The Open House Worldwide Conference 2012, hosted by CBRE in London, centered on the cohesive development of our cities this year. There were a lot of delegates present from important companies like BDP, Hawkins Brown, Nicholas Hare Architects, Pick Everard and Foster + Partners. International member of the growing Open House family were also present, including New York and Tel-Aviv. And Victoria Thornton, founder of this conference, said that Philadelphia also hopes to join the 22-strong Open House family.
Thornton said that the main focus of the conference this year was on how to create Smart Cities that use technology with design innovations while addressing pressing social agendas. So it was very appropriate that the conference started with a presentation by Rashik Parmar, President of IBM Academy of Technology, since the whole concept of Smart Cities emerged from the world of IT.
Parmar talked about the importance of the citizens of cities. He said that analytic technology can be used to support the sustainability agendas. He strengthened his words by giving the example of IBMs Rio de Janero’s intelligent Operations Centre. They reduced traffic accident delays from one hour to ten minutes.
Lean Doody, known for her work within Arup’s Smart Cities, describes cities as ‘engines of innovation’ which should allow people to interact in efficient manners. San Francisco was highlighted as one of the key cities in the creation of Smart Cities because this city already uses a lot of technological innovations to create smart living and working places. For example they introduced a smart parking app which reduced the carbon emission and congestion. Sensors were places into every parking space within the city of San Francisco, these sensors can give information to the people in the city, telling them which parking spaces are available. This reduces block-cycling car emissions and it generates traffic data that can be used for further, future development.
Tim Stonor, Managing Director of Space Syntax, talked about how important space is in his presentation ‘Human Cities’. He said that many historical masterplans often failed because they are rarely realized in their entirety. So careful incremental development is needed to provide the opportunity to learn and improve upon past failings. This can be the path to smarter progress.
Our cities nowadays are shielded, and this can cause a discontinuous flow which exaggerated the need for fossil fuels, by the increased consumption of stop-start traffic. So a good connectivity in road and transport networks is very important for social, economic, cultural and intellectual developments. These are the main purposes of the city and these should also influence the design of the city.
Stonor said that we have to think about the shift in the world’s urban population, which will probably triple by 2050. The current trend of informal settlements being ‘locally connected and globally disconnected’ has to shift, more diverse cities need to be created because this will be better for the inhabitants and for the cities themselves.
He said our planet will face challenges in the future which we never heard of because the planet never had to face these challenges before. He encourages cities to speculate about how we might design for these challenges because in the future, cities will be a vital answer to many of the challenges. So they must be seamlessly designed to provide and enhance serendipitous interactions between people.
Malcolm Smith, Director of Arup, said that we have to start thinking smart all the time now and cities must be designed and measured in a way that citizens can afford and want to stay in them. He used the heat networks of London Thames Gateway as an example to emphasize that we must be inherently smart.
So the conference had a very diverse range of speakers from different backgrounds. The conference looked beyond the architecture’s immediate sphere of influence because in order to create Smart Cities, we need to tackle much more issues than architecture. Issues like future pressure of climate change, environmental disaster, terrorism and population growth need to be tackles to work towards smart, cohesive cities.