Design and Politics: the next phase
3 - Climate Changing our Cities: 'Cool', or Wet and Warm?

Friday, 9 September 2011

The third in a series of seven thematic debates taking place in 2011 / 2012. 'Design and Politics: the next phase' was initiated by ANCB The Metropolitan Laboratory in collaboration with Henk Ovink, Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. That climate change is an abstract and long-term challenge makes it hard to keep it politically tactile and easy to postpone the necessary decision-making. Yet climate change has a maximum impact on our cities. Urgently there is a new 'cool city' at stake in climate-proofing the city against heat waves, water shortages and torrential rains; that is at once economically viable, socially resilient and climatically sustainable, and critically, that is only possible through the mobilisation of new alliances between design and governance.

Part I: Introduction

Part II: Statements and Discussion

Part I
Welcome and Introduction
Hans-Jürgen Commerell
, Director, ANCB The Metropolitan Laboratory - 00:00 - 02:50
Loek ten Hagen, Cultural Attaché, Dutch Embassy Berlin - 02:53 - 06:35
Beate Engelhorn, Curator, Aedes Architecture Forum - 06:40 - 09:54
Henk Ovink, Director for National Spatial Planning at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment - 10:05 - 18:34

Part II
Paula Verhoeven
, Director of Sustainability and Climate Change, City of Rotterdam - 00:00:00 - 00:09:33
Reiner Nagel, Head of Urban Planning and Open Spaces Division, Berlin Senate for Urban Development - 00:09:34 - 00:19:18
Han Meyer, Professor of Urban Design, Technical University Delft - 00:19:18 - 00:28:00
Dieter Grau, Founding partner, Atelier Dreiseitl, water sensitive urban design, Überlingen - 00:28:25 - 00:33:13
Edzo Bindels, Partner, West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, Rotterdam - 00:33:13 - 00:42:13

Podium Discussion
moderated by Henk Ovink, Director for National Spatial Planning at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment - 00:42:14 - 01:42:44


Henk Ovink opened with the observation that it is difficult to sustain political discussion around abstract challenges like climate change. He underscored the need to develop the ‘cool city’ that is sustainable as well as economically viable and socially resilient, and stressed that this effort demands new alliances between design and governance to generate public support and political courage.

Podium presentations then raised a number of issues, such as the ‘need for cities to lead and learn from each other’ [Paula Verhoeven]; the ‘need to integrate climate change with issues such as land use and water management’ [Reiner Nagel]; the need for ‘coordination between the city and the region’ [Han Meyer]; the idea that ‘engineering alone is insufficient’ and that ‘solutions must be appealingly integrated with everyday life’ [Dieter Grau]; and the provocative suggestion that designers must ‘make the public aware of climate rather than designing it away’ and must ‘transform problems into poetry’ [Edzo Bindels].

The discussion began with the conflict between the concentration of political power at the regional and national level and the greatest potential for action on climate change existing at the city scale. It was noted that there is also a conflict between electoral timescales and the decades and centuries over which climate change operates and must be addressed. Consequently, it was agreed that cities should form regional and international alliances to share experiences and coordinate actions. It was also suggested that effective action to address climate change at the municipal level must be integrated with other critical issues, such as economic development, tourism, and the provision of amenity space.

Regarding the role of design in these efforts, it was agreed that designers can contribute compelling visualisations of both challenges and solutions, should employ their analytical skills to break problems down into manageable components grounded in everyday life, and must encourage synergies among engineering, aesthetics and local context to enact what one participant termed the ‘performance of beauty’. It was agreed that while design education is currently dominated by the superficial manipulation of forms and materials, in the context of climate change it is more urgent to prepare designers to conceptualise solutions to complex problems through collaboration across a diversity of specialist disciplines.

Summary by Matthew Beattie for ANCB The Metropolitan Laboratory

We would like to thank the following institutions and enterprises for their generous support:
Netherlands Ministry for Infrastructure and Environment
Netherlands Architecture Fund
Dutch Embassy in Berlin
Pfefferberg - Haus 13
Kling und Freitag
Friedrich Naumann Stiftung

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