Designing The Future— series of debates
Today, different global and local challenges present themselves increasingly often as complex spatial issues: from energy transition, the socialisation of care, to sustainable mobility. This is translated into a renewed belief in the potential of design for jointly steering our future in the desired direction. Diverse innovative policy initiatives, projects and exploratory design research have recently been launched in labs, urban projects and biennial ateliers. The time has come to bundle the knowledge, insights and experiences that this has produced and bring them together. What lessons could we learn from them? Where do we currently stand? In particular, what are the next steps? How can we apply the policy intentions in practice? How and with whom do we get started? The ‘Designing the future’ sessions are devoted to the development of a shared agenda for designing a better future.
7 Designing the Future working sessions and 7 Designing the Future public sessions by IABR, AWB, Team Vlaams Bouwmeester, VRP and BMA:
1. The Healthy City in collaboration with Architectuur Lokaal
Our beliefs about health are constantly changing. Today, health is more than ever seen as our own responsibility. Healthy eating and more exercise is the message. At the same time we are seeing increasing health inequalities emerge, especially in the big cities. Which raises many questions. Is it sufficient to simply point out their own responsibility? Or are there other levers to work towards the healthy city? The link between health and urban development is centuries old. For a long time, urban planning was dedicated to the eradication of disease and injuries. But just as our ideas about health, the way we look at healthy urban development is also changing. The emphasis is shifting from 'cure' to 'care'. We are talking about the socialization of health care. But the conditions in which governments, health care providers and institutions operate, are changing rapidly. Budgets shrink, while the demand for health care continues to increase due to the ageing population. In addition, valuable private initiatives are shooting out of the ground like mushrooms. What policies are needed to ensure a healthy and socially inclusive city? How can the government act as a choreographer, and organize a similar (health care) playing field, thus encouraging cooperation between wealthy and fragile players? And what role can designers play in this? In recent years, in both Belgium and the Netherlands, alternative avenues have been expanded and tested through design research and pilot projects, to determine what could be a caring environment in the future . By combining this knowledge, expertise and experiences, and seeking levers for concrete translation into practice, we want to start making real work of a healthy city, for everyone.
2. Energy Regions
We can see that it is time for a radical energy transition, by simply looking at the climate objectives. Putting these ambitious objectives into practice, is not easy. Yet many steps have recently been taken, thanks to design research. These steps range from studies on dealing with deep geothermal energy, the installation of wind turbines in the North Sea, to testing the principles of bio-based economy. Central to this quest is how this energy transition can be engaged to thoroughly rethink the design of our environment and the associated landscape. How can alternative forms of energy production be integrated in the fragmented landscape that characterizes our region and where space is so scarce? How can we think beyond an individual, separate and sectoral approach? How can the energy problem be linked to societal challenges? What other types of land use are conceivable? What alternative energy coalitions are possible and feasible? These are just some of the many questions that we wish to reflect on through the pooling and sharing of newly acquired knowledge. We do this together with various parties, corporations, conservation organizations, research institutions and government agencies, with the goal of reaching concrete proposals and actions.
3. The Productive City
We need a radically different look at how to make room for work, in the city. By giving residences and offices priority over the manufacturing economy, for many decades, this employment market has been driven out of the city, to the edges. If we no longer look at the city as an isolated environment, but as part of a much broader economical region and system, many opportunities arise for shared profits in the long run. This requires an approach that strives for a strategic anchoring of productive economy. This requires, among other things, the reintroduction of the manufacturing industry in the city: from manufacturing that makes the link between knowledge, innovation and production, to circular economy that invests in shorter and more sustainable economic chains. The metropolitan region will benefit from an economy which invests in local production and employment, from an economy that is less harmful to the environment because it invests in recycling and short cycles. How can the industry once again help to build the city? How can this reorganization of the city help to improve mobility, both in terms of commuter traffic and in terms of transportation? Which social gains can be created? In Brussels, as well as in other cities, the focus for the productive city has greatly increased in recent years. This translates into a rich and varied range of projects and initiatives. By bringing all of this work together, we can not only learn a lot from each other, but we can also map out and establish the agenda for the future of the productive city.
4. Visionary Housing
Housing is and remains one of the most controversial issues when it comes to the future of the city. Urbanization is growing. That means that there are more and more people who want affordable, good housing in the city. Society is also changing. Dynamic processes such as migration, ageing, growing populations, changing family patterns, shifting patterns of time spent, changing living and working situations, all demand changes in how and where we live. In recent years, many refreshing policy initiatives and (pilot) projects have been launched to address the urgencies and challenges in terms of living in a qualitative manner. Here, among others, special attention is given to assisted living and collective housing forms. There are many lessons to be drawn from this. At the same time, it remains necessary to keep looking ahead and actively seek visionary alternatives that provide an answer to the many challenges of living in the future.
5. Designing With Flows in collaboration with OVAM
When designing with flows, the city forms the starting point with its urban metabolism. Analogous to a living organism, the city is regarded as an ecosystem. The city is no longer seen as a static, defined territory, but as a constant flow of goods, capital and people. In a globalised world, this vision can once again count on an increasing interest among scientists, policy makers and designers. There have been numerous studies over the last few years, in which the various flows of material, nutrients, water and other forms of energy that enter and leave the city, are mapped in a mathematical or statistical way. Both metabolism and concept are also the reason to rethink various political, ecological, economic and social systems. On the other hand, the practical application and, in particular, the spatial translation of this concept, is rather limited at present. Several exciting experiments have recently been started in our region, based on a strong belief in the potential of this approach for more circular, inclusive and resilient cities. The key now is to continue to build on the ideas, insights and expertise that have emerged from these experiments. By exchanging knowledge and establishing the agenda for the crucial next steps, together with various parties, we can continue to think ahead in the future, and to design from flows.
6. Less Infrastructure, Better Mobility
Traffic is deadlocked. We can no longer keep track of the kilometres of traffic jams. In our highly networked region, mobility is one of the biggest challenges. First and foremost, it is important to think about more compact development, and mitigating travel and transport distances. But, at the same time, there are various revolutions afoot in the area of mobility, with a substantial and direct impact on the design of our living environment. Think of the technological innovations that can be used for more sustainable mobility, the ever more radical automation of vehicles, or the rapid rise of cycling and car sharing. How can these trends be seized as an opportunity to rethink the transport network in our region in a more integrated manner? How can we once again make clear choices, instead of connecting everything to everything, just to get nowhere? How can we break the vicious circle of more and more roads and a growing number of vehicles? How can we come up with better organized mobility in our space and infrastructure, by dealing more intelligently? Relevant design research has recently been done in this field, from various angles. By bringing this knowledge and the various stakeholders together, we hope to achieve more rapid concrete actions and initiatives in practice.
7. Ambitious Open Spaces
Open space and urbanization are often seen as two opposing forces. But in a region where city and landscape are so closely intertwined with each other, the mutual exchange between open space and urban areas presents us with many opportunities. Partly thanks to the efforts of design research, this understanding has grown significantly in recent years. Several initiatives have also been undertaken to bring together various parties who are concerned with open space: heads of governments, policy makers, civil society, stakeholders, researchers and new actors. Meanwhile, it is a shared ambition to use open space as a crucial building block and leverage for the future urbanization of our region. How can the open space be dealt with in a more ambitious way? What conditions can be created to make room for productive landscapes. How can the open space be a place for food production, energy production, recreation and nature? How can the open space best contribute to, or even guide urban development? These questions, their answers and initial experiences in the field, form the basis for collective reflection and knowledge. The goal is to achieve a competitive agenda to work together on more ambitious open spaces in the future.