Contrary to the statements of some and the hopes of many, there are no silver bullets for solving challenges surrounding sustainability. Part of this is due to the complexity of the problems, some is due to the fact that there are so many points of view for problem solving and a piece of the responsibility falls on the fact that there are so many different situations around the world with unique contextual conditions, making their problems in turn unique. As a result, collaboration makes a world of sense as we approach sustainable goals and the best solutions can come from components that span cities, countries and even continents.
An organization called STHLMNYC recently launched its inaugural event in New York to promote collaboration between designers from urban centers on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Held at the AIA’s Center for Architecture in Manhattan, the gathering hosted eight architects, four representing both New York and Stockholm, to present their work and its engagement to ideas of urban sustainability and resiliency. I had the pleasure of being asked to speak on behalf of COOKFOX Architects as one of the quartet of New York firms. The entire group of panelists included:
- Sara Grahn : White
- Mattias Gustafsson : Urbio
- Gena Wirth : SCAPE
- Maurizio Bianchi Mattioli : WorkAC
- Emma Jonsteg : Utopia
- Matthew Clarke : SHoP
- Stefan Sjöberg : Kjellander + Sjöberg
- Tyler Caine : COOKFOX
The breadth of the panel brought a refreshing variety of approaches to urban resiliency. The discourse of the firms included the need to make sustainability affordable if not economically attractive, the need for increased coordination with political groups and a focus on tapping natural systems for interventions paired with natural ecologies. I was able to speak mostly about COOKFOX’s focus on biophilia (which is?) on their South Street Seaport project as well as the Footprint Power Plant in Salem, Massachusetts.
The video of the event chronicles presentations from each of the eight offices as well as closing presentations from urban planning representatives from the cities of New York and Stockholm. It was interesting to see the different ways that urban planning departments presented their respective cities–seeming that New York’s image was focused much more on milestones and process that had been made while Stockholm’s presentation focused more on looking ahead to what needed to be done–both important for meaningful progress to ensue.
The collection of speakers served as not only the beginning of a new organizations spectacular efforts to promote awareness and seek solutions for a new generation of cities, but also a reminder of the wide range of ideas that occur both across the design profession and across the world.