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We are living the start of a new cycle of the development based on a deep rethinking of the infrastructure role and on the revitalizing of the social state. These issues are the topics of the Conference of Lisbon, that indicated in the e-society the primary development factor of the UE, An open, inclusive, collaborative society, attracting new knowledges and that, thanks to the support of the new TLC technologies, goes towards the reorganization of production apparatus and the renewal of the public administration and of the relationships among citizens.

Topics:

  • A new dimension of the project
  • The elements of the project: atoms & bit
  • The manipulation of bits: the immaterial resources and the new urban opportunities
  • U-city and the new relation system
  • U-city: morphologic elements
  • U-city: experiences
  • Provisional conclusions

 

A new dimension of the project

The power of the new technological networks should be matched by a strengthening of the relationship and social networks in the direction of their opening toward a collaborative approaches. The password becomes what can we do together to attain new levels of social life.To find a place in the new networks it is necessary to renovate the knowledge, putting, beside the traditional ones based on the rationale of the production processes, new figures destined to stimulate the creative sphere of the mind, figures borrowed from the world of arts, philosophy, capable of helping the designer to foresee the future, to educate him to work with scenarios to anticipate the many directions of the change.


All this expands the field of the project, that should include the environmental values, in order to diminish the environmental burden of the settlements and to revaluate the human resources, stressing the involvement of all stakeholders. A vision that finds its synthesis in the project designed on the basis of the platform morphology, able to manage the holistic relationships among the economic, environmental and social events.

Concerning the urban design, the historical mono-functional reading of the city, implemented in the zoning, is succeeded by a reading based on the codes of creativity, which prefigures an economic, social, and spatial “open” model, based on the acceptance of new citizens, new ideas, on the stimulation of their circulation, on their transformation in a new form of wealth.

To tackle the width and unpredictability of the change it is necessary to widen the temporal horizons, to be able to get rid of the conditioning of the past and to attain the guarantee that “the new” that is appearing lies within our management capability.

 

The elements of the project: atoms & bit

The elements of the project have drastically evolved since the 80s of the last century, following the introduction of the modern telecommunication technologies which have marked an exponential growth of the immaterial structures compared to the historical material structures. This is a complex evolution that in the last thirty years has deeply connoted both the social and the spatial dimension of the project.

The new reality is well represented in the scientific literature. It has been sensed in advance by Cristopher Alexander with “The city is not a tree”(1965), announced in the 80s by Paul Virilio with “The Critical Space” characterised by the metaphor “the screen substitutes the door”, resumed by Nicolas Negroponte in the mid 90s in “Being digital”, where he proposes the two dimensions of modern infrastructures “ Atoms and Bits” as the result of the connection between the historical physical dimension with a new immaterial dimension. William J. Mitchell in the “The city of bites” (1996) coded the empirical aspects and Bernard Tschumi in “Questions of architecture” (1990) the philosophical implications.

This vision, conjugated with the growing awareness on the safeguard of the natural resources, starts processes of radical transformation of design approaches, in the direction of de-materialising, i.e. doing more with less. Thanks to the operational studies of Wuppertal Institut, the designer learns how to manipulate with growing refinement the fluxes of matter, aiming at minimising the extraction of matter and disposing of waste.
If the fusion of material and immaterial - beside the imperative of dematerialisation, are the elements characterising the “technology” of the project, its layout in the Agenda format coherent with the International Conferences, represents the progress toward the implementation of shared strategies, aimed at involving all the stakeholders.


The manipulation of bits: the immaterial resources and the new urban opportunities

In the short run of forty years the role of the Bits has exponentially grown within the processes of economic, social and urban development. The development route of infrastructure has concerned hardware and software, marked by the steps of the technological evolution: of the copper bight that has allowed and allows narrow band transmissions; of the optic fibre with the broadband and of the satellite with the diffusive TLC systems (wifi).

Nowadays we assist to the hyper-connection of all these technological supports, and along with it, to the birth of the ubiquitous network, basic infrastructure of the u-economy, the u-society and finally, the ubiquitous city.

At the side of the hardware evolution, we have seen and keep seeing the software evolution, that assumes a structural dimension for the management of the productive processes and of the delivery of private and public services. In the most advanced societies we are thus assisting to the birth of high interactivity platforms, capable to follow the pipelines of:

  • the production, from the extraction of the raw material till the final act of the sale of the finished product,
  • the commerce, with a high degree of safety of the product management cycle, from its maintenance till the final disposal,
  • the public administration, to guarantee a interactive relationship among public services suppliers and citizens;
  • the health, thanks to portable devices that connect the citizen to the health care structures in real time.


These technologies furthermore permit to decrease the asymmetry in the relations amongst citizens and “wise men” (technicians, medicines, politicians, ….), and to put in crisis the historical top down structure in favour of more collaborative structures.

Nowadays these opportunities define new markets, new levels of competition and economic integration, and new ways of life that find their expression in new models of city, such as the Mille Digital, experimented in the occasion of the Zaragoza Expo in which the opportunities of the ubiquitous city are experimented at the time of everyday life, of the reinterpretation of the landscape, of the experimentation of new settlement and transport models.

Spurred by these new opportunities, new cities and districts born, whose driving force lies in the universities or anyway in the great centres of knowledge. The intuition of the Lisbon conference thus proves a happy one, knowledge becomes the seed for the building of cities whose setting element is creativity. This is the planning stream that, started at Helsinki in the 90s with the experience of the Arabiaranta district, finds a new technological dimension in the expansion plan of Seoul and a new organisation dimension thanks to the cooperation of MIT and of the municipality in the plan of the MIT district at Saint Francisco.

 

U-city and the new relation system

Silently, new TLC infrastructure have become popular as strategic project factor, and have at the same time imposed radical evolutions in our social, political and territorial organisation. Modern TLCs have marked the end of a way of thinking and reading the relations by steps, tree-wise, in favour of a system of relations without interruptions.

As a consequence the project tends to abandon the traditional sectorial divisions inherited by the Modern Movement, in favour of a morphology called of the “bubble”, under which the exchange of interactive relations among stakeholders is possible. If public administration, entrepreneurs, social operators dialogue with one another in real time and in interactive way, as the Shell scenarios teach, the best governance looks like a jazz band.
The one giving the principal element to the jazz tune should be the public leadership, capable at the same time to indicate the long period development rules and to mediate among the many languages and objectives of the stakeholders. In this rationale, the entrepreneurs are called to renovate their platforms, made ubiquitous by the new TLC technologies, to project tend to assume an interactive platform structure, able to guarantee ubiquitous relations, thanks to the new TLC technologies.


U-city: morphologic elements

The shape of the city produced by the hyper communication is the central theme of the ubiquitous city, because its nature is deeply different from the one of the historical city. The historical city, a synthesis of urbs and civitas, articulates in totally separated public and private spaces. In nowadays city, the product of the fusion of atoms and bits, the two special dimensions are difficult to separate, thanks to the new relations amongst people made possible by the TLC processes.

The project of the u-city is inspired by the morphology of the interactive platform, that permits:

  • to surpass the myth of the centrality of the street infrastructure, with its centres of “heavy” interchange, in favour of the synergy among street, gps, computer, network. This allows interactive logistic systems able to monitor goods from the stage of the extraction of the matter till the supply of the finishes product to the consumer and to assist people in order to optimize ways;  
  • to connect houses to the world, opening their role: u-office, u-entertainment, u-health, ecc…;
  • to integrate the offer of public and private services. This stress for the conversion of the public administration “platforms” (building permits, land register, revenue authorities….) to make the facility service interactively to allow radical progress in the delivery of health services together with a significant cost lowering. The new network technologies and the miniaturisation and portability of the devices enable the at home monitoring of the most important vital functions and of the on line treatment, permitting the start of new processes of dematerialisation of the health-care structures;
  • to monitor actively the whole urban life cycle, in order to get significant savings in the urban resources management.


In short, the new morphology of the city will be laid down in the following key-words: de-materialization, hyper miniaturization, portability, multifunctionality, interactivity.


U-city: experiences

The history of the ubiquitous city begins in the mid 90s of the past century, with the Helsinki Arabiaranta project.
It is about the conversion of an industrial area near which there is an excellence pole of knowledge: the UIAH, University of Art and Design. The experimental plan funds its supremacy on culture, on the long temporal horizon, essential to define scenarios, on the management based on shared practices.

But the most important characteristic is the level of interconnection among all levels of citizenship based on the availability of u-infrastructure. The interconnection among all types of knowledge and among all types of stakeholders allows the building of a part of the city capable to develop large levels of creativity, a fundamental requirement for the social and economic renovation.

The last significant step in the construction of the u-city is the implementation of the “Digital Mile” in the occasion of the Zaragoza Expo in 2008. The title echoes the “Gold Mile” in Los Angeles, an expression of excellency of the physical construction of the industrial city, where the physical route along the avenues marked by the presence of a series of exemplary architectures.

The “Digital Mile” connects two stations of the high speed system, with an interactive avenue that, thanks to technological solutions and to the presence of the TLC, produces energy, establishes a lighting system started by the passers-by and a transport system managed by the users. Besides it establishes an integrated communication system that guarantees a high capacity support both to the economic activities and to the homes.

The interactive facades of the buildings facing the “Digital Mile” are an admonition of the end of the romantic era of the “passive” buildings in favour of solutions that facilitate the dialogue in real time both with the passers-by and the ones that live in the buildings.


Provisional conclusions

The experience gained invites to look at the urban project beyond the physical and “heavy” infrastructures in favour of new immaterial “light” structures.

The condition of “renaissance” of the city seems to be referred to:

  • from a technologic point of view, to the availability of new high capacity networks and of the new opportunities and the lower costs of the new “diffusive” systems.
  • from a social point of view, to the will to enlarge the citizenship rights, stimulating the welcoming of different cultures;
  • from the capability to question the urban dimension, due to the strategic elements for the city development, creativity and innovation, that need intensity, rapidity and big numbers as usual in the big metropolis; in short the more people think, the quicker and more intense are the innovative synergies. This allows the critical reading the lazy bliss of the historical settlements that, in their local dimension, are unlikely to be competitive with the megalopolis of an East in a hyper-growth phase. This does not mean to overturn our settlement system, but to open it, using the opportunity offered by the networks, to intense global relationships.


These notes begun entrusting to knowledge a determinant role for the creation of a new civitas; it is necessary to be able to question the knowledge system stemmed out of the industrial revolution, be able to enter with new platforms of knowledge, through which the European urban system might be in a position to open new dialogues with the re-emerging civilizations.

In this dimension it becomes topical again the project as platforms, capable to create synergies among the world of culture, economy, social stakeholders, to elaborate a new dimension of the city, that local communities can recognise, but carrying universal values. A city that is the synthesis of environmental and economic values, and of the specificity of the places and the multiplicity of knowledge.