IHS (Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies) - Institute for Urban Studies, part of Erasmus University Rotterdam. IHS focuses on postgraduate education, consulting, and research in urban planning and management. They attach particular importance to preserving the practical orientation of learning through case studies and workshops and help countries with developing or in transition economies: the states of Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Among the numerous similar works of the institute - participation in the reconstruction of Sao Paulo, the development of sustainable urban systems in India and Peru, the organization of an IT cluster in Nanjing.
IHS is one of the most "international" centers of urban studies: 80 students from more than twenty countries of the world study on the main course. In 2013, Russian applicants had the opportunity to get acquainted with the work of the institute: in June, a presentation of the master's program took place in Moscow, and on October 5, IHS will be presented at the International Education Fair ICEP.
Ronald Wall has worked as an architect and planner for the OMA and MVRDV bureaus, has taught at the Berlage Institute and the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture, and now heads the IHS Sustainable Urban Systems Division.
Veronica Olivotto is a climate change graduate of IHS, Nepyr University Edinburgh and the University of Milan. Develops a methodology for minimizing its consequences and adapting to climate change.
What are the key challenges facing planners right now?
Ronald Wall: For decades, even centuries, urban planning and architecture have played a leading role in shaping and transforming the urban environment. In this era, design turned into an almost autonomous profession that focused on form, aesthetics and complex subjective methods and techniques, often unrelated to the systemic social and economic processes taking place in the global world. For many years, architects believed that design was more important than urban development. Even now, many experts believe that it is the reason for the success of this or that city, and most of them are not aware of the cultural and evolutionary forces that determine the development of cities. A significant number of architects ignore the fact that the city is a product of closely related local, regional and global forces. Instead of constructive engagement, professionals often isolate themselves from the real world by developing artificial theories and concepts that only they understand. Fortunately, with the onset of the current economic downturn, a gradual shift in consciousness is replacing old perceptions of urban problems.
Due to the catastrophic level of unemployment in their midst and a sharp decline in the reputation of the profession, architects and planners have come to interact with developers, economists, sociologists. Form creation is gradually fading into the background, giving way to more important issues such as social tolerance and sustainable development. Critical self-awareness and rethinking of the role of urban planners and architects in the era of globalization is, in my opinion, the most important problem currently being addressed.
Veronica Olivotto: I'm not a city planner, but I'm also very interested in trying to answer this question. Since the 1990s, city planners have developed a variety of strategies to address transportation challenges, such as the negative impact of motorization on urban environments, especially in American cities. As part of these strategies, sidewalks were expanded, quality public spaces and a network of footpaths were created, and the approach to zoning changed. Recently, mobility and public transport have been on the agenda. The Dutch Randstad is an excellent example of a dense and efficient rail network linking all major cities in the Netherlands with a common tariff system.
In terms of public transport, we are seeing a significant development of rapid bus transport (BRT) in densely populated cities: Curitiba, Guangzhou, Istanbul and Bogota. However, serious transport problems persist as people continue to arrive in big cities from the countryside. Despite the fact that there seems to be no alternative to living in a metropolis, it may be time to think about new types of settlements with good Internet connections and modern energy-efficient transport - settlements that would combine the advantages of living in nature and in the city.
Urban planning techniques, obviously, influenced the perception of public space, both positively and negatively. For example, attempts by the state to control citizens' behavior with the help of elements of the urban environment affect people's lives so much that they can be regarded as controversial: in Europe, there is a growing tendency to use design as a means of combating vandalism and crime, providing comprehensive monitoring and control of the urban environment. In particular, such spaces are being designed where surveillance is carried out by the residents themselves.
What is, in your opinion, the most important problem that needs to be solved in the future?
Ronald Wall: Architectural education is a key problem in the profession. Decades of low-quality education and a disproportionate focus on the aesthetic side have contributed to the profession's isolation. Architecture and urban planning are often perceived as an independent art that is not related to the needs of the townspeople. The educational system needs evolution! Because architects and planners work for the city, they need to be taught a wide variety of subjects to help them handle urban processes with confidence and transform their knowledge into more effective designs. Subjects such as urban economics, land management, sustainable development, sociology, urban governance should not be optional, but compulsory!
Design should always maintain its leading role, but it is also important to educate students in its new kind: it is aimed at converting knowledge from other areas into more thoughtful solutions. There is a huge difference between knowledge of subjects and the ability to apply this knowledge to create new project proposals. This skill should be the main "craft" of an architecture school teacher, and in this sense, I believe that education is a huge problem that needs to be solved all over the world!
Veronica Olivotto: It is difficult to choose just one problem, because we live in a time of great urban disorder. In the context of declining density, decentralization and shrinking cities, the discourse of urban planning must go beyond the principle of "the architectural ensemble is the basis of urban planning". From this point of view, landscape urbanism can offer interesting solutions, especially when it comes from concepts such as "typologies of development" that are tangible, functional, and categorized by land use (see publications by Charles Waldheim, Charles Waldheim, and the Boston Bureau Stoss). These projects may include ecological infrastructure for stormwater management and flood prevention, or the creation of urban gardens and vegetable gardens. For example, Rotterdam is investing in a plaza ("water plaza") where rainwater from neighboring rooftops will accumulate, and in dry weather it can be used as a playground and sports ground (Climate Proof Initiative).
The issues of civil interaction in the post-digital period, population aging and the need for affordable housing during the economic crisis are gaining importance. In my opinion, “living together” can be a promising solution to all three of these issues. Two Rotterdam bureaus, STAR strategies + architecture and BOARD, have proposed a housing model for Paris, inspired by Le Corbusier's Immeubles Villas (1922), and this model could create a new culture of community - also possibly connecting people of different ages - while maintaining private, intimate space.
Bibliography from Veronica Olivotto:
Alexander C., Ishikawa S., Silverstein M., Jacobson M., Fiksdahl-King I., Angel, S. A Pattern Language. Oxford University Press. 1977.
De Urbanisten: Water squares
MONU Magazine Communal Urbanism Issue 18
Healey P. Making Better Places: The Planning Project in the Twenty-First Century. Palgrave MacMillan. 2010; p.278