Aerial shot of a temporary desert city for 70,000 credit Scott London
In June I represented TURAS at the Urban Ecologies 2015 conference in Toronto, Canada. The key themes were adaptive capacity, resilience and livability. On the second day in OCAD University, I presented a paper entitled Building Adaptive Capacity to Change: A Century of Mapping Underused Spaces in Dublin that introduced work from the TURAS project on Reusing Dublin.
There were numerous fascinating papers, many of which echoed research being carried out within TURAS across the Atlantic. One of the most memorable presentations was from the Director of Urban Design for the City of Toronto, Harold Madi. The presentation basically consisted of two lists. The first list was of core problems with city planning and comprised: ‘siloed’ city-building professions; misaligned value paradigms; private over public interests; politicized decision-making; and a litigious culture of fear. Familiar territory. More echoes across the Atlantic. However, the second list was less familiar and was presented as principles for discussion in relation to the ideal city. These are listed below:
1. Radical inclusion – the city welcomes everyone into its community;
2. Gifting – an emphasis on acts of altruism without requirement for reciprocity;
3. De-commodification – social environments untainted by commercial interests and exploitation;
4. Radical self-reliance – encouraging and supporting each citizen towards self-realisation and self-actualization;
5. Radical self-expression – each citizen allowed to be themselves and their uniqueness and the diversity of the community celebrated;
6. Communal effort – supporting creative cooperation and collaboration, and production and protection of social networks, public spaces, art, and methods of communication;
7. Civil responsibility – citizens taking responsibility for actions, one another, and their places;
8. Leaving no trace – respecting and nurturing the environment, working with nature;
9. Participation – every citizen is invited and enabled to participate in order to achieve radical change;
10. Immediacy – helping overcome barriers between citizens and their consciousness, participation in society, and contact with the natural world.
Madi explained each principle much better than I have recorded here – I did my best with note-taking but this was a very visual and dynamic (fast) presentation! At the time this list seemed rather radical, ethical and alternative for a city council official. The echo was suddenly dampened. And it was intriguing as it resonated with many aspects of social-ecological systems thinking and the city (aka urban resilience) we have been looking at in TURAS. It also reflected many concepts within my own research into Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) such as the need to engage citizens with their place and one another in order to make the required changes, and the need to understand and work within the social and ecological systems within which we live.
But it turned out that this was not a list for urban planning, or at least not in the traditional sense. It is a list of principles for Burning Man, the festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert where a temporary metropolis ‘dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance’ is staged once a year generated by its citizens. Once the festival is over the temporary city, is removed, leaving no trace on the desert. In 2013 the population of the city was a record 69,613. See www.burmingman.org and follow Harold Madi on twitter at @haroldmadi
Plenty of underused spaces in Toronto also’ credit Philip Crowe