Anouk van den Eijnde writes:
The majority of the world’s 6.5 billion residents now live in cities – cities that are often overpopulated, congested and hostile to pedestrians and cyclists. Take Mexico City, for example, with a population of more than 20 million people: it suffers from pollution, traffic, water shortage and a high crime rate. The once attractive public spaces are now deemed by local residents to be too dangerous to spend time in. The mayor is slowly tackling these issues by revitalizing its historic centre, improving public transport and dealing with its acute water shortage. But what do residents really want from their cities?
Caracas-based architects Brillembourg and Klumpner, founders of the Urban Think Tank, are consulting local residents and community groups in an attempt to find sustainable solutions to the city’s ever-exploding population. Their focus is on the growing ‘informal cities’ where four out of its six million inhabitants are squatting the hillsides in self-built constructions. One of their initiatives is a cable car system connecting the valley to Caracas’ public transport system. Their site has an engaging video about their work.
Taking a leaf out of the ‘livable streets’ initiative – which encourages people to re-imagine how their cities would be if they were healthier and more sustainable – the American magazine GOOD asked people to do just that, and redesign their streets to make them more ‘livable’. The task was to take a photo of a street or intersection you know and hate, then use Photoshop or other image software to make the changes you wanted to see. Green spaces, bike lanes, street art, playgrounds, exercise machines – it could be anything. The winners, though mostly North American, demonstrate the value of visions in making change, and there’s also a whole gallery of entries.
Another example of involving people in urban design is Fix My Street, a UK website from the team at mySociety that allows people to report local problems like vandalism, broken lights and litter. You can simply type in the postcode online (or on your i-phone), find the location on the map and type in the problem. Comments are then sent directly to the local council on the users’ behalf. Who better to influence the design and maintenance of neighbourhoods than its local residents?