Future Urbanity: challenges of sustainable and livable urban development in Time Space Existence
Over the past century, urban development has posed arduous challenges, from housing density to cities decay, limited public spaces, and social interaction issues. In Time Space Existence, the Future of Urbanity is explored through diverse approaches that encompass research, experimentation, and innovative solutions, all aimed at achieving new sustainable and liveable urban developments.
The invention of the city has been one of the greatest of our civilisation, however, in today’s global landscape, the issues of contemporary urbanism such as over-developments, social inequalities, limited mobility and lack of urban planning affects cities worldwide. It’s crucial to establish a platform for discourse and common strategies to act on this matter. While the scope may seem vast, starting with a practical perspective grounded in the experiences of those working in the field is valuable.
HCMA, a New York-based studio, encourages us to reflect on how architectural and urban planning practices have tangible impacts on people’s lives, both positively and negatively. HCMA faces the matter that millions of people feel alienated in cities filled with stark disparities. For instance, in São Paulo, luxury apartments neighbour crowded favelas. In New York, mobility-challenged individuals navigate a subway with few accessible stations.The built environment erects physical, psychological, and socio-economic barriers, especially for those left out of the design process. This results in social isolation, unequal access, and economic disparities.
Who Is This For installation is a call to action for inclusive architecture. It aims to stir emotions, echoing the daily alienation faced by city dwellers worldwide. Designed with care in terms of design, scale, and placement, it offers a puzzle to decipher. Inside Palazzo Bembo, a fictional city emerges, a composite of 11 global city grids representing urban inequalities or, occasionally, signs of hope. As you approach, vibrant colours unveil lived experiences and snapshots of unwelcoming urban life. Stepping back, facing the artwork head-on, the colours coalesce into a thought-provoking question: “Who Is This For?”
This question, central to all designers, is often answered too narrowly. It needs to be asked more comprehensively, embracing diverse perspectives and fostering inclusivity through design.
Before shifting to practical solutions, it’s crucial to emphasize the significance of research and global knowledge sharing. Palazzo Mora features an installation by Future Cities Lab Global, which employs an interdisciplinary approach to investigate sustainable urban development. This approach combines science, design, engineering, and governance to understand how cities interact with their environment, addressing ecological, physical, resource, social, and cultural aspects. Livable, sustainable settlements rely on design that integrates analytical techniques, creativity, and transdisciplinary knowledge, considering technical, economic, social, and cultural factors. The research focuses on various lived places, from densely populated cities to mixed rural-urban areas, recognising the impact of time on urban evolution.
FCL G is a research programme born from a collaboration between ETH Zurich and the Singapore universities – National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, and the Singapore University of Technology and Design, with support from the National Research Foundation –, which operates under the auspices of the Singapore-ETH Centre.
From a historic point of view, the issue of the city’s urban development is rooted in an excessively optimistic perspective arised in the previous century and mirrored in the built environment, where seemingly public spaces are being overtaken by private interests. Architecture, once a symbol of an open society, now complacently contributes to enclosed spaces. Furthermore 20th-century urbanism emphasised vertical growth, but often created isolated towers disconnected from their surroundings. As a solution, Florian Busch Architects propose Towards an Open Density Private Public Space, showcased in Palazzo Mora.
FBA’s Tokyo lab embraces the city’s rapid evolution by creating a hybrid that combines public and private elements. They merge the public street and park with private individual ownership, the continuation of the city’s streets, buildings, and parks into Vertical Landscapes. These spaces are open to all, extending the city’s fabric into the vertical dimension. This innovation encourages practical and curious occupations, allowing function to shape form. It represents a shift toward greater urban openness as we deal with rapid urbanisation. Vertical Landscapes multiply ground conditions without imposing architectural determinism, enhancing urban density by fostering interactive and engaged urban life.
The simple yet crucial question that arises is: how can an already-built city evolve to meet the changing needs of its residents?
OSA proposes in Palazzo Bembo Future Urbanity: Analyzing Spatial Densification focusing on mobility, housing, leisure, and local supply through modular components integrated with existing structures. Social and structural needs of an urban ecosystem are reflected through the different modules clinging to the existing building structures and creating a new symbiosis. A vision for sustainable urban densification.
A different approach is given by ZEDAPLUS, that together with ATER of Pescara showcases Codici Urbani, a system of ideas, strategy and design for a new model of dwelling and a new form of urban social relationship, resilient and sustainable in the city of Pescara, Italy.
Facing dual crises in healthcare and climate, experimental urban renewal designs were created for public housing. They address social, economic, and environmental challenges, utilising architectural innovation to revitalise and enhance social housing. Grounded in the concept of relationship density, these designs feature hybrid intermediate spaces connecting private homes and public areas. These multi-functional areas offer play, social services, and work opportunities, filling social gaps created during the COVID-19 Emergency restrictions.
They have undertaken many projects, such as replacing pitched roofs with flat roofs that serve as shared spaces, creating a vertical village of services, enhancing accessibility in garden areas, and introducing shared community balconies. These hybrid intermediate spaces aim to rediscover social interaction, bridging residential architecture and community life, providing places where people can live a life qualitatively better.
These installations ignite dialogue and reflections upon current challenges in the realm of urban development. Bringing together different proposals from practitioners operating in different parts of the world, Time Space Existence becomes an international platform that showcases a variety of approaches to better shape and rethink the cities we live in.
Photo Credits: Matteo Losurdo, Federico Vespignani