NewsJuly 13, 2023

From Copenhagen to New York

Architects for Sustainable Cities and Communities

Rick Bell, FAIA, NOMA, CSU President
From Copenhagen to New York Architects for Sustainable Cities and Communities
From Copenhagen to New York Architects for Sustainable Cities and Communities

The Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization was pleased to participate in the 7/12 UN Sustainable Developments Roundtable program titled From Copenhagen to New York: Architects for Sustainable Cities and Communities. Organized by Christine Auclair, Coordinator of the World Urban Campaign of UN-Habitat in Nairobi, the discussion took place at Perkins Eastman Architects and was hosted by Brad Perkins, Nicholas Leahy and Ted Liebman.

Introductory remarks included observations by Jessica L. Morris, co-chair of the AIA New York Planning & Urban Design Committee; Elizabeth Debs, past chair of the AIA Housing and Community Development Knowledge Community; and Michal Mlynar, Deputy Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary General at UN-Habitat.

On behalf of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization, it was noted that the 2023 UIA World Congress in Copenhagen centered on how design can combat climate change, enhance biodiversity and promote social inclusion. The ‘Copenhagen Lessons’ focused on dignity and agency; people at risk; existing structures; green-fields; natural ecosystems; material re-use; eliminating waste; local renewable materials; carbon capture; and water ecosystems. Consistent with the goals of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the CSU strives to share policies and projects that advance SDG11 with particular focus on resilient architecture, planning and design.

Takeaway comments about the recent UIA Congress in Copenhagen and UN-Habitat meeting in Nairobi were forthcoming from Etty Padmodipoetro, AIA National Board Member; Dr. Anna Rubbo, CSU Board Member; and Kathleen Dorgan, past chair of the AIA Housing and Community Development Knowledge Community. The heart of the program was a roundtable moderated by Lance Jay Brown, immediate past-president and co-founder of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization.

All participants were allowed two minutes for remarks, the key points of which are summarized or abbreviated as follows, with apologies for over-simplification or omission.

Elizabeth Debs: the important issues are limiting greenfield development and encouraging adaptive re-use.

Etty Padmodipoetro: there is a ripple effect, so it is important to avoid single-use solutions; there is a great need to convert offices to affordable housing, as we are now doing in Boston.

Roger Jann: the 2,000-Watt city is desperately needed, especially when compared with the average US usage of 13,000 Watts per person; apart from Mumbai, India’s usage is 800 W/p.

Katherine Kline: we need to do more to advocate for older folks, including but not limited to issues of disabilities and implementation of Universal Design.

Christine Auclair: an important takeaway from the 2023 UIA Congress in Copenhagen was a strong commitment to radical sustainability.

Anna Rubbo: UIA 23 set a high bar by presenting and publishing 250 research papers on the six SDGs themes that speak to the Leave No One Behind: Sustainable Futures theme of the Congress.  It would be helpful for us to review this research output and consider how to localize the Ten Copenhagen Lessons.

Nadia Westcott: key issues relate to the refugee crisis and what cities are doing to deal with unexpected migration.

Illya Azaroff: at AIA National the key issues of sustainability and resilience start with an awareness that on a global level resilience comes first.

Rick Bell: multidisciplinary design is a necessity, particularly when pushing for social benefits from physical infrastructure; this is seen particularly in the area of public transit.

Nadya Nylina: in Ukraine rebuilding must involve public participation at the grassroots level with an emphasis on knowledge and technology transfer and local capacity building.

Aliye Celik: knowledge transfer and local capacity building is extremely important everywhere, not just in Ukraine; it is important to bring the private sector and local government together.

Metin Celik: getting local government involved as partners is critical; without local government participation, architects are not equipped to implement what we need to do.

Yasemin Kologlu: we are running out of time; today we know how to design for zero carbon emissions, for water, for energy; we need to design with and for local knowledge.

Jesús Salcedo Villanueva: we need to build the projects that can take place today, not the projects that can only take place tomorrow in our dreams.

Peter Cavaluzzi: I am optimistic about the future of cities; the pandemic opens up opportunities to think about public space and building re-use and  about ‘simultaneity’ – the ability to live your life in different types of spaces.

Nicole Vlado Torres: we need to be able to translate collaboration and share ideas, not hoarding them or constantly competing for projects.

Jessica Morris: we need to confront the fear that is out there in the community and operate with empathy to alleviate some of the pressures through good design and quick wins.

Katherine Williams: the Solar Decathlon is a good example of projects that can be done at universities that bring a global perspective and have a bigger impact than local action.

Andrew Rudd: there is no SDG 11 without the built environment; architecture is inherently interdisciplinary.

Karen Kubey: we need to concentrate on issues of housing justice; one mechanism to do so is the Right to Housing Working Group.

Andrés Pastoriza: one important mechanism is the enhancement of zoning to allow for additional development.

Nick Leahy: it is important to have a team of people with different areas of expertise and to have humility; architects can bring teams together, but we have to get everyone else in the room, not just architects; we have the skills but not all the solutions.

Femi Olamijulo: the median age in many countries in Africa is 19 years; we need to work with youth through academia, learning and sharing knowledge.

Vincent Kitto: architects have failed the Global South; there are 160 million people without housing; the most important issue is energy access and energy efficiency.

Kathy Dorgan: housing and finance go  together; I am not hearing enough urgency – we cannot wait to solve our climate crisis.

Ted Liebman: SDG 11 has been my bible for quite a while; now we are confronted with issues of migration, and people not coming back to their home cities; how do we divide our time between the local and global issues we face?

Lance Jay Brown: we need to figure out ways to use what we already have and reinforce a sense of redundancy; density, mixed-use, mobility and redundancy relate to a critical level of urgency that can’t be overlooked; we need to bring optimism to the table – we are obliged to bring optimism.

Eloquent concluding remarks were delivered by Katherine Williams and Christine Auclair.



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