Urban Assemblages is a research by design studio linked to the Laboratory of Urbanism, Infrastructure, and Ecologies (LoUIsE). The studio starts from two convictions: (I) the capacity of cities to cast light on our present and (near)future; (ii) the need to start a socio-economic and ecological transition in them as the premise for a sustainable future anywhere else.
To be able to accompany such transition, the studio invites spatial designers to move beyond the object-centered legacy of urbanism and towards a systemic understanding of cities. This requires seizing up flows, actors and places into their proposals of urban transformation. Cities are indeed woven into material and energy flows and stocks, and depend upon specific technical and socio-economic processes of production and consumption (1).
To explore how we can partake in those processes as spatial designers becomes urgent in the turbulent and unstable times we inhabit, with the Earth system being pushed into the Anthropocene. How to incorporate the unsteady assemblages those flows and actors trigger (or are the result of) into the design of physical places? And how can we render those same assemblages more sustainable, eventually more ‘circular’ (2)? Can circularity indeed become the next normative framework for the way we systemically ‘redesign’ cities and the processes that get articulated in them?

These and yet more questions for all those willing to explore the operative potential of a systemic approach to urban design.

Nadia Casabella + Benoit BURQUEL

(1) This approach is known as Urban Metabolism (UM), clearly defined by Kennedy and fellow scholars as “the sum total of the technical and socio-economic processes that occur in cities, resulting in growth, production of energy and elimination of waste.” (in Kennedy, C., Cuddihy, J., & Engel-Yan, J. (2007). “The changing metabolism of cities”. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 11(2), 43-59).

(2) A Circular Economy (CE) “is regenerative and waste-free by design, where materials are indefinitely cycled at high quality, all energy is derived from renewable or otherwise sustainable sources, and natural and human capital are structurally supported rather than degraded through economic activities” (webpage of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation).

Image bandeau: “STANDA di Via Donna Prassede”, https://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1232367&page=3796

Mis à jour le 23 septembre 2019