Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Future Cities, happiness and place

Future Cities, happiness and place 

In this Blog, we explore the power of place in informing a new paradigm on happiness in Future Cities - How we can plan future cities to be foster well being?

Cities are human creations that are the culmination of millennia of collective efforts in trade, shelter and Leisure. So, why now, we are so concerned about their future? Is not it that in our concern that an underlying unanswered question begs to be revealed.

Are cities under threat of extensions?

And therefore, we are so concerned about their future.

Certainly, cities in the future have been fascinating to philosophers, thinkers, painters and even Hollywood movie makers. The end segment of the Planet of the Apes is a demonstration of the apocalyptic perspective where skyscrapers of New York were submerged with ocean waves.

What justify this fear? What legitimize it? What is it this aching question that triggers it or is triggered by it? A closer look to the recently numerous exhibitions on the future of cities show the face of an unprecedented technological innovations that transforming our concepts of urban space.

We are in the nascent emergence of a fourth industrial revolution and unlike its precedents, it is challenging what is human as its core as artificial intelligence opens the doors to a different race.

Planet of the Apes - Final Scene 

Who gets to be transformed into that race which is heralded by neuro-scientists as better and faster problem solvers? Unfortunate, none that the middle class and lower middle class which performs low to medium skilled jobs that are under threat. In that sense, the question is valid for ‘’the City ‘’ now celebrated as the concentration of global flows of trade and people is in fact the seat of the bourgeoisie of economic development, the seat of the Middle class born of diverse rural migrants, foreign migrants and aspiring professionals through the anonymity disguising their roots would be able to forge an alternative destiny.

Will artificial intelligence submerge the urban space?

According to Richard Florida, Clarck, Sassen and dozens of urban thinkers and leaders rethinking prosperity and live-ability on a local scale , Place is the one component that the current industrial revolution flirts with rather than erase it.
The ‘’locale’’, the ‘’address’’, the ‘’destination’’, the ‘’place’’ still prevail in social media, smart cities and websites. Designers have tried for decades to comprehend, understand ‘’Place’’.

As an elusive ghost, the design process, this mental tool for expressing the ultimate in forms , approached it wither with awe or with the awareness that there I a dimension that we feel, we think about, we sense but does not respond to the Cartesian concrete framework that we think through our spaces.

 A ‘’Place ‘’ has an essence, a sense which attracts its dwellers, visitors and imbibe with meanings their thinking process; meanings that are only live-able in it and through it.

Sense of Place

What is that which forms the ‘’spirit ‘’of ‘’Place’’? How it is read and realized through human consciousness? And how a point in space would become a source of inspiration over millennia becoming mentally constructed over decades, ages and civilizations? Does in this that each city is really trying to become in its quest of self-actualization? Is this which each city is striving to embody as a definition of ‘’happiness’’? Is this what the quest for Place is a quest for this presence experienced in the present but transcendental beyond space and time? Is it the ultimate expression of what the collective energy of city dwellers is?

The question then poses itself to our minds.

“”How the ‘’space ‘’within the ‘’city’’ could be designed to embody ‘’sense of place’’ as an ultimate expression of city happiness?

Is it the biophilic experiences that a city offers when it embraces nature rather than perceived itself separated from it?

Is it the human scale that a city revers so much that its skyscrapers bow in humility to the Mind of their Makers?

Is it the ability of a space to allow flows of people to contemplate, reflect and be mindful so that their collective energy adds to the city sense of place?

Is it Art, as the ultimate expression of emotional creativity that inhabits the space and changes its procession into an experience?

Is it the Free Will guiding diverse activities, communities, groups, ethnicities into a group understanding towards the universality that we share?

How the Happiness caused by sense of place becomes live-able everyday?
How the human mind will inhabit the future city?

Proposed Model for Smart Sustainable Districts 4.0 for planning and designing urban districts
that are dense , socially inclusive , biophilic and capable
of embedding smart technologies and Artificial intelligence - Copyright Reserved - Nadine Bitar (2015)

The future is a human construct

The space is a human construct

Reality is a function of the human mind

As such, is this pursuit of the Happiness in the future of the ‘’city is in essence a pursuit of the human minds to join in answering what can connect them beyond the ordinary that technology is claiming everyday ?

Is it a leap of faith on the concept of ‘’the City’’ as the physical manifestation of the joint awareness of the collective?

It is this deeper question that has at last revealed itself.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Smart urban design and smart cities

Cities as complex systems evolve over time ; some take millenea and others few decades..Time on a city scale is essentially spatial for each action in a city causes it to further expand geographically , to contract or to slowly wither..
As such, time is a dimension that has been researched by Jane Jacobs and other urban theorists as an essential factor in understanding cities 

In our age, time-space are compressing. We can have an in-depth two hour one to one comversation with a friend in asia while we are sitting with a group of our colleagues in our office in the states..

This dillution is impacting the urban space in cities for as these becone compress, a virtual city is created in addition to its spatial countrepart .That virtual city which Bill Mitchels  has prophetized  in his book "city of bits" is exponantially augmenting the actions occuring in real time and thus embedding  a multiplicity of meanings of the urban space.
Lately , a mall in dubai -Wafi Mall - hosted a fashion event as part of Dubai Fashion Week. The invites were sent virtually to attendees via social media creating a virtual community of the event that might outlast the event itself and thus augment the city social network beyound its urban fabric. Post event, tens of videos via social media captures the fashion show linking it to the mall. These videos were sent to hundreds of social media friends, felliw twitters or insta followers .The mental image of that space  - an empty court or corridor in wafi mall- is augmented to include these videos - that compresses space and time into three minutes , enough to alter our image of that space and feeds into our overall image of the city.
That is the challenge we face as urban designers - the challenge of grasping this multitude of representations into our proposals and our visions for our cities so they can actually benefit organically of that augmented reality .