Great challenge by The Guardian!
Want to receive updates like this in your inbox?
Get notified about new updates, opportunities or events that match your interests.
Maybe you will also like these updates
This article is part of the series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. Read how design, starting from the physical aspects of the streetscape en -pattern contributes to the quality of the urban environment. Follow the link below to find an overview of all articles.
Streets and squares are appreciated best if there is cohesion between several elements, such as the block height, the number of floors, the type of houses, the building line and the colour. When some elements work together, others can vary. Uniformity without variation results in people avoiding a street.
Coherence and variation in balance
Variation creates liveliness and will extend the time visitors spend on a street. This principle is applied almost everywhere in the world. Walls are fitted with arches, pillars, porches, porches, pitched roofs, windowsills, canopies, balustrades, cornices, dormer windows, linear and vertical elements, see the bottom-centre image of a Paris’ building. At the same time, the attributes of separate buildings that provide variety are most effective against a coherent background. The Parisian avenues illustrate this too, because most edifices are built according to the same principles while the ornamentation of each facade differs. The attractive streetscape in Sicily (top right) and in the Alsace (bottom right) demonstrate an almost perfect balance between similarity and difference.
Use of colour
A good example are the painted houses in the Canadian settlement of Lunenburg, which was founded in the 18th century by German woodworkers and is a UNESCO world heritage site today (top centre). The nature of the construction and the type of buildings ensure cohesion; the colour provides the variation.
A manageable pattern of similarly important streets contributes to the spread of visitors and provides a level playing field for shops and restaurants. A mesh, which does not necessarily have to be rectangular, facilitates orientation. A rectangular street pattern is at the expense of the element of surprise and detracts from the feeling that there is something to discover. Squares will often be found at street intersections.
Understanding of the pattern of the streets is reinforced by providing intersections with landmarks, such as statues, fountains, or distinguishing buildings (photo, top right). These elements help visitors developing a mental map. Maps every here and there are more helpful than signposts. The fewer poles in the ground, the better.
Canals and moats
Canals and moats also contribute to the attractivity of the streetscape. They restore the human dimension in too wide streets, also in new parts of the city. The images on the left show a central street in Zaandam (top) and a 'waterway' in the Amsterdam Houthavens quarter (bottom). The edges of waterways should never be used as parking spaces. Definitely not in Amsterdam, because its unique streetscape.
When considering the future of (urban) mobility we often limit ourselves to urban mobility options we’re used to, like our road- water- and railway networks. But what if we think outside of the box. What if we extended our urban transportation system with sustainable aviation options?
Introducing Electric Vertical Take Off & Landing (eVTOL) options into our transportation system could be a promising move in achieving our urban and provincial goals. Examples of its benefits are; reduced greenhouse gas emissions by electrification, serving rural communities, more efficient emergency response, and decreased surface congestion and crash rates.
And what about some critical issues regarding this development? Think; dependence on battery technology and lithium scarcity, the immense pressure on the energy grid and complications when implementing in cities with old infrastructure cities like Amsterdam.
Case & Set-up of the Session
During our 20th Demoday we had an international guest; Kerry Rohrmeier. During her work as a researcher at San Jose State University, she was finalizing a paper on Urban Air Mobility (UAM). She was visiting The Netherlands to gather input on possible use-cases and considerations from Dutch experts and aviation related networks. As part of her visit, Chris de Veer invited her to join our Demoday and gather input from the Amsterdam Smart City network. It turned out to be a win-win situation. Kerry introduced this sci-fi-esque subject -and its progress in the US- to the network, and a diverse set of participants discussed her research questions in a focus-group setting.
The following paragraphs describe Kerry’s research topics and the answers we came up with as a group.
Appropriate UAM use cases in broader sustainable systems
The group saw eVTOL modes of transport as;
- A promising alternative to our costly regional transport system, due to its small form, autonomous driving and on-demand possibilities.
- An alternative to ferry transportation to (nearby) national islands like Texel and Terschelling.
- A sustainable mode of transportation for sports teams traveling to- and from national opponents.
- A sustainable and efficient mode of transportation for emergency teams like the ambulance, police and firefighters. Its use would cut response- and travel times.
- A luxurious alternative to private jets and polluting travel behaviour by the rich.
Equity implications of new UAM and vertiports networks
When it comes to affordability of UAM services the question arises; who should take the lead in its implementation? Public authorities or the market? Subsidies and investments from the government would be needed but to what extent? Private parties could push down pricing create more value with air travel by collecting and selling data from the air (e.g. air-quality and weather predictions) but how desirable is this?
There are also questions regarding safety, because; how to preserve safety in and outside unmanned aircrafts? This led to discussions regarding the use of cabin ‘hosts’ and on ground safety persons monitoring in-cabin safety. Furthermore, someone pointed out how this was also one of the main concerns when elevators where introduced for the first time. This idea of using a closed space with strangers brought up the need for an elevator ‘operator/host’. Later on, this necessity slowly decreased. This could be an interesting case to study when addressing this ‘trust’ and safety topic.
Conclusions and nest steps
Kerry was very content with the discussions that were initiated and the insights she gathered from our perspectives on the case of Urban Air Mobility. It’s important to consider and play into this topic when designing our sustainable transportation system for the future. There are a lot of opportunities, mentioned in the paragraphs above. However, how this development could make a transportation system more ‘just’ and equal remains the question. While we see a rise in innovation and private parties willing to bring eVTOL to the next level, the discussions regarding affordability (for the masses), safety, and its reliance on batteries and a congested energy grid will require special attention.
For now, Kerry Rohrmeier will finish her research paper on this topic and we hope to update you soon with its publication and conclusions! Would you like to know more about this topic or get in contact with Kerry? Let me know via email@example.com
When working together on transitions, it is important to be aware of and sensitive to the impact of power and systemic oppression in participatory processes. Within the Amsterdam Smart City network, the question of inclusion and civic participation, is often brought up in worksessions and discussions. However, we often lack the tools to find the bottlenecks and really include all important beneficiaries.
Therefore, we asked our valued partners Kennisland and DRIFT to lead a workshop about Power in Transitions at Demoday #20 on May 16. Dave van Loon and Faduma Mukhtar (Kennisland) together with Aron Teunissen (DRIFT) taught the participants more about power in transitions, based on the Power Literacy Framework and Field Guide from Kennisland. This guide describes five different forms of power and offers a set of tools for professionals to become more aware of power dynamics in their work.
The five forms of power
According to the Power Literacy Guide by Kennisland, there are five forms of power in design process. If you want to learn more about this, you can download the Power Literacy guide here. The five forms of power are:
Privilege: The type of power you get from a social relation whereby you benefit due to the social group you belong to, at the expense of another social group. It is an unearned advantage and often invisible to those who have it.
Access power: The ability to influence who is included in and excluded from the design project and process.
Goal power: The ability to initiate the design project to begin with, as well as the ability to influence decisions related to framing the problem, goals, and structure of the design process.
Role power: The ability to influence the roles that different stakeholders take on. This includes the ability to assign any roles or titles in the design process, as well as influencing the role each stakeholder plays in making decisions.
Rule power: The ability to influence the way that those in the design process will work together. It includes the ability to influence what is considered normal, what is allowed and what isn’t, how actors will communicate with each other, what language is used, and beliefs about what types of knowledge are valid.
After a theoretical introduction of the five forms of power, we split into smaller groups to perform a so-called power check for different Amsterdam Smart City projects, such as the Mobility Challenge and “Wat mensen beweegt”. Using this power check, the participants looked at access power and goal power. We identified all actors affected by the project and indicated which actors were not involved. The different actors were then assigned a role in different stages of the process: listener, co-creator, advisor, partner or director.
Most important take-aways
The goal of this exercise was to create more awareness about involving target groups in different stages of the project. The main take-aways were:
The role for the for the ‘benefit group’, the people that are impacted by the project, is often too small. If beneficiaries are involved, this often happens in the last stages of the project. In this phase in the project, it is often more difficult or not possible at all to influence decision-making;
To create equal power, some parties have to ‘give away’ (some of) their power;
Truly inclusive work takes time, effort and money. It is not something takes place overnight;
Awareness is half of the battle: make the topic of systemic oppression in participatory process a structural part of your (work)process).
Want to learn more about power in transitions? Read more.