The Ove Arup Foundation have funded an online forum presented by The Guardian newspaper. Under the banner of Designs for Life the site intends to examine: “The future of urban living, a site dedicated to the future of the ‘built environment’. As well as articles exploring the philosophy of the way we will live in the future, it will also report on a debate featuring high profile names from the world of architecture and building planning. At the heart of the discussion is a challenge to develop new ways of thinking and working, analysing the political, economic, social and technological aspects of the urban spaces of tomorrow.” The site is a forum for ideas for urban development, and includes a poll asking whether social sustainability in our cities is more important than environmental sustainability and articles on How do we create a truly holistic urban environment? and How technology can help us redesign our cities – and lives.
An Ove Arup Foundation sponsored debate on 3rd November 2011 chaired by Phillip Inman, economics correspondent, The Guardian; featured Kevin McCloud, broadcaster; founder and director, Hab Housing; Alec Broers, House of Lords science and technology select committee member; chairman, Bio Nano Consulting; Pam Alexander, former chair of the Peabody Trust; trustee, Design Council; former chief executive, SEEDA; Geoff Mulgan, chief executive, NESTA; founder, DEMOS; former head of Policy and Strategy Unitblamed. They presented technological solutions including ‘education led regeneration’ – local University opportunities in areas of deprivation. And concluded that cities should be for human beings not Robots – they should be ‘livable and lovable’
The site presents a sound-bite approach to the idea that the future will be innovative, holistic, ecological and technological and offers a sociological exercise in an urban process of control and consumption to “encourage social cohesion”. What seems to have been misplaced is the idea that art and architecture add something more to the life of the city than an obligation to provide green spaces and leisure amenities. The question being asked is “What exactly is the value of a cultural approach to placemaking in the current market and social context?” What artists and architects provide is the strange poetic and dream aspect of the city, not the city of physical structure but the unseen, the smelt, the touched, the movement within the city, the impression in our memory. Keep Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities to hand at all times.
Images: Vitruvius. Ten Books on Architecture. 1. The Water Screw. Book X. Ch.VI. 2. Caryatides. 3. Persians. Book I. Ch.I (From the edition by Fra Giocondo, Venice, 1511)