More Than Green is a research project on sustainability in the large-scale urban environment – mainly the city and the public space – developed through WORKS by PLAYstudio (in the above menu’s left side) or from the selection and cataloguing of case studies in the form of an ENCYCLOPEDIA (in the above menu’s right side).
In collaboration with other professionals and academicians, M.T.G. aims to become a knowledge tool on sustainability in the urban environment and necessarily addressed to a general audience. To do this, it takes the form of a multimedia encyclopedia of good practices that exemplify and illustrate four interpretations, four work fields and 9 domains from where to practice sustainability in the contemporary city. In line with the United Nations, the European Union and other global institutions and agencies, we put the cities as our primary context of interest since they are mainly responsible of the problems our planet faces today.
Following the most advanced policies and current global thinking, M.T.G. understands sustainability as an attitude -and therefore sustainable design as the implementation of that attitude- which embraces description, understanding and projection of reality in an ecological way: i.e., complex, creative and inclusive. In this line, M.T.G. argues that sustainable design must have a clear ethical and political dimension, in which both common sense and the sense of the common are essential.
To ensure this holistic and relational vision of sustainable design, M.T.G. adds the component of subjectivity to the expanded and already normalized and regularized understanding of sustainability (by both the EU and the UN): environmental, social and economic. Following the “Ecosophy” posed by the French Felix Guattari in The Three Ecologies (1989), M.T.G. advocates the inclusion, in this equation, of “the complexity of individuals, their desires and their dreams.” This idea not only clarifies the understanding of social sustainability but forces the emergence of a category by its own that joins the previous triplet: cultural sustainability.
In this sense, the four sustainabilities (environmental, social, economic and cultural) are the four interpretations that, in their various combinations, articulate both debates, forums or specialized educational programs and new urban policies through manuals, charts, white and green guides, etc. all around the world. This is the first and most important categorization M.T.G. makes of its content. Each, therefore, refers complementary to each of the four ways of understanding the exercise of sustainability and therefore sustainable design.
Already inside the ENCYCLOPEDIA, a second categorization refers to the four different work fields that affect the urban reality: architecture, art, technology and politics. And a third and final categorization summarizes in nine specific domains all aspects of urban reality on which to intervene. Finally, each of the nine domains is articulated by a larger number of labels (tags) that not only develop them but enunciate concepts charged with positive value and whose implementation guarantee sustainable development in their respective domains.
Inside our works, it can be found from urban projects, co-design experiences or strategic plans to tools for advanced design, articles and educational projects. All of them have been organized, coordinated or directed by us. Among the case studies within the ENCYCLOPEDIA, we not only emphasize the present moment by highlighting some stories because of their excellence or topicality, but we do pay special attention to future: educating young audiences (by means of specific content) and bringing new research emerged in the University.
So … this is More Than Green.
Today, in its web, the United Nations General Assembly defines –by citing ‘Our Common Future’ report (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987) and also known as ‘Brundtland Report’- the sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Then, it states that “sustainable development has emerged as the guiding principle for global long-term development.” And finally, it specifies that it consists of three pillars: “economic development, social development and environmental protection.” While this triple understanding was implicit in the Brundtland Report -which advocated “economic growth, social inclusion and environmental balance” as both global and national and local strategic development principles- it was not formulated as three separated categories until the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, where it was stated that the main goal of “sustainable development is to achieve economic, environmental and social development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Two years later John Elkington coined the concept ‘Triple bottom line’ (abbreviated as TBL or 3BL) to describe this new triple paradigm of sustainability. Since then, it has become the structuring axis of almost all the different global, national and local policies on sustainability. However, there have been many voices demonstrating the inadequacy of this threefold description to reflect the intrinsic complexity of contemporary society. Felix Guattari, whom we recognize as a reference, is one of these voices. Even the Brundtland Report (1987) referred to the ‘cultural’ numerous times. But also in this group there are institutions such as the World Summit on Sustainable Development and UNESCO asking that ‘culture’ is included in this model of development. In fact, the UNESCO already in its Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001) and, more specifically, in its Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005) claimed to consider “creativity, knowledge, diversity and beauty” as unavoidable premises for the “dialogue for peace and progress, as they are intrinsically related to human development and freedom.”
As a result of this ideological drive worldwide on defining a complex and holistic understanding of sustainability, the United Nations on page 2 of its #1 draft document entitled ‘Accounting for Sustainability 2008’ asserted the following:
“(…) Triple bottom-line accounting is an instance of this with ecological and social sustainability being tacked on the back end of a continuing economic imperative of profitability. In the present context of global climate change, intensifying urbanization, increasing transnational insecurities and a heightening divide of rich and poor, there is a pressing need for new ways of finding a balance across the domains of economic, ecological, political and cultural sustainability.”
On the other hand, already in 2004 the Agenda 21 for Culture is approved, becoming the founding document of the Committee on culture of the world association of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), which is defined as a “global platform for cities, organizations and networks to learn, cooperate and to launch policies and programmes on the role of culture in sustainable development” whose main objective is “to promote culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development.”
There is hereby established the cultural understanding of sustainability. However, we also see a shift from the social to the political and from the environmental to the ecological. This idea of the ‘four pillars of sustainability’ is reset in what is called ‘Circles of Sustainability,’ a new method to understand and evaluate sustainable development which is structured precisely around these four pillars of the reality: economics, politics, ecology and culture. Currently, this is the method and ideology behind The World Association of Major Metropolis and, more importantly, behind the United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme (or Cities Programme), urban component of United Nations Global Compact. This program argues that “cities, in particular, have the potential to make tremendous progress in creating sustainable societies” across “four social domains: the economic; ecological; political; and cultural.”
Even though More Than Green is situated here, we rather focus on the idea of the social instead of the political as well as the environmental instead of the ecological. We can not ignore that ecology studies already the interrelationships of the various living beings with each other and with their environment. And these relationships are not only environmental but also social, economic and cultural. In other words, to think ecologically is to think of this relational and holistic manner: the four sustainabilities. Ecology is everything, not a part. The same is true even of politics: the political thought must assume all matters alike. In short, we add the cultural interpretation of development to the most commonly defended trio: social + environmental + economical.
Therefore, More Than Green is in line with current global policies, seeking to expand the most widespread and simplistic understanding of sustainability from the green to the social and economic, in the first instance, and culturally, in the final.
More Than Green assumes that to build is no longer to edify. Similarly, M.T.G. understands that architecture is not the buildings, but the situations and events that occur in them. In this sense, the construction of the urban environment has to do not only with the built, but with other areas of intervention of different nature and scope, all operating simultaneously and complementarily. However, they share the same goal: the transformation of urban reality. These are: Architecture, Art, Politics and Technology.
We would like to clarify that, in the context of this project and in order to simplify the terminology, by “Architecture” we mean any intervention that involves a transformation of the physical environment at any scale, from a building to the entire city, including installations, parks, infrastructures, etc. So, we would be referring to both the architecture of the city (urban planning, for example) and the architecture of parks and gardens (landscaping), architectural infrastructures (perhaps called by others as engineering) as well as to ephemeral architecture, architectural devices, etc.
Meanwhile, we refer to “Politics” as all actions undertaken by both institutions and the citizenship at large in response to the demands of society, whose purpose is exclusively the transformation of the social environment and not the physical. Here we would be referring to education and awareness campaigns promoted by any agent, participatory processes or citizen empowerment as well as to any type of activism, etc.
Finally, while “Technology” has little to clarify, we would like to point some issues regarding “Art.” Although in many cases the boundary between this and “Architecture” can become fuzzy, especially in those that do transform the physical urban environment, within the field of “Art” we would include those cases whose purpose is not so much the transformation of the environment but the subjective expression of the author. In other words, the city and / or its “architecture” are not used as an end but as a means for transmitting a concept around sustainability.
However, we insist that the four fields can and should operate jointly in the urban environment. In fact, in many of the selected cases transversalities are common. Equally, some work fields meet others. This interdisciplinary approach is, therefore, both a fact of the M.T.G. Encyclopedia of Good Practices and a conviction which, together with the 4 sustainabilities and 9 domains- articulates the holistic, relational, creative and, ultimately, the ecological approach of this platform.
Our 9 domains take as a reference the 9 Thematic Areas in which Salvador Rueda classifies his urban ecological objectives in its Guía Metodológica para los Sistemas de Auditoría, Certificación o Acreditación de la Calidad y Sostenibilidad en el Medio Urbano. These, in turn, organize and summarize in a brilliant way all subjects listed in the 3 most popular systems for assessment and certification of sustainability today: LEED, BREEAM and CASBEE.
“Regardless of size, a city, a neighbourhood, a building or a house are ecosystems. A system is a set of physicochemical elements that interact. If there are biological organisms between the elements,the system is called ecosystem.”
(Salvador Rueda, Guía Metodológica, p.131)
For this reason, we understand that the 9 domains -in which we categorize the reality where sustainable (or ecological) design intervenes- refer not only to the city or a neighborhood but also to a building or a house as long as they all are ecosystems. Hence the need to reformulate his 9 thematic areas which refer only to urban planning and extend them towards concepts and definitions applicable to any scale of reality: the 9 domains.
Matters relating to the recognition of the value of existing reality as a whole and in particular, how culture has characterized both the physical –natural and built- and the social environment. The physical environment is the heritage, the built, natural resources, geography, metabolism, biodiversity … The social environment are the lifestyles, ways of living, local knowledge, traditions, symbols, myths and beliefs …
The recognition of context involves a prior scrutiny of their potentialities and limitations turning them into a positive value on which to develop the project, even to the extent of non-intervention. In short, it has to do with using the existing and learning about what has been already learned. This means, first, an economy of means and resources and, second, amplification and consolidation of cultural values: the citizenship recognizes itself in the urban intervention since it uses characteristic features of their identity.
If we understood the “context” only from the identity, this domain would be the one that would develop more completely the exercise of cultural sustainability. However, the “context” can reveal values in the existing reality that are alien to identity. In this case the “context,” understood from the reappropriation of the existing, operates more clearly in the area of environmental sustainability: minimization of material and energy resources, etc.
Tags (physical environment): reappropiation, reuse, rehabilitation, revalorization, reappreciation, recognition, reconversion, revitalization
(social environment): tradition, identity, local knowledge, symbols, lifestyles, glocal, ambient awareness, food culture
Matters relating to the reduction of land consumption and optimization of use, essentially by means of an efficient use of local resources and the densification and diversification of the population fabric.
This domain assumes that the density of people and events, driven by compactness, is a precondition for sustainable development: compact occupations allow to reduce the built footprint, making it less scattered and affecting in a lesser extent the “natural” environment. In the same way, these occupations involve a greater proximity to services, more contact between people (social interaction) as well as they facilitate connectivity, etc. In this sense, the buildings should allow intense usage over time and therefore should be flexible to adapt to the changes that occur inside.
Density and compactness, however, are no guarantee of success per se; an excess of both can lead to serious problems.
Tags: land optimization, density, critical mass, diversity, flexibility, adaptability, use intensification, superposition, seclusion, reappropriation, regeneration,
03_Livability and living space
Matters relating to the quality, both physical and social, of dedicated spaces for the coexistence of different people. The living space ranges from the public space of the city to the common areas of a building. Its physical quality has to do with acoustic, lighting and thermal comfort, air cleanness, accessibility… Its social quality has to do with its ability to attract people and encourage interaction, contact and coexistence.
Increasing physical interactions between people in living spaces not only reduces the consumption of natural and energy resources, etc. (fewer car trips, fewer individual consumption at home…), it also promotes social cohesion (inclusion, justice, solidarity…). For this reason, it is not just a matter of increasing the number of these spaces but also their level of livability (social and physical quality).
Tags (physical quality): acoustic comfort, lighting comfort, thermal comfort, air quality, accessibility, sunlight, insulation, mitigation
(social quality): interaction, contact, coexistence, community space, community, public space, walkable city, pedestrianisation, vibrant, playgrounds, street life, livable places, Third Place
04_Mobility and services
Matters relating to the promotion of public transport systems as well as the pedestrian and bicycle network. Unlike the car, pedestrian traffic incorporates the possibility of stop, drift or occasional walk, allowing social interaction and encouraging urban livability (people attracts more people). Meanwhile, public transport systems not only allow a reduction of the space for private vehicles but, above all, encourage social interaction (as they are collective) and social inclusion (they can be used by all social classes, people of all ages and conditions, etc.). Furthermore, they enable access to remote services while mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution.
On the other hand, transport systems involve the appearance of specific infrastructure: bike lanes, reserved platforms, park-bikes, park and ride areas…
Tags: public transportation, pedestrianisation, bike path, infrastructures, facilities, multi-polarized city, Transit Oriented Development (TOD), connectivity
Matters relating to the organization and exchange of information and knowledge through the establishment of patterns of proximity, simultaneity and mixture of different uses and functions. Unlike the city based on specialized districts according to uses (the modern “zoning”) and enabled by giant transport networks, the traditional Mediterranean city represents the concept of urban ecosystem: a compact and versatile model, which hybridizes multiple uses, optimizes its resources, fills the urban space with activity and diverse information and allows very different citizens to live together within a minimum footprint.
While the modern city resulted in a disproportionate increase of the cities’ built footprint, in the creation of monofunctional zones (therefore inhabited by the same people and, thus, excluding the “others”) or in the occurrence of true ghost areas at certain times of day or year, the complex Mediterranean city against this urban segregation, promotes the recovery of the street and the square (abolished by the Modern Movement and turned into parks and the green highway “dream”) as inclusive settings. In these places, human, non-human, nature, activity and resources coexist in the same space like an ecosystem in its own right.
Thus, the coexistence of multiple and different people in the same public or private space within a building or the urban context, not only promotes issues such as inclusion, solidarity, recognition of difference, tolerance, etc. by mere social interaction but also, and especially, encourages the exchange of knowledge and experience which has a positive impact on the development of collective intelligence, interdisciplinary, hybridizations, innovation, networking, etc.
Tags: @, collective intelligence, networking, innovative district, knowledge sharing, access to innovation, interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, hybridization, seclusion, open innovation, collaborative innovation, creative commons, creative synergy, co-vending, informal processes, distributed networks, Smart City, Smart Citizen, adaptive planning, coworking, open infrastructure, open culture, network design,
06_Green spaces and biodiversity
Matters relating to consolidation and increase of green spaces as well as to ensure biodiversity in urban areas.
The traditional city, understood as a physical entity alien to the reality where it is located, although it is compact, varied and diverse, is contrary to the idea of ecosystem in which humans and nonhumans share the same territory. The contemporary city and architecture, therefore, must join the natural system, trying not to alter the existing water systems, creating natural corridors, understanding the food production processes, where possible mitigating CO2 emissions and understanding, at the same time, the aesthetic and recreational function that the urban green incorporates into our cities. For this reason, we must recognize and “protect” all that nonhuman nature. This is a fundamental issue.
Similarly, the idea of green should be as comprehensive and ecosystemic as possible: ranging from beaches, riverbeds or trees in streets, squares and parks to the green roof of any building or pots in our balconies or urban gardens as well as our cities pigeons, our ports seagulls, etc.
Tags: biological connectivity, biodiversity, green roof, green wall, green network, wetland, park, garden, urban forest, urban agriculture, urban gardening, rurban, green space, soil permeability, permaculture
Matters relating to energy, water and waste management efficiency and self-sufficiency.
The city at all scales, as part of the natural systems, gets water, energy and resources from the environment. As a result of its urban metabolism, the city pours back into the system the process residues. Thus, it behaves like any other living organism, but its size, scale and complexity can easily unbalance any ecosystem.
It is studying how certain designs, actions or policies are able to turn our architectures into more efficient entities (achieving the same goals but consuming less resources at the same time), while limiting its negative effects on the system: reducing energy demand and consumption, mitigating the emission of polluting gases into the atmosphere, reducing water consumption and promoting its reuse, reducing waste generation and improving its management, etc.
Tags: self-sufficiency, efficiency, mitigation, water, energy, materials, waste management, recycle, reduce, solar thermal, photovoltaic, biomass, geothermal, wind, closed-loop, gas emissions, water cycle, food systems, distribution networks, ecological footprint, monitoring, soil permeability, responsible consumption
Matters relating to the degree of coexistence between groups of people with different income, gender, cultures, ages and professions. This is promoted through designs, actions and policies that encourage integration, equitable redistribution of urban benefits and resources, social justice, solidarity, equality, inclusion, resilience, acceptance of the dispute or difference as a positive value, access to housing, the consolidation and creation of facilities, etc.
It is important to emphasize again that the promotion of these values must occur at all scales: from domestic space to the city. A more just, solidary and inclusive society builds a stronger, informed, aware, happy and involved society, ultimately more capable to develop itself in a more sustainable (and ecological) way and acting at the same time in a more powerful and effective way in each of the other 8 domains of reality.
Tags: integration, redistribution, social justice, solidarity, equality, inclusion, resilience, access to housing, equipments, facilities, service, dissent, protest, dialogue, reconciliation, co-housing, community, urban social startup, agonism, right to the city, gentrification
09_Management and Governance
Matters relating, on the one hand, to the optimization of urban reality management and, on the other hand, to the integration of all those agents involved in its transformation: from civil society as a whole to private entities.
Firstly, we refer to an improved coordination between public administrations and their organizational structures, centralization of services, efficiency in managing its resources, etc. Secondly, we refer to the necessary involvement of all actors involved in these processes through participation, consultation, etc. Among these agents, citizenship is a major force, so its education should be encouraged through information and awareness campaigns prior to their integration into participatory and decision making processes.
However, it is not only the Administration that can or should promote these processes but civil society itself who can or should seek its own empowerment and, therefore, require institutions the transparentization of all processes related to the urban environment in order to understand and decide on them.
Tags: co-responsibility, citizenship, governance, management of controversies, coordination, centralization, involvement, communication, awareness, participation, education, empowerment, cooperativism, activism, associativism, institutions, co-creation, prosumer, collective action, self-construction, negotiation, social networks, transparency, transparentization, representation, legislation, adhocracy, ATN (Actor-Network Theory), self-organization, citizen science, fourth sector (fourth wave), self-management, DIY, DIT, open education, social entrepreneurship, social emancipation, citizen initiatives, social innovation, mediation, the commons, collaborative social responsibility (CSR), supercycles, placemaking, bottom-up, middle out process, institutions, parliament, tactical urbanism, emergent urbanism, direct democracy, decision-making, TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zone), alternative economy, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, BID (Building Improvement Districts), extitution, shareable city, P2P urbanism, P2P culture, open source, shared city, civic engagement, emerging citizenships, open data
Iván Capdevila Castellanos
Founder & Director
José Manuel López Ujaque
Director & Editor in Chief
Vicente Iborra Pallarés
Cofounder | Editor in Chief
Jose Antonio Gras
Julia Cervantes Corazzina
Editor in Chief
Vicente Mora Manzanaro
Mª Elena Carrión Molina
Ana T. Pardo
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