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Sustainable Rotterdam

The city is re-inventing itself

Branding Amsterdam

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Amsterdam is catching up with the word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing wave. A campaign was launched last year based in a highly recognizable logo that reads "I amsterdam", clearly aiming to build up attachment to city values amongst its citizens. The red and white logo can be found in billboards and free-postcards around the city. During a recent visit, we spotted this 3D logo (some 30m long) at the Museumplein. This marketing element becomes part of urban landscape and invites visitors to interact by climing it, and take pictures of it. Can you imagine how many tourists may go back home with their own-created perfect postcard of I amsterdam? Tourists become city marketers by telling their stories of the trip and supporting it with graphic material as good as if it was created by an advertisement agency. Well done!

Read the previous post: City Branding

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posted by Oriol P., 9:55 PM | link | 0 comments |

Growing Urbanites

Sustainability requires comprehension of cause-effect relationships at many levels, and more often than not these include macro systems. Las week we read that 2007 will be the first year in human history that more people will live in urban areas rather than in rural surroundings, according to the last report from UN-Habitat (United Nations Human Settlement Program) State of the World's Cities Report 2006/7 released in New York.

For centuries, human beings decided to abandon rural areas in search for a more stable and empowered life. As result of this continuous flow, the geography of the planet is changing at fast pace all over. If today, just Tokyo is considered a metacity (pdf) hosting more than 20 million inhabitants, by 2020 the list will grow with eight more cities, seven of them in countries with developing economies. According to the report, the list is completed with Mumbay & Delhi (India), Mexico, Sao Paolo (Brasil), Daka (Bangladesh), Yakarta (Indonesia), and Lagos (Nigeria). Currently, one out of three city inhabitant lives in slums or areas where minimum public services are not available.

What are the consequences of this migratory movement? Two mega-trends can be observed:

Foreseen decline of world's population
We just experienced the first doubling of world population (from 3.3 billion in 1992 to 6.5 today),and we know that it will be also the last one. It is expected that by 2050 we'll be between 7.5 and 9 billion inhabitants, and then the rates will start to decrease. 2.1 children are required per women to ensure population replacement levels and current rates in urbanized nations host an average of 1.56. Cities empower women who, in many cases spot opportunities for self development which may explain the decline. Soon we'll be less people, living in highly dense urban areas. Some may argue this presents a good opportunity to do some system organization and address a sustainable future: less people may require less resources used more efficiently, isn't? Wrong, remember; "money makes the world go around"

Increase in purchasing power
The resulting outcome from the previously described situation leads to an scenario where purchasing power increases dramatically. The move from the rural area to the city offers unlimited opportunities for self development to newcomers; when you don't depend on changing weather conditions to maintain yourself and you can ensure a stable income, it's possible to save, invest and consume. The bottom line is that a legion of new consumers is growing globally, at first stage acquiring basic functionality and later on moving towards the acquisition of experience and intangible values attached to products.

The increase of new consumers with higher purchasing power is a fact which we cannot fight against. Keeping this in mind, can we find feasible solutions fitting in? A good way to address the issue may be by observing the drivers (population composition & purchasing power), understanding how the cause-effect relationships of the system work, and setting priorities.

We were highly inspired by City Planet, an article by Stewart Brand. To download a copy, visit Strategy + Business. You may need to register (free)

Get a glimpse of the life in the slums of Calcutta with The City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre.

If you prefer a movie, check City Of God (Cidade De Deus) by Fernando Meirelles, which takes the favelas of Rio de Janeiro as scenery for its development.

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posted by Oriol P., 9:49 PM | link | 0 comments |

Urban Studies: Looking at Cities

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Educational video explaining city characteristics as districts, landmarks, paths, edges, nodes, while using St. Francisco as case study to illustrate it. Google Video link

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posted by Oriol P., 5:49 PM | link | 0 comments |

Pecha Kucha Night #3

Sunday, June 04, 2006

We missed the previous two editions but managed to get tickets for the 3rd Pecha Kucha Night in Rotterdam. This time, the night was themed around Japan due to the celebration of Japan Film Festival in Lantaren/Venster where we found sushi, travel info, music with Dr. Ska during breaks and a superb electro-dance performance by Berlin based ODD, who promised the release of his first cd next September.
Pecha Kucha largely covered our expectations; the idea is that creative people present their work and ideas in a 20 slides x 20 seconds format. 'A happy crossbreed between an elevator pitch and a slide show' Well organized and structured while informal, a great way to meet peers with similar interests. Next Pecha Kucha nights are scheduled at the beginning of July and back after summer in September. Check the site for updates

The evening started with a dynamic introduction to Tokyo's landscape by Hunk Design and Studio PopCorn in the form of picture collages clustered by themes. What followed was a series of presentations covering art, illustration, photography, architecture and urban design.
  • Wilco Otte, an urban designer at Enno Zuidema Stedebouw and researcher at Rotterdam Academy of Architecture and Urban Design, presented a study covering the singularities of Japanese harbors against the Rotterdam model. The general observation is that meanwhile Rotterdam aims to differentiate and separate harbor activities with traditional city elements like residence and commerce, the Japanese model tends to stimulate integration by creating islands with and inner city life and external harbor functionality. During a conversation we had with Wilco, the question arose if the current trend to separate harbor and city activities in Rotterdam dissects the city from its traditional source of identity.
  • Jacob van Rijs, architect from MVRDV presented Omotesando, a multipurpose building (shopping and amenities) to open its doors September 2007 in Tokyo. As usual, MVRDV relies in strong visuals which impact the expectator and this time the neighboring elite shops with its cubic and tidy surfaces almost seem to be a provocation for the Rotterdam architects.
  • Architect Mark Veldman gave an overview of airport developments in Japan from an architectural and urban development perspective.
  • Originally with a focus on Japanese calligraphy, Liesbeth de Jonge was introduced to Japanese techniques for baking ceramics which imprint a characteristic forms and colors.
  • Yu Kuramoto is a performance artist who developed the horizontal elevator which allows you 'to move ten meters, to the left'
  • Norio Oya from the Centre for Japanese and Korean Study University Leiden explained his relationship with Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken, accompanied by a retrospective of the photographer and jazz background.
  • Johan Kleinjan, illustrator and artist, told us great stories about his experiences with the alternative art scence in Tokyo. Antistrot
  • On June 6 (6-6-06), Rotterdam will celebrate 666 years of existence as city, since Graaf Willem IV gave city rights. Minke Weeda, Director Rotterdam 666 jaar, presented the idea behind the celebration and the festival program.
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posted by Oriol P., 2:23 PM | link | 0 comments |