Tuesday, November 26, 2013

BMW Guggenheim Lab Challenges Industry’s View of the Future of Urban Life

In the holiday rush, don’t let this fall off your twice-checked list: a visit to the Guggenheim Museum to view the exhibition Participatory City: 100 Urban Trends from the BMW Guggenheim Lab

The two-year culmination of the “urban think tank”’s work and travel (as the Lab is known) across New York, Berlin, and Mumbai, the exhibition’s goals are to explore new design, experimentation, and thinking for city life.

As a result of tours, workshops, debates, and discussions, the Lab discovered 100 trends within each of the three studied cities.  Explanations and examples of the trends are showcased at the Guggenheim until the end of the exhibition’s run on January 5, 2014.

Here, based on the Lab’s findings, PSMJ presents what we see as the Top 10 Trends that will affect the U.S. cityscape, and have direct bearing on the A/E/C industry, within the next ten years:

1) Non-Iconic Architecture:   Non-iconic architecture strives to prioritize the human scale of a space over its merely sculptural value and defends the importance of simplicity and functionality in design.

2) Micro Architecture: Micro architecture is the practice of using design solutions to adapt small urban spaces, thereby changing the behavior of city dwellers and activating underutilized areas.

3) Green Space: Urban green spaces can include parks, greenways, nature paths, gardens, and waterfronts. Green spaces provide ecological functions for cities—carbon sequestration, water purification, and cooling—and also allow people to interact with nature. Plentiful public green spaces are a critical feature of good urban design.

4) Dumpster Design: Dumpster design is an approach that employs used or discarded objects as raw materials for new products. Dumpster design has emerged out of a growing trend toward sustainable consumption, which promotes alternative economic structures facilitated by sharing, recycling, and “freecycling.”

5) Emotional Cityness: Emotional cityness is the rejection of impersonal and cold relationships in large urban areas in favor of face-to-face, convivial, and empathic interaction. In a climate of rapid urbanization and uncertainty, with dynamics leading toward social fragmentation, there is an increasing need for new connectivity in urban environments that can be achieved through the strengthening of personal relationships. Social interaction within cities is a vehicle toward community cohesiveness.

6) Inclusive Design: “Inclusive design” refers to design based on a user-centered approach. The goal of inclusive design is to ensure that devices, products, environments, and experiences remain equally accessible to everyone, regardless of age, culture, or ability. In today’s world, we see an increasing need for this kind of approach, since a diverse population requires more accessible environments, consumer items, interfaces, and services.

7) Aging Population: Today, 20 percent of the population is older than sixty-five; by 2060, every third person will have reached that age. The effect of the aging population on the urban environment and on social services is one of the most significant global challenges and opportunities of the next fifty years. Urban design, community initiatives, and public services can help meet the needs of young and old citizens alike.

8) Design Barriers: Design barriers are construction choices that limit or control an individual’s access to urban spaces. From “No Loitering” signs to benches with armrests designed to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them, our cities are full of devices meant to disperse and divide citizens along lines of race, class, and age.

9) Social Design: Social design reminds designers of their responsibility toward society. Since we live in a social world defined by interaction, it is natural that our actions have an impact on other people’s lives. Design can be seen, therefore, as a tool to promote social change. The development of projects engaged with communities, governments, and other organizations enables design to deal with social issues and commit to its important role in society.

10) Accessibility: “Accessibility” describes the ease with which something can be reached, obtained, used, or understood by as many people as possible. Though often used in reference to accessibility design—urban design that takes into account the full spectrum of other-abled (including elderly, disabled, and handicapped) individuals by creating a user-friendly urban and domestic environment.

For full definitions and more information about the BMW Guggenheim Lab and the Participatory City exhibition, visit: http://www.bmwguggenheimlab.org.

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