Francesca Galeazzi is a sustainability engineer and artist, currently working for the design studio of Arup Associates in Shanghai, in pursuit of a greener and more sustainable model of urban development in China. Her art work focuses on issues of climate change, urbanisation and sustainable development. Here, she continues our series on New metaphors for sustainability.
I underestimated the amount of time and thinking that it would take me to come up with something that I am happy with. Sustainability not only is something that I care about, but it is also extremely difficult to pin down to something specific. It holds many facets and most are often equally important!
Having said this, I still believe that diversity is key to sustainability.
Ecosystems rely on a complex set of relationships and interdependence of diverse species and creatures to sustain themselves. This is the basis of all life on our planet and applies to flora and fauna, as well as society and culture. However, the current aggressive approach to global development that we have experienced in the last century is threatening diversity at all levels.
Visualising diversity is a difficult task. The first images that sprung to my mind were not too dissimilar to the United People of Benetton campaign in the 90’s, highlighting the beauty of multiculturalism. But how obvious it is! I also thought about cities, food, gardens, oceans, the coral reef – but none seemed really appropriate.
The metaphor that to me best evokes the idea of both ecological and social diversity is the Amazon, probably the most important biodiverse and rich ecosystem of our planet, under so much threat of irreversible change. But the image of that magnificent tropical rainforest is not sufficient to me to evoke the notion of sustainability; as a general metaphor I think it is too obvious and worn out.
I am instead choosing the image of an indigenous tribe of the Amazon. To me this conveys not only the ecological issues that rainforests around the world face today (deforestation, illegal logging, land exploitation, mining, etc) but also talks about that fundamental element that is societal diversity. Indigenous tribes, ethnic minorities and rural communities around the world represent a huge treasure of culture and unique heritage that is under increasing threat of disappearance.
The indigenous tribe of the Amazon is a metaphor for all those ethnicities in the world under physical and cultural threat, and indirectly for their endangered environment, too. It is also a metaphor for knowledge and strength, for cultural richness and social resilience, for strong community cohesion, for respect and adaptability to the natural environment, all of which to me are the pillars of sustainability.
“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)
The editors are Robert Butler and Wallace Heim. The associate editor is Kellie Gutman. The editorial adviser is Patricia Morison.
Robert Butler’s most recent publication is The Alchemist Exposed (Oberon 2006). From 1995-2000 he was drama critic of the Independent on Sunday. See www.robertbutler.info
Wallace Heim has written on social practice art and the work of PLATFORM, Basia Irland and Shelley Sacks. Her doctorate in philosophy investigated nature and performance. Her previous career was as a set designer for theatre and television/film.
Kellie Gutman worked with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture for twenty years, producing video programmes and slide presentations for both the Aga Khan Foundation and the Award for Architecture.
Patricia Morison is an executive officer of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, a group of grant-making trusts of which the Ashden Trust is one.
Jointly organized by Japan Center, Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology and Institute for European Ethnology, and Seminar of Economic History of Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, and Urban Research Plaza of Osaka City University
The Japan Foundation, Osaka City University, State Ministry for Social Affairs of Bavaria, Münchener Universitätsgesellschaft
The conference Creating Cities: Culture, Space and Sustainability, which will take place from 25 to 27 February 2010, investigates the forces that shape the conditions of urban development and the creation of cities in comparative and interdisciplinary perspective. In recent years, the notion of the „creative city“ has become a guiding framework for thinking about the present and future state of cities and their capability of coping with the impact and challenges of globalization. Cities are regarded as engines of regional, national, and global economic growth because they are the key centers for cultural production and consumption and target areas for mobility and migration. They are also contested sites because of increasing cultural and social diversity. Simultaneously, cities use cultural diversity and even counter-cultures to display appealing images and representations of creativity and innovation. Many citizens aspire to live and work in the cosmopolitan global environments that only metropolitan centers seem to be able to provide, but cities also provide vital space for the challenged, homeless, and other socially disadvantaged groups. The resolution of social disparities is consequently becoming an urgent policy task. Environmental and social sustainability, urban revitalization and amenity are major keywords of our time.
In this context, this conference focuses on the interactions among culture, sustainability, and space. We would like to emphasize inquiry into the dynamics of cultural creativity, industries and production, the risks and benefits of both cultural diversity and social inclusion or exclusion, the sustainability of efforts to plan and redesign the urban built environment to promote creativity, and the identity politics of representations of the city and creativity in the popular imagination as well as spaces of heritage and tourism. We recognize that there are many different groups and focal points related to creating cities, so one major purpose of this conference is to create a framework in which both practitioners and researchers of different disciplines can interact and share ideas about how urban environments are being transformed.
As global market forces penetrate hitherto closed rural areas wherever market liberalization occurs, urbanization, too, is progressing rapidly. Even though regional differences obviously do exist the global ratio of urban population has now crossed the 50-percent line. While mega cities may be one of the most conspicuous phenomena of the present urbanization the term urban must be understood in a much broader sense. The fact that the majority of urban dwellers still lives in smaller and medium-sized settlements is frequently overlooked. Only through a combined effort of local supplier development, national institutional support, and foreign investment can there be any real benefits from for example creative cluster development and economies of scale and scope. Two prominent regions of Southeast Asia, namely the Greater Mekong Region and Singapore, will serve as examples as this session will investigate the relationship between the process of creating cities and the making of creative cities.
Session 1: Creative Diversity, Socioscapes, and Cultural Politics
This session critically reviews current notions and implications of cultural diversity in cities by bringing together broadly three strands: representation, socioscapes, and cultural politics. The interplay between creating particular urban images and the urban condition of particular socioscapes, ranging from less empowered groups such as those that are affected by transnational precarization to elite diasporas, will be examined.
Session 2: City Marketing
Cities are increasingly undertaking marketing activities to support their local economy. By way of example, this section will look at how city marketing may cope with challenges in terms of communication content, tools or media, and with regard to underlying organizational structures and processes.
Session 3: Mobility and Built Environment
Mobility is a crucial aspect of globalization and the development of more efficient mobility systems on a grand scale is a significant locus for planning activity in global cities. This session will compare and contrast corporate and planning approaches to mobility issues in several global cities.
Session 4: Networks
Global cities rely upon networks with other cities, and the institutions, infrastructure, character, extent and effects of such inter-city networking are the subject for this session. It will identify the possibilities and constraints on such network development.
For the duration of the symposium (25-27 February) our invited guests will be staying at the Savoy Hotel Munich at Amalienstrasse 25 (Tel. +49 (0) 89 / 287870 – how to get there). At the hotel, they will receive the conference folder, containing also a map with the symposium venue indicated. The symposium venue is literally just down the street, at Amalienstrasse 38, i.e. in easy walking distance (cf. the Google Maps location of the hotel).