Can we rise to the challenge to make our cities life-enhancing communities of discovery, creativity and innovation that are safe and healthy for humans and ecology? Has anthropocentrism in design encouraged a myopic and self-centered conception of our urban design and architecture? Urban spaces are inextricably linked to the environment of our planet and there is a compelling case for building new cities and retrofitting or expanding existing ones in ways that work in harmony with nature, by linking ecological and human systems. The city can become an ecosystem that embeds nature and people as equal partners to help rebalance growing urbanisation.
If we don’t face the challenges of sustainability in cities, we are wasting our time. Those challenges have to be approached and solved at the scale of cities. Cities are, in many ways, a very efficient way of living. If you design and organize cities well, we can have -as a species- the most efficient footprint. The individual footprint in cities can be smaller than living outside cities. For one the consequences of urban design activity (human-centered or otherwise) reach far beyond humans. We are, after all, one of several million species who live on this planet. Why then, should our design be so anthropocentric? Can we not design k our cities keeping in mind not only people, but also other species and entire ecosystems? Can we envision the potential impacts of our urban design not only on people, but on all inhabitants of our biosphere? Is it time to re-examine our anthropocentrism in urban design?
A new paradigm that distinctly recognizes and explicitly extends design’s locus of action to move beyond anthropocentrism and towards biocentrism. Not to reject human-centered design; instead, it recommends that we re-imagine our goals and adopt new methods that acknowledge the other millions of species that cohabit this planet with us. While we might be the apex predators seemingly ruling land, water and air, hopeless things would be should insects, microorganisms and other creatures cease to exist. If we refresh the paradigm of anthropocentric and human-centered urban design to biocentric thinking and life-centered design, our solutions might start exhibiting a sense of care that extends beyond people. Sustainable design, green design, ecodesign, and other similar practices do address issues of the environment. However, it is an essential expansion and unambiguous reframing of whom we identify as the target user. In addition towards biomimicry, the emerging field of innovation inspired by nature.
A cross-discipline, cross-scale exploration of biocentric design is one thing we’re striving for. This means looking at design across fields (psychology, sociology, ecology, etc.) and scales of organization (individual, neighborhood, city, etc.). This will help us identify common design principles across fields and scales. The whole performance of the urban design and architecture should be in balance. The following parameters will be considered with equal importance: ecological material, aesthetic – art of construction, form, programmatic functions, lifecycle, renewable energy, usage, interactivity, sensitivity and networks.
Design and new technology to generate and process data, connecting infrastructure and people into an intelligent urban system. By increasing efficiency and harnessing and managing every available resource, from solar energy to local entrepreneurs, smart cities can be the springboards to a bright, innovative future. The potential is sky high, the dynamic qualities of the urban environment, the potential for endless development and change in response to changes in the building’s environment, and within the ‘software’ of the city. They’ll be dynamic, intelligent and reactive, buildings will be integrated into a living network, attuned to what’s happening in the surrounding environment – for instance, making changes to heating or lighting in response to the weather, or storing energy when costs are low for use when prices and demand go up. A inbuilt resilience to climatic events, from high winds to cold snaps. And blue roofs replace green roofs, capturing rainwater – a potential back-up supply when water’s scarce, or acting as temporary reservoirs during heavy rain to prevent flooding. Constructed from smart materials, such as concrete that repairs itself, will be coated in photovoltaic paint that harvests energy from sunlight, and will have titanium oxide panels to filter pollution from the air.
Can we rise to the potential? The problem is often that the incentives for investors are different from those of the users. The finance system doesn’t fit the problem. The benefits from investments are not enjoyed by the investors. .S it is about redesigning the business-models, in such ways that the incentive supports the changes desired.
The issue is not that we don’t have the knowledge, technology, the issue is the lack of the feeling of urgency and the incentive to invest. Many sustainable solutions cost more in the short time, but the benefits are greater in the long term, especially if you can apply at a larger scale