Innovation Districts: From Barcelona to Dublin, This Is What I Know

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@

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

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Dublin’s Declaration on Smart Districts

Dublin’s Smart Docklands District

Last month I was invited to participate in the Harvard Smart City Accelerator, which, organized by Harvard Tech and hosted by the great Smart Dublin team, took place at Dublin’s Smart Docklands, the thriving smart district of Ireland’s capital.

During three days we launched urban challenges, discussed on subjects such as economic growth, privacy or openness, learned from multiple stakeholders’ views, from industry to academia, walked the district under Irelands’ chilly winter and toasted with Irish beer for the success of our respectives innovation districts and strategies back home. Continue reading

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Descifrando la estrategia urbana de Zaragoza

Aunque en Open Your City hablamos de ciudades, en general, uno de los objetivos “fundacionales” de este blog era ayudar a comprender nuestra ciudad, Zaragoza, sus proyectos y sus retos. En el apartado estratégico, nos hemos dado cuenta de que no hay un único lugar donde aparezcan todas las piezas, todos los planes estratégicos sectoriales que marcan el presente y que marcarán el futuro de nuestra ciudad. Por ello, nos hemos tomado el trabajo de buscar todos ellos y mostrarlos en un único lugar. De esta manera el lector, planificador urbano, político, académico o simplemente ciudadano curioso, puede tener una visión integral acerca de adónde se dirige su ciudad, así como del trabajo que a la ciudad le queda por hacer desde el punto de vista de su estrategia urbana.

Empecemos por arriba. Continue reading

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El centenario de Jane Jacobs

Se cumplen 100 años del nacimiento de Jane Jacobs. En OYC lo celebramos recopilando en una sola entrada tres de los artículos inspirados por esta pequeña gran mujer, cuya figura no hace sino crecer al ritmo que lo hace el interés por esa gran invención humana que son las ciudades. Economistas como Edward Glaeser, geógrafos como Michael Batty, ingenieros como Anthony Townsend o arquitectos urbanistas como Jan Gehl, citan a Jane Jacobs como una de sus principales fuentes de inspiración. Cumpleaños feliz.

jacobsJane Jacobs: “Muerte y vida de las grandes ciudades”. La autora analiza, con precisión de entomóloga urbana, cómo funcionan las ciudades a escala microscópica, cuáles son los procesos que las revitalizan y las hacen más “vivibles” y cuáles los que las destruyen y empobrecen. Imprescindible para todo aquel que piense que, para conseguir un mundo mejor, necesitamos ciudades mejores.

theEconomyCitiesBNJane Jacobs: “La economía de las ciudades”. Casi una década después de su revolucionaria y atemporal obra “Muerte y vida de las grandes ciudades americanas”, Jane Jacobs publicó en 1969 “La economía de las ciudades”, un intento de explicar de manera sencilla los procesos de generación de riqueza que, desde el principio de la humanidad, han hecho de las ciudades poderosos imanes de atracción de gente y de generación de oportunidades.

jane-jacobsDetroitJane Jacobs’ predictions about Detroit. El proceso de caída de Detroit analizado bajo el prisma visionario de nuestra urbanista de cabecera. No nos cansaremos de recomendar la lectura de la urbanista y activista canadiense siempre a todo aquel apasionado de la innovación urbana.

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Marshall McLuhan. Understanding media (and cities)

McLuhanI first new about Marshall McLuhan in 2011. José Carlos Arnal, former Director of the Zaragoza City of Knowledge Foundation, had introduced me to Mariano Salvador, a young local journalist who had just co-organized a remembrance exhibition about McLuhan at the Pratt Center in New York City.

I had no idea at the time that, under such resonant name, terms we were already familiar with, like “global village” or “the medium is the message”, had been coined and so acutely described. Those were the times when we were a small “guerrilla” of avid learners pushing for a shift in the economic model of our city, Zaragoza (Spain), and insanely committed to the launching of the city’s innovation flagship: Etopia Center for Arts and Technology. When Etopia Center finally opened two years later, in June 2013, a 600 square meter media façade wrapped around one of its three gigantic cubes illuminated with digital artworks the departure side of the city’s central station.

I stumbled upon McLuhan’s book Understanding Media on that very same summer of 2013, buried in a heap of books at the old, wood-and-dust smelling Venice’s Libreria Aqua Alta, just a week after having imparted a workshop on open place making with M.I.T. professor Michael Joroff as part of the inauguration activities of Etopia Center. I was so into the reading of place-making urbanists like Jane Jacobs and Jan Gehl at the time that I decided to put momentarily McLuhan aside. I stubbornly wanted to understand cities. Understanding media could wait.

Here is what I was missing. Continue reading

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Smart city research highlights

urbanFabricTampere

Tampere urban fabric. worldarchitecture.org

The renowned Finish research instititution VTT has just published Smart city research highlights, an extensive guide to the scientific progress on the field of the smart cities.

Many have tried to define what a smart city is, or should be, and many have failed. The question is kind of resolved by reading through the dozens of projects that researchers in VTT are working at, and by reflecting at the subsequent challenges they are addressing.

Boosting collaborative planning with visualization technology, developing new urban services by citizen-driven co-design, use of gamification to foster mutual learning in healthcare, augmented reality for building maintenance, visual and participative urban planning tools, or ICT supported business in energy positive neighborhoods… are just a few glimpses of a wide array of disciplines that are enlightened by means of VTT’s research efforts. Continue reading

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Los 10 posts sobre innovación urbana más leídos de 2015

IMG-20141031-WA0004~2~2Para comenzar 2016 os dejamos una selección de los posts más apreciados por nuestros lectores en el año que dejamos atrás.

¿Predijo Jane Jacobs en los años 50 la caída de Detroit medio siglo después? ¿Está el urbanismo condenado a no cambiar? ¿Hemos perdido la privacidad o sólo la hemos privatizado? ¿Por qué se habla tan poco de las plataformas de Smart City? ¿Puede haber smart cities sin tecnología? ¿Está el liderazgo en los Ayuntamientos infravalorado? ¿Cómo pueden las ciudades responder mejor a nuestros desafíos? ¿Podemos mejorar las incubadoras de empresas? ¿Qué significa una ciudad de código abierto?

Esperamos que disfrutéis de la lectura de estos 10 artículos tanto como nosotros hemos disfrutado de su relectura y selección. Feliz 2016. Continue reading

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The art of city making. Charles Landry

artOfCityMaking“The art of city making”, by Charles Landry, is a brilliant attempt to understand cities with the declared and simple objective of making them better. In its pages, the reader should not expect to find a step-by-step recipe of how to make cities from scratch. The book is targeted at those readers concerned, instead, with reconfiguring existing cities so they can fulfill their role of solution providers for its own people and, ultimately, for the world.

In an increasingly urbanized planet, understanding cities has never been so high in the agenda. Cities are the result of a multiplicity of relationships, flows, interests, layers, forces, all intertwined in intricate networks where phenomena from a variety of domains like psychology, physics, sociology, culture, politics, or biology combine to make every city unique.

Continue reading

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