Design

The power of urban street art in re-naturing urban imaginations and experiences

Claire Malaika Tunnacliffe clairetunnacliffe@yahoo.frJuly 2016

Abstract. Urban street art is a powerful tool in reflecting the experience of the urban, provoking an engagement of urbanites with their environment, and in re-socialising public spaces. En- counters with urban street art within the everyday create social interstices, opening up ways of seeing and feeling the world differently; allowing for a creative feedback loop between artist, individual spectator and society. Through the lens of environ- mentally engaged urban street art, this working paper explores how this artistic and social movement reconnects the natural and social worlds within an increasingly urban existence. By disconnecting from the world around us, we have forgotten the natural and social entanglements that make up the fabric of the urban context, and in doing so we continue to create irreparable damages to the environment. With environmentally engaged urban street art disrupting the mainstream experience of the urban, the spectator is provided with an alternative vision of the world at play within the everyday setting. As a result, it is proposed that at the crossroads between urban street art and everyday life, the spectator evolves from a passive to an active participant in the contemporary make up of urban cities. By awakening new understandings and raising consciousness, environmentally engaged urban street art provokes a re-engagement of urbanites with the environment, acting as a catalyst for transformative social change.

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Health and climate related ecosystem services provided by street trees in the urban environment

 

Jennifer A. Salmond1*, Marc Tadaki2, Sotiris Vardoulakis3,4,5, Katherine Arbuthnott3,5, Andrew Coutts6,7, Matthias Demuzere6,7,8, Kim N. Dirks9, Clare Heaviside3,5, Shanon Lim1, Helen Macintyre3, Rachel N. McInnes4,10 and Benedict W. Wheeler4 

Urban tree planting initiatives are being actively promoted as a planning tool to enable urban areas to adapt to and mitigate against climate change, enhance urban sustainability and improve human health and well-being. However, opportunities for creating new areas of green space within cities are often limited and tree planting initiatives may be constrained to kerbside locations. At this scale, the net impact of trees on human health and the local environment is less clear, and generalised approaches for evaluating their impact are not well developed.

In this review, we use an urban ecosystems services framework to evaluate the direct, and locally-generated, ecosystems services and disservices provided by street trees. We focus our review on the services of major importance to human health and well-being which include ‘climate regulation’, ‘air quality regulation’ and ‘aesthetics and cultural services’. These are themes that are commonly used to justify new street tree or street tree retention initiatives. We argue that current scientific understanding of the impact of street trees on human health and the urban environment has been limited by predominantly regional-scale reductionist approaches which consider vegetation generally and/or single out individual services or impacts without considering the wider synergistic impacts of street trees on urban ecosystems. This can lead planners and policymakers towards decision making based on single parameter optimisation strategies which may be problematic when a single intervention offers different outcomes and has multiple effects and potential trade-offs in different places.

We suggest that a holistic approach is required to evaluate the services and disservices provided by street trees at different scales. We provide information to guide decision makers and planners in their attempts to evaluate the value of vegetation in their local setting. We show that by ensuring that the specific aim of the intervention, the scale of the desired biophysical effect and an awareness of a range of impacts guide the choice of i) tree species, ii) location and iii) density of tree placement, street trees can be an important tool for urban planners and designers in developing resilient and resourceful cities in an era of climatic change. 

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The regenerative approach to model an integrated urban-building evaluation method

Abstract

In this paper we focus on crucial issues concerning the effectiveness of evaluation of sustainability in the built environment. The paper argues that we need to rethink the evaluation of urban-building sustainability from an integrative perspective. It advances a theoretical and methodological model based on the regenerative approach, which opens up a new way to deal with the sustainability of the built environment. An enlarged definition of urban metabolism is used to carry out the integrated evaluation.

Central in it is the concept of reliability, which expresses the ability of products and processes in the built environment to be adaptive, resilient and regenerative. We use reliability in a transversal manner through the process of making the built environment sustainable, referring it both to buildings and the regenerative process triggered by sustainable actions addressed to buildings. Holistic indicators allow assessing it quantitatively or qualitatively.

Through reliability we bring regenerative thinking from a theoretical to an operational level. When referred to buildings, reliability allows considering sustainable performances not usually assessed in current evaluations. When referred to processes, it helps to understand directions of change in relation to sustainability of the built environment. Our method can be easily associated to current evaluation systems exceeding their boundaries.

1. Introduction

During last centuries, the increase in knowledge and the associated technological advancements have determined an evolution of human societies superimposed on nature, with the results of jeopardizing natural systems. Becoming aware of natural resource depletion and environmental pollution is at the basis of the need to draw attention to a sustainable development, as defined in the Bruntland Report (WCED, 1987). This is considered a starting point of a major concern for the natural environment, which has to be interrelated with social and economic development, inter and intra generationally. Then, in recent years, the sustainability paradigm has been the leading guide for development at any scale of thought and action, pervading policies as well as practices of intervention in any field of application (Hecht et al., 2012).

The built environment is the most significant field of action for several reasons, both quantitative and qualitative: it uses natural resources and impacts the natural environment in a very relevant manner; it constitutes the socio-cultural identity of a place; it expresses the economic capacity of a society. Therefore the built environment has increasingly become the test bed of policies and practices of sustainability, the terrain for experimenting sustainable paths of governance and design so that buildings and cities have been focused subjects of interest and experimentation (Lewis et al., 2013) and sustainable buildings and cities the output of such commitment.

Now, after more than 25 years of investments in sustainability, the question is whether sustainable development is indeed sustainable (Blowers et al., 2012). The answer is arguable: it could be almost positive, if we refer to sustainability as the paradigm originating from the sustainable development definition above cited; it could be rather negative if we refer to sustainability as the ability to re-establish cooperation between the natural and the human worlds for a mutual beneficial development. The central difference resides in the approach used, which at the end defines a substantially different goal: in the first case, the sustainable development approach is aimed at reducing the natural resource depletion and the environmental impacts; in the second case, the approach is regenerative, i.e. aimed at reversing the present and persistent trend of consumption for regenerating the natural environment, indispensable for the human life (Cole, 2012a).

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Anthropology & Design

by Ron Burnett

Design practice is centred on audience(s). It matters little whether the audience is hypothetical, real or imagined, there is always someone for whom designs are created. This is often used as the fundamental distinction between design and art practices. The practice of creating art on the other hand, is seen as personal and evolving out of processes that don’t have an overt goal in mind. Yet, there are audiences for art, perhaps best exemplified by the fact that every major city in the world has an identifiable museum. And, do artists try and understand their audiences and cater to their needs? Let’s leave that question open for the time being.

The challenge of course is how do we understand audience, client and user?—Or, in the digital design world, the agent, interactor or participant? Another way of approaching audience is to create one, just as Apple did with the iPad and the iPod. Notice that irrespective of historical circumstances, projections or perceived needs, the term audience remains abstract. This is because it is virtually impossible to draw a straight line between for example, creating a logo and anticipating the response of groups of people to it—or, developing a product and knowing how clients or users will react to it. This is why designers often develop many alternative strategies to their designs and also work iteratively on various prototypes; all with the goal of creating something that will be closer to the perceived needs of the user.

In anthropology, efforts to understand both contemporary cultures and ancient ones are circumscribed by the challenges of observation, analysis and fieldwork. Prior to the revolution in anthropological thought provoked by George Marcus and Michael Fischer [4] in the 1980’s, there was endless debate among anthropologists about the relationship between observation and subjectivity. Put another way, to what extent does your own cultural, class and ethnic background influence what you see and what you observe? It is clear that your own personal history, desires and orientation will have a big impact on the conclusions that you draw from the observations you make. [5] The challenge therefore is to try and articulate what you know and examine how that may influence your assumptions about other people. It means that fieldwork is essential only if you bring to it a self-reflexive awareness of the contingent nature of the experiences you may have with complete strangers.

Designers are well aware of these obstacles and have developed many different strategies to deal with them. One of the most important is testing designs with users and trying to learn about utility, reaction and aesthetic response. But, how far does the process of learning about response go? To what extent are designers able to test their assumptions about their audiences? These issues are even more complex if as is often the case, designers are now crossing the boundaries into the ways in which people organize their lives (design thinking, design process), and the many ways in which design thinking is applied to businesses and to innovation.

“Professional design is now operating within an expanded and increasingly complex field. Some design professionals take solving complex social issues as their domain, often but not always working in close collaboration with specialists in public services from healthcare to those working with disadvantaged families to policing. Other designers and their ways of working are welcomed into business schools to teach the next generation of managers and leaders. Concepts and language that used to be associated with designers now enter other specialist areas: policymakers are told that public services should be more user-centered (Parker and Heapy 2006); businesses engage with customers by offering new meanings for things (Verganti 2009); the US Army is considering the role of design in warfare (School of Advanced Military Studies n.d.). Professional design, in particular design as practiced within the studio-based tradition of many art schools, is taking a new place on the world stage.” [3]

So much of the knowledge that we share in any given society is tacit. So many of the assumptions we make about ourselves and about others are unconscious. It is easy to say that designers should uncover their cultural bias. [6] But, which methods are best suited to the task? Janet Murray suggests bringing multiple stakeholders into the discussion of the design process “and elicit their different perspectives and needs.” [3]

Economic, social, and environmental sustainability in development theory and urban planning practice

A. D. BASIAGO 

Summary. In ten years, more than half the world’s population will be living in cities. The United Nations ŽUN. has stated that this will threaten cities with social conflict, environmental degradation and the collapse of basic services. The economic, social, and environmental planning practices of societies embodying ‘urban sustainability’ have been proposed as antidotes to these negative urban trends. ‘Urban sustainability’ is a doctrine with diverse origins. The author believes that the alternative models of cultural development in Curitiba, Brazil, Kerala, India, and Nayarit, Mexico embody the integration and interlinkage of economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Curitiba has become a more livable city by building an efficient intra-urban bus system, expanding urban green space, and meeting the basic needs of the urban poor. Kerala has attained social harmony by emphasizing equitable resource distribution rather than consumption, by restraining reproduction, and by attacking divisions of race, caste, religion, and gender. Nayarit has sought to balance development with the environment by framing a nature-friendly development plan that protects natural systems from urban development and that involves the public in the development process. A detailed examination of these alternative cultural development models reveals a myriad of possible means by which economic, social, and environmental sustainability might be advanced in practice. The author concludes that while these examples from the developing world cannot be directly translated to cities in the developed world, they do indicate in a general sense the imaginative policies that any society must foster if it is to achieve ‘urban sustainability’. 

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