How can we build a Fab City? Which steps should be taken to make our cities more resilient to future challenges?
The FabCity Summit, that will take place on Wednesday the 20th of April at the FabCity campus in Amsterdam, offers the perfect occasion to confront these questions and to work together on the creation of a new paradigm to transform the way we work and live in cities.
The Summit will see the participations of numerous members of the FabCity network, an international think tank comprising different figures, such as civic leaders, FabLab champions, urbanists and innovators who work collectively on the same goal: changing the persistent paradigm of the current industrial economy.
The Fab City project, initiated by the the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, the MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms and the Fab Foundation, builds on the ideals of the FabLab, such as connectivity, culture and creativity, and applies them to the city level, with the aim of developing locally productive and globally connected self-sufficient cities. As explained in the FabCity Whitepaper (PDF avilable here), the new urban model will involve a transformation in the way cities source and use materials, evolving from a “Products In Trash Out” (PITO) to a “Data In Data Out” paradigm. This means shifting “from a linear model of importing products and producing waste to a spiral innovation ecosystem in which materials flow inside the city and informations on how things are made circulate globally”. The new economy envisaged in the FabCity is therefore based on “distributed data and manufactured infrastructure”.
By working on the development of new urbanization paradigms FabCity and FabLab are providing a fundamental contribution to the broader research for new models of sustainable urban development which is being stimulated at global level through the UN Habitat III conferences and the implementation of a New Urban Agenda. As the global community becomes aware of the need to work on sustainable urbanization to deal with the growth in urban population (estimated by the UN to achieve 66% of the global population by 2050, as shown in data available here) and with the future challenges deriving from this trend, the European Union is working in the same direction with the establishing of the EU Urban Agenda as one of the objectives of the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The creation of the FabCity campus for urban innovators and the commitment of the city of Amsterdam to join the Fab Cities network is better understood within this context, and gives us a positive example of how global and collective goals can better be achieved through the collaboration of different actors who share the same aim and can bring new perspectives and ideas in the debate.
The Fab City Summit offers a great occasion to work in this direction, through the participation of many relevant contributors in three different events: The Experts Meetings, aiming at drafting a Fab City Manifesto, the Public Dialogue, focusing on the evolution from FabLabs to Fab Cities and the Road Map Workshop, an occasion to set out the work that will be undertaken in the coming years.
LabGov will be present at the Summit, represented by Professor Christian Iaione, who will participate in the discussions alongside with numerous members of the Fab City network, such as Tomas Diez, urbanist, Fab City Laboratory Leader and director of the Fab Lab Barcelona at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), Neil Gershenfeld, professor at the MIT Boston and director of the MIT’s Center for Bits&Atoms, Vincente Guallart, former Chief Architect of the City Council of Barcelona and Co-founder of the IAAC, and many others (here the complete list of contributors) .
Click here to access the complete FabCity events’ program.
Mercoledì 20 Aprile 2016 si terrà ad Amsterdam il FabCity Summit, un incontro all’interno del quale numerosi membri del FabCity network saranno portati a mettere in campo le proprie idee per raggiungere un obbiettivo comune, quello di cambiare il nostro modo di vivere e lavorare nelle città. Trasformare una città in una FabCity significa abbandonare l’attuale paradigma economico e lavorare verso lo sviluppo di città autosufficienti che siano localmente produttive e globalmente connesse.
Once again the European Union has been the driving force of social innovation, through the so-called Grundtvig Programme. Often underestimated in its innovative and cohesive potential, since 2000 the European Union has regularly funded projects devised at the national level which succeed in providing the adult population “with ways to improve their knowledge and skills, keeping them mentally fit and potentially more employable”. An honorable goal, but what does it have to do with the commons?
Simple. In 2011, the Grundtvig call for proposals ended with 56 winning multilateral projects, among which “The EU’rban Gardens Otesha project“, better known as EU’GO. It seems that the fashion and , more interestingly, the social value of the urban shared gardens has been finally recognized at a supranational level. The result is that out of the €337.330 budget required to carry out this project, exactly 75% was provided directly by the European Union. An astonishing result that reminds us the need to develop alternative ways to enhance and improve the human capital, while also tightening interpersonal relations in discrimination-free contexts.
But what did “Piste-solidaires” – the promoter of EU’GO – devise?
In few words, EU’GO represented a bridge; a bridge that connected at once not only five countries – Italy, Germany, France, Spain and UK – but also all those local associations of citizens fully convinced that urban gardens might become propagation centers of best practices and of social inclusion, of education and of urban well-being. Social cohesion, cultural integration, sustainable development: these, thus, are the pivot themes of the EU’GO project, paying special attention to the most vulnerable segments of the society – immigrants, women, youth, disabled and elderly. The cities are meeting place par excellence. At least in theory. In fact, it was from the very reflection upon urban marginalization, isolation and discrimination that EU’GO took shape.
Transnational by nature and educational in its aims, EU’GO set an online platform in order to share the know-how and the skills developed (literally) on field in the so-called Otesha gardens. The latter, in the words of the promoters are “green spaces, innovative and active learning spaces that promote […] the collective creation of social, generational and intercultural bonds“. And so it is, in fact. Successful gardens blossomed like flowers and by word of mouth, an ever-increasing number of people devoted their time to the earth. Even indirectly, benefits were brought to the cause, by simply focusing the attention of the general public on the sustainable development issues and on the importance of social cohesion.
Too good to be true? Yes and No. Yes, because the project lasted two years only. A too short lapse of time, even to assess some results, if we consider that the effects on a community’s way of thinking can be ascertained only in the long run.
No, because notwithstanding, EU’GO might represent a starting point, a benchmark for the States’ policy-making and for active citizens. In the light of EXPO 2015 and the latter’s focus on nutrition, poor and developing countries, together with the developed ones in the need to rethink their relationship with the planet and their strategies to foster social inclusion, might then see in EU’GO a successful experiment.
Sviluppo sostenibile a braccetto con l’inclusione sociale: EU’GO!
Quando lo sviluppo sostenibile incontra l’inclusione sociale: il progetto EU’rban Gardens Otesha, finanziato dall’Unione Europea, ha riportato risultati sorprendenti. Risultati limitati dalla breve durata del progetto, ma che potrebbero rivelarsi un utile esempio per chiunque voglia rivedere il proprio rapporto con la terra e al contempo sviluppare strategie innovative volte alla coesione sociale.
Each year from 16 to 22 September, more than 2.000 European cities sign up for European Mobility Week, an annual campaign on sustainable urban mobility financed and supported by the European Commission. Even if political commitment at the local level is an essential requirement to join the initiative, the success of EMW really depends on the enthusiasm of thousands of citizens that get involved in a range of public events, such as bicycle masses, car free days, walk-to-school initiatives and many other public activities promoting sustainable and active travel. This year the week saw a wide range of activities, including concerts, workshops, and art competitions, all celebrating the role sustainable mobility and better usage of land can play in enhancing quality of life. The success of the week and the continued success of the European mobility week campaign is cause for great positivity, pointing to an acceptance of sustainable mobility and a desire on the part of citizens and local governments to enhance green transport. One of the reasons why people are inspired by urban mobility – according to European Commission studies – is that nowadays, the majority of Europeans live in urban areas, and all of us want to move around in an efficient, affordable and comfortable manner. At the same time, we also dream of living in a place with lots of parks and green space, where children can play safely, where the air is clean, where you can walk to do your shopping and where businesses can prosper.
Moreover it is not just a green dream, actually it is the real interpretation of Declaration of Rio (1992). As far as the declaration is concerned, we immediately could notice the Principle I : “Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature”. People are at the centre of sustainable development and, in this regard, Rio promised to strive for a world that is just, equitable and inclusive, and committed to work together to promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection and thereby to benefit all, in particular the children of the world, youth and future generations of the world without distinction of any kind such as age, sex, disability, culture, race, ethnicity, origin, migratory status, religion, economic or other status. The global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions. Each country has primary responsibility for its own economic and social development and the role of national policies, domestic resources and development strategies cannot be overemphasized. Developing countries need additional resources for sustainable development. There is a need for significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources and the effective use of financing, in order to promote sustainable development (for more information: http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/).
The success of the campaign can be mainly attributed to the involvement of civil society. Together with local administrations, they translate the Mobility Week message into a diverse range of positive, creative and fun activities that attract the interest of the media and the general public. Without the active support from NGOs, public institutions, parents, teachers, schoolchildren, students, employers, commuters, shop owners, local residents and cities of all kind, the campaign would surely have a much smaller impact. This is one of the reasons why cities that want to apply for the annual ‘European Mobility Week Award’ have to be able to demonstrate how they involve citizens and stakeholders.
See also : Participants from Italy
Another step further has been taken by the local administration in the promotion of the public/private partnership and in the care of the green public spaces. It is the case of Rome, where on 17th October 2014, a new regulation on the urban vegetable gardens and shared gardens was approved by the City Council, together with two more regulations, respectively on the management of the masts and on the adoption of the dog parks.
These three regulations stem from the merge of the old concept of the importance of green and clean areas in our cities and the newly born idea of the private/public partnership for the pursuit of the common interest. Some say that Italy still lags behind many States in this regard, and this is certainly true, but we should also give credit to the (few) milestones of the past 15 years.
In fact, few people know that long before the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol and of the global awareness on the importance of a sustainable development, the Italian Parliament adopted Law No. 113 in 1992. It might seem anonymous, but it marked one of the first attempts made to take care of the environment. Municipalities with more than 15.000 inhabitants have the duty to plant a tree for each newborn, within twelve months from the date of entry into the public registry. It was a very short law, with four articles only, bur surprisingly the Parliament came to an agreement and allocated 5 billion liras per year to this end. Not bad!
Recently, this law was modified, when in 2013, Law No. 10 provided for the creation of a monitoring board with the aim of assessing the results and of issuing an annual report to be sent to the Parliament. But Law No.10/2013 is like a matryoshka doll. Actually, it modified also a 1997 Law (No. 449), which laid the foundations of the public/private partnership. In fact, according to this Law, the public administration might enter in a contractual agreement with non-profit private companies and associations, for the pursuit of the common interest. Among the initiatives foreseen by this bill, there are also the reduction of CO2 emission and the creation and maintenance of green areas. Nevertheless, the real innovation of Law 10/2013 is Art. 6, which states that the regions, the provinces and the municipalities shall promote an increase in the green urban areas, while also promoting the energetic efficiency.
When analyzing all these normative provisions, we should take into consideration that the results deriving from the practical implementation might not be the expected ones. However, the ever-increasing awareness of the civil society on this kind of topics helped in developing a productive relationship with the public administration, by demonstrating the willingness to be the driving force of change. The events of the last years left us with a bitter taste: green areas are abandoned and unsafe places and unfortunately, public funds are almost dried up. For this reason, many people throughout Italy created non-profit associations with the only aim of taking care of the public gardens, areas and parks. It is a bottom-up process that spread quickly and induced many municipalities to recognize this legitimate interest and to approve regulations in order to move with the times. Consequently, cities like Parma, Genoa, Florence, and Turin endorsed a green strategy and on October 17th, 2014 Rome finally joined them.
Direct emanation of Law No. 10/2013, which explicitly promoted, facilitated and supported the creation of shared and vegetable gardens, the new regulation approved in Rome represents a great outcome. In fact, the citizens might participate in a public announcement in order to ask the custody of free plots of land and transform them into vegetable gardens. The limits are three: the plots shall be maximum 60 sqm; no GMOs are allowed; the products shall not be marketed. Quite feasible, though! On the other hand, the municipality undertakes to supply water and land, assuring reasonable prices to associations for the pursuit of social purposes, like educational activities for the schools. In fact, as the Council member for the Environment Estella Marino highlighted, vegetables and shared gardens have also a social function, being perfect places for exchanges of ideas and for encounter.
In sum, this regulation is a victory for the citizens of Rome and when it will be voted and approved also by the City Assembly, many people and associations will be ready with hoes and spades.