DOT-TO-DOT: The New Urban Agenda 2030 and the Reactivation of Public Spaces through Innovative Social Technologies
December 14, 2016
Recently, a series of Multilateral Agreements were adopted by United Nations member states, covering a wide range of issues related to urban planning and public space such as the New Urban Agenda, the 2030 Agenda, amongst others.
What is the relevance of some of these Multilateral Agreements for cities and local governments from the perspective of public space?
The New Urban Agenda (Quito, Oct. 2016) offers a route map to implement actions to resolve “the new urban question” not only regarding a housing-related agenda (i.e.: slum eradication, etc.) but also find out way to rethink, play, co-manage and remake our urban habitats. The emphasis is urban development (qualitative) rather than urban growth (quantitative) towards sustainable urban co-production by envision and building together co-operation with disadvantaged communities, social enterprises, key stakeholders, creative industry and urban actors at all levels.
The public space is also a key factor contributing to sharing economies, addressing energy offset and fostering social resilience. The reactivation of the public space is at the centre of key issues such as poverty reduction (lowering deprivation index); health (via bio-remediation applied in contaminated brownfield and vacant lands); co-production (circular economies); crime reduction and education (the city as an open classroom). Regarding the applicability in the co-production of the public space, it points out that active citizens should focus on urban design and planning with the join-venture between local governments and agencies and the participation of bottom-up practices. The key aspect is the implementation of social and environmental innovation technologies through e-donation, social networks and time-banking models that make sustainable the management of the public spaces.
What are the main challenges for the forthcoming ten years in relation to the place-making of public space? The urban transformation of the public space is related to the establishment of socio-economic dynamics that trigger the production and occupancy of every-day spaces in our cities. Nowadays urban economies –including mega-slums- are globally propagating a new geography of centrality and marginality. Urban poverty is neither an exclusive characteristic of South Globe nor the pre-condition of mega-cities in third world countries. This situation has been convoyed by the abrupt inequity of income distribution; environmental disasters; displacement of rural communities; rising of informal industry and unemployment; and the dismantling of social well-fare.
The main challenges of the New Urban Agenda are to empower the “right to the city” and to enhance the public space as dynamic living forms mainly in informal settlements, industrial vacant lands and deprived urban areas. The public space is a dynamic laboratory for urban pattern making, the DNA for evolutionary urbanism, that constructs transitory, elusive or spontaneous geometries and forms. In slums, they represent the manifestation of public urbanity governed by self-organisation, which include bottom-up initiatives, the sharing of civic capacities and spatial activation by remaking. The design solutions should be site-specific too and differ in sizes, shapes and geometries mainly regarding cultural and topographic conditions. Urban informality offers immense opportunities to reflect on resilient urban forms of public space as self-ruled structures.
Imagine like UN-HABITAT is requesting assistance in the development of city-wide public space strategies, with a limited budget. What should the design process be to implement an inclusive strategy?
Our proposed urban game plan consists of design management, social innovation and environmental activation to make better our cities. In order to implement city-wide public space strategies in each chosen city, we should engage community firstly by creating environmentally awareness and activate the sense of citizenship, we are all co-designers. The strategy of DIY Urbanism applied in public spaces is a dual process of both place-making and remaking. It offers immeasurable opportunities to think, play with and make resilient urban structures based on spatial flexibility and programmatic adaptability. Adaptability refers to use change whilst flexibility denotes any spatial alteration here. I will support the stratagem with the principles of group-form by Fumihiko Maki and open society by Jaap Bakema, to identify supports and programmatic infills applied in specific urban frames like game boards or transformative play-places that unfold the inventiveness among disadvantaged communities.
In doing so we should focus in a durable game plan based on remake and share: a. Environmental reactivation: Increase synergies to offset, reuse and remanufacture urban waste locally b. Social engagement: Connect waste industry, creative practices and local communities to consolidate the existing public spaces and reanimate deprived areas. c. Sharing economy: Due to the start-up budget is limited, we have build a sustainable business plan based on local smart communities using e-donation models based on non-cash like time-banking and in-kind material contributions.
The initial stage should be assist the co-design process alongside municipalities, community councils, housing associations, social enterprises, community gardens and other stakeholders through service design, workshops and charrettes, consultations, knowledge exchange and transdisciplinary research/surveys. The second phase is to prototype an interactive online service that activate public spaces by connecting the culture of remaking, social media and community-led urban development. The third stage is to test and pilot live projects.
New technologies can increase the interest of certain groups in public space design, providing new avenues to influence the public space agenda on the local/city level as well as develop important skills and networks. How the use of new social technologies provides an opportunity for governments – at local, regional and national level – to engage communities in participatory processes? What are the main benefits of using such tools in co-production processes and how can these tools bring forth the voices of the most marginalised in society?
Our planet is a finite living system. Our habitats are being urbanised, furnished and restructured and, in this process, our urban landscape is being radically altered. This change of scale is environmental (ecologically-driven) and socio-technological. In order to implement new technologies, we have to rethink, pilot and remake collaborative initiatives towards an architecture of enjoyment. The “we-all-are-designers” approach offers open source design for public spaces and establishes urban games. These play-elements privilege inclusiveness, flexibility and scalability. We believe that communities are active designers of social-responsive technology rather than mere consumers. We also believe that every citizen has the right to live in better places. Our technology is about sharing and making green spaces together. Last month my studio STUDIO POP won the Social Innovation Award Scotland 2016 to implement a digital technology that can be used innovatively and disruptively to improve the lives of individual and communities in Scottish cities, mainly regarding public spaces in risk and disadvantages communities in deprived areas. In Scottish cities, there is a huge demand for such actions, especially through the Community Empowerment Act (Scotland) and various programmes of social and environmental innovation. During various conversations and consultations in Glasgow, we identified a huge demand to reactivate abandoned spaces and bring them back to communities to implement creative pilot projects.
The proposed social technology coined DOT-TO-DOT is a user responsive, open and reliable donation space characterised by a non-cash model (volunteering time and materials in kind). DOT-TO-DOT is a mobile-friendly website and app with a service package of eco-design, urban consultancy and civic workshops. It also offers social rewards like a e-DIY library, video training workshops, and local-made souvenirs. This technology put “backers in frontline” by connected them in social networks (Facebook, Instagram, etc). It reduces operational costs by operating online; accepting donation from any currency with tailored donation plans; and prohibiting hidden administrative fees.
The benefits of using this tools enables local communities, stakeholders, housing associations, local planners/governments to support, design and implement social and environmental projects that transform vacant lands and rundown buildings.
Dr Cristian Suau STUDIO POP Glasgow
 Maki, F. (1964) Investigation in Collective Form. St. Louis: Washington University Press (special publication 2), pp 14-16. This form evolves from a system of generative elements in space. The key factors are (1) consistent us of available materials; (2) topographic imprint; (3) human scale condition; and (4) sequential development of basic elements.
 Bakema’s urban design method (1964) involved continuous dialogue, collaborative work and workshop-based design studios. “Growth and Change”, “Habitat”, “Ascending Dimensions” and “Aesthetics of Number” were all key notions that Bakema connected to a civic programme for a democratic, egalitarian and open society. Van den Heuvel, D. (2014) Open: A Bakema Celebration. Rotterdam: Jaap Bakema Study Centre, volume 41, pp.3-7: http://open.jaapbakemastudycentre.nl [accessed in 14/12/2016]