Will the Smart City be So Smart?

Or as Shannon Mattern puts it, “A City is Not a Computer”

 

By Chris Guillard 

 

I’d like to share what I think is a very thoughtful piece by Shannon Mattern in Places Journal.  I’m sending it on with a preface because I’ve been thinking along the same lines and I imagine many of you have as well.  To those of us who have made cities and their complexity and beauty central to our work the title of the article should come as no surprise.  Nonetheless, the article raises a critical path of inquiry, experimentation, and debate. The arc of this discussion will inevitably trace the course of much broader societal and techno-economic shifts that will continue to evolve with the convergence of hyper-capitalism, computing/networks, and cities.

Computer City

Computer City – Dennis Crompton – 1954

I moved to the Bay Area because I was inspired by what I envisioned as a unique mixture of social, cultural, environmental, and political awareness and activism coupled with technological innovation.   Ok, yeah there was the incredible beauty of the place and the promise of getting pretty much as far west as possible. The amazing thing is that my intuition hasn’t fallen short!  I’ve been moved, inspired and enlightened by the confluence of people and ideas that have defined my life here over the past 20+ years.  But as of late, I have to admit that the predominance of the technological and capitalistic culture and the essentially singular idea of technology (no pun intended) has shadowed and clouded my view.   While I agree that there is ample room for innovation and yes optimization in the way that we conceive of and organize our cities and communities, I have always held that cities are implicitly messy, and for good reason.  In fact, it is messiness that has lent them a unique and uncanny potential to generate new and provocative ideas, to allow for incredible levels of social and cultural cross pollination and in the end a powerful form of understanding.

On another front, the idea that one can simply go off and create ideal forms of habitation that generate wonderful new models for cities around the world is as alluring and illusive as it has always been; think of the Garden City Movement or Ville Radieuse.   I have a strong utopian strain of my own, but I can’t help but recognize the hubris and similarity between these earlier speculations and  the Y Combinator New City Project, Alphabet’s Flow initiative or the Seasteading movement.  Yes they are compelling and could be transformative, but are they really relevant to a community of 7 billion and growing?   Are idealized and absurdly disconnected alterna-realities truly the epidemic of our time?  Are these not similar to previous utopian endeavors that sought to inure and enlighten us?   Don’t get me wrong, we live in an era that requires bold imagination, leadership and experimentation, but we also need to ask a few simple questions; who will own and operate these cities and infrastructures;  who will govern them; who will define their citizenship?  Will they be open source or proprietary and closed environments?  Interesting times and interesting questions!

Lagos - Streetlife

Lagos – Streetlife

All of us are aware of the relative stasis that has defined urbanization over the last half century and I applaud and support the initiatives that entrepreneur’s and technologist's bring to the question of how we occupy the planet and design the environment.  On the other hand, I’m not in any way confident that the KPI’s, the optimizations, the flows, or the algorithms that capitalist technologists devise will significantly improve our cities or our communities in the deepest and most fundamental ways.   Particularly if they fail to acknowledge the social, political and economic complexity of community and the innovations that are required to change the way we organize and share resources, the way that we create space for economic and  cultural exchange and the ways that we mend and tend to past injustices.  While I welcome and look forward to working with those who bring a fresh perspective, I am emphatic in my belief that what we really need are political and social innovations that are rooted in community.  Otherwise, technology based efforts to optimize the city will continue to benefit primarily those with privilege and affluence.   

Garden City

Garden City – Ebenezer Howard

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Seasteading Concept

Seasteading Concept – Seasteading Institute

So with that windy rant of an intro, I will note that Shannon Mattern’s article is a compelling survey  with insightful observations about the relationship between information and urbanism among other topics.  I share her concluding observation that,City-making is always, simultaneously, an enactment of city-knowing — which cannot be reduced to computation.”  The essay definitely has an academic bent … but if you made it this far you should find it interesting.   

https://placesjournal.org/article/a-city-is-not-a-computer/

 

CMG and Treasure Island Community Development Awarded Bay Bridge Steel

“On January 17th, the Oakland Museum of California announced that a total of 15 artists, designers, and design firms have been awarded steel from the demolition of the Eastern span of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge for use in public projects throughout the state of California …”  (OMCA Press Release)

 

CMG/TICD’s winning submission “The Field”, proposes an installation on the newly redeveloped Treasure Island that will celebrate the grand scale of the Bay Bridge and the majestic and heroic engineering that went into its design. Located in a future shoreline park, the installation highlights the sheer length and thickness of the 'eye bars' from the bridge, whose placement in a tight array reminds visitors of the unprecedented scale of the 1936 East Span. The open eyelets tower fifteen feet above visitors walking below and solemnly pay tribute to their dismantled brethren. The Field creates not only a striking element when viewed from a distance but also produces an incredible, immersive experience for visitors as they weave their way through the steel forest.

 

Press Release:

http://museumca.org/press/oakland-museum-california-announces-complete-and-final-list-bay-bridge-steel-program-awardees

The Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence

   

Willett Moss participates on design jury for Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence.

 

Principal Willett Moss joins a selection committee of six “urban experts” from the public and private sectors including a mayor, participant from a past winning project, and others with expertise in design and planning, development and financing, community engagement, and journalism.

 

The Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence is a national design award that recognizes transformative urban places distinguished by their economic and social contributions to America’s cities. The award is named in honor of Rudy Bruner, who established the Bruner Foundation in 1963 and had a life-long interest in architecture and cities.

 

http://www.rudybruneraward.org/

Join Willett at Modernism Week

  

    

Palm Springs Modernism Week, February 16 – 26

Principal Willett Moss will be speaking at Palm Springs Modernism Week on Thursday February 23. Willett will be presenting with Lance O’Donnell of o2 Architecture on the restoration of the landscape at the historic estate at Sunnylands. CMG assisted in the transition of Sunnylands, a private 200-acre compound in the Coachella Desert, into a public historic house museum and VIP retreat center. Best practices for treatment of historic resources and new landscape construction in a harsh desert environment are being developed, implemented, and tested in an on-going basis at Sunnylands and CMG is a proud partner in this work.

 

Modernism Week’s signature February event is an annual celebration of midcentury modern design, architecture, art, fashion, and culture, and features more than 250 events.

 

http://www.modernismweek.com/event/249976/

 

 

SF Recreation and Park Commission Approves Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground Design

The SF Recreation and Park Commission has approved the design for the revitalization of Willie Woo Woo Wong Playground, a beloved open space in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown. The approval follows an open house to celebrate the completion of the community based concept design phase. The event was held on site at the existing clubhouse, and included the best lion dancing many attendees had ever seen, as well as presentation of the proposed final design using Virtual Reality, all to the excitement and enjoyment of everyone present.

Treasure Island Awarded Highest Level of LEED Certification

Treasure Island SF

 

CONGRATS to the CMG Team – Treasure Island is the Largest Plan EVER to achieve LEED-ND Platinum Certification!

As the lead landscape architect on the project, CMG documented all of the LEED-ND landscape credits for the entire project. CMG has been involved with this project since 2002. 

From FivePoint and PR Newswire:

In addition to achieving one of the highest scores for a LEED-ND project, Treasure Island's plan recorded other milestones:

  • It is the largest development, in terms of acres and building square footage, certified under LEED v4.  
  • Of the LEED-ND projects globally, it is one of just 17 to be certified at the Platinum level.

"At the outset of our planning, we committed to developing a sustainable community that utilized the latest innovations in infrastructure, housing and transportation,'' said Chris Meany, principal of developer Wilson Meany. "We are thrilled that Treasure Island has achieved the highest designation ever. It is only fitting that this milestone has occurred in San Francisco, a city at the forefront of environmental consciousness.''

Treasure Island received Platinum LEED certification for implementing measurable strategies and best practices to achieve sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, sea-level rise adaptation and overall environmental quality.

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/treasure-island-development-plan-achieves-highest-level-of-leed-certification-for-neighborhoods-300341534.html

Happy Thanksgiving from CMG!

At 16, we’ve moved into our own space at 444 Bryant Street in San Francisco and finally have a kitchen that can hold all of us. Only half a block from our old office, we still get to enjoy our South Park Neighborhood favorites like Picnic on Third  that catered the delicious staples for our office family potluck.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Now #optoutside

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Halprin Exhibition Opens in Washington, D.C.

ira_keller_fountain_photo_by_jeremy-bitterman
Ira Keller Fountain, Portland Oregon. Photo by Jeremy Bitterman, courtesy of The Cultural Landscape Foundation. http://tclf.org/sites/default/files/microsites/halprinlegacy/portland.html 

 

CMG is proud to sponsor Landscape Architecture of Lawrence Halprin at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. This exhibit is part of The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Landslide program that raises awareness about threatened and at-risk landscapes and works of landscape architecture. The exhibit runs through April 2017.
 

http://tclf.org/sites/default/files/microsites/halprinlegacy/index.html

La Bella Vita

Greg Barger and Pamela Conrad Guest Lecture in Castiglion Fiorentino, Tuscany, Italy

On September 13, 2016, Greg Barger and Pamela Conrad spoke at the ItalArt Santa Chiara Study Center located in the Tuscan hilltown of Castiglion Fiorentino. The Center hosts year-round undergraduate and graduate landscape architecture and architecture students from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly Pomona, Texas A&M, the University of Texas, Austin, and Texas Tech. 

The ItalArt Study Abroad Program is a unique opportunity for students immerse themselves into Italian landscape and architecture steeped in history and embrace the cultural and social values/lifestyle of the local culture all while completing degree requirements. 

As former students of the program, Greg and Pamela were invited to share professional work with the students to help frame their study abroad opportunity and advise on how to take valuable insights from the experience into their upcoming careers. 

The next day, Pamela, Greg and the group toured the Fattoria di Celle (Celle Farm) located outside of Florence that hosts Giuliano Gori’s collection of over sixty modern site specific art installations by artists from around the world. A great way to spend a day!

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CMG’s Knotty Sidewalk at the Market Street Prototyping Festival

This is knot your average street furniture! Wrapping around existing sidewalk elements Knotty Sidewalk really ties Market Street together!

We have been working on our installation that will be up this week on Market and Drumm as part of the 2016 Market Street Prototyping Festival. The festival runs from 11am-7pm, Thursday 10/6, Friday 10/7, and Saturday 10/8. See the full map HERE– we’re #30 in the Embarcadero District. Please stop by and show your support!

TEXT KNOT to 22333 starting Thursday 10/6 to vote Knotty Sidewalk for the People’s Choice Award.

http://marketstreetprototyping.org/2016-festival/projects/knotty-sidewalk/

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