city & bioregion

Zürich Eco Lab

As the guest last week of Zurich University of the Arts I set the following task to a group of sixteen masters students: “Create the plan for a social harvest festival that will reconnect Zurich with its natural ecosystems and grassroots social innovators.” The idea was to demonstrate, in practice, and at a city-wide scale, […]

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From Druids, to Biorefineries: Innovation In A Small Nation

How best do you help a resilient economy emerge in a region that has one foot in ancient ways and traditions – its other in the world of global universities and nuclear power? North West Wales has the ingredients to be one of Europe’s most resilient regions. Its valuable assets include a lot of relatively […]

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Iceland: eaten alive, or growing to live?

“Who needs oil when you have rain?” The ad for Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s national energy company, dominates this month’s Icelandair magazine. It sits alongside other ads that feature wild spaces, rugged outdoor clothing, and all-round natural purity. The message is not disguised: Iceland is blessed by massive amounts of clean energy. The true picture on the […]

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Life is a Picnic in The Fertile City

If you’re in Paris before 24 July a spectacular exhibition called The Fertile City: Towards An Urban Nature is well worth a visit. The show’s OTT poster does not over-promise. The exhibition explores nature in the city from multiple perspectives: historical, social, cultural, botanical, ecological. Two narrative sequences overlap: an “immersion in the urban-vegetal world”, […]

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From Eds & Meds, to Farms and Watersheds

The skyline of Pittsburgh, once America’s Steel City, is now dominated by towers belonging to two local giants of ‘Eds & Meds’ – education, and healthcare. Does this mean the city has successfully grown itself a resilient new economy? If architectural bravura was an indicator, the answer would be yes. The older tower [above] which […]

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Rotterdam: where time is no longer money

Twelve-year-old childen in Rotterdam have never known a time when their city was not being rebuilt around them. And because they know no better, or at least no different, they are not much daunted by the huge scale of the projects underway – still less, by the consequences those projects are likely to have for […]

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Off-grid water: the social dimension

Up to 1,500 litres of that water are needed to grow enough biofuels to move one car ten kilometres. 2,000 litres are needed a day to feed each one of us. It takes 140 litres of water to grow enough beans for a single cup of coffee. It sounds, and is, unsustainable. Over-exploitation impacts heavily […]

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Unplugged, but not alone

I was snooty in suggesting, in my comment on Doug Rushkoff’s new book, that he should get out of the city more. But if I’m an armchair tree-hugger, Stephanie Smith is the real thing. Two months ago, this former architect abandoned her Los Angeles life for a new one in her shack in Joshua Tree, […]

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My plan to save the city of Nice $250 million

This blog first proposed the replacement of trophy buildings with street art back in 2002. In a piece called “Trophy buildings are over” we argued that because they are conceived as spectacles, so-called signature architecture would be subject to the law of diminishing returns: the novelty would wear off, and buildings conceived as tourist destinations […]

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