Conference on “Sustainable habitat: the role of cities”
What will urban lifestyles be like in the future? Such is the question to be tackled at this colloquium, which will seek to provide concrete, operational answers to the issue of housing, in terms of building construction and city planning.
The aim is, on the one hand, to consider the issue of future urban living, in particular the environmental challenges ahead, on the other to explore the question of the city as a habitat.
The increasingly urbanised global context is raising specific challenges, such as supplies water, food, raw materials and energy. This colloquium will deal, amongst others, with the conditions required to create the resilience necessary for sustainable urban lifestyles.
Becoming aware of the influence of human activity on the environment, seeking to reconcile cities and the natural world, considering the role of towns: the colloquium will shed light on the human and morphological resources currently available and imaginable in the future, here and elsewhere, with a view to establishing a global policy for living in Brussels.
In trying to understand people’s relationship with the different elements that make up a city, participants will be unlocking the potential of different urban morphologies; analysing and assessing the potentialities and mechanisms of the city’s “raw material” in mapping out the transition to the sustainable city.
The colloquium therefore aims to be positive and forward-looking in trying to view the challenges ahead as opportunities rather than constraints. It also seeks to be anchored in reality, so that its conclusions can be operationally transposed into the housing policy of the Brussels Region.
The themes to be tackled will take into account the local and global dimensions, considering at each level the players involved, lifestyles, housing, intermediate spaces, neighbourhoods, urban networks and how the city fits into its territory.
Experts of international standing will be informing the discussions and presenting their ideas, projects and practical feedback. The colloquium will offer a variety of approaches to the issue of urban habitat. On the one hand, it will consider the various scales on which action can be taken, from the “territorial” projects of the Jan Gehl and Paola Vigano practices to the architectural works of Anne Lacaton. On the other hand, it will be taking a look at the theoretical foundations: from Rob Hopkins’s “city in transition” to Jean Haëntjens’s “frugal city”.
The colloquium will be held over three half-days, each on a specific theme and with input from three international speakers. The speakers will be given 30 minutes to set out their point of view and describe their work. Each of these different visions will then be put in perspective and considered by an expert from Brussels itself. At the end of each session, there will be a round-table discussion bringing together all the speakers, with opportunity for questions from the floor.
1st half-day:city-territory synergies
A city is a complex system in the sense that the urban environment consists of relationships between its various co-habiting components (city-dwellers, activities, infrastructure, etc.), all with a range of different uses and needs. The issues connected with a sustainable housing policy invite us to think of the city in its territory, and to integrate its socio-economic and environmental relations with its hinterland. How does the city contribute to the conservation of resources and achieve some sort of vital reconciliation with the natural world? How does the city’s morphology affect its energy consumption and modes of transport? And, inversely, how do changes of lifestyle influence the shape of our cities?
These are the sort of questions participants will be trying to answer during the first session, presenting various approaches in terms of networks and modes of cohabitation. The examples presented will attempt to demonstrate the advantages of a cross-disciplinary approach to problems, and of a project-by-project form of management.
2nd half-day:city-dweller strategies
The transition to more sustainable housing is often tackled in terms of participatory democracy, with appeals for greater inclusion of city-dwellers in decision-making and project development. During this second session, participants will also be thinking about strategies developed by city-dwellers to escape from the strict laws of the “market”; to provide housing for those who lack the resources to purchase accommodation; to reduce the investment this implies through economies of scale; to control speculation through co-ownership. They will also be considering how policy-makers can make space for these city-dweller strategies, so that they can be effectively implemented. How do you encourage the transition from project management to involvement in the project and, at the same time, make housing more sustainable?
Projects characterised by emerging forms of participatory democracy will be presented, ranging from support from the public authorities and/or practitioners to independent creative projects on the part of city-dwellers. Descriptions of these initiatives will help participants to consider the advantages and difficulties of such practices in operational terms. Because, although an approach of this kind is vital a necessity given the magnitude of the changes we now face, effective implementation is all too often lacking.
3rd half-day:urban resilience
Growing awareness of environmental factors has encouraged the introduction of the concept of resilience in thinking on urban development. Resilience is generally defined as the capacity of an environment to adapt and recover following a shock. Transposed to the urban level, it involves consideration of the ways in which city, architecture and housing take into account the predictable and unknown upheavals that await us. The question tackled during this morning session is: what theoretical and operational inputs can help us make the transition to greater sustainability?
The presentation of three out-workings of this concept, two at overall city level and one in respect of an architectural project, will highlight its creative potential in designing sustainable housing for tomorrow’s world.