Building Unique Cities: an Imperative for Sustainability and Liveability in the Global South

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Abstract Summary
Cities face an unprecedented urbanization pressure, which led cities of the Global South to building infrastructure hurriedly, compromising on their natural ecosystems, cultural distinctiveness, human scale, wellbeing and liveability. As a result, many cities in developing countries are charac¬terized by overcrowded, poor quality and insufficient infrastructure services, low-quality building stock and a uniform cityscape. Negative consequences related to building uniform go far beyond a cultural loss and severely compromise urban sustainability, economic vibrancy and quality of life: • Urban development often happens at the expense of natural ecosystems rather than in line with them. The standardised way of designing blocks coupled with unplanned city expansions have led to massive encroachments over water bodies and green areas, water pollution, and even flattening of hillsides. Loss of unique natural ecosystems makes cities simultaneously prone to floods, heat waves, droughts and scarcity of natural resources. • Standardised materials and construction styles have high carbon footprints owing to higher embodied and operational energies. Modern buildings deteriorate relatively quickly, shortening the lifecycle for new building stocks. This leads to even more energy consumption and carbon emissions resulting in increasing climate vulnerabilities. • Lack of unique visual identity affects the city’s economic competitiveness through lost tourism opportunities and a loss of quality of life, liveability and wellbeing that results from depriving citizens of sufficient green and blue areas, and weakening their sense of belonging. Building unique cities is an imperative to achieve sustainability and resilience. And it can be done in two interconnected ways: • First, it is critically important to revive the existing natural and built heritage. Heritage buildings using vernacular materials and styles are a repository of knowledge that reflects how cities have traditionally responded to their local context. Bangkok had developed around numerous canals and vernacular stilt houses protected dwellings from floods. Low-rise highly dense clusters in Jaisalmer minimised heat gain while internal courtyards allowed cooling airflows. Similarly, natural heritage plays a critical role in sustainability, climate resilience and provides unique landscapes. • Second, it is equally important to build unique today. Contemporary urban developments have much to learn from the growth patterns of heritage cities, their connection with nature, culture, society and context. New kinds of sustainable building stock need to be developed bringing together localized vernacular approaches and technological innovations. Multiple stand-alone or small scale innovative solutions already exist: Earthships in New Mexico, Laurie Baker’s brick houses in Kerala or the town of Ksar Tafilelt in Algeria for example. Upscaling these solutions however remains a challenge to discuss. The proposed session will take a shape of a working group and build upon the work initiated by the program Sustainable Cities through Heritage Revival (SEHER Asia) and UNICITI – an international think tank consultancy – with knowledge support of the Cities Alliance, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the Future Institute as well as selected individual world renowned architects and urban practitioners. The session will be divided into three parts: 1. A keynote presentation (20 minutes) will highlight the importance of rapidly coming up with a new way of building Asian cities today and share directions for solutions identified so far; 2. A moderated working session (45 minutes) will follow, gathering participants around one or two round tables depending on their number. The objective is to learn from each other and identify break-through alternative approaches to urban development; 3. Conclusions (15 minutes) and possible ways of continuing this joint work will be discussed and summarised in a statement to share at the concluding plenary or to circulate electronically to ISOCARP members.
Abstract ID :
ISO594
Submission Type
Founder and Principal Consultant
,
UNICITI

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