ZGF Architects and PoSI teamed up to provide a concept submission for the International Living Future Institute’s 2011 Living City Design Competition which has been recently awarded a People’s Choice Award voted by the attendees of the Living Future 2011 conference.
Their submission entitled Symbiotic Districts: Towards a Balanced City explores the symbiosis between five EcoDistricts in Portland, Oregon as well as regional systems and examines how strategies in a single district contribute to the city’s overall performance.
Competition Team: ZGF Architects, Portland Sustainability Institute, CH2M Hill, David Evans and Associates, Greenworks PC, Newlands and Company, Inc., Portland State University, Institute for Sustainable Solutions, and Sparling
As the building blocks of cities, neighborhoods are the right scale to accelerate sustainability — small enough to innovate quickly and big enough to have a meaningful impact. Yet in a city, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and neighborhoods balance assets like water and energy between each other to meet city-wide needs. Our approach explores the symbiosis between five EcoDistricts in Portland and how strategies in a single district, Gateway, contribute to the city’s overall performance.
Neighborhoods are the building blocks of cities — semi-autonomous areas where people build their lives and root their identities. Neighborhoods are also the right scale to accelerate sustainability — small enough to innovate quickly and big enough to have a meaningful impact. This link between people and scale makes neighborhoods the most critical “intervention points” within cities to identify and develop sustainability strategies. Called EcoDistricts, they provide the very ingredients needed in a resource-constrained world: the harvesting of water and energy, the production of food, the ability to move freely and affordably without a car, and careful stewardship and reprocessing of materials.
Yet in a city, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. While neighborhoods provide the right scale to accelerate sustainability, they regularly behave differently from each other and display unique characteristics. These unique traits can be an asset, providing a set of resources to share across a city. A neighborhood prone to flooding can supply fresh water to neighborhoods that run dry. Or a district with ample sun exposure can fuel a downtown that consumes more than its solar potential. Between them, districts create balance — the yin and yang of urban resources. The result is a city in symbiosis with its districts giving and taking resources from one another to maximize the performance of the whole.
Our approach is rooted in Portland. The city has long been a laboratory to investigate how civic investments lead to urban livability. Some of our greatest neighborhoods, like St. Johns and Lents, were once independent towns, establishing personal identities, economies and infrastructure. A history of policy leadership, like the landmark land-use planning precedent in Senate Bill 100, set in motion a series of progressive institutional leadership that inspired Portland’s sustainability culture.
These best practices include: • Build on the inclination of the community – a heavy dose of DIY • Support small and local economies • Develop densely • Provide regional and local transportation while encouraging active transportation • Manage growth of urban areas to protect natural resources and food production • Recycle and recover resources from the waste stream
Building on this experience, Portland provides fertile ground to pilot the next generation of best practices in urban sustainability. The Portland Sustainability Institute is leading the EcoDistricts Initiative in 5 pilot districts to accelerate the city’s sustainability performance. As resource constraints become more pressing, each district provides opportunities to move people, process water, make energy or produce food.
Across the City, our approach illustrates how neighborhoods’ complementary characteristics create a sustainable whole.