Micropatches | an Ecology of Space

Aqualta by Studio Linfors

The cities of today have adopted a rather constructed space interpretation. It is filled with function and defined by a hierarchically organised activity scheme trained to fit the exercises ration. It works pretty well and most have managed to adapt to this interpretation, leaving only some baffled out unable to offer adaption possibilities.

As dpr-barcelona have beautifully illustrated in their most recent contribution to the Ecologycal Urbanism discussion in the post ‘Zoom in, zoom out. Focusing our cities under a microscope’ how aspects of scale play an essential role in the interplay between the different elements shaping space, moreover scale plays an other important role in actually understanding this interconnectedness between the different aspects. This relationship between scale and understanding, resolution and knowledge has powerful potential to illustrate the conduit an Ecological Urbanism potentially could develop.

Representation of scale, from micro to macro. The concept behind is to develop adaptation strategies at local level, according to scales of space, time, and different flows. Caption from the project Powers of Ten.

Different scales for action. A portion of the port of Tianjin. Source: Bing Maps as seen at mammoth

Throughout the contributions, aspects of network and interconnectedness between places, technologies, disciplines and people was sort of a common subject and wasn’t it for something else here the different perspectives are focused and merge. For all the differences it seems that it is easier to start name the areas the divergent angels overlap and agree.

The strong focus on spatial aspects of an Ecological Urbanism has helped to densify this field of discussed aspects. Shifting the focus away from technological aspects towards more tangible everyday aspects, has definitely helped to bring the urgency closer, but also to demonstrate that every contribution is worth wile and makes a difference. On the other hand this has also shown how convenient it is to hide behind these bold tech visions and possible invention, an often adopted short term solution. Technology in this sense keeps the ‘problem’ at the distance and evokes the difficult certainty that ‘someone’ will come up with a solution to deal with it. This leaves the task undone and in the name of economy no business is short of promises.

Sietch Nevada by MATSYS

This interconnectedness and team work raises also new questions that have to be asked regarding the education and training of a new generation of professionals. What can be done and what are we currently doing. Jonathan Kendall has outlined a possible approach, taking first step with not only integrating sustainability as an aspect, but making it a dimension of education. This move clearly shows that we are now beyond the pure ‘it’s nice to talk about’ sustainability approach, now we want to actually handle and feel it.

Ecological Urbanism in a sense is not only something we can add to the mix to improve the final output, but is more so also a way of thinking, a concept. And this concept needs an adequate education to train and prepares a next generation of practitioners. It has taken about sixty years to develop this topic to finally now take center stage in a range of subjects and it will continue to take some time for it to be implemented.

However as for example Pieter Vandendorpe or David Bruce in ‘Periplastic’ have shown, in a spatial sense there are some emerging trends to integrate the thinking and constitute different and potentially new spaces.

London by Krystian Truth Czaplicki

It is not surprising that the art world once more is quicker to adapt and deliver directions. It might be seen as ‘easier’ to work outside the strict practical guidelines, but this is not the point. As noted earlier this approach is about collaboration and networking between the disciplines and to do this the old preoccupations have to be put aside, focusing on the contribution each are can make. It is no longer about pure maths, right and wrong it is about inspiration and support, direction and experience.

And very much in the sense of Colin Fournier’s ‘Beyond the City and Capitalism?’ and also Kiril Stanislov’s ‘Ecological Urbanism – Redesigning the City 2.0’ the debate is not limited to the currently identified areas of action, but should continuously be questioned and critically reevaluated in an wider context. Too easily the solution and conclusion repertoire is applied and the ‘problem’ is portrayed a ‘solved’.

A similarly critical position was adapted by Martin Gittins in ‘Dross and Stim in Hertfordshire’ to discuss the often stiled counterpart ‘city and ‘countryside’ in more detail. It showed once more that we have been here before, but much has changed and new solutions are still not a hand. The question more directly formulated has Annick Labeca in her post ‘Can Ecological Urbanism be a planning tool for an ecologically sustainable and liveable world?’ including a formulated conclusion.

Reforestation of Greenwood Farm: An Emergent Landscape and Intervention by MANIFOLD Design

In this sense we would like to thank the contributors who actually made this such a thought full and stimulating second series. They have demonstrated the diversity of approaches and the different angles, but at the same time drawn outlines of constructive development with potential for further and future progress. In sequence of appearance the contributors to this second discussion of Ecological Urbanism – Space were: Colin Fournier, director Urban Design, the Bartlett, UCL; Pieter from PYTR75, Brett Milligan from F.A.D. free association design, David Bruce from davidbrucestudios.com, Jonathan Kendall from Fletcher Priest Architects, Luis Suarez from estudio arq, Marty from Kosmograd and Duncan Smith.

The second sequel has shown the importance of the invention of a frame. Cities are a system of complexities with temporalities and scales. These texts have shown that there are important changes in the scale of cities [warming, emissions, ozone, lack of infrastructure, etc]. Apprehending cities now demands not only new tools at city-scale but also a framework to address these global challenges.

As Kazys Varnelis pointed at “The Infrastructural City

“This new kind of urbanist might very well resemble a hacker, in the best sense, re-imagining how to appropriate the codes, rules, and systems that make up the contemporary city and manipulate them so as to create not a plan but a new kind of urban intervention more appropriate for this century”

This could formulate a new approach to urban planning in terms of “micropatches” of change in existing issues, rather than a complete master plan intervention. In this sense, the question of scales, the importance of analysing local conditions is essential to contemporary practices.

This is not a final conclusion to the topic discussed here. The intention is to let this summary act as an hub for cross reading the different contributions and also link them in with the first series. Since we can’t claim to have published ‘solutions’, we are intending to link different views and hopefully stimulate and push development trends. A third series of Ecological Urbanism is in planning and if you would like to contribute please get in touch. It would be great if this could become a more open format so feel encouraged to jump in and fuel the discussion.

This second series has been hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, urbanTick, and dpr-barcelona. This text was wrote in a collaborative way by all the hostess.

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