Viewpoints of Winning Teams

Badajoz (ES)
Oct 2016

E13/E14 Inter-Sessions Forum - Badajoz (ES) - Debate

Viewpoint of Winning Teams

E13 Marl (DE), Winner – "Weee Marl!"

Automation is now taking over a considerable part of our production due to its effectiveness. The 2016 World Economic Forum report tells us that up to 5 million jobs will be lost to automation by 2020. This is not necessarily bad; on the contrary, society is focusing on other kind of jobs, on another way to understand productivity. 87% of the creative workers are at low risk of losing their job. Today productivity is changing from physical production to the control and improvement of that production. Industrial infrastructures are not the key to production anymore. As our roles change, so should our needs of equipment. Four brief examples will illustrate this.

-1- San Francisco & the Wireless Invasion – San Francisco may be the best example of human transformation caused by new productive activities. The spread of free Wi-Fi spots in bars and restaurants to attract consumers, or in parks and other public spaces for use and enjoyment of the citizens have to turned land from entertainment centres to working places. New producers now prefer working in a park and have meetings in cosy bars to driving one hour inside the city. And Google recently made a “gift” to the city of San Francisco, providing free Wi-Fi to all the parks in the city centre, turning places into potential working stations.
-2- High Frequency Trading (H.F.T.) & the New Financial Settlements – Extrapolating San Francisco’s case to higher demands, we understand connectivity as a current leading infrastructure. The position of root servers or the traces drawn by submarine cables build that territory with new conditions. Connection speed increases are exploited by current trading systems such as the H.F.T., which produces thousands of transactions in fractions of a second, held by algorithms. There are projects trying to connect London with Frankfort via microwaves, using old radio towers to install signal repeaters every 50 kilometres, which would increase the speed of data flowing between our 2 financial capitals. The result is a territory loaded with connectivity, which could be similar to Quincy’s Hub in California where data companies take advantage of these connection facilities as well as other conditions –cheap energy or tax discounts– to form new production centres. Connectivity is becoming a new quality of territory, such as climate, underground raw material supplies or traditional communication systems. Could these be the seed of future cities?

Automation in production

-3- Corpo-Cities & Private PoliticsCorpo-nation is a concept used nowadays to describe societies ruled by corporations as the power behind the throne. But it is also used to describe the dystopical prognosis of corporations taking over the role of our actual nations, establishing new boundaries, laws and relations in order to maximise production. For example, Walmart took over the responsibility of organizing humanitarian convoys to supply American citizens affected by the Katrina-hurricane disaster. Although we surely don't know any Corpo-nation –at least not an official one–, we do known its forerunner: the Corpo-city. New cities built by corporations are already appearing outside our main capitals. They do not provide their “citizens” with all the things a traditional city would provide them with, but only with the things that increase their productivity. They don’t have dwellings or houses, but they do have hotels and restaurants; they don’t have parks, but they have golf courses.
-4- Property Flash-Crash: Immediate UrbanismFlash-Crash is an economical term used to describe a quick drop and recovery of value. We are all becoming aware of the volatility of the so-called markets and the influence that information has on them. We are witnessing how news agencies, political speeches, or even a tweet, can turn global economy upside down. But, could instant news also change cities? Not their shape obviously, but they could change their property. Economists now fear a flash-crash in London's real-estate due to the impact of Brexit. The exponential loss of value or new immigration policies could lead to an instantaneous transaction boom and, in consequence, a total change of property in London's real estate.


But how could these switches of property affect our cities? Two cases can illustrate this. In the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta in Barcelona (ES) lots of small investors bought houses to former inhabitants not to live there, but to use them as tourist-apartments via Airbnb or similar networks. It has caused a total disruption of the social fabric and an actual change in this neighbourhood's live, despite the remaining neighbours’ opposition. New York would picture the opposite example, where major investors buy dwellings in the new "super-tall" buildings where they will never live. These are built financial assets, as if gold bars were rising in the city centre.
We see cities as connection clusters, covering traffic network to affective relational systems. The coming productivity depends to a large extent on its capacity of generate effective connection nodes, no matter the distance between the points involved. Future cities –necessarily productive– have to find the way to integrate these connections in their own network without losing their values.

E12 Barcelona (ES), Winner – "Inserciones urbanas"

I would like to talk about one basic element of productivity –water– and the way to mix public space and productivity.
The area we are studying was one of the most productive in Barcelona’s history, in particular thanks to one of the most important infrastructures of the city that has structured its development during the last millennium – the Rec Comtal. The Rec Comtal replaced the former Roman aqueduct that provided the city with water from the 1st to the 10th century. This open canal offered a very intense relation to water as well as an important dynamic in the agricultural and industrial area of the basin of the Besós River, which therefore became Barcelona’s productive area. During the 20th cent., the octagon formed by the new Ensanche district finally covered the Rec; nowadays, water can only be seen in the Vallbona district. Some archaeological remains have nevertheless been preserved and the Rec Comtal is still part of many inhabitant’s historical memories.

Recovery of the Rec Comtal path
History - Opportunity - Heritage

Since Europan 12 in 2014 we have been working on the recovery of the Rec Comtal, starting with an intervention on the San Andreu district. 60 years ago this intervention area was only meadows and industries. The extension of Barcelona turned this productive territory into an area for parking and landfill. Our project deals with the recovery not only of the Rec Comtal path, but also of its natural and rural environment; this is done from 3 materials: water, land and vegetation. We propose a public space with varied dynamics (including a.o. the historical interpretation) that could act as a productive and rest area. Massive planting of river trees and vegetation would be the only architectural support in order to optimise the weather conditions of the place.
Our proposal is part of a metropolitan strategy and acts as a reactivation tool of the public space, connecting the city history to nature, leisure and production. We have identified 21 areas in 13 districts through which the Rec passes, where we want to introduce these criteria of ecological recovery to varying degrees. The idea is to initiate productive activities on certain points so as to encourage small-scale local agriculture. The strength of the project is actually to rely on and to enhance Barcelona’s residual spaces through the water infrastructure. This way, we reinforce urban continuity between the districts of the centre and the periphery while claiming a model for the productive city that still remains possible.

E13 Stavanger (NO), Lauréat – "Forus LABing"

PLAYStudio is an office of architecture based in Alicante (ES). Our expertise on productive cities is quite close to Europan and our first experience on this topic was actually our first winning project for Europan 7 in Wien (AT). Although we unfortunately failed in our intention to achieve this piece of productive city, after 13 years of work, we managed to develop a mixed-use program project with housing, commercial area and public spaces.
In the beginning we proposed a case of productive city through urban agriculture to transform a business zone into a living area. The “Fallow Land” project imported an agricultural pattern into the area creating a living structure where all the neighbours could cultivate an orchard on the roof. Unfortunately, it seems that it was too early and the developer told us it was impossible. Still, things are changing, we are now talking about productive cities and projects similar to our first idea appear in other areas of Wien and in other Europan projects. So we can imagine how the public space of the Perfektastrasse –our E7 project in Wien– could have been.
Our 2nd first prize in Europan was a seaside park in Stavanger (NO), which does not look like a productive city. But again, it was a case of transformation of a business zone into a living area, which afterwards would incorporate urban agriculture. We were finally commissioned to develop the new public space of the area, and this is when Edible Stavanger East appeared: it is an organisation from Stavanger that improves the social life of public space through food – producing, preparing and eating. Our project was therefore the perfect place to incorporate these agricultural uses into a public space as a key element to bring urban life, people, and new activities onto the area through the food. So we did it through a participative process.
Finally, our last winning project was for Europan 13, again in Stavanger. It is the case of a productive urban transition from a technological area into a liveable and –we hope– innovative neighbourhood. We are trying to transform the existing endless parking plots of the whole area into liveable public space. The existing building would be turned into what we call “Innovation Palaces”, with new jobs for the citizens that remain in Forus, living in what we called “plug-in towers” and enjoying the new public space under a “well-tempered environment”.

E7 Wien (AT), "Fallow Lands"
E8 Stavanger (NO), "Behind the Horizon"
E13 Stavanger (NO), "Forus LABing"

In conclusion, to create a productive city, we should understand the existing culture in a broader sense –work, food, games, traditions, existing culture, constructions etc. Understanding Culture as the expression of humanity itself is the 1st step to achieve the main target – the sustainable city.

E13 Bondy (FR), Winner – "Bondy’s Count"

Which impact could the introduction of production activity have on urban space? This question first left us puzzled. On the one hand, we were not quite sure whether we would agree on the expression ‘production activity’. On the other, the Bondy case study was already an activity area and the issue was not as much to add activity than it was to show and diversify the existing activity. As far as the definition is concerned, we focused on keeping the different meanings of the words ‘productive’ and ‘production’. Then, we also tried to put into perspective our proposal for Bondy with regards to this impact on urban space.
The word ‘productive’ has several meanings: the general meaning, “that produces or is interesting” (a productive activity, a productive land, i.e. fertile); the economic meaning, directly linked to the “producing activity”, refers to something lucrative and profitable. In the question “Which impact could the introduction of production activity have on urban space?” we could actually wonder which production we are talking about.

Paradoxes & Obstructions – The specificity of a commercial area, as a friction area, is very often to be an economical pole: the presence of many retailers is providing jobs while profitability often blocks the evolution of land use. This paradoxical situation –between polarity and lock– slows down the ongoing transformation of the city. How to maintain a production space when we cannot, or we do not want to, move it to the periphery? What are the opportunities for a domain of asphalt full of large parking lots, alternatively saturated/empty time slots, and large repetitive and convertible warehouses?
Micro-actions and game of cards – The car gave the territory of the suburban city a scale, leaving it nowadays with a surplus of underexploited land where the other inhabitants –human and non human– cannot really find their place. This in mind, we can intensify the uses of the activity area towards the living community. The idea would be to negotiate the relations between the different activities, that is to say: the different actors and their different goals.
Negotiations - Multiply the actors – This is the method we chose to apply to Bondy: involve land owners and economic actors. They should find their own interest in the mutation so as to be fully involved in the process and play the game together with the city and the inhabitants; this way, they will be more likely to leave some space to the new inhabitants: local initiatives, new activity, services, etc.
Negotiations - Friction area between uses – Those that allow imagining other forms of city, or planning and of time – the shared production of the city. The surplus of land that is specific to the production areas can be considered as an opportunity for a collaborative economy, which is indeed based on the valorisation of what one owns “to a certain excess” – like seats in a car or a bed in a flat.

Paradoxes & Obstructions
Multiplication of actors
Negotiate the relations between activities

For us, the producing city takes back its former meaning of ‘producer’ – build an event, generate something, produce some effect, and therefore not only the idea of a cohabitation of protected activities or of housing that should not hear the noise of the production activity. We are talking about the possibility of a productive city, of its shared spaces, of the machine of a continuous production of situation, of moments of friction, and not only of manufactured objects. The introduction of production activity onto the urban space can be a way to talk about the surplus of space, about what exceeds its mere organisation and could find a place in the shared fabrication of the city through its own production

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- Europan 14 actors

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