Somewhere in the world right now, drivers and passengers are cursing their city’s traffic. The automotive snarls common in today’s metropolis are accepted as a symptom of modernity, but the traffic jam—as well as the battle between wheeled and foot traffic on city streets—is probably as old as the city itself. In fact, our forbearers dealt with it in many of the same ways that we’re attempting to now. To alleviate congestion in Rome, Julius Caesar implemented a version of road space rationing, forbidding carts and chariots to enter the city center before late afternoon. For bustling 15th century Milan, Leonardo da Vinci sketched an idea for road sharing system that separated pedestrian from wheeled traffic. But the stakes of moving through the city were dramatically changed in the early 20th century with the debut of the car, a shift that provoked well-founded anxiety. “With all their speed forward, they may be a step backward in civilization,” Booth Tarkington wrote of automobiles in The Magnificent Ambersons, his 1918 novel that follows the beginnings of car culture. The multi-layered cost of cars and the infrastructure they require have come under intense scrutiny almost 100 years later, but one automotive company is hoping to be a leader in the conversation about what’s next. 2012 marks the second cycle in Audi’s Urban Future Award, a biannual competition that invites young architecture firms to contemplate what “mobility” could mean for cities in the year 2030. This year Audi selected six teams in part based on each firm’s connection to a global metropolis—Tokyo, the Pearl River Delta, Istanbul, Mumbai, São Paulo, and the Boston-Washington corridor. The teams presented their final concepts in an exhibition in Istanbul October 12-26, and on October 18th the jurors heard presentations from each and selected a one winner. Boston-based Höweler + Yoon took home the prize (€100,000) for their scheme Shareway 2030, a futuristic proposal to bundle different types of transportation into a seamless, symbiotic whole. Maybe because the team was assigned a sprawling region rather than a city, thinking big—really big—came easily. Höweler + Yoon proposed not only innovations in transportation and infrastructure but also new paradigms for public spaces and social relations also based on sharing. Here’s the premise: The American Dream is in crisis. The old model of individual ownership of a house and a car is passé—unsustainable, and, frankly, unappealing to future generations. So what might the new American Dream look like? Maybe something like “Boswash,” the team’s nickname for development along I-95 from Boston to Washington. The effective capital of Boswash is Newark, NJ, which becomes the site of a massive waterfront super hub where ships meet planes and high-speed trains. At points beyond the hub, energy generated by braking trains is used to charge pod-like Shareway cars, available for easy pick up at every train station. Cars and bikes aren’t the only shared amenities: so are houses (Sharestay). No matter where you are along the Shareway, you’ll never be far from a place to call home. Sharing extends to the very fabric of the city as well. In the urban centers of Boswash, Shareway goes below ground but activates the streets directly above. The ubiquitous blacktop is replaced by a system called Tripanel, where three-in-one street surfaces rotate like billboards: paved road during certain times of day, turf-covered park at others, or, when the light is right, photovoltaic panels that capture solar energy. Some of the more challenged cities of Boswash are repositioned entirely (e.g. Baltimore, becomes a vast urban farm—Farm Share). “It requires imaginative design but also imaginative politics,” said Höweler + Yoon principal Eric Höweler of making his vision for Boswash a reality, noting that it would require a federal commitment on the scale of Eisenhower’s interstate highway system. It’s a fantastical vision, to be sure, but also an optimistic and occasionally thrilling one. Shareway evokes previous bold statements about the city, from Lewis Mumford’s call to rethink the modern megalopolis, which he described as a “bursting container,” to MVDRV’s concept of the Evolutionary City, a city constantly made smarter through transparent use of technology. Technology-enabled communication played a key role in other proposals, most notably that of Superpool, the Istanbul home team and local favorite. Called PARK, Superpool’s concept is essentially a loyalty program that builds on the city’s current transportation infrastructure, rewarding participation in transportation sharing with a stake in programming public space. “In Istanbul, streets are the true public space,” said Superpool principal Selva Gürdoğan. “Streets are democratic when you can own them, when you can change them.” Based on the fact that the citizens of Istanbul are already heavy users of social media—if cities were ranked by Facebook users Istanbul, population 15 million, would come in second—PARK is managed through a social-media-style software program that advises on routes and also rallies like-minded people together for public events. For PARK, Superpool built on the firm’s established approach of data collection, analysis, and mapping. It’s something we often take for granted in the West, but the work is an important public service and means of instigating conversations about the city in a country where such information to date has not been readily available. Both Shareway and PARK are highly specific to their assigned region or city but also contain bigger ideas that transcend a particular location. It may be this quality that the jurors found lacking in equally compelling concepts from Mumbai-based CRIT, NODE Architecture & Urbanism (Pearl River Delta), and Urban Think Tank (São Paulo), who just coming off a Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale. (The Tokyo team of Junya Ishigami + Associates, who in early previews was onto some interesting ideas of the city as an organic entity constantly regenerating itself, unfortunately dropped out before the final presentations.) In all the final proposals, cars, if anywhere to be seen at all, played second fiddle to grander scheme of good life in the city; cars become a means to an end rather than an end in and of themselves. Of the winning proposal, Rupert Stadler, Chairman of Audi AG, said, “We’ll work with the winner to make a concrete project out of it.” This will take the form of a “city dossier,” a kind of blueprint that charts how a concept like Shareway could one day be realized. From Audi’s side of the table, it’s really a matter of facing the future—and the car’s place in it—head on. “I’m much more a fan of being active than defensive,” said Stadler. The German design consultancy Stylepark acts as curator for the award, which falls under an umbrella program called the Audi Future Initiative. Stylepark founder Christian Gärtner said, “With this city dossier we want to include other stakeholders, like real estate developers.” Noting that the Höweler + Yoon concept called for top down decisions while also engaging users, he added what could very well become a tagline for future competitions, “Cities are a joint effort of civilization.” In the end, with meaty presentations from all the teams, it might have come down to who had the best images. While Superpool charmed with quirky animations and Urban Think Tank wove in a fictional love story, Höweler + Yoon offered up gorgeous renderings depicting a sleek and friction-free universe, one where an Audi logo would not be out of place. But cities of the future are likely to be assaulted not just by the traffic of increasing populations but also by the climate--witness hurricane Sandy's recent impact on key Boswash hubs. It's these rare moments of collective awareness that need to be seized upon to start conversations about how cities work in 2030 and beyond. Click on a thumbnail to launch a slideshow of Höweler + Yoon's proposal.
Posts tagged with "NODE Architecture & Urbanism":
Last week at Audi's HQ in Ingolstadt, Germany, architect Junya Ishigami of Tokyo succinctly summed up the problem the car company aims to tackle: there is "a gap between people's speed and the city's speed," Ishigami said. In other words, people's habits evolve quickly to suit a 21st-century lifestyle, but the infrastructure of the cities they live in is constantly playing catch up. And Audi, whose primary product is by nature infrastructure-bound, wants get ahead of the curve. Ishigami was one of six architects presenting research as part of the first phase of Audi's 2012 Urban Future Award, a bi-annual program first started in 2010. The 2012 firms were selected for their track records of researching the urban environment and their relationships to one of six metropolitan areas: CRIT (Mumbai); Höweler + Yoon Architecture (the Boston-Washington corridor); NODE Architecture & Urbanism (Pearl River Delta); Superpool (Istanbul) and Urban Think Tank (São Paulo); and Junya Ishigami + Associates (Tokyo). The brief: to "create visions for individual mobility in the future." Audi defined the future as ca. 2030, when it's predicted that 70 percent of the world population will live in cities with eight million or more inhabitants. Last week's event offered a preview of each firm's research thus far and some hints of the content of their final proposals, which will be presented in the form of an exhibition at the Istanbul Biennale in October (each firm is also working with a local curator). What became clear in the early presentations is that all the architects were looking for inspiration beyond infrastructure, particularly in cities' in-between spaces, gaps, and cracks, and that their proposals would be flexible enough to deal with rapidly evolving urban conditions. Some highlights: Urban Think Tank's presented a concept of the city as an "electric circus," a constant-motion carnival in which services, from libraries to clothing shops, are mobilized in electric vehicles to better meet the needs of populations and create a more democratic city. CRIT's embraced the city, in this case Mumbai, as "being nicely messy." Mega projects "ruffle the logic of the city" said Rupali Gupte of CRIT, about large-scale developments that wipe out informal but highly functional networks of activity. Gupte called instead for architects to intervene between the layers of informal and official to envision multiple futures for any given location. Although Tokyo is perceived as a mature city, Ishigami charted how it actually changes dramatically over the decades, much like a living organism (65 percent of the city's sites will be redeveloped within 40 years). Rather than a fixed condition, he proposed considering Tokyo as an evolving natural landscape that has the potential to be completely reborn. Any forms of future mobility will have to be nimble enough to follow. NODE considered how people are served in volatile cities like Shenzen in China's the Pearl River Delta. In a society where more is more, what makes a city livable rather than alienating? NODE's Doreen Heng Liu's message is that "balance is more" in the post-sweatshop era. Superpool from Istanbul presented research on the city's growth, both planned and unplanned, including how small-scale entrepreneurial enterprises have evolved to meet mobility demands that larger infrastructure cannot. Considering what similar systems might look like in the future and how they could incorporate emergent technologies is what Superpool thinks "is critical for the future of mobility in Istanbul," a city with an evolving identity. Höweler + Yoon Architecture's project proposes redefining the American Dream, because "the notions of progress that supported the continual sprawling American expansion no longer ring true." They're looking at the monotonous I-95 corridor between Boston and Washington (a.k.a. "Boswash") and repositioning the "infrastructural leftovers" of the post-war city into places that generate activities relevant to today. Thinking ahead to how such a concept might be marketed, the architects brought "I heart Boswash" t-shirts and bumper stickers to the event. The teams received feedback on their preliminary ideas at a workshop in Ingolstadt last week, and now they will have another few months to develop their concepts further. The first round selection of firms was made for Audi by the German online design magazine and publishing company Stylepark, but the final winner will be selected by jury that is yet to be announced. The grand prize: 100,000 euros—an amount that surpasses the award attached to one of architecture's highest honors, the Pritzker. At the end of the day, Audi will have hefty research dossiers on each of the six cities/regions and hopes to have some ideas that can be implemented in the future. But what if these visions don't happen to include cars? "If the solution is no cars, then we have to deal with it, " said Audi board member Peter Schwarzenbauer.