Category: Cities

By 2050, about 75% of world’s population will live in cities. Cities play a key role in developing resilient and sustainable societies.

Meet the CityTree: clean and cool air in the city

photo: Damián Bakarcic

Being raised in a rural village in Belgium, living in the busy and polluted city of Barcelona makes me crave for some fresh air every now and then. I am certainly not the only one. 90% of the world’s urban population is breathing polluted air. Sometimes called the silent killer, air pollution is responsible for nearly half a million premature deaths a year in Europe alone. I know everyone is freaking out about ISIS right now, but the real killer is all around us and we have created it ourselves.

A CityTree installed in Oslo is drawing attention (photo: Oslo Phototour)

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Meet The Growroom: IKEA’s sustainable city garden

With the coldest of winter behind us and the promise of spring in the air, the gardeners under my readers might feel the call of nature to start growing food again. Or maybe you would love to grow some yourself, but happen to live in an urban area with little open space? Do not despair! IKEA’s designer lab Space10 has the solution for you: the Growroom. Meant to be a community garden to grow local vegetables and herbs, the designers recently made the plans available to everyone.  Team up with your neighbors and friends and get building –only 17 steps!

The Growroom (photo: Space10)

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Nanjing Towers: China’s Bosco Verticale

courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

It’s no secret that China has serious problems with air pollution. In December last year, the situation in the capital Bejing became so bad it halted everyday life: schools were closed, planes grounded and cars banned from the roads. In a radical move to fight the issue, Chinese urban developers are envisioning forest cities where offices, hotels and residential buildings are covered in a blaze of plant life. The first step is underway in Nanjing, the capital of China’s eastern Jiangsu province: the Nanjing Towers.

Artist impression of the Nanjing Towers (courtesy Stefano Boeri)

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Smart Barcelona: Superblocks to save the city

Exactly one week ago I embarked on one of the most exciting journeys of my life. With a oneway ticket to Barcelona, I exchanged the safety of my comfortable life in rainy Belgium for the Spanish vibes in Barcelona. Having no place to call home yet, I booked a cosy hostel to start my apartment hunt in the Gracia neighbourhood — popular with students, young professionals and families alike. With its abundance of second hand shops, vegetarian restaurants, ecological streetmarkets and low-traffic streets, it didn’t take long before I fell in love with this village within the city. No wonder rooms are expensive and hard to find.

But Gracia has not always been like this. It was only after a major reorganisation of the neighbourhood in 2003 that the streets were given back to the people. The urban concept behind the area-wide urban experiment is the Superille or Superblock. The superblock idea was first outlined in 1987, after studies revealed noise and pollution levels in the capital of Catalunya are far above what can be considered healthy. Madre mia! Disclosing a territorial unit smaller than a neighbourhood but larger than a residential block for public space — therefore bearing the name superblock —  are meant to improve the quality of life and conditions for local residents. Car traffic is deviated to a couple of large streets enclosing the superblock, within pedestrian and bikers are king.

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De Ceuvel: sustainable urban development and cleantech playground

  • metabolic lab workshop room
    One of the workshop rooms at de Ceuvel (photo: Metabolism)
  • artist impression
    Artist impression of the Ceuvel before its realisation (courtesy: space&matter)
  • cafe de ceuvel
    De Ceuvel cafe is cosy-with-a-hippy-touch (photo: Metabolism)
  • De Ceuvel material flows
    Nothing is lost at de Ceuvel: water and waste streams are recovered (photo: Metabolism)
  • De-Ceuvel
    De Ceuvel seen from the water side
  • during construction
    During construction, old houseboats were hauled onshore and refubished (photo: Metabolism)
  • greenhouse
    In the aquaponic greenhouse, human waste is used as fertiliser (photo: Metabolism)

As an energy engineering student, I come across a lot of inventions that are about to save the world. At least, if they would ever get further than their inventor’s desk. Sometimes low-tech solutions can have a way bigger impact, simply because they happen. Urban development site de Ceuvel in the up-and-coming Amsterdam Noord area is a gem that exemplifies exactly what I’m talking about.

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