|Wednesday, 27 April 2011 11:38|
With an annual growth rate of almost 7%, the Ethiopian society is one of the fastest growing worldwide. In 2008, Ethiopia domiciled approx. 81 million people, in 2025 this number could reach more than 125 million. Today, 83% of the population is living in rural areas, creating their income on agriculture and relying on a limited resource: land. Because of the limitation of this income source, a major shift from the rural to the urban is likely to happen, as other examples around the globe demonstrated already.
Given the possibility and believing prognostications of the UN, that in the very near future close to 65% of the population is going to live in urban settlements, the question is how to prepare for such an incredible request for water, food, energy, security, hygiene, shelter, jobs, infrastructures, social networks, education, and also capital. It should be done without draining the countrie`s resources even more than today or driving the country even deeper into an import-depending society, by promoting a false image of the building industry, with references to the global boom-markets of China or Dubai. Local materials and technologies have to be revisited and upgraded, alternative energy concepts to be implemented and most of all: these concepts have to find their way into the education of our future planners, architects and engineers.
Addis Ababa alone, as the biggest urban development in Ethiopia, will need to house approximately 4 million people more in 2025 than today, if UN predictions are correct. In order to be prepared for such a wave of new urban settlers, new urban settlements need to be planned and developed; the Ethiopian government talks of 100 to be designed. How do they look like? Which underlying concept do they follow?
Since 2006, the ETH Zürich investigates these questions in close relationship with Addis Ababa University and follows two trajectories: first of all, how can questions of urban sustainability be integrated in the design process in a very early stage? This work can be seen as an in-depth academic work in specific fields of interest, highlighting particular themes and integrating input from supporting disciplines. Second of all, how can system thinking be the major force of design, rather than an outdated concept of typology application? This requires a more complex network thinking and relies on a methodology of stocks and flows, an urban model in flux. Here, the city is seen as a dynamic system according to parameters that shift over time.
Both of those approaches take advantage of the interdisciplinary nature of the research and rely on empirical data gained from comparative analysis. In order to address these questions, the collaboration between ETHZ and AAU formed a so-called Urban Design Laboratory.
The project “Urban Laboratory ETHiopia” realizes a platform for architecture and urban planning on the Addis Ababa University campus and provides a new exhibition building in order to do so. The project’s main target is to contribute to the future development of Ethiopia by researching and publicly presenting various research activities for urgent problems as well as transferring knowledge for planning strategies in urban territories. Therefore the communication between architects, urban planners, students, political decision makers and the public is essential. Wherever possible a solution oriented discourse transcending the limits of the single disciplines should be instigated and fueled. A transfer of planning knowledge comprises the realms of urban planning, ecology, building technology systems, building construction and architecture. The declared aim is a contribution to a positive future development of Ethiopian cities with a main focus on the capital Addis Ababa.
The conception of the exhibition tries to create a debate about sustainable development solutions among the planning disciplines, political decision makers as well as the public realm using different media and events. The exhibition structure thus is made up following this principle:
Central to the undertaking is the involvement of multiple experts and stakeholders. A network of collaborators—members of the academic community, professionals from a range of disciplines, and representatives of governmental agencies—frame the dialogues and negotiations pertaining to potential transformations of the built environment. These transformations are guided by the mandate to promote ways of achieving socially, ecologically, and economically balanced urban conditions. What feasible means, techniques, and methods can be brought into play to increase the sustainable performance of cities?
In order to address this question, the laboratory bases its efforts on a specific theoretical framework, identified as the flux model. In it, the city is viewed as a dynamic system, one delineated by stocks of resources and interrelated networks of material flows, including input and output cycles relative to long-term development. Considering that stocks, flows, and their transfer coefficients are temporal, or time-dependent, the research models the behavior of urban systems according to parameters that change over time. At the core of the research is an investigation into the flux of people, energy, water, material, capital, space, and information, addressed in terms of both their physiological demands and morphological consequences. Ultimately, the impact of stocks and flows on the constitution of cities, and the potential for steering their performance toward the principles of sustainable development, form the main thrusts of the endeavor.
Considering that cities are highly complex amalgamations—the results of multifaceted and, to some extent, contradictory forces—design studios must be driven by a plurality of viewpoints generated through interdisciplinary discourse and team collaboration. The crossing of conventional boundaries is precisely what needs to be promoted and practiced. In doing so, research must bring to the forefront questions of method and procedure that can be transferred to other conditions, while still focusing on proposals for specific solutions. Studios are, in this sense, places of knowledge production, exposing design, whether of buildings or entire territories, to an array of methods from other fields of knowledge.
|Last Updated on Friday, 29 April 2011 07:38|