Current Issue: Vol.34, Num. 1 November 2019
CHINA-FACING ITS PROBLEMS
Last summer we were fortunate to have Professor Karina Borja visiting Washington on her return trip from a conference in Meishan, China, sponsored by UNESCO. The purpose of the conference was to discuss and better understand the potential of working in harmony with the environment within the context of traditional/historic cultures.
Architect Karina Borja, teaches at the School of Architecture of The Pontifical Catholic University of Quito, Ecuador where she has dedicated many years to understanding the native culture of the Andean and Amazonian regions. The Meishan Conference, which had over 300 attendees, was an excellent forum for Dr, Borja to inform a large and interested audience about her work. She was able to share her knowledge of the cultural issues she constantly faces. She was able to report on her observations, findings and successes, as well as express her views on the community work she and her students performed to improve the habitat of the indigenous communities of Ecuador. Some of these communities have now extended into urban spaces, but are trying to preserve their cultural values and past environmental achievements.
We offer here the beginning of the report on the International Conference on Culture 2030/Rural Urban Development: The Future of Historic Villages and Towns, organized by UNESCO in Meishan, China, 10-12 June 2019. It outlines the topics covered at the conference, and we hope that our readers will access more information on line at: https.//en.unesco.org/
Culture—Key to Rural-Urban Development of Historic Towns
Local leaders, communities and businesses in historic towns and villages are increasingly turning to the creative economy, cultural tourism, and heritage to achieve sustainable development. At the International Conference on Culture 2030/Rural-Urban Development: The Future of Historic Villages and Towns, organized by UNESCO in Meishan, China, (10-12 June 2019) ministers, representatives of international and non-governmental organizations including the World Bank and UN-Habitat, mayors and city managers, and internationally renowned experts shared innovative good practices from across the globe.“
“Culture plays a key role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and is a strategic resource for the sustainable development of small settlements in its social, economic and environmental dimensions,” said Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, in opening the Conference. “The culture-based 3P approach developed by UNESCO on People, Places, Policies can be an effective framework to address the challenges faced by small settlements including persisting poverty, environmental degradation, climate change, disasters, increasing inequalities, migration, and aging populations”.
Chengdu—a City of Parks
It is very important to understand and preserve successful past cultural achievements, working with the nature of a place. It is also important to try to solve the problems of economically degraded ur-ban areas, where millions of human beings live in poverty, worsened by the recent increase in cli-matic disasters. Utilizing advanced technologies can help to control some of these disastrous situa-tions.
We refer here to an article in a newly established publication, Biophilic Cities Journal, Vol.3, No.1 sponsored by the University of Virginia. (See more information in BiophilicCities.org).
The article is entitled You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure: How geoAl Transforms In-donesia’s Human-Nature Conflict Zones, by Nadine Galle, Co-Founder & CEO of Green City Watch. It relates to the problems of the capital city of Jakarta, Indonesia where inadequate public transportation is—among other issues— one of its greatest problems, and the need to monitor the situation is an absolute must. We print here a couple of paragraphs from this article, which we think readers of In Situ will find to be of great interest:
“It is important to consider that not all green space is created equal. Variations in ecological “quality” (number of species, integrity of ecological processes) may very well influence the link between ac-cess to green space and benefits to human health and well-being (Wood et al., 2018). Therefore, it is crucial to map, understand, and monitor these changes, whether positive or negative.” “Green City Watch is an Amsterdam-based start-up that taps into high-resolution satellite imagery and the latest advancements in a new field called “geospatial artificial intelligence” mainly being used to map the quality of green space, or perform land/use cover change analyses. But Green City Watch takes this analysis a step further. “Our technology combines ecological knowledge, new data sources (high-resolution satellite data) and innovative technologies (machine learning & Al) to measure the quality of urban nature. We al-so measure where the most impact can be achieved when constructing new—and improving old—green space. Our technology is able to recognize and measure the biodiversity and quality of urban nature…”
“The in-house developed Green City Watch Index, scores green spaces on select ecological, social, and economic parameters, to holistically measure the quality of these spaces. The index considers water bodies, riparian vegetation zones, a park’s composition, amenities and facilities, and many other variables.”
The problems of Jakarta are also rooted in climatic changes. This capital city is sinking and the need to relocate seems evident. Working with nature at all possible levels is imperative. The demand to monitor action and reaction can produce an understanding of how people affect nature and may help us develop ways to cope with these situations.
ARCHITECTURAL RECORD magazine, November 2019, offers an extensive article about the new Rockefeller University River Campus by Rafael Viñoly Architects (RVA) which says, “By taking advantage of air rights over the FDR Drive, Rockefeller University was able to create two acres of real estate and expand its hemmed-in campus“.
That is happening along the edge of the East River facing Roosevelt Island where bridging over the heavily traveled multi-lane FDR Drive has given pedestrians access to the water’s edge by creating an enjoya-ble promenade. Thus Rockefeller University not only has been able to expand its famous medical research facili-ties, but has also improved the well-being of pedestrian New Yorkers.
Now we have a newly developed solution designed by architect Steven Holl, built on what was the south side open space of the existing Center, a campus-like solution with attractive new structures and a narrow pedestrian bridge extending over the Rock Creek/Potomac Parkway that connects it to the river edge path for day time use by energetic pedestrians and bicyclists.
All is well, but the Kennedy Center still deserves to be linked to the urban web, especially if we consider that the expanded facility is providing more programs and attracting an even greater number of visitors and participants than it did before the expansion. The high cost of bridging over the highway lanes is not an excuse, as they are many ways to make it economically possible. A pedestrian urban link is a must that should be reconsidered. Unlike old cities prior to the automobile, in today's American cities, pedestrian access at reasonable distances let us say within a five or ten minute walk, is rarely available. We are concerned about biodiversity, let us also think about the potential benefit of proximity to sources of employment and entertainment for residents and visitors within the urban complex. That is what makes a city a good place to live.
Beatriz de Winthuysen Coffin, FASLA