Urban Sprawl: Definition And Action

Urban sprawl1

Foto by Ivan Tosics

  All of us have images in our mind when talking about urban sprawl, probably similar to either of those pictures…The first picture is from the USA, the second has been taken from the air before landing in Madrid. No one can doubt that these pictures show what we call urban sprawl. But it isn’t always that easy to identify and measure sprawl. How can sprawl precisely be measured – how can we compare spatial situations across different countries or the change in the level of urban sprawl at the same place across decades…?

Urban sprawl2

Foto by Ivan Tosics

Read the rest of this entry »

Making Sense Of Medellin

photo(3) In most cities, I spend time looking for the actions to match the words. In Medellin it was the opposite. After five days gasping at the audacity of its actions, I finally found words that helped me begin to really understand this remarkable transition process.

“Inequality Is The Root Of Urban Violence”

In the city’s Gallery of Modern Art, a huge panel occupies the centre of the main exhibition space. This sets out the Medellin Diagram, which provides a strategic narrative to the city’s recent and ongoing journey. Subtitled, “A story of civic freedom: How a public emerged from conflict, restored urban dignity, activated collective agency and reclaimed the future of its own city”, it underlines that this was first and foremost a political process. Its opening statement proclaims that “Inequality is the root of urban violence”.

I was in Medellin, Colombia, participating in the UN Habitat World Urban Forum. The theme was urban equity in development, at this huge event attracting 23,000 participants from the four corners of the globe. Read the rest of this entry »

Creative Industries In Cross-Sectoral Interactions

The Nido, A community crib hosted inside the Museum of Art in Bologna. Comment: “not only the art is impressive at the Mast but also a crib open to the district”

How can a whole city be involved around the relationship between creativity and entrepreneurship? Philippe Kern, lead expert of the project, founder and managing director of KEA, shared his views on creative industries and fostering creative ecosystems in cities with Simone D’Antonio, Cittalia, during a Creative SpIN project study visit in Bologna.

How Are Creative Industries Currently Contributing To Urban Growth In Europe?

In a context of deep economic crisis, cities need to develop innovative solutions to regain competitiveness and attractiveness. Cultural and creative industries (CCIs), from design, fashion, performing arts, cinema, animation, architecture, video games, music or food, have a key role to play in providing cities with new ideas and dynamise their territories. CCIs are contributing to image and branding strategies, to the revitalisation of peripheral areas as well as to the creation of knowledge-intensive careers, thus contributing to urban development, social cohesion, better quality of life, tourism, innovative jobs and new investments. Cultural offerings or good quality food are in particular key factors to retain and attract talented people as they create attractive living, entertaining and learning conditions. Talents (designers, artists, architects, …) need to evolve in a place that stimulate their imagination and favors creative social interactions and where risk taking and creative boldness is promoted.

Allow Cross-Sectoral Interactions

The big challenge today is to better connect CCIs to other sectors of the economy with a view to transfer creative skills and develop new forms of innovation. Read the rest of this entry »

Tweeting the City: 10 Twitter Accounts We Follow On Urban Issues

Eurasian Collared Doves preparing to take flightTwitter is a beloved place for exchanges on urban issues. Here is a (limited) list of accounts we particularly enjoy following, covering our interests – including but not limited to integrated urban development – in no particular order!

@eumayors is the twitter account of a transnational network of cities mayors working toward sustainable cities.

@energycities tweets on energy transition and (once more) their cities network’s achievements towards it.

@citiesforpeople is the account of Gehl Architects, micro-blogging on solutions developed towards ‘liveable’ cities. Read the rest of this entry »

Traffic: Blocking Our Roads, But More Importantly- Blocking Our Airways

Artwork in Santiago National Gallery

On the sign: “Disclaimer: “Breathing can induce cancer” The Health Ministry”
Image by Addy Cameron-Huff on Flickr

According to the European Environment Agency there has been some success in reducing ambient air pollution levels in Europe , particularly during the first decade of this century (lowered levels of sulphur dioxide, lead, carbon monoxide and benzene). But despite this encouraging news, cynics might advise those of us awaiting more comprehensive and lasting improvement in air quality, not to hold our breaths – yet if that was a realistic option perhaps it is precisely what we should do.

In a statement to the Observer newspaper (23 March, 2014) Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment  , said that “poor air quality is the top environmental cause of premature deaths in the EU, causing more than 100,000 premature deaths annually and representing more than €300 billion per year in extra health costs”. Read the rest of this entry »

Urban Investment Funds For Sustainable Development: Examples from The Hague

Foto by Zoetnet on Flickr

Foto by Zoetnet on Flickr

Cities have to be more and more creative when it comes to financing their projects and programmes. With budget cuts on the rise and traditional subsidy schemes disappearing, they have to increasingly look for alternatives.URBACT Project CSI Europe investigates the potential role and added value of financial instruments such as urban investment funds.

 
Ton Overmeire is programme manager ‘European Funds’ at the Municipality of The Hague. Read the rest of this entry »

For Healthy Ageing In European Cities

Sans titreIn the cult movie, Logan’s Run, citizens are terminated at the age of 30. The plot focuses on the efforts of the eponymous hero as he makes his attempt to escape the city and prolong his life into middle age. Nowadays, applying the Logan’s Run rule would empty many of Europe’s cities. Across Europe, the tendency is towards longer lifespans and a dramatic increase in the proportions of older people. Eurostat estimates that between 2011 and 2060 the proportion of over 65s in the EU will increase from 18% to 30%. Forecasts indicate that in the same period the proportion of the population over 80 years old in the EU will almost triple.

Ageing Creates Policy Challenges But Should Be Celebrated

Too often, ageing populations are presented as a problem. Economists refer to the shifting ratio of working to non-working age residents, and raise questions about who will pay for the pensions of baby boomers and their offspring. Medics alert us to the exponential growth of Alzheimer’s rates whilst care professionals highlight the crisis in care, as we struggle to attract workers into this growing profession.

But let’s not lose sight of the positives. Read the rest of this entry »

Urban Planning And The Multi-dimensional Communication Era

2827035266_908ec93bbe_z« Because urban planning has always been based on the gathering and exchange of information and – as a democratic process – on communication between different stakeholders, a change in the method of communication has a significant impact on decision-making throughout the process ». (Stefan Höffken and Chris Haller)

By now, you probably have heard of the nine projects kick-started last december, and with which URBACT is experimenting Local Action Plan delivery and transfer of good practices… Well, as all URBACT projects, those 9 also come with a project-bound communication officer, and last week, all of them met in Paris for a two-day working session. Hearing all those creative and engaged professionals speak about their project and communication strategy, it was clear how central an aspect communication is for their – and probably, any – urban development project.

Communication As Good Practice

This is especially true, of course, of projects such as City Logo, dealing explicitely with city branding, but communication also often wind up being much more central a task than traditionnally expected in most projects, Read the rest of this entry »

Public Spaces And The “Publicness”: Something Is Changing

PublicSpaceThe main features of public spaces are that they are public (not private), have open access and are used by many people for common purpose. But, this ideal of public space, open to everyone, does it exist in reality? Isn’t there the potential for domination by some groups? Public space today is considered to be a conflicted and contested battlefield of and for power.

Accessible, Yet Filtered

Public squares are still important. Physically they are easily accessible; they are at the crossroad of streets and at “hubs” of the flows of transport, people, goods, lights and sounds of the cities. However, they are filtered, and they have invisible yet nearly impenetrable boundaries. They are not accessible to everyone: cameras, police and private security are watching and selecting who “deserves” to be allowed into these spaces. Read the rest of this entry »

Six URBACT „Golden Nuggets” For Successful Partner Visits

URBACT Projects include a lot of study visits, where partners from several cities travel to one network city to get a sense of the project’s context, local actors, successes and obstacles. What makes for a good partner’s study visits? Here are a few tips from the last project Kick-off meetings.

1. Increase Innovation Potential With Unusual Circumstances

GrowtentDuring the Bristol meeting of the Sustainable Food Project  in october 2012, one of the site visits was to the remote, peripheral Avon Wildlife Feed Bristol (not even the cab driver knew the place…) where one of the discussions took place in a poly-tunnel – a tent used to grow vegetable. The site has started to be developed just this year on unused plots of the municipality. Besides a few paid employees, it works with volunteers,  from a corporate social responsibility system  – e.g. bankers come out once a year for a whole day-, with prisoners… Read the rest of this entry »