Local Code/Real Estates: GeoDesign's Potential for New Urban Infrastructural Models

Nicholas de Monchaux from the University of California presents "Local Code/Real Estates: GeoDesign's Potential for New Urban Infrastructural Models" at the 2011 GeoDesign Summit. 
 

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00:01So good morning.

00:02Thank you for sitting through all of these presentations.

00:06I will say briefly at the beginning that in my hazy departure from Oakland, California, this morning...

00:13...I forgot to bring more than two business cards.

00:15So in the happy event that more than two of you would like to get in touch with me...

00:18...I would only point out that I'm the only Nicholas Demanchio in the world, and thus fairly easy to find.

00:27So moving on to the topic of my talk and trying to pick up on some of the themes that have already been mentioned.

00:33It is clear already that we're living in an urban century, and as an architect and urban designer...

00:38...I am particularly interested in how digital design tools and geodesign tools in particular...

00:44...can not just extend and enhance existing modalities, to use the language that Jack used early this morning...

00:54...but also generate entirely new modalities.

00:57Modalities simply would not be possible without the presence and use of digital tools.

01:03Before I show you a project of my own that attempts to do this, I'd like to go back a little bit further into history...

01:10...and to the great thinker about cities and American cities, Jane Jacobs.

01:17In the last chapter of her 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities...

01:21...which is itself titled The Kind of Problem a City Is...

01:24...Jane Jacobs sought to articulate a metaphor for urban planning distinct from the modernist collection of file drawers...

01:30...in her words, that she abhorred.

01:32To do so, she turned to recent work at the Rockefeller Foundation which had provided Jacobs with funding...

01:37...and an office to do her work.

01:39Invoking the instrumental work that the foundation accomplished in the field of organized complexity...

01:44...what we know today as emergence, et cetera, spearheaded by Warren Weaver, also shown here.

01:48Jacobs makes a case for the special affinity between urban landscapes and other complex natural systems.

01:54For example, addressing the example of a single urban park, she submits that any attempt to isolate data or variables...

02:02...that would lead to or generate a success, is inherently flawed.

02:06The city is, in her terms, as slippery as an eel.

02:13This was a response to something.

02:14In Jacobs' own time, cybernetic and database practices informed many...

02:18...quite spectacular and often spectacularly unsuccessful attempts at urban design.

02:23It was precisely this oversimplification of the city's complex nature that Jacobs sought to disparage in her book.

02:30Today, along with the rising tides of global ecological transformations, we are confronted also by another rising tide...

02:36...of data and place-based information.

02:38On its own, this information will not necessarily lead to more sustainable or equitable urban communities.

02:45To accomplish this goal, we must allow the workings of database design, geodesign not least amongst them...

02:51...to recapitulate and instrumentally reinforce the emergent balance between structure and disorder, editing and openness...

02:58...taste and tolerance, that urban landscapes themselves represent.

03:02If anyone wants a footnote on that particular course...

03:04...I'm involved in a small way with some larger research at the Santa Fe Institute at the moment...

03:11...on this very precise and interesting idea about the nature of cities.

03:14But I won't go into that today.

03:16I'll stick to my core competencies which is as a designer and present you a design project...

03:21...which attempts to address and embrace this challenge, not just as I say recapitulating previous practices...

03:28...but trying to unravel the unprecedented possibilities that digital design and geodesign, in particular, offers.

03:34The project's initial inspiration comes from another student in Manhattan, Gordon Matta-Clark.

03:39Between 1971 and 1974, it took the artist/architect months of sifting through city microfiche to locate the 15 vacant sites...

03:47...that formed the work Fake Estates Reality Properties.

03:51Using ArcMap, the same search can be accomplished in minutes...

03:54...and locates thousands of marginal city-owned vacant lots through the five boroughs of New York.

03:59When Matta-Clark's Fake Estates were first presented together, the mere fact of their documentation was cause for attention.

04:06Yet today, our ability to instantly accomplish such analysis presents new, essential possibilities.

04:11New York, as it turns out, is not unique.

04:14Analysis of other American cities shows a similar pattern...

04:17...thousands of remnant parcels and hundreds of acres of fallow public land.

04:21We are focused particularly on the case study of San Francisco where we have completed a survey of city-owned leftover space...

04:27...and also proposed a parametrically generated geodesign for mediated urban landscape, that's a mouthful...

04:33...for each of the thousands spaces our analysis showed.

04:39As we saw, looking at these spaces, the invisibility of these sites...

04:43...is particularly worrisome when overlaid with other layers of public information.

04:48As is the case in many other cities, a study of data on public health and crime...

04:51...showed these sites to be precisely located in areas most in need of a safe and health environment.

04:59Perhaps also unsurprisingly, as you'll see, the sites are focused in areas of the city most burdened by energy inefficiency...

05:06...poor drainage, airborne pollution, the presence of particulate matter, and all the things that we seek to amend in urban landscapes.

05:24So these sites together form an area that is almost as large as Golden Gate Park.

05:31And we propose that a parametrically designed land-banking renovation of these sites has enormous potential...

05:36...to relieve the very same problems that the presence of the sites seem to attract.

05:40They are preoptimized, if you will, to do the most good in the most amount of time for the city.

05:47So here is a single case study, an industrial alley in south San Francisco.

05:51And what you'll see is mediated by ArcMap data.

05:58A parametric process constructs a digital landscape based on models of water flow, wind movement...

06:05...and directly shapes the dispersal on the site of a range of hard scape and soft scapes which mediate air quality...

06:11...drainage, and energy loads, and we would like to think enhance both the site and the city as a whole.

06:21Now this project draws from existing and established precedents in neighborhood greening at the local scale.

06:27These projects exist in Chicago and San Francisco, across the country.

06:32These efforts, however, have so far been justified on substantially social and political grounds.

06:36Everyone feels good about making a new park.

06:43But our work, and it's on parametrically optimizing the energy performance and water storage...

06:49...potentially these sites can make a policy argument that moves beyond the purely local and into the realm of funding.

06:55To give you just one example, a bond measure was recently approved...

06:59...to increase the capacity of San Francisco's combined sewer system to better manage peak flow.

07:04Using established metrics as well as a study of the parametrically derived form of each of our geodesign proposals...

07:11...all 2,000 of them, we estimate that between 88 and 96 percent of this investment in storm water capacity...

07:18...could be replaced by the surface spending we proposed, at least half the cost of underground work.

07:28We are especially confident in these projections because a large component of what we were able to do through the linked variables...

07:33...of the geodesign system is parametrically mediate funding as well as form.

07:38So in this illustration here, having my own...think it's some kind of hazing process that we all have to have...

07:50...technical difficulties here.

07:52But in this illustration here, several hundred of the thousands of sites considered in the case study...

07:58...are parametrically funded according to the impact that each site will have on, for instance, storm water drainage...

08:04...as well as the specific availability of location-based grants, and such as those from Caltrans here in California.

08:12So this digital design proposal, this geodesign proposal, is just a beginning, we imagine.

08:18Once each site's urban performance is maximized, its design can be engaged and extended for local benefit.

08:25Based on existing models of community design, as well as new research on digital democracy...

08:29...we envision the use of place-based media to gather opinions, engage communities...

08:33...and even aggregate finances and funding.

08:36A prototype interface that you see here was developed at the Berkeley Center for New Media...

08:40...and shows an online system used as a structured form for each project's development...

08:44...as well as a resource for design and implementation.

08:48Here the possibilities of digital design travel through the network...

08:50...and off the screen into hundreds of communities and thousands of individual lives.

09:00Have to allow me one last video affect here.

09:04A focused web threaded through real and virtual fabric are systematic interventions turn away from an historic...

09:12...and hierarchical idea of urban infrastructure.

09:15Today, even still driven by cars and highways to a more robust and resilient notion of urbanity.

09:22Abandoning the heavy heart and lungs of more historic urban metaphors, we propose a robust distributed immune system...

09:28...for the twenty-first century metropolis, which, of course, returns us to Warren Weaver and Jane Jacobs where we began.

09:35Envisioning the power of information to create organized complex urban systems is perhaps...

09:39...one of the most important opportunities we face as makers of cities today.

09:44Especially in the light of threats posed by rapid urbanization, climate change, and peak oil...

09:49...such a task is likely not just an interesting choice, but rather an urgent necessity.

09:56And so to finish, maybe after that heavy kind of jeremiad, I'll show you just a very recent work...

10:03...that has more to do with my own capacities as even an architect than as an urban designer.

10:09Since we've started this work, and this work is about a year old, we've looked at other cities as well as San Francisco...

10:15...but we've also had the chance to make kind of pedagogical exhibits...

10:21...such as starting with this one which was shown at the Biennial of the Americas in Denver this past July...

10:27...with four other architects from North and South America.

10:30This physical exhibit is an exhibit of models of each of these streets.

10:37Many hundreds of the proposals were prepared as you saw through a parametric design process...

10:42...but then also given very literal and analog form.

10:47In the case of these models, they were computer...C and C routed, laser cut, and etched into lumbar...

10:51...reclaimed from abandoned buildings surrounding the various sites we were talking about...

10:56...and they provide, I think, perhaps a further and maybe more lighthearted glimpse of a new digital design ecology...

11:03...in which geodesign plays a fundamental role.

11:09And I hope we glimpse again this lesson, too.

11:12As we increasingly address design challenges at a planetary scale...

11:16...we must recognize the particular opportunity of digital methods, geodesign chief amongst them...

11:21...to provide increasingly local, distributed, and robust design solutions.

11:26It is only through such thinking and action that the resilience and survival of our threatened urban ecology can be assured.

11:33Thank you very much.

Copyright 2014 Esri
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