has the air of an early James Bond movie. On May 13th, however, the UN was looking forward to pressing environmental challenges and their urban solutions, as the host of the second part of the “Conference on Sustainable Urbanization in the Information Age,” entitled “The Role of Infrastructure in Metropolitan Development.” Read More