What is sustainability? How can it be measured? What is a sustainable city? Berlin architect Vanessa Miriam Carlow addressed these questions and more in a well attended talk this evening at the National Galery of Art in Ottawa.
Visiting Ottawa as a juror for the Governor General’s Award for Architecure, Ms. Carlow is a professor at Technische Universitat Braunschweig, and principle at the firm COBE Berlin. She is an architect that has focussed on urban design and public buildings. Surprisingly, given the unreliability of design competitions as a business model, most of her firm’s work comes from her many successes in winning urban design and architecture projects through entering competitions.
In the Architecure school’s studio at TU Braunschweig, along with her students, she has chosen take on collaborative projects tackling real life urban problems.
Ms. Carlow began her talk by highlighting the increasing importance of cities. In 2006, 2.6 billion people lived on earth. It continues to grow, and in 2100, population projections figure a global population of 11.2 billion. Vanessa is convinced that a result of this population increase will be that cities of 2 billion people will emerge. In Guy Lefebre’s book, The Urban Revolution he suggests looking at how people use space rather than looking exclusively at built form, an unfortunate tendency of contemporary urban design that Ms. Carlow stands strongly against. She predicts two types of cities will emerge in coming years. In high population growth countries, in Africa, for example, cities will notfocus on creating new urban areas (rather than slums).
While European cities are considered by some, given population projections, to be “95% complete”, issues facing European cities are multiple. They include climate change, diversity, and the right to a livable and sustainable city
Vanessa’s work seeks to address cultural issues in Northern Europe. She showed a library in Copenhagen where immigrant communities gather to enjoy books.
Interkultur, a book by Mark Terkessidis is influential to COBE’s work, and documents Germany’s struggle to become an inclusive society.
Vanessa’s firm designed a new harbourfront development for Copenhagen. IPCC, Denmark’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified a future where sea levels will rise 2 m. The project creates a sustainable, public oriented development.
By the end of the decade, Copenhagen predicts 50% of all trips will be made by bike.
Vanessa’s quite proud of having reducing the amount of road used for cars in favour of trees, bike lanes, and wider sidewalks.
‘The 5-minute City’ is basis of much of Vanessa’s design work. Individuals
DGNB – German LEED type standard. Applied in many cities and countries.
In Senegal, Vanessa worked on a city for 125, 000 houses. The average Senegalese family has 8 people, so in effect the goal was a city of 1 million inhabitants. Similar sustainability principles were applied to this project as were applied in Berlin. Creating a city where most things people need are within 5 minutes’ walk. Creating a ‘blue, green, and healthy city’ was a goal; with access created between water and green space. Agriculture is planned for a ‘green’ band around the city. Streets are designed to channel water into the lake. No storm water pipes are proposed; saving time and money.
A city for 125,000 houses near Dakar, Senegal. Image from COBE.
While there were many sustainability proposals seem viable, the type of community consultation that Vanessa was involved with in Europe seems to be lacking with this project. Interestingly Vanessa said that her lecture recieved a comment in Toronto that the street trees she showed in the project didn’t provide shade. She says they are changing to deciduous trees for the project.
An excellent lecture, really enjoyed it. More at www.cobe.de.