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    • At Extremes

      Moderated by Lola Sheppard & Maya Przybylski.

      fbracket0 The condition of extremes suggests a tipping point; a moment in which a system shifts from one state to another, often unpredictable state. Sociologists such and Anthony Giddens and Ulrich Beck argue that a rick society is the product of the increasing economic and environmental insecurities that come with modernization. The more extreme the condition, the greater the risk, and that greater the impetus to mitigate that risk.
      Economic and Demographic Risks

      Changing demographics will bring shifts in population, and consequently, changes to urban policy and economics. There is an opportunity for design to capitalize on these paradigmatic shifts to imagine changed social and spatial orders within cities and their peripheries. As cities in developing nations grow rapidly, and other cities de-industrialize and decline, the economic and spatial infrastructures which supported these cities are creaking under the weight of rapid change.
      Environmental Risks

      Simultaneously, changing ecologies and environmental forces, often resulting from human intervention, have produced new natures, as well as new crises, which invite design to hack, dismantle, and rebuild infrastructures and landscapes. The more extreme the conditions, the greater the need to question the methods, scope and agency of design. In some circumstances, design offers new design typologies, in other cases, it opens up new methods of analysis and documentation, while in other scenarios, it presents new tools for designing objects, buildings or landscapes. In some instances, design’s primary role is opportunity seeker, searching for the problem and the solution.
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    • 2 weeks, 6 days ago

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    • Design Participation: Architecture, Users & Technology

      Moderated by Areti Markopoulou.

      The advances of interaction and production technologies in combination with the advances in material sciences and bio-engineering start to impact architecture in unprecedented ways. Wearables that allow us to experience unbuilt spaces in real scale (virtual reality), building skins that generate/conduct electricity through our touch (smart materials) and the possibility to download files from the internet in order to print our own house (DIY digital fabrication) are scenarios that just few years back were reserved to science fiction scripts. F_AugmentedReality
      Augmented Reality
      Technologies are transforming architecture into a more reactive and evolutionary organism, able to interact in real time with multiple agents such as the environment, time or user needs. The emergence of these responsive environments boosts new relations among users, architects and space. If architecture of built (or unbuilt) space can be programmed to perform, the key question to deal with is: who the actuator of such a performance is. If space can be augmented by overlapping physical and virtual data, then users can experience multiple spatial realities, blurring the limits and form of physical space, and questioning the need of high-design final aesthetics. Finally, if architecture (drawings and plans) can be found in the cloud, and if Fabrication Laboratories can be reached in each neighbourhood, users are given access to the design and production of their spaces, enhancing their participation and highlighting their desires. F_Wikihouse-copy
      At a moment of a novel intersection and crossing between bits (digital) and atoms (physical), static and fluid, matter becomes ubiquitous: available to be “built” by anybody that is connected to the internet or an interface. The current forum seeks to generate discussion along the topic of user participation and empowerment in the NEXT architectural design, as well as the new emerging roles in the architectural discipline. F_AdaptiveStructure
      Adaptative Structure
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    • 2 years, 5 months ago

       Carlos Barrera

    • Detroiters’ Spatial Imagination

      Moderated by Eduardo Rega and Daniel Ruiz.


      This year, the city of Detroit is the subject of two major architecture and design events: The Architectural Imagination of the US Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and the Ideas City Festival. The Detroiters’ Spatial Imagination Forum intends to set a platform of discussion that includes the visionary architectural or urban activist practices that work in Detroit. It also aims to reflect on this year’s design events that are attracting international attention to the city. In other words, the forum expands an inquiry on the relations between small scale and long-term community-based design practices in Detroit and large scale and short-term design events in or about the city.

      The Detroiters’ Spatial Imagination Forum is a call to those that are, and have been, constructing alternative architectural, urban, social, economic and political imaginations in Detroit against global economic structures. Known for its shrinking process since deindustrialization, however, Detroit physically manifests the deep failures of neoliberal economy. The forum doesn’t romanticize the aesthetics of abandonment and poverty associated to Detroit by the media but rather calls for those that have been working within the city’s diverse communities, facilitating their participation in the production of their built environment. Moving beyond the already normalized shocks produced by the images of the city’s decline, foreclosures and poverty, the forum opens the discussion to the richness of Detroit’s urban narratives and to its abundance in social and cultural capital.

      In this context it becomes relevant to engage in the debate around The Architectural Imagination, the US Pavilion for this year’s Venice Biennale that will exhibit architectural design projects done by “twelve visionary American architectural practices” on four sites of the city of Detroit. To enrich the conversation, the forum is open to contributions by those that are “constructing culture” and “catalyzing the city” of Detroit, regardless if they are part of the US pavilion or if they are not. This online discussion platform intends to also be an extension of the debates sparked by the event, the exhibition and the particular projects or architectural imaginations on Detroit that it will showcase.

      Equally relevant to our discussion due to it’s contrasting curatorial approach is The Ideas City Detroit Festival, a five-day studio laboratory that will bring together “emerging cultural practitioners”, “local artists, designers, policymakers, and community members” “to address the opportunities and challenges of urban reconstruction” in Detroit. The inquiry on the five-day Ideas City Festival’s laboratory should consider processes leading to, as much as the afterlife of, the “provocative strategies designed for practical implementation” and the collaborations instigated by the short-term design event.

      The forum is a part of the Detroiters’ Spatial Imagination Research Project or Journal that is currently publishing video interviews, projects, photographic, audiovisual and written essays. In a year of major design events based on the city of Detroit, we turn our gaze towards the architectural imaginations of those that have already been and currently are realizing them.

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    • 2 weeks, 6 days ago

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    • Networks and Acceleration
      Moderated by Kazys Varnellis
      In the recent Ridley Scott film the Martian, based on Andy Weir’s book of the same name, astronaut Marc Watney finds himself marooned on Mars after the rest of his crew has left him behind, believing him dead and facing a fierce dust storm. Throughout the film, we witness Watney’s brilliant hacks, such as growing potatoes in a combination of night soil and human-made manure, or, most critically, connecting up the 40 year old Mars Pathfinder probe as a means of communicating with the Earth.
      But in reality, Rob Manning, the chief engineer for Pathfinder, points out that you can’t just plug an external power source into Pathfinder. It did have a connection for power while cruising to Mars, but upon landing, relays opened up to ensure that shorts wouldn’t occur in those wires on the surface and during landing. Moreover, the probe died not because it ran out of power, but because when it ran out of power overnight, its heaters turned off. Consequently something broke and the probe either couldn’t start up or communicate with the Earth in the morning. Merely reconnecting power wouldn’t get past that problem. (See The Martian - Mars Pathfinder)
      As far as infrastructure and mobility go, the lessons of the Martian are that leaving systems open to hacking and misuse is important. Yet in the computational urban systems that we are developing, interoperability is commonly seen as dangerous, encouraging competitors, parasites, and terrorists.
      More than that, Watney’s plight reminds us of the precariousness of our own position. Increasing population, particularly in low-lying coastal regions, urbanization in areas prone to flooding, and climactic changes are leading to more disasters and more extreme disasters. (Borgen Project)
      Compounding this is the growth of complexity. In his book The Collapse of Complex Societies, archeologist Joseph Tainter has pointed out that as societies become more advanced, they become more complex. A highly advanced society is increasingly specialized, differentiated, and interdependent. Tainter argues that complexity requires greater and greater amounts of energy until diminishing marginal returns set in. Once an unsustainable level is reached and resources are exhausted, societies collapse and the level of complexity reaches a significantly lower but sustainable level. In our own environment, closed systems that can’t be fixed or hacked by anyone but their “owners” become uniquely vulnerable in this condition.
      I discuss these issues in greater depth, touching on their relationship to uneven growth, elaborating on how cascading failures can occur, delving into the lessons of Los Angeles, the infrastructural city, and exploring the insights that Robert Smithson left us in his exploration of entropic systems at Data is Lost.
      I’d like to ask the members of this forum to consider the implications of this position.
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    • 2 weeks, 6 days ago

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    • Reframing the World as One City
      Moderated by Daniel Ibañez &  Roi Salgueiro.
      Image for Forum_Ibanez&Salgueiro
      The City of 7 Billion. A Constructed World,” a recent exhibition and symposium at the Yale School of Architecture organized by Bimal Mendis and Joyce Hsiang, opens up some provocative and important questions regarding the geographies of contemporary urbanization.  While it is widely asserted that urbanization has today become a “global” process, this claim has been grounded upon quite a wide range of spatial conceptions—of the city and the urban; of the territorial organization of urbanization; and of the world, the earth, the globe and the planet.  Indeed, while the Yale exhibit’s title implies that the entire world is becoming a single “City of 7 Billion,” its curators and the other contributors actually present a far more differentiated vision of worldwide urbanization based upon a plethora of indicators, epistemologies, conceptual frameworks and representational techniques.  In this sense, despite the singular perspective implied by its title, the Yale exhibition opens up a productive debate on the variegated spatial imprints of urbanization across places, regions, territories and scales.
      Against this background, it is useful to recall a few of the major metageographical visions of the city, the urban and the world that animate contemporary discussions of world urbanization:
      (1) Global City Networks. From John Friedmann to Saskia Sassen and Peter J. Taylor, this position emphasizes (a) the role of global cities as command and control centers for global production systems and financial transactions; and (b) the hierarchical differentiation of transnational city systems according to the size of the broader territorial economies over which they coordinate production and exchange.  Here, cities are dense nodal points of economic agglomeration in which transnational networks of production and financial speculation are materialized, coordinated, serviced and reproduced.
      (2) The World is Spiky. In Richard Florida’s influential visualization, cities are the concentration points for the economic and technological forces of capitalist growth—they produce the bulk of GDP in each national territory; and they also contain powerful capacities for technological innovation and creativity within the labor force.  Cities are likewise conceived here as “nodal” and bounded units, but the emphasis is less capitalist command and control, financial transactions or inter-firm networks, than on the sheer productivity of the world’s major urban economies relative to other units or scales of the capitalist space-economy.
      (3) Urban Age World. Derived from the datasets from United Nations, one of the most widely disseminated claims in urban discourse is that we now live in an ‘urban age’ because more than half of the world’s population today lives within cities. Across a variety of discursive and institutional arenas, the urban age paradigm has become a form of mainstream common sense around which questions regarding the contemporary global urban condition are framed. This conception highlights the juxtaposition between urban and rural zones of the world, reinforcing the idea that cities are quantitative bounded and spatially confined entities.
      (4) Single Planetary City.  In the 1960s, Constantinos Doxiadis envisioned the world’s urban geography as a densely woven fabric of population expansion and settlement space, stretched along coastlines and across inter-continental transportation corridors.  The bounded city model is here superseded in favor of a conception of the urban as a nearly continuous web of extended land cover, woven through the intensification of human activity and the continuous territorial expansion of the built environment.  This speculative model also was contrasted against large voids of the earth as completely by-passed by urbanization.
      (5) Planetary Urbanization. In more recent years, strongly influenced by Henri Lefebvre’s vision of generalized urbanization, Neil Brenner (Urban Theory Lab, Harvard GSD) and Christian Schmid (Institute for the Contemporary City, ETH Zurich) have proposed to supersede the bounded city model through a theory of planetary urbanization. Here, the focus is not only on the classical "growth of the city," but on the dialectical relation between concentrated urbanization and extended urbanization, a process of land use intensification, infrastructural reorganization and ecological transformation that involves most zones of the entire planet.
      In this forum at UrbanNext, we invite readers to consider the implications of these and other models of the world as an urban space:
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