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Visualizing City Solutions
Amazing ideas and tested solutions for more sustainable and equitable cities
Tired of looking at problems?!
Let’s have a look at some solutions!
We’ve done Visualizing Consumerism, Car Centricity and Minimalist Design. This week we’re exploring City Solutions! More specifically, solutions that help us build more equitable and sustainable cities. And yes, mostly through visuals. 🖼️
The following is true for basically any kind of domain, but it becomes even more obvious when we talk about cities: There are so many amazing ideas and tested solutions out there already; one basically just has to explore them, maybe adjust them a bit to a different context, but then simply implement them. Easy!
So here we go! A (mostly visual) collection of amazing ideas and solutions for more sustainable and equitable cities. We’ll cluster things into 4 buckets:
Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change
“The term tactical urbanism refers to a rapid and low-cost, scalable approach to making temporary changes to the urban environment.”
The “bus” consists of a rolling caravan of kids riding to school with some parents acting as ride leaders.
Urban Reclaim in Turin with a Community Park on a Disused Tramway
“The idea for Precollinear Park arose from a session that was held with active residents and creative industry professionals. […] The Precolinnear Park plan was selected as it could be put into action most quickly and easily. […] They financed the initiative themselves through crowdfunding. [And] there are now 60 volunteers helping with the functioning and upkeep of the park.”
A Fietsvlonder or Bike Platform Lets A Neighborhood Trial The Change From Car Parking to Bike Parking
“A parking spot for a single car can hold as many as 10 bikes—but it’s often a challenge for a city to convince drivers that it’s okay to relinquish car parking space for other uses. In the Netherlands, some cities are using a simple solution: temporary platforms, each with racks for 8 to 10 bikes, designed to fit neatly into one parking space, which are set in place for neighbors to try out before the change becomes permanent.”
Parking Space Turns Into Pop-Up Public Space
“This pop-up public space is part of a Swedish urban experiment known as the “one-minute city”. They’ve been appearing around the country as part of a government project called Street Moves, which aims to investigate what happens when cars are displaced, and how every street in Sweden could be healthy, sustainable and vibrant by 2030.”
Barcelona’s Superblocks + Pop-Up Public Spaces
The 12 Best Ways to Reduce City Car Use, Ranked by Research
Reinventing Urban Rivers: From Industrial Waste To Floating Wetlands
“The north branch of the Chicago River, just outside of the city’s downtown, was once lined with smoke-spewing factories, occupied by barges, and treated like little more than a convenient sewer. […] Today, a remarkable transformation is underway. Long linear patches of wetlands are spreading along the channel’s edges, and docks have been built alongside as a kind of floating walkway. This is the first 400 feet of what’s being called the Wild Mile—a grassroots reinvigoration of a stretch of the river that has been off-limits to nearly all forms of life for decades. […] Thanks to a tax on urban development that helps fund open space, the project has received a significant amount of public funding to get started. As it expands, it has become a promising experiment in making public space out of areas most cities have turned their backs on.”
From Largest Kenyan Dump Site to Green Community Spaces
“Since 2013, Robinson and Dandora community activist Charles Gachanga have joined forces to mobilize communities in Dandora and beyond to rehabilitate slots across the town, creating around 200 gardens that serve as clean lungs amidst the pollution.”
“In 2014, the duo launched the “Changing Faces Competition” to motivate Dandora’s community to replicate the Mustard Seed. Firstly, they approached unemployed young men to form groups, each of whom chose a dumpsite. The group that brought the biggest transformation to that space within three months would win a cash prize. “We did not want the teams to be motivated by money so we did not offer the money upfront,” Esialimba explains. “Instead, we explained that the purpose of the competition was not to win but to create a green space from which the groups could generate an income.”
Over the nine years that the competition has been running, dozens of such green spaces have sprouted across Dandora and its neighboring areas, reforming not only the city but its residents.”
De-Asphalting: Turning Schoolyards into Green Oases
“Playgrounds at about 300 schools have been renovated, benefiting students but also addressing the climate crisis.” […] Research shows that outdoor recreation and access to green spaces greatly benefits children’s development and health. Yet 36% of the nation’s public school students go to school in a heat island, where temperatures are at least 1.25F warmer on average than the surrounding town or city.”
"Since May, volunteers have been transporting [1,000] native trees planted in wooden containers along a 3.5km stretch through the centre of the northern Dutch city of Leeuwarden, giving people an opportunity to experience an alternative, greener future." […]
The project has received overwhelming local support, and people of all ages, genders and backgrounds have volunteered to move the trees. A local brewery has even developed a special beer – BoskBier – with 10 cents from every sale donated to Plan Boom, a national tree planting programme."
“More than 10 years ago, the City of Toronto became the first city in North America to require commercial, institutional, residential and industrial buildings larger than 2,000 square metres to cover between 20-60% of their roofs with green space.”
“To achieve an additional 100 hectares of green roofs, Hamburg introduced the Green Roof Strategy programme. It aims to cover up to 40% of the cost of installing green roofs, but no more than €100,000.”
“In 2019, Egypt’s Ministry of Environment announced an initiative to encourage rooftop gardening. It was launched to benefit disadvantaged families in suburban Cairo and Alexandria. […] The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has trained 48 families in growing vegetables and plants and using hydroponic systems. The programme offers financial assistance to clear roofs and create agricultural gardens, and NGOs working with the ministry offer technical support.”
“The City of Melbourne took their mission of developing the city’s ceiling to a higher level. With the Rooftop Project maps they didn’t only map out the existing development of their roofscape, they also visualized the potential of the unused roofs. They used data on technical possibilities and the carrying capacity to visualize the opportunities for individual buildings.”
Asia’s Largest Rooftop Farm Is a Rice Terrace on Top of a University
“Completed in December of last year, the Puey Park for People and Sustainability is a 22,000-square-meter green roof located at the top of Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus building. Created by Bangkok-based landscape architecture and urban design firm LANDPROCESS, the park draws inspiration from traditional rice-farming practices, and is designed to be a cascading rooftop farm that mimics local rice terrace landscapes.
According to the architects, the farm is not only able to grow up to 135,000 rice meals each year but also produces other vegetables that are served in the campus’ green cafeteria. From there, all edible leftovers are distributed to the local community, while the food waste is composted and returned to the farm as fertilizer for the crops.”
Munich’s Urban Alp
“In the centre of Munich, Germany, startups and creatives have been given a new home in the so-called Werksviertel. But not only humans are working and thriving there, as a small herd of rooftop sheep is also here to stay.
The eight sheep are living on the urban alp all year round, being watched by both a live stream camera and their shepherd, Nikolas Fricke. When he is not taking care of his sheep, Fricke is also working as sustainability manager of the Werksviertel area. Another rooftop that he is in charge of serves as an insect biotope, while on another you can find bunnies and chickens.”
Building A Circular City Economy That Rewards Citizens for Local Shopping
“[Last summer] the city of Akron, Ohio, launched a unique program to reward citizens for shopping locally. For every purchase a customer makes through Akronite, a city-sponsored app, they receive “blimps” or reward points. Blimps can be redeemed at any of the participating stores for discounted or even free services. At the end of every month, the city reimburses the businesses for these redeemed values.”
“[The] app has created half a million dollars of economic activity since it launched last summer.”
Pop Brixton: The Hive That Empowers Local Businesses
“In partnership with Lambeth Council, Make Shift transformed a disused plot of land in Brixton into a community space that showcases the most exciting independent businesses from the district. Pop Brixton provides a new destination for the neighbourhood, supporting locals to set up shop and to share space, ideas and skills.”
“The social impact of the project focused on creating a source of income for the local people. Philippe wanted to empower the community by providing them with a platform to earn wages — either through employment or through setting up their businesses at Pop Brixton.”
Using the Pandemic to Close The Digital Divide
“Oakland’s partnership, known as #OaklandUndivided, launched in May 2020. The ambitious goal: close the city’s digital divide for good by providing all K-12 public school students in Oakland with a computer they could keep, a reliable internet connection and ongoing, multicultural tech support in languages families use.
At the start of the pandemic, only 12 percent of low-income students, and 25 percent of all students, in Oakland’s public schools had devices at home and a strong internet connection.
Now, two years into the pandemic, Oakland has been able to connect 98 percent of the students in the district. As of February, the city had provided nearly 36,000 laptops and more than 11,500 hot spots to low-income public school students.”
Creating City Villages Through Pocket Hoods
This project is one of the most exemplary co-housing models in the NW region of the USA. Finished in 2020, it's mix of duplexes and triplexes offer a range of scales and affordability, while dovetailing increased density into the urban fabric.
Tourism as a Tool for Inclusion
“Tales of a City Tours was founded in 2017 by a former student in the responsible tourism master’s course at Leeds Beckett University, Emily Stevenson, as a responsible walking tour company. The aim was to help tourists, local residents and forcibly displaced people connect with each other.
Our new study has found that walking tours led by refugees and asylum seekers helped the tour’s participants see their point of view, and helped the refugees gain new connections in the city.”
Empowering Citizens with Urban Farms
“After Argentina was faced with a huge economic crisis in 2001, the municipality of Rosario put a lot of time and effort into sustainable food production."
The municipality created the Urban Agriculture Program, which has turned vacant land into urban food gardens where low-income residents can cultivate food. They also get tools, materials, seeds and training to help locals grow food without chemicals. Today, the program has over 300 urban farmers, alleviates food scarcity and provides economic opportunities for many residents. It is a cornerstone of the city's climate action plan.”
Achieving Zero Homelessness
“Last year, Alberta’s Medicine Hat announced that it had become the first city in Canada to reach functional zero chronic homelessness.
The core of Medicine Hat’s success is its data-driven, housing-first approach – where people experiencing homelessness are first provided housing without any preconditions, then offered support to address other issues they may face.”
“People experiencing homelessness in Medicine Hat are not simply provided with a free space in a shelter or government-owned housing. […] Instead, the city works with the individuals to secure affordable, permanent housing, which depending on their needs may be a private apartment, house, or even a long-term hotel room or a lot rental for an RV.”
Same concept, but in Houston:
“During the last decade, Houston, the nation’s fourth most populous city, has moved more than 25,000 homeless people directly into apartments and houses. The overwhelming majority of them have remained housed after two years. The number of people deemed homeless in the Houston region has been cut by 63 percent since 2011.
Ten years ago, homeless veterans, one of the categories that the federal government tracks, waited 720 days and had to navigate 76 bureaucratic steps to get from the street into permanent housing with support from social service counselors. Today, a streamlined process means the wait for housing is 32 days.”
Decolonizing Communities by Offering Reparations
“In a pioneering effort to begin the healing process for decades of racial injustice, last year Evanston became the first city in the US to offer Black residents reparations.
Under the “Restorative Housing Program,” the first of the reparations initiatives, Evanston City Council has given an initial 16 qualifying Black households $25,000 for home repairs, down payments or mortgage payments. In order to qualify, residents must either have lived in — or be a direct descendant of a Black person who lived in — Evanston between 1919 to 1969 and suffered a form of discrimination related to housing because of city ordinances, policies or practices.”
“Up to 50 low-income residents in Pittsburgh will receive widespread multimodal transportation access to bikes, e-scooters, public transit, and car-sharing services during a yearlong pilot program intended to study the benefits of closing mobility gaps in a neighborhood with limited public transit options.
The yearlong pilot is funded through a $200,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, plus an additional $50,000 from [mobility provider] Spin.”
A super simple way to make streets safer: Paint
“Intersections are deadly places. More than half of all fatal or injury-causing car collisions occur at or near intersections. […] Art projects painted onto streets and intersections significantly improve safety, reducing the rate of crashes involving cars and pedestrians by up to 50% and all crashes by 17%, according to the study.”
Using Nature to Reduce Flooding, House By House
“New Orleans is in the midst of a green infrastructure revolution, and in smaller neighborhoods like Hoffman Triangle, residents are leading the way, house by house, block by block.
For many New Orleanians, water management isn’t about billion-dollar levees or century-old pumps. It’s about small, nature-based projects like that rain garden or pavement that allows water to soak in, new wetlands, or streets lined with trees. These installations reduce the burden on the city’s aging, overwhelmed drainage system and can do a lot toward improving the quality of life for residents fed up with routine flooding.“
A City With No Traffic Deaths for Years
“[Hobokon, a] city of 60,000 hasn’t had a single traffic fatality since 2018 and has consistently cut the number of crashes and injuries while — and by — aggressively installing the things that are proven to make cities safer and more efficient for everyone: bike lanes, curb extensions, bus lanes, high-visibility crosswalks, and raised intersections.
Few drivers park next to crosswalks in Hoboken, because they can’t. Those spots are blocked off with bike racks or planters or storm drains or extra sidewalk space for pedestrians or vertical plastic pylons that deter all but the boldest delivery-truck drivers. Stand at a corner, and you can see what is coming toward you, and drivers can see you too, and you don’t have to step out into the road and risk your life to do it.”
There you have it! Lots of inspiring ideas to boost sustainability and equity on a local scale, mostly low-cost and fast. If you now want to get going in your community, here is a neat collection of a few practical tools.
Please leave a like (or share this piece) if you enjoyed this! If there is lots of positive feedback I might expand this soon and turn it into a bigger thing.
That’s it for this week!