In Venezuela 93% of the population live in cities, half of which inhabit urban slums. Upgrading initiatives to date have tended to focus on housing solutions to improve living conditions. However, graver issues affect the livelihood of slum dwellers on a daily basis. Alarmingly high homicide rates, frequent adolescent pregnancies and very high school dropout rates compromise every slum dweller´s quality of life and condemn them to a perpetual cycle of poverty. Health issues and low self dignity associated with living in severely degraded environmental conditions also diminish their livelihood. Improving the situation, therefore, goes beyond supplying mortar and brick to build better houses; it requires a holistic approach that seriously considers social and environmental deficiencies.
The team of OKRA, Maxwan A+U, and Basler&Hofmann has won the competition for the concept design of the Basel city centre. The proposal provides an overall view on quality of public realm in the city centre for the next decades, and focuses on creating a green and vibrant landscape city, providing spaces that create a ‘shared space 2.0’. The plan provides tools for transformation of a large area in the city centre, expanding from the train station SBB and the railway station Badischer Bahnhof on the other side of the river Rhine. Even more than today, the Basel city centre will be a focal point for the entire tri-national, expanding over the German and French borders.
Susan Szenasy posted on Metropolis an article titled “United We Stand” in which she recalls some government officials giving encouragement at a recent NeoCon East annual trade show that there is “a new day for government design”. Szeasy goes on to talk about the importance to design of the recent $5.5 billion allocation to General Services Administration and the Department of Defense’s $7.4 billion reconfiguration funding.
However the point I found most interesting in Szenasy’s article was the GSA signing of a new accord with AIA, ASLA, IIDA; in which they have pledged to collaborate to achieve design excellence. I find this encouraging that professional associations have come together.
Currently, there is change occurring not just in the short-term with the Global Financial Crisis, but it seems more and more that sustainability, the environment, and climate change is becoming more important to the world. I feel that we need to move forward with new ideas and be armed with new tools especially in the area of urban design where cities are shrinking in the USA, new eco-towns are being built in the UK and new mega-cities are being designed and constructed in China, India, and Africa. Now is the best time to seek out other disciplines for collaboration not just for the networking and possible work opportunities but for the greater good of the profession. As Landscape Architects I know we often seek collaboration with other disciplines whether they are internal or external of our companies, however I think that as we head towards a new decade we should make more of a commitment to further collaborate with other professions to improve your knowledge and their knowledge so that together we can create a better future.
Famous Valencian architect José María Tomás said “nineteenth-century urban models, will not work.
Today, cities have other needs. We must create spaces to live, work and enjoy. The street is changing”. He made the statement at the close of a meeting of Architects and Planners, organized by the Forum Mediterranean House, at which experts have called for sustainable urban design that respects the terrain and does not add to the destruction of the environment.