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.

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. Sigue leyendo

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. Sigue leyendo

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. Sigue leyendo

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.

Sigue leyendo

Making the urban innovation spiral happen. Why, how, where

smartravelPortugalBNOn 4th, December 2015, we spoke about “the urban innovation spiral” at the Smart Portugal event in the beautiful medieval city of Bragança, province of Tras Os Montes.

As many urban practitioners, we are increasingly interested about cities as solution providers to problems. The aqueduct of Segovia (Spain) is an example of how cities, in the Roman era, solved the problem of access to drinkable water thanks to a smart invention. Today it attracts hords of tourists while giving a distinct identity to the city. In the middle ages, city walls, like Lucca’s (Italy) gave shelter to people threatened by insecurity and pillage. In the 21st century, that wall is one of the city’s main attractions, its upper promenade offering a shady tour of the city in the hottest days of summer. But overall, in the past as well as in present times, cities have represented the quest of prosperity. Few names illustrate this pursue better than the name of “La prosperidad”, a Madrid neighborhood originally populated with migrants from southern rural Spain under the dark times of Franco’s dictatorship.

World urbanization rate grows in parallel to the decrease in illiteracy level and life expectancy. Those are fundamental, aggregate indicators. Literacy is highly correlated with our future. Life expectancy speaks mainly about our past. But, while urbanization fixes the bigger picture (famine, extreme poverty or violence, access to sanitation), it creates bugs: inequality, obesity, isolation… Many refer to the process of addressing these bugs through technology as the transition to becoming a “smart city”. Sigue leyendo

Questions for a new generation of city scientists

MCSOn 28th, October 2015 we were honored to lecture at the opening session of 2015-2016 edition of the Master of City Sciences at Politechnic University of Madrid, sharing our latest thoughts and experiencies on urban innovation with students and staff.

Everything starts by Jaime Lerner’s statement about cities as the great solution, fostering progress in the fields of economics, sustainability, quality of life, and innovation.

The desire to climb up the prosperity ladder has been the main driving force that keeps attracting people to cities. That only means that cities have always been perceived as extremely ‘valuable’ by people. Now… can we aspire to quantify the value of cities? In the lecture, we presented several works by prominent city scientists, as well as subsequent laws that cast some light into this question, and then move to another important subject: how can we reconfigure cities to maximize that value? Sigue leyendo

The city as an innovation platform. #ICCS2015, Shanghai.

shanghaiICCS2015

On 5th, June 2015 we spoke at the ‘International City Sciences Conference’ in Tongji University at Shanghai (China). The event gathered technologists, architects, policy makers and urban planners on deciphering how ‘New infrastructures for future cities’ could be planned, built and operated in these times of increasing uncertainty and breathtaking changes.

From the beginning of urbanization to the end of the 20th century, the historical ability of cities to adapt its form and function to the changing needs of people have been founded on a close relationship between urban planning and infrastructures. Traditionally servicing the purposes of urban planners, the role of infrastructures in cities is changing in this digital era. Digital infrastructures have contributed to the intentions of urban planners to revitalize city downtowns, recovering them as centers of production. Paradoxically, some of those digital entrepreneurs today run Internet giants like Google, Über, AirBnB or Amazon, and are launching innovative services at a much quicker pace than city authorities can regulate them. They are shaping, for good or bad, urban life. Sigue leyendo