Designing livable cities for our future climate

Imagine looking up from your desktop at a mini monarch butterfly sanctuary.

You walk the halls of the building where a cool breeze is sucked in from outside and stroll through the lush green park built on the roof of your metro station to bring the train home.

An office sanctuary for monarch butterflies and rooftop parks are some of the ideas of urban designers for future cities. Image: Getty Images

These are the new scenarios that city planners are starting to imagine for a future that responds to the climate emergency.

Although the focus has long been on sustainability and resilience in architecture, landscape, town planning and design, the general orientation has been towards problem solving using technical and technological solutions. .

With the tangible effects of the climate emergency dominating our collective consciousness, there is now an emerging mandate in the design field to combine creative approaches with technological solutions to tackle climate change urgently.

Some of this emerging work has involved a more speculative approach, while explicitly including cultural, political and aesthetic accents.

the Climate imaginary The exhibition, which is part of Melbourne Design Week, explores the works of different architects and urban designers with the aim of pushing the boundaries of our imaginations to envision a better and more creative climate future for our cities and public spaces.

For example, a nonprofit architecture and urban design research group called Terreform ONE offers innovative infrastructure to create synthetic urban habitats for endangered species such as monarch butterflies.

And how about starting to eat crickets? A radical idea, certainly, but one which concerns the carbon emissions of the meat industry.

The Logrono intermodal station offers a public park where an open-air railway line would have divided the city. Image: Abalos + Sentkiewicz

Terraform One’s The designs show the possibility of creating compact cricket shelters, providing a solution that significantly reduces the carbon footprint of protein-based food production.

Its novelty also allows us to start a conversation about the important consequences of our food choices and a possible transformation of our oldest cultural norms.

Another project by Madrid architects Abalos + Sentkiewicz envisions moving away from hermetically sealed air-conditioned buildings and creating “ thermodynamic beauties ”.

Through their work, the architects have developed expertise in the formal, material and organizational aspects of a building that promote a more thoughtful approach to the thermodynamic behavior of a building.

Their projects for Logrono Station and the Sorigue Foundation offer elegant and innovative constructed forms, where the aesthetics of the projects are combined with a very sophisticated understanding of achieving thermal comfort instead of the more conventional emphasis on attributes. visuals.

The Sorigue project includes both a museum space and an observation platform. Here, the designers use the heavy mass of the concrete walls, its cubic volume, its location in an excavated quarry as well as its jagged roofline to achieve both the desired formal look and the choice of material. effective in achieving thermal comfort.

For example, during the day, the jagged roof allows sunlight to enter the volume of the building while providing good orientation for the solar panels.

The Sorigue project combines an understanding of achieving thermal comfort as well as a more conventional emphasis on visual attributes. Image: Abalos + Sentkiewicz

However, these roof openings also allow heat release at night, allowing the building to reset for the next day. The thermal mass of the exterior walls provides exceptional insulation while achieving, together with the roof line, a graceful monumentality that reflects the history of the site as a quarry.

On the other hand, interior walls and floors are designed for lightness and to house water pipes that use these surfaces to distribute radiant heating and cooling while creating an overall impression of openness to the interior. of the building.

By burying the railroad tracks, their Logrono intermodal station provides a public park where an open-air railroad would have divided the city.

By using the roof of the station as a public park, the architects generate a gift for the citizens of Logroño while introducing landscaped spaces rather than the conventional industrial spaces of such infrastructure.

They are also planning a cluster of residential towers adjacent to the station that will be shaped to act as solar collectors, collecting energy for water heating and lighting up the public park so that it can be used in full. security at night.

The project offers us an exemplary picture of how large infrastructure projects could also provide valuable public green spaces in our cities.

A design to better adapt Melbourne’s shores to a climate-changing future with possible flooding and sea level rise. Photo: Melbourne School of Design Studio: Hydrosphere

The Office of Urbanization at the Harvard Graduate School of Design seeks to build cities dedicated to solving climate change problems.

Their proposal for 50 new agricultural towns in China is critical of the large-scale industrialization of contemporary agriculture. Instead, these city constellations are planned around an ecological culture aimed at supporting traditional culinary practices and supporting biodiversity.

On another scale, Ecosistema Urbano, focuses on public spaces as microclimates and designs accordingly. For example, placing cooling mists in parks and bus shelters for warmer regions, or creating underground pathways for colder climates where walking in the open can be problematic.

Their innovative public spaces take advantage of new technologies and new networks to create new public environments, expanding the ways in which urban design is practiced.

Finally, a university design studio can also be a fertile forum for cultivating the climatic imagination. At MSD, a number of Masters-level studios have been structured around a design-driven engagement with the challenges of the climate emergency.

A series of studios focus on redefining Melbourne’s hydrosphere – all of the water in our environment. How can we better adapt Melbourne’s shores to a climate-changing future with possible flooding and rising sea levels?

Students came up with ideas like having more green space around Melbourne’s shores, flood-resistant structures, and keeping buildings further away from the waterline.

Design students came up with ideas like having more green space around Melbourne’s shores. Photo: Melbourne School of Design Studio: hydrosphere

This emerging body of work and new design knowledge helps broaden the focus on the climate emergency to the complex and multi-layered challenge it represents.

It also helps us reframe engagement in this global, wicked crisis as a creative act, an act that can force us to transform conventions and imagine other possible futures.

Melbourne School of Design Online Climate imaginary the exhibition runs until April 5 as part of the National Gallery of Victoria’s Melbourne Design Week 2021.

Banner: Monarch Sanctuary by Terreform ONE

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