Tiny houses with major benefits | smart magazine



Is Urban Agriculture Utopian? | The Dirt


Urban agriculture is a phenomenon today,” said Farham Karim, an architectural historian at the University of Kansas, at the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) conference in New Orleans. Upwards of 70 million people are now involved around the globe — on Farmville, at least, the popular game app, he laughed. But, in reality, there are many millions involved it in on the ground, too. With all the growing interest, Karim played devil’s advocate, wondering: is urban agriculture scalable? And who is going to be doing all this urban farming? And if we know it’s not a realistic solution for solving the world’s food problems, why the persistent interest?

Food and urban life have been deeply intertwined ever since humans moved into settlements. In the modern era, there have been new conceptions of the relationship. Frank Lloyd Wright came up with his Broad Acre concept, with a “vast suburban landscape” that would be farmed. During World War II, urban agriculture actually took off, as “food production contributed to the wartime food supply.”

In different eras, there have also been “communal self-sufficiency movements.” Karim traced those all the way to contemporary artist and activist Fritz Haegand his Edible Estate project, which aims to “attack the front lawn,” turning it from a useless, decorative object into a productive, agricultural space. Karim said new activists like Haeg “want us all to come together to toil the land.” They seeing gardening in urban areas as a way to “empower social groups and create a strong sense of community” in an age when nature and culture seem in opposition. But Karim also argued Haeg and others promote urban gardens for social benefits are really just like the 20th century avante-garde, creating “idealized prototypes.” Can we go beyond these and create a “useful model for urban agriculture?”

The central plank of Karim’s critique of urban agriculture is that in its promotion, it “mystifies human labor.” Urban agriculture in reality is “sweaty, painful labor.” Engaging human labor in cities over the long-term to farm is not easy, practical, or cost-effective. “Who is going to maintain these farms — a marginalized population? The working poor don’t have time.” Karim concluded that urban agriculture, at least in the West, is for the middle class who volunteer because they have time. It’s a luxury many can’t afford.

Many of Karim’s arguments are contradicted in a fascinating new book, Farming Cuba: Urban Agriculture from the Ground Up by Carey Clouse. She argues that Cuba’s unique model of urban agriculture may provide lessons for the rest of us. “Alternative models for self-sufficiency demand our attention” given that “ending the era of cheap oil threatens global food security” and current industrial food practices.


After the U.S. began its embargo against Cuba and the Soviet bloc fell apart in the late 1980s, leaving Cuba without any trading partners, the country initiated a massive campaign to turn cities into places for not only living and working but also producing food. “In the face of resource scarcity, Cubans responded by rethinking land use, implementing organic farming practices, and developing low-input agricultural systems, and honing techniques for independence on an island without oil.” By 2002, some 86,450 acres of urban Cuban land was being farmed, creating 3.2 million tons of food. In Havana alone, some 12 percent of the city was being cultivated, with 22,000 urban and suburban producers at work.

All that local food production has not only created calories but also boosted resilience, largely because the system is so decentralized. “This is a ground-up movement in which growers have the power to choose the food they produce, the seeds they save, and the land they cultivate, and consumers gain increased control over the quantity and quality of food access.” And all that local control has also increased “social and civic engagement.”

The system of socialist self-sufficiency extends into all aspects of Cuban urban food production. Farmers are using animal traction, organic soil amendments, biological pest control, and “biofertilizers” or “biopesticides,” which are microbial formulations nontoxic to humans.

Clouse does a great job of explaining to the reader all the different farming types, bringing the diversity of the system to life through these clever diagrams. For each type of farm, we learn the spanish and english names, the average size of these places, their prevalence, the products they create, the materials they are made of, and the kinds of people who farm them.

And then photographer Andrew Cook really brings this agricultural infrastructure to life.

Clouse explains that “Cubans hail urban agriculture as a boon for community, occasionally in all too-idealistic terms.” But the reality on the ground, all that “sweaty, painful labor” Karim spoke about, doesn’t come through in this book at all.

06/13/2014 by J. Green

+ artículo publicado en The Dirt


Singapore Sets a Record For World’s Largest Vertical Garden | Archinect


Image via blogs.wsj.com.

In land-scarce Singapore greenery too is going sky-ward, with a 24-storey condominium earning a Guinness record for boasting the world’s largest vertical garden.
Tree House condominium, completed in 2013 by property firm City Developments Limited, has covered its façade in nearly 2,300 square meters of greenery. […]
The condo uses the plants as natural insulation to help filter pollution, absorb heat and reduce the amount of energy needed to cool individual units. —

+ artículo publicado en Archinect

Cooperative City, Cooperative Community | Urban Omnibus

Despite its distance from the center of New York City, Co-op City’s site and scale make it prominent on the landscape: anyone who’s driven north on I-95 has taken note of this final cluster of high-rises before crossing city limits into the lower density suburbs of Westchester County. Critics, historians, and even the Supreme Court have noticed as well, weighing in since construction began in 1966 on what the complex signifies for housing finance, site planning, cooperative ownership, ethnic and racial diversity, and tenants’ rights. It’s become both a positive and negative case study in how to value design, how to maintain affordability, and whom to send the bill for upkeep. But it is far from prototypical. At every juncture in its history, Co-op City has been deemed exceptional: each article or essay mentions its status as “the largest cooperative housing development in the world” or “the tenth largest city in New York State.” But the superlatives that set it apart don’t mean it has no lessons to offer the wider conversation on housing. Two years ago, Juliette Spertus and Susanne Schindler contrasted Co-op City with Twin Parks, another, less well-known affordable housing development in the Bronx. And this week, Caitlin Blanchfield returns to Co-op City and uncovers the particular nuances it adds to our understanding of social infrastructure, intergenerational continuity, community pride, and, of course, affordability.

Typecast is the Architectural League’s long-term investigation into architectural typologies, starting with “towers-in-the-park.” The term refers to complexes of multi-family, high-rise housing, located on a dedicated “superblock” of open space that is disconnected from the street system. This project seeks to move beyond stereotypes of architectural form by revealing the social and spatial specificities of distinct sites that share physical characteristics and philosophies of design but differ greatly in their lived experience.



+ artículo publicado en Urban Omnibus

Feds Okay $1-Billion Los Angeles River Project | Archinect

This rendering shows what a revitalized LA River could look like. (Image via kcet.org)

The jury is in and the Los Angeles River’s future seems to be bright. After more than six months of intense lobbying by the city, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) has announced that it will be recommending a more ambitious $1-billion plan to restore an 11-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River from downtown through Elysian Park. — kcet.org

+ artículo publicado en Archinect

Biodiversity: The Next Step in Sustainability | a smarter planet

Biodiversity management is the next generation of corporate sustainability strategy. Biodiversity, or the variety of life in an ecosystem, is an important factor in the ecological services that make life on this planet possible.

Biodiversity supplies us with crucial pharmaceutical ingredients, promotes stability in ecosystems, and gives us a sense of wonder and appreciation for our natural environment. The Amazon Rainforest produces 20% of the oxygen we breathe.[1]Pollinators make it possible to grow the crops we eat.

Leading companies are beginning to actively address the value of biodiversity as a way to improve the value chain and mitigate reputational risk. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

For starters, currently there is no established mechanism for attributing economic value to biodiversity. And in most cases, the biggest impacts on biodiversity usually occur far upstream in the supply chain. That means that downstream companies may be far removed from activities that damage ecosystems and therefore struggle with a lack of control.

To manage these complexities, corporate leaders are tackling biodiversity through a number of strategies from both risk and opportunity perspectives.

In a famous example, Coca-Cola invested in wetland restoration to support natural water filtration. Companies have also started  to look for ways to protect biodiversity to promote goodwill with consumers and the communities in which they work. General Motors, for example, has set the goal of certifying all manufacturing sites as certified wildlife habitats.

In terms of innovation and opportunity, businesses have invented a number of ways to use biodiversity to create value. These are just a few of the more popular ideas:

  • Market biodiversity and its protection as a key value proposition to customers

  • Leverage cross-sector partnerships to promote transparency

  • Look to big data to support decision-making

  • Utilize natural processes to replace cost-side efforts

  • Build new products inspired by or directly using biodiversity and biomimicry

  • Account for biodiversity as a revenue-generating asset


By Mary Fritz 

+ artículo publicado en a smarter planet

Naturopolis – la série | arte

Comment les mégalopoles tentent de se réconcilier avec la nature. En quatre volets, une vaste réflexion sur les défis environnementaux qui nous attendent

Plus de la moitié de l’humanité vit désormais en ville. Parallèlement, la faune et la flore investissent de plus en plus les milieux urbains. Avec une conséquence surprenante : les relations entre les animaux et les hommes n’ont jamais été aussi nombreuses, denses et riches ! Pour la première fois, l’exploration de la biodiversité est placée au cœur de la ville et des activités humaines. Et pour la première fois, la ville est appréhendée au travers de la nature qui s’y déploie. Dans Naturopolis, acteurs, penseurs, scientifiques, rêveurs et bâtisseurs de demain nous invitent à explorer les richesses naturelles méconnues de quatre mégalopoles : New York, Paris, Rio de Janeiro et Tokyo

Réalisateurs : Bernard Guerrini et Mathias Schmitt
Producteurs : Docside Production, ARTE France

+ artículo publicado en arte


“Wheatfield: a confrontation” por Agnes Denes | More than Green


En el verano de 1982, la artista de landart, Agnes Denes, plantó un trigal de dos acres en el vertedero Battery Park de Manhattan. (…) El trigal fue un símbolo de las políticas existentes en cuando a la alimentación, el comercio y la economía. Además, reflexionaba sobre la manera en la que se dejó de lado el debate sobre la gestión de los residuos, el hambre en el mundo o los problemas ecológicos. (…) Esta obra de arte ha viajado a casi una treintena de ciudades gracias a la exposición itinerante “The International Art Show for the End of World Hunger”, organizada por el museo de arte de Minnesota. (…)” (fuente de texto y fotos: Agnes Denes)


(via Agnes Denes)

AgnesDenes-wheatfield-more than green 2 AgnesDenes-wheatfield-more than green 3 AgnesDenes-wheatfield-more than green 4

Julia Cervantes

+ artículo publicado en More than Green


State, Local Governments Hiring Again | ICMA – Center for State and Local Government Excellence

May 21, 2014

Local and state governments continue their hiring trend although their workforces are still smaller since the 2008 economic downturn; recruitment and retention continue to be challenges; and pressure on benefits continues, particularly health care.
State and Local Government Workforce:  2014 Trends is an annual survey conducted by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, the International Public Management Association for Human Resources, and National Association of State Personnel Executives of human resource professionals. Two hundred ninety-eight IPMA-HR and NASPE members took part in the survey, which was conducted in March and April 2014.
Sixty-six percent of respondents reported hiring employees in the past year, with 55 percent hiring more than they did in 2012. One-third reported hiring contract or temporary workers.
At the same time, the pace of retirements quickened: 49 percent reported higher levels of retirement in 2013 than 2012, and 22 percent reported employees had accelerated their retirement.
Changes to benefits continue:

  • Sixty-one percent reported their government made changes to health benefits for both active and retired employees. The most common changes were to shift more costs from the employer to employees (53 percent) and to institute wellness programs (31 percent).
  • Thirty-five percent reported their government altered retirement benefits over the past year, with about one-fourth requiring increased contributions to pensions from both current and new employees.

Looking ahead, the majority of respondents say their top concerns are:

  • Recruiting and retaining qualified personnel
  • Staff development
  • Succession planning
  • Employee morale
  • Competitive compensation packages
  • Public perception of government workers
  • Reducing employee health care costs
  • Dealing with increased employee workloads.

“Although more local and state governments are able to hire again, it is difficult to find people with the right skill sets for the jobs,” noted Elizabeth Kellar, president/CEO, Center for State and Local Government Excellence. “Retaining and developing staff is a high priority, especially with the pace of retirements.”

“The survey results confirm that the economy is improving, although most government workforces are still smaller than they were in 2008,” added Neil Reichenberg, executive director, IPMA-HR. “The environment remains challenging for state and local governments due to a continued focus on reducing costs through changes to benefits and an increase in retirements as baby boomers leave the workforce. Not surprisingly, workforce and succession planning is seen as an important issue and this is likely to be the case for the foreseeable future.”
“Some of the trends we see have been consistent over the past five years, such as a majority of personnel executives reporting changes to health care benefits each year,” said Leslie Scott, director, National Association of State Personnel Executives. “Still, 61 percent reporting changes in 2013 is the highest level to date.” 

+ artículo publicado en ICMA Fund 

Megaregions: Foundations, Frailties, Futures | GaWc

J. Harrisonand M. Hoyler


This chapter argues that the rhetoric and can-do bravado which currently surrounds megaregions has raced too far ahead of the sustained theoretical and rigorous empirical work needed to support many of the assertions, assumptions, claims and investments being made in the belief that megaregions do constitute globalization’s new urban form. Critically examining the foundations upon which the megaregion discourse has been constructed, this chapter conceptualizes the position occupied by the megaregion in debates prior to the onset of globalization, and then discusses how the concept has been reawakened during globalization. It then explores four separate, yet interrelated, lines of argumentation which cut into the megaregional debate as it is currently constructed and form the basis for developing a more critical approach toward megaregional research: (1) the megaregional gaze; (2) megaregional form and function; (3) imagined megaregions; and (4) the role of social actors. Concluding with some cautionary remarks about the challenges and opportunities for near-future megaregional research, the chapter moves megaregional debate forward from questions of definition, identification and delimitation to questions of agency (who or what is constructing megaregions), process (how are megaregions being constructed) and specific interests (why are megaregions being constructed); a task that requires a more political and more historical perspective on megaregions.


I hope that his own definition will be heeded; for the term is so awe-inspiring, and the phenomenon it describes so dramatic and novel, that it is very easy for misconceptions to take root. (Hecksher, 1964, p. vii) August Hecksher is a name that is not necessarily instantly recognizable as being pivotal to the intellectual development of research on megaregions. Yet his words offer a profound insight into what lies at the heart of a critical research agenda for those of us whose interest in megaregions has brought us to contribute to this edited collection. When you consider the term Hecksher is alluding to is ‘megalopolis’, and that his quote appears in the foreword to the paperback edition of Jean Gottmann’s classic twentieth-century urban geography and planning text Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States1, the relevance to contemporary work on megaregions starts to become clearer. His words take on added significance when you cast your eye over just some of the many terms that have been used over the last half century by geographers and planners to describe the phenomena of sprawling urbanized landscapes comprising clustered networks of cities: megalopolis … archipelago economy, galactic city, string city, limitless city, endless city, liquid city, global city-region, world city-region, mega city-region, polycentric metropolis, new megalopolis, megapolitan region, metro region, polynuclear urban region, super urban area, super region … megaregion.

The first question to consider, then, is why are we focusing on megaregions? After all, if you look back to Peter Taylor and Robert Lang’s (2004) list of 50 names given to new metropolitan forms, the term megaregion is not present, while the most recently published ‘dictionaries’ in human geography both omit megaregion – though interestingly retain entries on ‘megalopolis’ (Castree et al., 2013; Gregory et al., 2009). Is the term megaregion simply less important than we think it is? Or perhaps the megaregion is as transient as some of the other concepts listed by Taylor and Lang (‘cities a la carte’, ‘servurb’ and ‘sprinkler city’) used to account for current or near-future urban form?

Our starting point is that despite considerable dispute over what the term might mean, an increasing number of commentators seem willing to agree that megaregions are important phenomena in globalization. One widely circulated story is that megaregions constitute globalization’s new urban form. Here commentators appear convinced that the expansion of globalizing cities into larger city-regions is being superseded by trans-metropolitan landscapes comprising networked urban centres and their surrounding area. They appear captivated by a perception that what goes on in megaregions is foreboding our urban futures. And they seem assured that what occurs in megaregions constitutes the leading-edge of capitalist endeavour, driving competitiveness (Ross, 2009) and determining life opportunities (Florida, 2008). From its origins in the United States (Dewar and Epstein, 2007; Lang and Dhavale, 2005; Regional Plan Association, 2006), through to its parallels in European spatial planning (Faludi, 2009), and its spread and application to all manner of different geographical contexts (Yang, 2009; Pieterse, 2010; UN-Habitat, 2010; Weller and Boteller, 2013), there can be little doubt as to the importance currently being attached to the megaregion concept by its many advocates.

Nowhere is this intellectual buzz and appetite for megaregions more fervent than in the United States. Inspired by Gottmann’s (1961) prediction that ‘megalopolis’ was the antecedent to a new spatial order that would emerge nationwide during the late twentieth-century, the beginning of this century saw the Regional Plan Association (RPA) consider making their own statement on what they saw as the current and near-future ‘megaregional’ geography of the United States. Launched in 2005, America 2050 is that vision. It identifies 11 emerging megaregions as prototypes for balanced and sustainable growth across the United States during the first half of the twenty-first century

America 2050_Megaregiones





Table 1.1 From megalopolis to megaregions (and beyond)


The largest megaregion of 121.6 million is Pearl River Delta. It is worth noting that back in 2009 it was reported that plans were afoot to expand the region politically so the population of the Pearl River Delta would reach 260 million (Forbes, 2011).

Figure 1 A typology of global urban-regional spatial configurations

Source: Authors


– Geographical Excursions: A Spiky World of Megaregions, a Spiky World of Megaregion Interest

– From the Visible to the Invisible: Examining Megaregion Form and Function

– Imagined Megaregions? Megaregional Space, Spaces of the Megaregion

– Whose Megaregion is it?


Our ambition for embarking on this project has been to prompt more critical analyses of megaregions, megaregionality and the megaregion concept. By setting out to provide an introduction to what we hope will become a wider debate on megaregions, we have encouraged contributors to be more provocative than they may otherwise be in their academic writing. To facilitate this we asked authors to specifically address three questions in their chapters:

•  How robust are the foundations upon which the megaregion concept has been constructed?

•  What are the methodological challenges of researching megaregions?

•  Do megaregions constitute ‘globalization’s new urban form’? If not, are there alternative (more suitable) spatial frameworks?

Linking these central themes is the argument that in order to advance intellectual and practical debates on megaregions, attention needs to be focused on the who, the how and the why of megaregions much more than the whatand the where of megaregions. Our aim is to move the debate forward from questions of definition, identification and delimitation to questions of agency (who or what is constructing megaregions), process (how are megaregions being constructed) and specific interests (why are megaregions being constructed); something which, we argue, requires a more political and more historical perspective on megaregions (Harrison and Hoyler, 2014b).

+ artículo publicado en GaWC