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Bofedales: Natural Infrastructures and Andean Landscapes

In the highlands of the Central Andes, one finds the "bofedales." Known by some as 'high Andean wetlands,' bofedales are ecosystems and landscapes crucial for water regulation and storage in the Andes. Moreover, they are natural infrastructures that constitute a material and immaterial heritage to address contemporary climate crises and to sustain local Andean communities, which have nurtured them for generations.

5 Ways to Create More Liveable Cities: Insights from TV Show "Tale of Two Cities" with Dikshu Kukreja

Cities are the bedrock of civilization. For millennia, they have attracted people with the promise of superior standards of living — from better economic and educational opportunities to easier access to quality public infrastructure such as housing, healthcare, and public transport. Today, however, many cities around the world are finding it challenging to live up to this promise. With urban migration accelerating at a dizzying rate – the United Nations projects that over two-thirds of the world's population will live in cities or urban centers by 2050 – existing resources and services in cities are coming under increasing pressure, rendering them dysfunctional and leading to glaring inequities.

There is no singular way to define or assess liveability; every city has a unique set of characteristics, from its history, culture, geography, and demographics, to how it is governed and what urban issues plague it. Therefore, improving liveability requires concerted efforts from multiple stakeholders including people, governments, and experts, to identify critical problem areas and opportunities, and devise contextual solutions. The TV show Tale of Two Cities, where Indian architect and urbanist Dikshu C. Kukreja sits down with global leaders, brings out great insights into what some major cities in the world are doing to create more liveable environments for their inhabitants. Here we present five examples: from Bogotá, Kolkata, Hannover, Tirana, and Washington, D.C.

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‘Living Breakwaters’ by SCAPE Landscape Architecture Wins the 2023 Obel Award

Focused in its fifth edition on Adaptation, the Obel Award has been granted to ‘Living Breakwaters’ in New York, a green infrastructure project off the shore of Staten Island. Awarded to SCAPE Landscape Architecture and its founder Kate Orff, masterminds behind ‘Living Breakwaters’, the yearly prize honors architectural contributions that positively impact both people and the planet.

The Obel Award is an international prize for architectural achievement presented annually by the Henrik Frode Obel Foundation, and each year, the jury sets a focus and awards a potential solution. Previously, it recognized Seratech, a carbon-neutral concrete solution, as the 2022 Obel Award winner, while in 2021, the concept of the 15-minute city received the prize for its value in creating sustainable and people-centric urban environments. The award ceremony will take place at the Sydney Opera House on 21 October 2023, and the winner will receive a prize sum of EUR 100,000 and a unique work of art by artist Tomás Saraceno as a trophy.

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What’s the Point of Lower-Density Urbanism?

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

There are three primary settings in which lower-density urbanism can be useful, and where conditions favored by YIMBYs are weak or nonexistent: as a replacement for what is currently slated to be built out as sprawl, as a recovery process for existing sprawl, and in small towns that are growing. Giving up on these settings forces all development intended to combat the housing crisis into urban settings, ideally near transit, where land is much more expensive to acquire and to develop. It also allows the sprawl machine to roll on unimpeded.The best vehicle for implementing principles illustrated here at the scale of a neighborhood, hamlet, or village is not a major production builder, as these principles violate almost all of their conventional industrial practices. Instead, look to the record of stronger New Urbanist developers who are no strangers to doing things considered unconventional by the Industrial Development Complex in the interest of better places with stronger lifetime returns.

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When Architects Design for Communities: 7 Parks and Squares

Architecture reconciles the sense of belonging and dignity of space. In addition to designing residential or cultural facilities, addressing public space in communities that inhabit vulnerable areas is also urgent and necessary to provide a dignified infrastructure that provides quality of life for the population. Therefore, we have gathered seven interventions in marginalized territories that show the potential for transformation from the space itself.

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New Strategies for Preventing Green Gentrification

“How do we ensure new parks don’t cause ‘green gentrification,’ which can lead to the exclusion and displacement of underserved communities? How can we ensure we don’t displace the communities that new parks are meant to serve?,” asked Dede Petri, CEO of the Olmsted Network (formerly the National Association of Olmsted Parks), during an Olmsted 200 event.

New parks are meant to be accessible to everyone, but in many urban areas, developer-driven parks mostly attract wealthier Americans. Cities benefit from increased development adjacent to these new parks, bringing in higher tax revenues, but that raises questions about whether these spaces can, in effect, lead to community displacement.

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MVRDV Wins Competition to Design the Master Plan for a Taiwanese Town’s Water Network

International office MVRDV has been selected by the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs to design the Hoowave Water Factory, a large-scale redevelopment of Huwei’s Beigang and Anqingzhen waterways. The project combines a strategic master plan with the landscape design in an effort to move beyond the mono-functional approach for controlling and distributing water. Besides storing and capturing water, the proposal also opens up access to the river and the natural ecosystem by integrating cycling paths, cultural amenities, and ecological systems. The master plan also includes a comprehensive strategy for flood resilience while improving the quantity and quality of available water. The project is expected to be completed in 2026.

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Abandoned Airport near Athens, Greece, Set to be Transformed into Europe’s Largest Coastal Park

The Athens International Airport was decommissioned in 2001, leading to two decades of work for the local government to establish funding and a governance mechanism to transform the 600 acres of unused space into Europe’s largest coastal park. The site has a layered history, from prehistoric settlements to the construction of the airport in the 20th century and the site being used for as an Olympic venue in 2004. Architecture office Sasaki is leading the design to transform the site again and create the Ellinikon Metropolitan Park, a restorative landscape and climate-positive design that will serve as a park, playground, and cultural center for the city of Athens. Developers are planning to break ground early next year.

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URB Reveals Design for Africa’s Largest Sustainable City

URB has unveiled plans to develop Africa's most sustainable city, a development that can host 150,000 residents. Known as The Parks, the city plans to produce 100% of its energy, water & food on-site through biodomes, solar-powered air-to-water generators, and biogas production. The 1,700-hectare project will feature residential, medical, ecotourism, and educational hubs to become one of the significant contributors to the growing green and tech economy in South Africa.

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Urban Agency and COBE Design Master Plan for Esch-Sur-Alzette in Luxembourg

Urban Agency, in partnership with COBE, won in 2019 a competition to transform a former steel factory into an 850,000 square meters car-free mixed-use district. The industrial site is planned to become a mixed-use district, with housing for over 8,000 new residents, office spaces, schools, workshop spaces, and 268,000 square meters of landscape, including a reactivated river area. The master plan strategies focus on urban nature, renaturalization, preservation and reuse, car-free streets, and an adapted dense mix of buildings and functions.

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XZero City is Kuwait’s Proposal for a Self-Sufficient Smart City

Kuwait is planning a 1,600-hectare development that will provide residential units, jobs, and amenities for 100,000 residents. Developed by URB, the ambitious project aims to promote a sustainable lifestyle with high standards of living, yet a low impact on the environment. The masterplan for the smart city is designed to optimize density and amenities distribution to create a walkable city, while also optimizing the green space ratio. This will help mitigate the effects of rising temperatures and the urban heat island effect. The green transportation systems and dedicated cycling tracks will make this a car-free city, apart from a ring road that allows for limited vehicular access. The city also promotes a circular economy that aims to provide food and energy security for the residents.

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New Green Spaces Don’t Have to Lead to Gentrification

Decades of redlining and urban renewal, rooted in racist planning and design policies, created the conditions for gentrification to occur in American cities. But the primary concern with gentrification today is displacement, which primarily impacts marginalized communities shaped by a history of being denied access to mortgages. At the ASLA 2021 Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville, Matthew Williams, ASLA, with the City of Detroit’s planning department, said in his city there are concerns that new green spaces will increase the market value of homes and “price out marginalized communities.” But investment in green space doesn’t necessarily need to lead to displacement. If these projects are led by marginalized communities, they can be embraced.

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21 African Nations Fight Desertification with 8,000 Kilometer Long Great Green Wall

African nations are fighting climate change with an 8,000 kilometer long Great Green Wall meant to combat the desertification of the Sahel region, home to over 100 million people. Spanning the entire width of the African continent, the movement aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon and create 10 million jobs in rural Africa by 2030. Stretching from Senegal in the West to Djibouti in the East, the project is the joint effort of 21 African nations that strive to restore the once lush region and protect the livelihoods of local communities.

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“Soft Infrastructure” Is Crucial for a Post-Carbon World

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

On a recent day in Santa Monica, California, visitors sat in the shaded courtyard outside City Hall East waiting for appointments. One of them ate a slice of the orange she’d picked from the tree above her and contemplated the paintings, photographs, and assemblages on the other side of the glass. The exhibit, Lives that Bind, featured local artists’ expressions of erasure and underrepresentation in Santa Monica’s past. It’s part of an effort by the city government to use the new soon-to-be certified Living Building (designed by Frederick Fisher and Partners) as a catalyst for building a community that is environmentally, socially, and economically self-sustaining.

Is There Anything More Natural Than Nature? Our Readers Weigh In On "Green" Houses

In many cases, I haven't been able to decide whether a building full of trees fits into the "sustainable" category. In fact, I've often had to make the argument that such a building is far from it. 

It seems that the vast majority of contemporary marketing for sustainable architecture operates under the guise of greenwashing. What's more, the line between what truly creates healthier and more sustainable living spaces and what doesn't is often a blurred one.

To see just how blurred this line is, we asked our readers to weigh in on just what makes a house "green". Is it being able to trace the source of your building materials and knowing the people who harvest, process, and sell them? Is it the ability to fulfill the day-to-day needs of the inhabitants using renewable resources?