Creating liveable cities

Challenging designers and architects to rethink how they use water in cities to help create a more sustainable urban environment was the initial thought behind a recent Australian initiative. Melbourne Water challenged a group of local architects and designers to rethink how they utilise water in their design phase.

Through a 12-month collaboration between the designers, Melbourne Water and State of Design, that included numerous workshops, the group were made aware of the extent of water use in everything from agriculture to manufacturing, and how consumer behaviour can impact on fresh water resources.

Ian Douglas-Jones, a young British architect based in Shanghai, was one of the participants. Here he explains his project Green Grid:

The Green Grid forms part of my ongoing research into the notion of sustainable cities. With over half the world’s population living in cities it is imperative that we seek out new tactics to curb our drain on resources like water and power. There are some startling facts about the impact our lives have on the planet, and it is these facts that formed the basis for this design.

The global measure of our impact on resources is the Global Hectare (GHa), which states the amount of space required to sustain one person. For instance, London relies on a network of supermarkets which are served by food imports from outside the city, but 80% comes from all over the world.  The land required to sustain this is 125 times the size of the city it takes up.

Conversely Havana produces 75% of its own food locally, and there is a greater understanding of where food comes from and an appreciation of how precious it is.

Another crucial factor with the increasing urbanisation is the heat generated and energy consumed by the very buildings we occupy. This adds to localised climatic heating which in turn requires artificial cooling and additional water.

Green Grid compares five cites from across the world chosen for their social, political, economic and climatic diversity, and then examines the impacts of ecological and water footprints of the cities’ populace.  The exhibit shows projects from within those cities that demonstrate visionary tactics taken to reduce water and ecological footprints.

Formally the piece takes on an undulating yet clearly artificial landscape of concave and convex surfaces formed from an ordered grid, the cities are marked with tags on the landscape according to their water and ecological footprint – the bigger the foot print the more room they occupy, and the smaller the footprint the less space the tags occupy.

The exemplar projects from each city are exhibited on LCD screens which punctuate the grid and are located according to the city’s ‘zone’.  The narrative is that of global footprint densities, while zooming in the localised visionary exemplars that are displayed on the screens.

Douglas-Jones exhibited as part of the Creating Liveable Cities Exhibition.

For more on the project visit Ian Dougles-Jones.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

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