Publication Foundation of the Brandenburg Technical University Cottbus @ Brandenburg Technical University Cottbus-Senftenberg, Chair of Landscape Architecture and Planning, ISBN 978-3-940471-24-6, IKMZ University Library, , Cottbus, Germany, 13 March 2016
Today, with ecological aspects gaining in importance and the Circular Economy becoming central to the EU strategy, the focus of architecture and urban planning is shifting from the completion of new objects to dealing with cycles. Landscape architecture has always had such an orientation towards cycles and processes, since it dealt with growing and decaying matter. At the edges, these disciplines come together; it is here that the interrelationships and metabolisms of the different fields are most effective.
What makes the margin interesting is its interface function: at the margin, different fields and systems intertwine with their circularities and metabolisms.
The margin in its heterogeneity runs on macro-, meso- and nano-levels. In this multiplicity, the margin is not separating but clearly connecting.
Soft urbanism stands for such an attitude of not only looking at the topography, but focusing on the typological relationships.
The connections here are by no means only streets and physical links. Today, digital networks are fundamentally changing existing hierarchies, including spatial ones. Centralities still play an important role in the economy of attention, but orientation is supported by media means and therefore follows other logics.
Soft urbanism focuses on this network character of the urban landscape. In the urban landscape, which is determined by fragmentation and perforation, such an approach, which focuses on the networks, enables an operative understanding in order to have an interweaving effect on the fragmenting urban landscape.
A Network Science focuses on the networks and, like an X-ray view, enables an understanding of the development and effect of complex systems in the real world. Network science, as a further development of complexity theory, is also relevant for understanding the complex system of the urban landscape, in order to understand the topological relationships that drive the development of this highly complex structure and to have a guiding influence on it.
Within the framework of a think tank of the Dutch government, we investigated the effects of digitalisation on space: The Use of Space in the Information Communication Age: Processing the Unplannable (1999-2002). The region, the city, the development of the urban landscape, but also the home, the office and the university; all these spaces and their uses of space are changing with increasing digitisation and networking.
Hybrid Space stands for this coming together and merging of physical and media spaces and spatial practices. Many things are in a process of hybridisation. Thinking about different areas together in an integrated way is an innovation strategy to understand the enormous accelerations we are currently confronted with and to use them in the way we want to as a discursive society.
Hybridisation is also taking place between nature and the city, between nature and architecture. In the context of the Antropocene, the question arises as to whether the contrast between artefact and nature can still be maintained.
Numerous projects, such as the current Humboldt Jungle project for the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, demonstrate a new integration of nature into buildings. In addition to the use of natural cycles, this is also about strong symbolic values, as the façade incorporates the semantics of nature. A convergence of the various disciplines is beginning to establish itself.
In the Dutch Randstad, the global player airport is growing without reference to, or even in conflict with, its immediate suburban surroundings. The localities around Schiphol Airport bear the burden but do not benefit from the “global condition” of their neighbour.
The project Rooting Routes: Weaving Schiphol Airport within its Local Fabric, which we developed in 2003, explored the potential of transit tourism to mesh the airport with its surroundings. For transit passengers and business travellers arriving briefly for a few meetings at the airport, a series of short routes in the surrounding area were proposed. These thematic routes, which range from historical-didactic to nature routes to shopping safaris and also include sporting activities, can also be managed by minibuses, water taxis or bicycles. These itinerary programmes can be communicated, guided and directed using mobile phones and other portable devices.
The non-place airport would thus gain identity through the local qualities of its surroundings, and the surrounding neighbourhoods and green spaces would benefit from the airport’s economic appeal.
Nowadays, relationships are increasingly manifested digitally, but analogue relationships do not lose their importance. In 2004, in the context of the preparations for the Capital of Culture Essen/Ruhr region, we developed the project We eat for the RUHRGEBIET: Decentralised in the districts, dinners were organised by the residents for the residents; in the Capital of Culture year, the meal for the RUHRGEBIET then took place at a long table on the A40.
The event transformed the A40, the central connecting element of the Ruhr region, into a long table for one day in the summer of 2010. Residents and visitors from the whole region and beyond ate together and created a region-binding place of communication. The project intervened at the level of perception and communication processes of urbanity; these were changed and intensified. Spaces were revalued; new contacts, new relationships were developed and new positive signs were set.
Soft Urbanism, as a holistic view of urbanity that focuses on typological relationships, is also important in the context of shrinkage.
The shrinking city and its multiplying edges have largely negative connotations. In the sense of back to nature, however, the characteristic of having more space and more landscape can also be seen positively. The associated problems lie in the infrastructure: how can necessary services such as schools, shopping facilities and public transport be ensured?
In the context of the Urban Service Design concept (2004), the use of mobile services was proposed as a means of counteracting the thinning out of the network of social infrastructure and thus ensuring quality of life for the less mobile parts of the population in shrinking regions. Here, too, the linking of mobile and digital services provides an opportunity to develop innovative solutions.
Under the concept of the smart city, new possibilities for spatial planning are therefore also opening up for severely shrinking regions. Mobile, digital infrastructure can also reactivate small units through multiple use in order to secure necessary services. Relevant issues of local supply and energy generation can also be managed more easily in this way.
Contrary to the appropriation of the term Smart City by the technology industry, Smart Citizen can be understood as a joint project of all city stakeholders. Focusing on the needs of the citizens and the city in its relationships as a circular ecosystem results in diverse opportunities for the edges of the future.
The projects described above intensify communication processes, densify urban networks and strengthen the identities of the urban landscape.
Idensity, an operational tool for the development of the urban landscape, merges concepts of identity and density of connections. It integrates the concept of “density” (density of physical and media communication networks and infra¬structure, density of connections, density of communicative spaces) with the concept of identity (“city image” campaigns, branding, etc.).
Idensity does not distinguish between the media and the physical and built environment and thus offers an integrated model for dealing with the “hybrid” (media and physical) space of the urban landscape.