Henrik Valeur, The floating community. Copenhagen, The Architectural Publisher B.
A festival-like book about a spontaneously co-evolving and self-organized community of outsiders living in small self-refurbished boats and small self-constructed houses on rafts, located on the water in a central part of Copenhagen (Denmark). The community is known, alternatively, as the Harbor of Peace and the Pirate Harbor. The book includes illustrations of the way the people there are living (off-grid) and the art they are creating (art brut), experiments with permaculture and simple low-tech solutions, mappings of the place and its development, and proposals for similar developments in other places, as well as studies of other (sea-)nomadic cultures and references to other (anarchistic) thoughts and thinkers. The book is based on three years of action research on site and has been made in close collaboration with current and former residents.
From the she streets of Fort Kochi and the Students’ Biennale, which I think are more interesting than the “real” biennale. The students obviously don’t have much money so they have to be more inventive.
Do you know the feeling? You’re stuck in traffic and you can literally feel your blood pressure going up as you become increasingly frustrated with the time that is being lost because of all those morons who are blocking the way ahead. You may also begin to wonder what all those gasses and fine particles of soot, which are being emitted from all those idle engines in front, are doing to your health. And, if you’re less of a narcissist, you may begin to take pity on the poor cyclist who is being bullied by the big SUV or on the woman with her bags and children who is unable to cross the road.
Ashwin Mahesh is a scientist who turned environmental activist, development worker and technology entrepreneur before becoming a leading candidate for a newly formed national political party, the Lok Satta, contesting from the city of Bangalore. In this interview, he discusses problems of urban management in India today and proposes public participation and community building as means to solve the problems.
Review by Mukta Naik, Senior Research Associate, Centre for Policy Research, in Urban India.
Drawing from his own experiences of practicing and teaching in Shanghai, China and focusing on his recent work in the Indian cities of Chandigarh and Bangalore, Henrik Valeur’s book is a commentary on the liveability of cities from the perspective of human health and safety over the long term.
Review by Prof. Preeti Chopra, University of Wisconsin-Madison in H-Net Reviews
In an age when star architects dominate our attention, the Danish architect-urbanist Henrik Valeur’s book on India’s urban transition is an important reminder to us of a longstanding parallel history of architecture and urbanism, one where architects tackle social problems through practical engagement with the built environment.
Henrik Valeur, the Nykredit Encouragement Prize winning Danish architect-urbanist is better known in India for his book – India: the Urban Transition A Case Study of Development Urbanism, where he discusses and proposes solutions to some of the basic concerns of human existence – air, water, food, housing and mobility in urban Indian cities. Henrik is the founder and creative director of UiD – a networking urban consultancy and has the distinction of being the curator of the Danish pavilion at the Architecture Biennale in Venice in 2006, where the project, CO-EVOLUTION: Danish/Chinese Collaboration on Sustainable Urban Development in China, which he conceptualised and coordinated, was awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Pavilion.
Henrik has been actively involved for half a decade now, with prestigious architectural schools in India, and has been closely working with Government bodies, bureaucrats, developers, entrepreneurs and activists.
Your city is choking’ sadly does not seem a convincing enough argument for citizens to change car buying and use habits. The lead has to come from the planners; that, unfortunately, is not happening. At least a public debate has to start, simple doables put to test. You can’t let cars take over all the space there is. What kind of development is that?
Interview by Prof. Richa Sharma, Pillai College of Architecture, in Tekton Vol. 2, Issue 1, March 2015.
Henrik Valeur’s career straddles three distinct cultures and this has shaped his worldview about how cities function. He sees a great potential in urbanisation leading to change, particularly in the developing world. Valeur advocates a theory of urbanisation as a means to address poverty while safeguarding the environment, this theory he describes as ‘Development Urbanisation’.
Abstract: With rural-to-urban migration and urban-to-rural remittance, the number of people affected by traditional “rural” ills, such as undernourishment and infectious diseases, may decline. However, if cities and urban cultures are not properly developed and maintained, “rural” ills may simply be replaced by “urban” ills, such as stress, physical inactivity and social isolation, which may bring about even more suffering.
The government’s proposal to create 100 smart cities in the country which boast of world class amenities maybe a step in the right direction, but, the use of technology-driven services is a disconcerting point, architect-urbanist and thinker Henrik Valeur said at a talk-cum-informal discussion late Wednesday evening.
On Sunday, 1st February 2015, HUL and Lamakaan hosted a talk and presentation by architect-urbanist Henrik Valeur titled “Development Urbanism: An alternative to the ‘Smart City’ concept”. The following post is a reflection on some of the key themes touched upon in the talk.
As we become more and more interconnected and interdependent, human development is no longer a matter of the evolution of individual groups of people but rather a matter of the co-evolution of all people.
Chapter 4 in The Great Potential of Bangalore’s Waterways. Full study available here.
Henrik Valeur and Radha Chanchani, Jaya Dhindaw and Kadambari Badami, Center for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning, the Indian Institute of Science, 2012, and Harman Preet and Sameera Sneha, the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, 2013.
“In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference.”
According to the “Performance Audit of Water Pollution in India” by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India:
“Water contamination weakens or destroys natural ecosystems that support human health, food production and biodiversity. Water-borne diseases kill millions people […]. Livelihoods such as agriculture, fishing and animal husbandry are affected by poor water quality”.
“Presently, only about 10 per cent of the waste water generated is treated; the rest is discharged as it is into our water bodies”.
For the past century, the automobile has captured the imagination of people around the globe and for many, it still constitutes the ultimate symbol of having achieved middle-class status. According to a rapidly-growing number of academic studies, however, the automobile may have detrimental effects on human health and life quality, especially in cities, where the concentration of automobiles contributes significantly to pollution, environmental degradation, social isolation, stress and physical inactivity.
Compared to China, where rapid urbanization seems to have been instrumental in lifting several hundred million people out of extreme poverty during the past three decades, urbanization in India has been slow and, as a possible consequence, poverty alleviation has been almost stagnant.
Pawan is 26; he’s a good-looking guy, with a charming smile and eyes that inspire confidence. Furthermore, he holds a university degree in geography and is working for the High Court of Haryana and Punjab as a clerk. It’s only a temporary job but he is also taking classes in the evening to pass the examination to qualify for taking on a higher and steadier position with the government.
In contrast to Bangalore, in the south of India, which has been influenced by both British colonization and contemporary processes of globalization, Chandigarh, in the north of India, is a unique modernist city. It was designed in the early 1950’s by a team of Indian and foreign architects headed by Le Corbusier, one of the “fathers” of the modernist movement.
Mobility is crucial for human development and for the functioning of cities but the automobile may not always be the best solution, especially not in cities where it may have detrimental effects on human health, the environment and development.
While evidence of these effects is piling up in a rapidly growing number of academic studies nothing much seems to be done on the ground. Though the following case, from Bangalore, may, perhaps, provide some inspiration.
It could presumably be argued that it is the combined ability to both move and think that has enabled us, human beings, to achieve the kind of progress we have achieved. Today, however, mobility and thinking often seem to oppose – or even exclude – one another, especially in cities, where the current modes of transportation and traffic behavior are not only threatening the health of the individual but also that of communities and eco-systems.
By the beginning of the 21st century, Bangalore had emerged as a global hub for software development, production and services, with most of the world’s leading IT companies being located there and two of the leading Indian IT companies being headquartered there.
I want to talk about the creative and destructive forces of urbanization.
It is often assumed that urbanization is the result of economic, social and technological development, but maybe it is more accurate to say that it is urbanization, which enables economic, social and technological development. And in so doing urbanization provokes changes of existing orders, both in nature and among people. But without urbanization no change, no development!
In an essay from 1863, “Le peintre de la vie moderne” (“The painter of modern life”), the French poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire, defined modernity as “the transitory, the fugitive, the contingent” which characterizes the present, in contrast to the eternal and immutable.
“I apologize to the party, the people and my family”
He sits down. A broken man who has lost everything. The last two years he has spent in prison in Beijing and under house arrest in a distant province. It is spring 2008 and he is now sitting in a courtroom in Tianjin, waiting for his verdict.
Growing your own food in the city is becoming a global trend; from growing vegetables in recycled plastic bottles in a loft in New York or in a slum dwelling in Manila to community kitchen gardens in a posh neighborhood in London or in a favela in Sao Paulo; people are experimenting with ways of becoming self-sufficient with food in urban settings.
Le Corbusier Memorial Lecture by Henrik Valeur in Chandigarh, India.
6 October 2010.
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to speak here, in memory of Le Corbusier, one of the truly great masters of architecture, in Chandigarh, which is, in many respects, his most important masterpiece.
But I will not speak so much about the past, but rather about the future. And the important role architects can play in shaping the future.
According to the UN, the world will be populated with two billion more people within the next twenty to thirty years, almost all of whom will inhabit cities in the developing world.
Building cities for nearly 100 million additional people every year over the next twenty to thirty years is a challenge, but also an opportunity of enormous dimensions. Depending on how it is done, it could either become one of humanity’s greatest successes or one of our worst failures.
Such (self-organizing) systems have several advantages over more traditional systems: robustness, flexibility, capability to function autonomously while demanding a minimum of supervision, and the spontaneous development of complex adaptations without need for detailed planning. Disadvantages are limited predictability and difficulty of control. […] Perhaps the most challenging application would be to design a complex socio-economic system that relies on self-organization rather than centralized planning and control.
Development urbanism is a multidisciplinary field focusing on sustainable urban development as a means to combat poverty and protect the environment. It is particularly relevant in developing and emergent regions undergoing processes of rapid urbanization.
Talk by Henrik Valeur at the 51st IFHP World Congress in Copenhagen.
24 September 2007.
Abstract: While Mao Zedong sent millions of people to the countryside, his successor, Deng Xiaoping initiated an even more frenetic movement in the opposite direction. In the past 20 years some 400 million Chinese people have moved to the cities, and in the next 20 years an additional 400 million people are expected to follow suit. Even if China is still the World’s number one manufacturing country, and its apparently inexhaustible pool of cheap labor is still the main driver of the globalization of trade, the manufacturing industry is no longer the main driver of economic development in China.
Cities bring change – for society and for individuals – and the status quo is no friend of those without food or health care or a future. The part of the world that is rural and poor moves glacially – only occasionally shocked by famine or civil war or, very rarely, something as helpful as the Green Revolution – while the part of the world that is urban and poor is changing rapidly. There is opportunity in change.
After more than 300 years of British colonization, the inclusive and contradictory India was no longer capable of holding herself together. At independence in 1947, India split into two, and subsequently three, independent nations.
Thus the capital of Punjab, Lahore, came to be located in Pakistan, while the Indian part of Punjab came to lack a capital. The first Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, therefore decided to build a new one.
Looking at film footage and development schemes documenting the suburbanization around Copenhagen during the late 60’s and early 70’s, it is striking to see how directly principles of temporal organization were transformed into principles of physical organization. Corresponding to the labor unions demand for eight hours of work, eight hours of sleep and eight hours of leisure the territories of the suburbs were divided into segregated zones of production, living and recreation.
My grandfather was the first chief engineer of Glostrup – a suburb of Copenhagen. He was appointed in the 1920’s, when the municipality consisted of three villages with a total population of less than five thousand. For many years he was only chief of himself as he was the only one employed in the technical administration. Nevertheless, when he retired in the 1960’s Glostrup was a modern and fully integrated part of the metropolitan area of Copenhagen, accommodating a population of more than twenty five thousand.
Nothing much has happened since. Today the roads are still the same and so are most of the buildings. The population has even dropped slightly, yet the technical administration now employs perhaps a hundred people.
Darwinism stresses conflict and competition; that doesn’t square with the evidence. A lot of organisms that survive are in no sense superior to those that have gone extinct. It’s not a question of being “better than”; it’s simply a matter of finding a place where you can be yourself. That’s what evolution is about. That’s why you can see it as a dance. It’s not going anywhere, it’s simply exploring a space of possibilities.