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Urbanization: The Latest Architecture and News

What’s the Matter with American Cities?

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

For frequent travelers to Europe, it is frustrating to see the increasingly different urban conditions on the other side of the Atlantic. In Europe, cities are largely appreciated and embraced, and have turned into high-quality environments for inclusive and sustainable living. Copenhagen’s bike lanes—and, not too far away, Oslo’s car-free downtown—elicit admiring blog posts and articles on this side of the pond at a steady clip. Holland’s pedestrian- and bike-friendly urban designs attract their own share of starry-eyed fans. Berlin is holding a referendum to exclude cars from its inner city, an area larger than Manhattan. In Madrid, the mayor who restricted cars from accessing the city center did lose reelection, but her successor was forced to halt his efforts to rescind those policies by a groundswell of popular fury.

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Contemporary Social Housing in China: Playing with the Constraints

Saskia Sassen, the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, predicts in her co-authored book “The Quito Papers and the New Urban Agendathat, in the future cities will become our crucial battlefield as we continue to fight against gentrification and growing degree of isolation in our communities. Sassen argues that, “Cities should be an inclusive space for both the affluent and the poor. Nevertheless, in reality our cities never achieved equality for all, because our cities were never designed that way. Still cities ought not to be a place that tolerates inequality or injustice”.

Cafes and Bars in China: Examining the Spatial Routine of Drinking

Both tea and alcohol in traditional China were similarly aestheticized, and both influenced the language of literature and art. People used to exchange alcohol as a gift in a way that they later would with tea. Today, more and more cities in China have embraced this drinking culture that passed down from generation to generation, and reinterpreted with a new contemporary fashion, which is constantly evolving in the urban cafes and bars.

Architecture as a Heterogenous Practice: What is to be an Architect Around the World

Although architecture itself is universal, the day-to-day practice still varies across the world, influenced by a wide range of factors, from the professional requirements and responsibilities of an architect, the local environment, history and building customs, to local priorities and challenges. In a hyper-connected world, where architecture seems to become more uniform, how do local contexts and characteristics shape the built environment? This article taps into the commonalities and the variations within the architecture profession.

Why Are Countries Building Their Cities From Scratch?

Imagine having a blank canvas on which to master-plan a brand new city; drawing its roads, homes, commerces, and public spaces on a fresh slate and crafting its unique urban identity. Every urban planner has fantasized about designing a city from scratch and luckily for some, this dream is morphing into concrete opportunities. 

Over the last two decades, new, master-planned cities have emerged from the ground up at an unprecedented scale, the majority of which have been created in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, with currently over 150 new cities in the making. This new type of urban development has shown to be particularly seductive in emerging markets, where they are sold as key parts of the strategy to leapfrog from agriculture and resource-based systems to knowledge economies by attracting foreign capital and boosting economic growth.

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On World Cities Day UN-Habitat Releases 2020 Report on The Value of Sustainable Urbanization

Across the globe, ever since 2014, every year on the 31st of October, World Cities Day is celebrated. To mark this event, UN-Habitat has released its World Cities Report 2020 on the value of sustainable urbanization, focusing on the most up-to-date and pressing topics. Analyzing the intrinsic value of cities in generating economic prosperity, mitigating environmental degradation, reducing social inequality, and building stronger institutions, the report highlights how together these can drive transformative change.

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O-office Discusses How Refurbishment Projects Reveal Untold Stories

SZ-HK Biennale-Silo Reconversion. Image© O-office & Maurer United
SZ-HK Biennale-Silo Reconversion. Image© O-office & Maurer United

Guangzhou-based multidisciplinary firm O-office Architects specializes in refurbishment projects. Founders Jianxiang He and Ying Jiang are known for exploring what architecture can do within the contemporary Chinese context, including a recent project in which they transformed an abandoned Shenzhen factory into a dynamic cultural and community center.

In this interview with ArchDaily, the founders of O-office speak about their philosophies regarding refurbishments and the current state of architecture in China.

IKEA's SPACE10 Future-Living Lab is Researching the Future of "Co-Living"

SPACE10, the future-living lab created by IKEA, announced this week a "playful research project" to investigate the future of co-living. One Shared House 2030, a website created in collaboration with New York-based designers Anton & Irene, asks members of the public to "apply" for acceptance to an imagined co-living community in the year 2030, outlining their preferences for the types of people they would like to live with, the way they would like the community to be organized, and the things they would be willing to share with others. SPACE10 hopes that the research project will provide information on whether co-living could offer potential solutions to issues such as rapid urbanization, loneliness, and the growing global affordable housing crisis.

Norman Foster Stresses the Importance of Interdisciplinary Architecture in Creating Future Cities

Architecture, as both a profession and the built environment, currently finds itself at a crossroads in trying to adapt to a world in constant flux. Cities and its people face continuous socio-economic, political and environmental change on a daily basis, prompting a necessary rethink in the evolution of sustainable urbanization. With a focus on housing, society and cultural heritage, RIBA’s International Conference, Change in the City, aims to offer insight into the “New Urban Agenda” and how architects can play an interdisciplinary role in future urban development.

Speaking in an interview ahead of the conference, Norman Foster is a strong advocate for a careful consideration of what aspects of urban life need to be prioritized when designing cities of the future. For an increasingly global society, Foster stresses the need for architecture to surpass buildings and tackle its greatest obstacle – global warming, honing in on its roots and factors involved to create viable urban solutions.

Is India's Plan to Build 100 Smart Cities Inherently Flawed?

The Indian Government’s Smart City Mission, launched in 2015, envisions the development of one hundred “smart cities” by 2020 to address the country’s rapid urbanization; thirty cities were added to the official list last week, taking the current total of planned initiatives to ninety. The $7.5-billion mission entails the comprehensive development of core infrastructure—water and electricity supply, urban mobility, affordable housing, sanitation, health, and safety—while infusing technology-based “smart solutions” to drive economic growth and improve the citizens’ quality of life in cities.

In a country bogged down by bureaucratic corruption, the mission has been commended for its transparent and innovative use of a nation-wide “City Challenge” to award funding to the best proposals from local municipal bodies. Its utopian manifesto and on-ground implementation, however, are a cause of serious concern among urban planners and policy-makers today, who question if the very idea of the Indian smart city is inherently flawed.

Forget Treehouses - Cliffhouses are the Future

In major cities around the world, buildable land is at a premium. At the same time, a continued trend of urban migration has led to a shortage of houses, inspiring a wealth of innovative solutions from architects and designers. Swedish firm Manofactory have literally taken housing solutions to a new level, questioning why we need to build at ground level at all.

Many animals, including birds, build their nests in trees, under roof tiles or in rock crevices above the ground. Humans already build simple nesting boxes for birds to live in, causing Manofactory to question why we can’t build nesting boxes for ourselves – a simple house with several rooms, windows, and climate protection. Pointing to the numerous cliff walls in cities across northern Scandinavia and elsewhere, Manofactory have designed the Nestinbox – a small wooden house with a steel structure to be mounted on sheer cliff faces.

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