Pedestrian boardwalk towards Etopia by Leonid Andronov (Source iStock)
By Jon Glasco
(Originally published at Bee Smart City.)
Fifteen years ago, Zaragoza – the historic Spanish city situated between Madrid and Barcelona – pioneered a vision of a future digital district and knowledge-based society. Since then, the city has developed an impressive portfolio of smart city projects and new urban services. According to Daniel Sarasa, Urban Innovation Planner, one of Zaragoza’s unique strengths is its culture of citizen involvement and participation. This culture has its roots in the reawakening of democracy. In the late 1970s, the city of Zaragoza (like other cities in Spain) looked back on thirty five years of dictatorship – and looked ahead to an uncertain future. During the years of dictatorship, Zaragoza had grown in population from approximately 235,000 to more than 500,000, but the civic infrastructure and public services needed to support this urban growth were inhibited by an autocratic national government which maintained severe austerity measures.
With democracy regaining a foothold in the early 1980s, the citizens of Zaragoza knew that the recovery of their communities and the development of civic infrastructure would depend on them taking matters into their own hands. From this awareness was born a grass-roots determination and pride-of-community mindset to reclaim rights to the city and to build new infrastructure. This resulted in citizen-inspired plans and actions to build neighborhood civic centers, kindergartens, centers for the elderly, public libraries and sport centers.
In the early years of democracy, citizens and city planners in Zaragoza could not have imagined that, decades later in the early 21st century, the city would become a leader in making the transition from a technology-centric to a citizen-centric smart city vision. Trust in citizen-inspired innovation was embedded in Zaragoza’s culture, waiting to be nurtured and developed. >> Read full article
Original photo at roomdiseno.com
It was made public today that Zaha Hadid’s Pavilion Bridge in Zaragoza will host a center for showcasing progress in electric mobility. According to the local media, the project is a joint agreement between Aragon’s main savings bank, Ibercaja, the administration and the motor industry, and will reinforce Zaragoza’s strategic position in the mobility arena.
Mobility is an essential side of any smart city strategy, as it is a smart citizenship. But, traditionally, the motor industry around Zaragoza, which accounts for 6% of the region’s GDP and more than 25.000 jobs, has stood with his back turned to the city. The situation will likely change when the Pavilion Bridge opens its doors and the citizens will be able to interact with the latest developments through its exhibition rooms.
But this is not the only divide that the renewed Pavilion Bridge is intended to close. On each bank of the Ebro river, two flagship urban developments still seem unconnected. On the north bank, the Expo site, formerly dedicated to water and sustainable development and now hosting many of the regional administration offices, is mainly fueled by the regional Government. On the south, the Digital Mile, an innovation district planned by the City Hall in 2003 that has stagnated for almost five years following the financial crisis. The crisis has also left its footprints on the Zaha Hadid’s Pavilion Bridge. Lifeless for almost 10 years as a consequence of Ibercaja’s struggles to digest the real estate crash, it wil now require more than just a coat of paint to shine again as one of the landmarks of the “new Zaragoza” that emerged with the Expo 2008. Continue reading
Elections for Mayor are a-coming. With the aim of shaping my contribution to the approaching campaign, I have been reflecting lately on innovation districts. Ours, the Digital Mile (Milla Digital) is unfinished. One tends to think that all innovation districts are, by definition, unfinished. But, seriously, the Digital Mile must be one of the more unfinished innovation districts in the world, and I’ve known a few. Planned ahead of its time, built too late, never fully understood.
District layout at Poblenou and Barcelona’s 22@
I know that innovation districts are big real estate operations in the first place. Land owners, developers and construction companies are the first and primary beneficiaries. To shift the urban economics from construction to innovation we need bricks, glass and concrete. And a delicate urban planning, too. See the delicacy in Barcelona’s 22@ urban fabric, the first innovation district I knew back in 2002 and a place I have visited many times since.
In it, the legacy of Cerdà’s urban layout serves as a landing track for Castells’ discoveries about digital economy. Jane Jacobs would have approved: perfect block sizes, mixed uses, walkability. And a focused management structure, that soon shifted its efforts from urban development to economic development. The result: more than 100.000 new jobs (many of them high-skilled) and an overall impact of 15% in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the city. Continue reading
El diseño de sistemas de alumbrado inteligente pone de manifiesto algo que comentaba hace tiempo, en un post titulado “Smart Cities: sentido y sensibilidad”: a la hora de desplegar nuevas soluciones tecnológicas en nuestras ciudades, hay que ser cuidadoso en no poner el “cerebro” (software) antes que la “sensibilidad” (los sensores) y, especialmente, que todo esto no fuera en contra del “sentido” (el factor humano y social).
Los ingenieros tenemos una fe casi ciega en la tecnología, hasta tal punto que tenemos tendencia a pensar antes en la solución que en el problema. Hace un par de años di un taller de “Smart Cities sin tecnología” en San Sebastián. Diseñamos un sistema de atención temprana a personas de avanzada edad usando a los tenderos del barrio como “vigilantes”, que ponían pegatinas rojas o verdes en el escaparate en función de que estas personas hubiesen o no pasado por la tienda en su rutina habitual, para proporcionar al asistente social del barrio, en su paseo diario, un “cuadro de mando” en tiempo real. Continue reading
Photo by Carlo Ratti Associatti
The Italian magazine “Luce et Design” interviewed us for its April 2016 number. We talked about topics such as urban innovation strategies, smart lighting, digital art, public space and… refugees. We share a translation of the interview in English.
Luce Et Design: What was your training course?
I had my masters degree as a Telecom Engineer at the University of Zaragoza, back in 1997. After almost twenty years of practice I added to my training a masters degree in city sciences by the Politechnic University of Madrid.
LED: On which essential techniques and strategies did you base your intervention to turn Zaragoza into a Smart City?
Zaragoza’s implementation of its own unique Digital City model will at a particularly difficult time for the both city and its inhabitants have the concept of open source as its connecting theme: open data, free software, accessible networks and open government, meaning a truly transparent and participatory administration.
In addition to this, it shall have an open code architecture which gives rise to reconfigurable buildings (“open place making”), new digital public spaces that are made up of, used and reconfigured by the public itself; spaces where they exercise their participation, grow in knowledge and strengthen their digital links with the city. Continue reading