Urbanized (2011) Script

Cities today have been doing the same thing that they've done for three, four, five thousand years.

They've been the place where the flows of people, the flows of money, the flows of goods have coalesced.

Cities are always the physical manifestation of the big forces at play.

Economic forces,

social forces, environmental forces.

The thing that attracts us to the city is the chance encounter, it's the knowledge that you'll be able to start here, end up there, go back there, but that something unexpected will happen along the way, that you'll make a discovery.

That, in a way, is the magic of cities.


Urban design is really the language of the city.

When you walk down a street, everything you see has been designed.

The width of the sidewalk, where trees are planted, the scale of the trees, how the street furniture interacts.

How many stores you have per block, the height of the buildings, where they set back.

Each one of these things has been thought about.

The thing about urban design is that unlike it being a solitary enterprise of an artist sitting in her or his studio, what you really have is a a multi-disciplinary group of people coming together working on the same project but coming from very different perspectives, having different agendas, and different roles.

So you've got the architect.

You've got the developer or group of developers.

You have state and federal and city agencies.

You have the public, which is a major component.

You have landmarks or other historically minded groups.

And they all come together to work against and with each other in order to bring the project to fruition.

These can range from small, temporary interventions to massive large-scale infrastructural projects.

Forces of change are happening on every level.

Technological change, new forms and modes of transportation.

The eventualities of man-made and natural disasters.

These are all things that are going to be addressed by urban design.

The world today is changing pretty dramatically, shifting toward more and more people living in cities.

Cities accelerated relatively slowly from pre-Greek, pre-Roman times.

It took centuries to reach those numbers which might be something like a million.

By the 20th century, 10% of the population of the world was living in cities.

Only two years ago it was 50%.

And if we continue at the pace we are, which we will, it will be something like 75% in 40 years' time.

The pace now is putting an enormous amount of pressure and strain on any system which has limited resources.

33%, roughly, of new urban dwellers today live in slums.

That's a third of the world's population without the most basic amenities, without sewers, without water, without sanitation.

Today Mumbai has the same number of people as the whole of London living in slum conditions.

And Mumbai is set to become the biggest city in the world in 2050, therefore bigger than Tokyo.

That means the slum population, if it were to be the same or roughly like it, would be New York and London put together.

What you have in this city is a situation where the real estate developers on the one hand and the slum dwellers on the other are actually carving out the design of the city.

The poor people are doing it because the plan has no space for them.

The construction industry produced a huge housing boom for the top 10% and then increasing crisis for everyone else.

The big downside of informal settlements which needs to be urgently resolved is the question of health and hygiene.

How do you bring sanitation and how do you bring water supply, etc.

That is I think what makes them inhuman, unlivable, and I think a complete reflection of the failure of this society to create human habitat.

The city says that if there is one toilet for 50 people, that is 10 families have one toilet seat, it means they have is adequate sanitation.

But in 1989 the ratio of people to a toilet seat was 900 people to a toilet seat.

Today it's come down to 600.

Our local politicians say, “oh we don't want to build toilets in slums, because it will encourage people to come.” As if people come to shit.

You have a situation in which an informal settlement gets ignored for a very long time.

And because there is no space for growth it gets denser and denser and denser.

The issue is that you've got all this growth happening over the next 20, 30 years, basically a doubling of the urban population.

At the same time, you haven't dealt with the people who are already there.

You know, it's very easy to get incredibly pessimistic and dark about the prospects looking forward, because if you just look at the numbers and the trend lines, it is profoundly depressing, I mean, you just want to slit your wrists basically, so this is not a healthy area of research and engagement.

But that said, at the same time, we know from history is that you really need a small group of innovators, a small group of people that can demonstrate how to do things differently, and once that gets mainstreamed, change happens really quickly.


If we do not take care about how the process of migration towards cities is going to happen, the process of urbanization is going to happen in the form of slums.

So we're in an urgency to generate the conditions so that the flow of people into cities happens in a good way.

With the lo barnechea project the main priority was location.

Behind me you see the group of families in the situation before, meaning they live in a slum.

What we are trying to do is that knowing that the location is so important, because schools, transportation, jobs are in this part of the city, which is actually the richest part of the city.

What we were looking for was to find a design that was able to pay for very expensive land, but keep all those networks.

So much more important then an extra square meter of house, was a better located square meter of land, which tends to be expensive.

With a subsidy that is about $10,000 that is given to a poor family that will then become an owner of the house, we had to buy the land, provide the infrastructure, and build the houses.

Instead of producing tiny units, we asked ourselves why don't we think of it as half of a good house?

And we thought it was efficient to make the half that a family could never achieve on their own.

And then allow families to do the other half, on their own, with their own timing, according to their own needs.

We call it participatory design.

To have a participatory design means to have families sitting at the table to help us decide what are we going to deliver from day one and what can be left so that families themselves take care of that.


We asked families what was more important; A water heater or a bathtub.

There was not enough money for both.

Decision makers, or politicians, or professionals normally tend to answer the water heater.

And in 100% of the cases when we asked the families they preferred the bathtub over the water heater.

You have to understand that they are coming from no water, no sewage.

A shower meant to have a can with water in the courtyard.

So they are going to have privacy. More important than that, when they move in, they do not have money to pay the gas bill to heat the water.

So knowing that in their priorities, bathtub is much higher than water heater, let's do the bathtub, and allow them over time to buy the water heater.

Think about the final stage and how design can facilitate families' lives to achieve that middle income standard in the future. That's how quality should be measured.

And that is definitely not the way social housing was being measured, not the way it was being designed.

Historically cities have come into being for many different reasons.

Cities grow up around logistical issues, for example, on a port.

Or somewhere that is advantageous specifically for trade.

It's almost always an economic question.

By the mid-1800's industrialization had been a reality for a couple of decades already in the major cities of western Europe, and the congestion, the insalubrity, the un-livability of those cities made it such that there needed to be some sort of a solution.

In Paris, baron haussmann comes in and radically demolishes the city eliminating all of its medieval streets, its slums, and rebuilds the city with the roundabouts and the other iconic elements of Paris.

Unlike Europe, America's cities didn't have a really strong architectural legacy.

City beautiful was a movement to bring the grand boulevards and large civic arenas of classical architecture into American cities.

To encourage a kind of civic pride.

The next major shift would be the garden city movement, which is happening right at the end of the 19th century.

The idea would be to separate out the different functions of the city with concentric roadways and greenbelts.

The garden city proved to be incredibly influential on the modernist movement.

Modern city/urban planning is very similar to modern graphic design or modern industrial design, it's minimalist, very ordered, very rational, separate everything out.


Brasilia was the ultimate modernistic city, built on all the ideas of the modernistic manifests.

It looks fantastic from the airplane, but if you are down at eye level on your feet going from one place to another, Brasilia is a disaster.

Every distance is too wide, things are not connected.

You have to trample for endless miles and miles along completely straight paths.

Nobody ever started to think about what it would be to be out in Brasilia in between all these monuments.

Of course it makes a certain logic to separate things out.

You don't want cars and pedestrians in the same place, it's not safe.

But as we've certainly come to experience, if you design the city so that every single trip has to made by car, suddenly you aren't zipping around anymore, you're stuck in enormous traffic jams.

The 1950's is when the automobile starts to have a real impact on cities, especially American cities, and a largely a detrimental effect.

Not only do you have increased means of access to the city, bringing more cars, and creating congestion, and noise, but also radically changing the way cities are designed.

And this is becoming increasingly a global issue, especially in developing countries.

Many things about cities are very counterintuitive, for example it seems to us that making bigger roads, or flyovers, or elevated highways will solve traffic jams.

And clearly it has never been the case.

Because what creates traffic is not the number of cars, but the number of trips and the length of trips. So the more road infrastructure you do, the traffic will become even worse.

The only way to solve traffic jams is to restrict car use.

And the most obvious way to restrict car use is restricting parking.

People seem to imagine that parking is...

A right, almost a fundamental right to be included in the united nations charter.

In our constitution, there are many rights; the right to housing, to education, to health, but I don't find the right to park.

I don't see any constitution which includes the right to park.

So if you ask me where you should park, the mayor can tell them, it's almost if you're asking me where should put your food or your clothes, this is not a government problem.

Before I was mayor, I have never been a city which hated itself more than Bogota.

There was a total lack of self-esteem and lack of hope.

So when I was elected mayor we started investing in people.

In sidewalks, in parks, in great schools, in libraries.

And also we created a bus-based public transport system.


We copied a system from curitiba, a small city in Brazil.

We called it transmilenio, we gave it a name.

Because buses in most places have a...

Stigma, a bad image of being for the poor, so we had to raise the bus's status.

Transmilenio bus system actually works more like a subway on wheels than a traditional bus.

Buses go on exclusive lanes.

People pay when they enter the station.

When the busses arrive, the station doors open simultaneously with the bus doors.

You can get 100 people out and 100 people onto the bus in seconds.

Many people save up to two hours a day.

Because before they had to be on a traditional bus in the traffic jams and now they can go from one extreme to the other very fast.

For the same cost that we could do a 25km subway, we do 400km of transmilineo.

These systems are also more flexible.

Younger cities don't have such a defined center and the center is shifting so if you put a hugely expensive infrastructure like a subway line, you might find that the new center in a matter of 20 or 30 years is somewhere else where the subway line doesn't go.

This system is very powerful symbol of democracy.

The first article in every constitution says that...

The first article in every constitution says that all citizens are equal before the law.

This is not just poetry.

It means for example that a bus with 100 passengers has a right to 100 times more road space than a car with one.

It's democracy at work, you can really see that public good prevails over private interest.

Okay, here we are on part of the porvenir promenade. This is a 24km, pedestrian and bicycle-only street, which networks very low income neighborhoods to the richest area of the city. I think it's a revolution in the way urban life works.

This kind of high quality infrastructure for bicycles increases the social status of cyclists.

Before we had bicycle ways, low-income people were ashamed of using bicycles.

Now a high-quality protected bicycle way shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important to one in a $30,000 dollar car.

And here is something interesting, you can see how the pedestrians and bicycles have pavement, and the cars are in the mud.

So it's a priority for the pedestrians and the bicycles and then later sometime we will pay for the cars.

But first the pedestrians, so this completely shows respect for human dignity, for everybody, not just those who have cars who normally think they are the important ones in developing country cities.

Again, this democracy at work.


In Copenhagen we have, for 30 or 40 years, had this very distinctive policy to invite people to bicycle as much as possible.

There is a complete network of bicycle lanes citywide.

In what we call Copenhagen-style bicycle Lane.

We always have the bicycle lanes next to the sidewalk.

The sidewalks are the slow traffic, the bike lanes are a little bit faster, and then there would be parked cars, and then there would be the traffic.

In this way you have the parked cars to protect the bicyclists, instead of the bicyclists to protect the parked cars.

It helps invite a lot of people who would be too afraid to bicycle to get the idea that “I can actually do it also, because now it is much safer.” In 10 years we have seen the bicycling doubling and we have seen that now we have 37% of everyone commuting to work arriving on his bicycle.

It keeps people fit, it doesn't pollute and it doesn't take up much space.

It's a really smart way of getting around the city.

I think a good city is like a good party.

If you ask a guy was it a good party on Friday, he says, “oh my dear, I was only home by 5;30 in the morning.” If people get involved in social activities they will forget place and time and just enjoy.

That is why I would say, do not look at how many people are walking in the city, but look at how many people have stopped walking to stay and enjoy what is there.

The challenge is how do we make sure that public open spaces are inviting and well used.

And in these spaces, design detail makes all the difference.

There should be multiple kinds of seating, many different reasons for people to come into a space.

For instance, movable chairs. People, when they sit in a chair that's moveable, they just move it so much. So it's kind of their chair and it's their place.

Movable chairs also let you socialize, they let you be by yourself, they let you be part of the city, or away from the city.

Knowing about homo sapiens and the kind of creature he is has been a very important key to understanding why some places work and some places don't.

Much of it is bound to our senses, how long you can see and how long you can hear.

How your eye is horizontal, you see very little upward, you see much more downward, and you see much, much more out to either side.

That is leftover from the evolutionary process, when the walking animal was out walking on the plains, the enemies were out there and in front of you, but they were not up there.

But you should look out for snakes and scorpions and boulders.

The eye can't command an area more than about 100 meters by 100 meters.

That is the distance where you can see other people and movements.

But if it gets bigger, the eye can't see what's going on.

Then you feel less comfortable.

That's why nearly all the squares in all the old cities will be smaller than this 100 meters.

We are really talking about the urban habitat of homo sapiens.

It's the same homo sapiens all over the world.

Cultural circumstances differ, economic circumstances differ, climatic circumstances differ, but basically we are the same little walking animal.


The rise of post-industrial sites in cities around the world, have come about only in the last 30 or 40 years, and people don't know what to do with them.

They think should be removed and erased.

What we've found over the past 10 years is that you can actually take these post-industrial conditions and through creative design actually produce something that people love.

It's not erasure, and it's not preservation, it's really transformation.

I lived about a block away from the high line for over 15 years, and never paid it any attention at all.

Trains ran on the high line until about 1980 and then they stopped entirely.

It was the realization that this thing was actually this monumental structure that ran 22 blocks, three neighborhoods.

It just seemed like this amazing opportunity to experience the city in a whole new way.

I'd read on the agenda of a community board meeting that it was going to be demolished.

And sat next to Josh, and we didn't know each other, and he was sort of interested in it in the same way I was.

And no one else in the meeting was interested.

There was one person who spoke who I think was literally frothing at the mouth about how terrible the high line was.

So after the meeting we exchanged business cards and said, you know, why don't we do something together?

When we came up here we realized there was something magical up here already.

The high line was this extraordinary artifact, rusting steel where grasses and flowers had taken seed naturally.

As a landscape architect, a question I always ask is what will design actually mess up here.

What through design will you anaesthetize?

Will you destroy?

Because a lot of these sites have a sort of charm to them that really I'm always looking to try to capture and actually amplify.

It's much more about a symbiotic relationship between nature and civilization.

Because a city's a messy place. And so there are lots of places for nature to move in and not take over but form a relationship with the urban infrastructure in a really interesting way.

Having the grasses and flowers come up through the paving was a big part of the design.

It really is about showcasing Manhattan in a way that is authentic.

It's not overly manicured, or overly scripted.

And the noises, I guess, are part of it.


The fact that the high line was driven by, at the very start, Robert and me, but very quickly a large group of neighbors, community members, new yorkers and ultimately people from all over the country, I think has imbued the park with a communal sensibility that very much effects the environment that is up here.

Underneath the design, a lot of what we see today is the result of the care and attention that went into the zoning.

We were just passionate about saving the high line.

Zoning was just one piece of it, I only played a role in the zoning, and being obsessive I think I said, if I didn't think about the high line every single day, it was going to come down. That was my mindset.

These are the two blocks we wanted to talk to you about.

The department of city planning is responsible for shaping its neighborhoods, its waterfronts, its industrial lands, and its business districts.

Really shaping the form of the city and where it's going grow, where it's going to develop.

This is a double problem, because not only have you lost holding the street wall here, you now have a building that is very out of scale with the Brooklyn academy of music historical building.

We can't actually design the architecture, we can't design the storefront, but at least we can set up these basic parameters that give you the best possibility that this will be a great street.

Our plans have really redrawn the entire land use blueprint of the city.

Because we have to grow by over a million people.

And our plans have therefore been as ambitious as those of Robert Moses.

But we really judge ourselves by Jane Jacobs' standards.

Robert Moses was “the master builder.” He planned looking at the city from above and his highway building destroyed entire neighborhoods.

He cut off our entire island of Manhattan from the waterfront by building highways down the edges.

His impact was profound and his insensitivity legendary to the texture of the city.

His downfall came at the same time as the rise of Jane Jacobs.

Jane Jacobs was a journalist, she was not trained as a professional architect or planner.

In the early 60s, there was a plan to put through some major highways that would have knocked down most of greenwich village, which was her neighborhood.

And she began to write about what she thought the planners really weren't seeing and understanding. They were looking at problems from the 30,000 feet height, and she was really looking at it from the perspective of someone living there on the street.

She was really the first voice who came out and argued that these aren't just these old, overcrowded, small, chopped up little spaces.

Instead, there is an incredibly rich social structure here that actually works incredibly well.

Communities had a mix of uses.

You had people living there, working there, you had shops.

She talked about the importance of having “eyes on the street.” Of people who know each other and make the street a more safer and comfortable place.

What Jane Jacobs was able to describe, I think incredibly accurately, is there's something about the DNA of cities and the relationship between physical space and social fabric.

She recognized that the minute you put people into a housing block you lose the fundamental social infrastructure that makes community possible.

So schools, where people meet informally. They weren't necessarily close to where people were living.

So much effort and interest went into creating the house unit, that little attention went into, well what happens on the outside?

Where do kids play? Where do mothers look at their kids playing?

Jane Jacobs recognized the difference between people and different activities pushed together is what a city is about at its best.

She attributed most of these problems to the loss of the heart of the city.

That as people move out of the city, the sense of the civic center is really being lost.

From the beginning of recorded time, there's been this vacillation between the desirability of living in the periphery of the city, and living in the center.

After wwii, suddenly we began a pattern of development that was absolutely based on suburbanization.

Getting out into the suburbs, with a car, was considered a tremendous step up from what at the time was perceived as overcrowding in the cities.

The American dream was home ownership and one's own little piece of dirt.

Defining sprawl is a little bit like defining pornography; You know it when you see it.

There is no consensus on any one single definition of sprawl.

But as the basic process of suburbanization has been continuing, we've been getting more and more of these massive developments, by large home builders, where every house is the cookie cutter looking exactly the same.

Multiply that by having chain store retail where every single big box store looks exactly the same.

More and more cars, that require us to drive much longer distances.

That's when people really start saying, this is now sprawl. This is not just suburbia.

The main negative of sprawl, as it is used as a pejorative term to me, is it spreads everyone out over a larger area of land, and eats up the bucolic, rural villages of Vermont, by overrunning them with subdivisions, and that that would be a better lifestyle to preserve.

So there's a perception, if you listen to npr, that...

Sprawl is always bad, and Phoenix is a poster child for bad sprawl.

But Phoenix is not a city where we're taking a high-density population and redistributing it at a low density.

We're building at the same density we've always lived at. Nor are we overrunning rural, pastoral landscapes.

Now, we are eating up desert.

And the desert is really beautiful here and really important.

And we've tried to learn a better way to develop in the desert.

But I don't think this is a poster child for sprawl.

This is a poster child for an automobile oriented, post-war urban fabric.

This is what you get.

You're not buying “sprawl is always bad and density is always good”?

No, you know, here's the deal, let's be honest. I live on a 3/4 acre lot and I like my backyard and I like my swimming pool.

And I think living in a condo would be cute and interesting, and I'd like to do it about two months out of the year, but I like the way I live. So there you are, that's really what it's all about, at the end of the day.

While I have my preferences of where I want to live, I certainly would never tell anybody mine is right choice and everyone else has made the wrong choice. But I do think especially with the environmental crisis and issues of climate change, that we do as a society have to begin to decide whether some of these choices come with additional costs.

It's certainly not about eliminating the suburbs.

But we need a different vision, with walkable, compact, connected communities.

Cities are extremely dynamic organisms. Throughout the history of the world we've watched cities that bloomed and then collapsed.

And similarly we see now amongst our cities and our suburbs, some of them are growing and still booming and more and more people want to live there, and others are shrinking.


Detroit was once two million people.

And a metropolitan area that really was the center of industrial production, not just in the united states, but in the world.

The city has shrunk back to about 700,000 people.

It's a city of 138 square miles. You could fit Boston, San Francisco, and Atlanta inside the boundaries of the city of Detroit.

It's that big.

So when you have 700,000 people as opposed to two million people, you've got to scale back to your neighborhoods and your areas where there is concentration, where there is this livability and urbanity.

My grandmother bought the house we're in in 1969.

When I was a kid it was like a village, you know?

We had car dealerships, clothing stores, bars, lounges, theaters, restaurants. Everything you could imagine. You didn't have to leave the neighborhood. You just had everything here.

And people just picked up and moved away.

And now, we got a bunch of vacant lots in our neighborhood.

In 2008, I came outside and saw a bunch of garbage on the curbs and in the lots.

That's something I never saw in the neighborhood and I wanted to do something about it.

Being out here cleaning up, we were able to talk to neighbors, people were coming up to see what we were doing.

And we found out that some people were choosing food over medicine or medicine over food.

So we started a community garden project.

It kind of turned into healthy food choices, cheap food, because we were giving it away for free.

We got hot peppers, two beds of okra, in the back corner's two beds of mustard and turnip Greens.

We have 31 raised beds for vegetables.

And across the street there's two vacant lots where we did an orchard and across the street from that is our community center.

And down the street we have two more community gardens.

The guy that just walked past, his brother is 22 or 23 years old now.

The first time he saw me picking carrots out of the garden, he said, “are those carrots?” “yeah.”

“I didn't know carrots came out of the ground!” I was like, “where you think they came from?”

“Out the bag!” You're kidding me? You didn't watch bugs bunny?

We don't own the lots, the city owns them.

But other than letting us do it, that's really the only thing the city's done.

It's our blood sweat and tears that've done it.

I definitely don't expect everyone to do what I do, but...

I'm trying to say this nicely; you need to get off your butt and take care your own.

If you take care of your own and everything else will fall into place.

There's a lot of parts of the city where stuff like this is happening.

There are a lot of community gardens going on.

Maybe not on this big of scale, but all of us want to do something like this.

I would almost use the term “self-organized urbanism” to describe what's going on there.

In the sense that there is a kind of possibility, a sort of diy aesthetic that does in fact exist in the city that is allowing for a lot of individual initiatives to happen.

And you see that in the urban agricultural movement not only with community gardens but also with these large-scale commercial gardens.

There are all sorts of different retrofitting practices, not only on an urban scale but also on an architectural micro-scale that are happening in the city.

If we think creatively, if we think as entrepreneurs, there is no reason that in 15, 25, 35 years, we shouldn't be looking at a very different Detroit.

But we have to change our mental state.

We should be innovating on how to crack the code on low carbon and climate change.

And we should be doing that in places like southeast Michigan, given the legacy of production, and innovation, and science, and engineering. That's what we should be doing.

Because at the end of the day, cities are competing for people, they're competing for investment.

And so how they develop, whether they're livable, whether they're sustainable, whether they're economically focused, whether they're easy places to do business in, will affect their prosperity now and over time.


Today's Beijing, when I go through it, I see a city I don't recognize.

It's a new Beijing, but I'm not sure if I like it.

When I was growing up, my family, we would take a walk, after dinner, summertime, typically.

And then we'd meet people, friends and relatives, and then you stop and greet them.

That kind of a feeling of living in a city is not here anymore.

It's gone.

In the past 30 years, cities were conceived and designed to be part of the economical development, which is okay but I think livability has really been ignored until very recently.

So it's not convenient. It's not comfortable.

Those mistakes, they didn't have to happen, even if you build a city fast.

The Chinese are basically struggling with of course with the same issues, struggling with traffic, struggling with public space, struggling with density, struggling with how big a city should be, should it have history, should it not have history.

So I think all the issues are essentially the same.

Every major building really demands its own specific scenario in terms of what you are trying to achieve with it.

The first consideration is how could you create place in a collection of high rise towers.

Because towers basically consume place, but very few towers manage to create a larger then itself moment.

And that really explains its shape.

For me one of the more interesting parts of it is that it's a building that doesn't have a single identity, and that the slightest movement in the city actually changes the building completely.

It has an almost unlimited amount of different identities.

There is an incredible amount of wasted effort in the industry.

A fair amount of it is generated through the procedure of competitions.

Which is really a complete drain of intelligence. I don't know any other profession that would tolerate this.

At the same time you are important, we invite your thinking, but we also announce that there is an 80% chance that we will through away your thinking and make sure that it is completely wasted.

I think that very few cities these days are really designed.

And there's been very little rethinking of what cities can be.

Particularly since we have entrusted in the market economy so much power.

Since we're still right in the middle of a very fast urbanization. Cities will be built fast.

But I hope, I really hope that collectively we can correct some of the mistakes made in the past 30 years.

As China builds its cities, as India builds its cities, it can't just take the recipe from 20th century America and apply it to 21st century China or 21st century India.

That would be horrendous for them, and it would be horrendous frankly for all of us.


Cities today consume 75% of the world's energy and therefore contribute to 75% of co2 emissions.

Added to that, 40 years from now 34 of the world's population will be living in cities and they will consume more and more energy.

So a small reduction of the environmental footprint and energy footprint of a city has a massive impact on the planet.

We're interested in making people more aware of their patterns of behavior so that potentially they can change them.

In this project we were interested in electricity usage.

We actually went for a very low-tech method of recording electricity usage.

So rather than using smart sensors, each day we got participants on tidy street to go down to their electricity meter, note down the reading, and then they went to our website and put that number in.

We were interested in doing a public display, so we turned the street essentially into a big graph.

On the street, we show how the average usage of the participants compares to the Brighton average.

It's 500 feet long, we recorded for three weeks, and each day we show how they compare.

So if you're looking down the street, you can see how their electricity usage has changed over time.

It's woken us up.

I'm not very technological, is it? So I did my best.

And I try to unplug things and so on, but it has made us very conscious of what we use, and what we waste.

It wasn't really so much about the numbers as where your wiggly line was going in relation to the street's wiggly line.

Seeing the information graphically really focused you into thinking about things you leave on that you don't need to.

Mine was quite high, so I needed to in the community spirit try to get that down rather than bring the street average up and above. So I started changing the way I did things.

One of the pieces of technology we gave the participants was an appliance meter.

I think that was really important, because once they got an idea about how their overall electricity usage was changing, they then wanted to identify which particular appliances were using more electricity.

We'd see just how greedy some of the devices we had in the house were.

Halogen lighting, very very greedy. The television, not so bad. The kettle...

We have to ration how many cups of tea we have everyday because it uses up so much electricity.

But it does make you very aware of what you're using.

Everybody that walked by, you could see them examining the street art, trying to understand what it was.

There was a lot of conversation that went on in the street, you were always talking about the project.

When people were walking down on Saturday they wanted to talk about the project.

So I think it genuinely raised the profile, having this thing in the road.

Over the first three weeks of the project, the average electricity usage of the participants came down by 15%.

So it's promising. And we're hoping that that change will be sustained.

I'd thought about energy use in general, but I hadn't thought about how I would change my behavior, I didn't do anything about it.

By participating in the project, what it did was just make me act on it, as opposed to think nice thoughts about perhaps doing something.

The main lessons we can learn about sustainability from this project is that although it starts with individuals, a really important factor in people's behavior is their community.

People are influenced by what other people are doing around them. So if you can engage them as a community, they seem to be more motivated, and more likely to change their behavior.

Maybe out of these extreme energy pressures, the positive aspects of human nature, the quest for innovation, for inquiry, will lead to something which is more exciting, more sustainable.

As an architect, if you are not an optimist you're not going to be able to survive professionally.

So you have a belief in the future.

The big transformation of the city happened through technology.

For example, in the past, technology that would take away the open sewers and create the networks of roads.

What is the equivalent now of those new technologies?


Rio is like your wife or your mother-in-law.

I mean, you can say bad things about them, but you never let people say bad things about rio.

You can use technology not only for preventing disaster, not only for security.

What we try to do here is how can we take care of the everyday life of the people, using technology.

This operations center that we built, you've got all the departments of the city there.

You've got a big screen with the garbage company of the city, civil defense which is taking care of disasters, there's the social assistance there, there's the subway, there's the trains, there's the power company, there's the gas company, you've got the school system, the health system, I mean you have it all there on a big screen.

Bigger than NASA, that's what I like.

It's something that you can use to really make the departments work together.

Let me give you an example. If you see in the power grid, there is a lack of energy in a certain area of the city, you can connect straight to all the hospitals and schools there and get the city ready.

With the information you can get, and all the changes you can make, you can really change the everyday life of the city.

When you go to the favelas, the big problem that we face is taking care of this security issue.

They don't have big roads inside the favelas.

They are always narrow streets, dark spaces, and obviously that's bad for security.

So when you put good lights on streets, open big spaces for squares where people can meet.

You change completely the security aspect of the place.

Khayelitsha's a very interesting story.

It's one of the youngest townships in South Africa.

It was built in the 1980s.

It offered the latest example of the then local authority trying to concentrate a growing African black population in the city, at the periphery of the city.

It was specifically developed as a dormitory residential area with no economic base, no real industry, economy, nothing like that.

People were required to travel out of the area to gain access to jobs.

And it was characterized by very poor health conditions and very high violent crime rates.

What's interesting about khayelitsha is the storm water systems, that were designed by engineering standards, which create large, vast tracts of open, underutilized land, which become crime hotspots.

The idea was to transform the very unsafe areas that form part of the storm water system into something that is more positive.

Those spaces were used by gangsters to attack the community when they go to work, when they pass by. People were robbed, they were mugged,

and when vpuu was introduced into the community by the kdf and the city, that made a big change.

Vpuu is violence prevention through urban upgrading. The project looks at those problems and creates interventions, and it might not just be buildings, it could be occupying space but it could be something as simple as lighting or paving.

The first one we started working on was the pedestrian walkway that extended from khayelitsha railway station, across the suburb of Harare, towards the informal settlement.

Historically the way urban design has happened in South Africa is along what are seen as major routes, and that's where all the infrastructure happens.

The different tack that vpuu took is they actually spoke with the community.

Which meant that the decision as to where pedestrian routes went wasn't the normative position, but more where people were walking, which were those desire lines which cut their way across the settlement.

Your communities, you empower them.

It's not imposition, it's engagement. It's what we call negotiated development.

It's not top down, it's bottom up.

The community said they wanted safe pedestrian routes.

What makes spaces unsafe, in kayelitsha or anywhere at night, is when there's not good lighting, and where the surface isn't smooth and easy to walk on. You can easily trip, or someone can easily hide.

The idea is that you have really good lighting in space.

At night, when they go on, there's this cover that makes the space safer.

Another idea of this linkage, in this route, was every 500 meters you would have a lookout point, or lookout tower.

Part of the whole strategy plan was to create a series of these active boxes, specifically along the pedestrian walkway, to provide places of safety.

So if for instance you're walking along that pedestrian route, and you feel unsafe for any reason, you can always see where the next active box is and you know that you can go there and be safe.

They're designed in such a way to provide an identity and also to provide a vertical element that one could see as one was walking along.

We've used red in this case so they're very clearly visible during the day, and then they're down lit at nighttime, so they're light boxes at night.

They're occupied 24/7 so there's always a caretaker, somebody always involved.

And they form little points where you can also have economic activity and just coming together of community.

What's also very lacking in the area is a place for children to play, so that was another aspect that we worked in the urban design.

Because people are moving through it, it's constantly observed, so it's fairly safe.

With all this upgrading, people now have pride in it, and they want to be part of it.

The murder rate has come down by approximately 40% since vpuu started in this area.

It's like a sun lighting in a dark place.

And even though there's still a lot of things vpuu needs to put in khayelitsha, the stride that they've taken gives the people of khayelitsha a hope of life.

Parents now are starting to see that their kids are safer now because there's a place for them where they come and play.

The kids are playing, and the kids are safe.


When you have extreme conditions like that, the answer's not for government to sort of float in and to say what the solution is and to, in a way, impose it on people.

But that paradoxically even though the needs are obvious, it then becomes even more important to systematically involve people who live these realities in trying to figure out what's the most strategic way to respond.

In New Orleans, the devastation was so widespread.

It was a tragic horror.

And the problem with the lower 9th ward is, there was no recovery plan.

It's like a bunch of architects from the west coast coming in and doing all these buildings.

To do something like that without a plan, without a landscape plan, without a landscape architect, is just against every simple little rule.

It's something where architects had a lot of fun, at some great expense.

I mean I'm thrilled that they're doing it, because the notoriety for the city has been fantastic, and the movie star lives like a block away from me. I can't remember his name...

Whatever his name is...

Brad Pitt? Brad Pitt!

My wife saw Brad Pitt this morning!

What Mr. pitt and his foundation is doing is wonderful, and now, everyone wants to go to the lower 9th ward. And the minute they get there, they go, “oh my gosh, what is this?” I mean it looks like you're in California somewhere, by the beach, in Malibu.

That's what it looks like to me. It looks like my best friend's mother's beach house.

Just because the architects are so divinely wonderful, isn't going to make a place wonderful.

In New Orleans people talk about planning fatigue.

After Katrina, lots of people went to lots of community meetings and put lots of stickers on lots of maps.

Oftentimes they didn't really see any noticeable change. So I thought, well, what if local residents had better tools to shape the future businesses in their neighborhood and beyond?

And so I thought, well there are a lot of vacant storefronts, where better to ask for civic input than on the very space that we are trying to improve.

I put grids of stickers on neglected buildings around the city, and a little sharpie pen, for people who are walking by to write what they wish was there.

They're made of vinyl so they're very sticky but future business owners can easily remove them without damaging property.

I've been blown away by the range of responses.

It leads to bigger questions, like what if residents had better tools to shape and develop their neighborhoods.

We're the ones who know what business we need, what things need fixing.

It's like a love child of urban planning and street art.

There are so many things, living in the same neighborhood, that we could actually share with each other that would help us understand what's going on. You know, share local information.

And right now it seems kind of funny that it's easier to reach out to the entire world, than it is to reach out to your neighborhood.

If you look at the messages in public space, you might think all we care about are sexy beers and fruity shampoos and the latest Hollywood movies, right? And you think, does that really reflect what's important to us?

I think we really need to consider whether our public spaces can be better designed so they are not necessarily going to the highest bidder, instead they're reflecting what's important to our neighborhoods and to our personal well being.


Cities and their form will always be the terrain of struggle as different interests contest for power, for position, and influence in the shaping of the city.

Democracy itself is always showing the strains and stresses from time to time.

And in a way the city is an expression of that, in many ways, in microcosm.

Some of those societies which are now being torn by inner strife, and tensions, and ambitions, and repressions.

It is the public spaces which become the symbols.

There's an optimism about cities in this century.

There's a sense we're creating something that is truly global.

And we're creating networks of people, not experts, people of all strata of society who are involved in the building of something special.

I'm city obsessed, always been city obsessed, grew up in New York, so who would not be.

But this is the century for city lovers.

This is where it happens.

The challenge in the future will be how do you manage demography.

I think in the physical part of the city will not be able to determine the success of the city.

Architecture will not be the only spectacle. And how you intersect architecture with mobility with creating a humane environment through design is going to be the critical challenge.

I'm assuming that the broad outlines of Kyoto will be achieved by 2050.

What that means for how everything is organized, from how you get about, what you consume, how things are packaged, everything. It will be completely different in just 40 years time.

That's the one side. On the other side, in Asia and Africa you're going to have complete new cities

that capitalize on all the new thinking about how we can reorganize cities.

That will function completely different to everything we think and know about cities.

So that prospect of dramatic, disruptive change within one generation.

I mean, to be able to get that, like we're in the middle, on the cusp of this unbelievably dramatic set of forces coming together.

Fundamentally as a species we need things that can power our imaginations, that can get our passions going, that can give us sort of a sense of meaning.

And that is not a brick, it is not a pipe, it is an idea.

That's what drives cities forward.