Nov 10, 201209:00 AMPoint of View

The METROPOLIS Blog

Sustainable Urban Design, Digitally Defined

Sustainable Urban Design, Digitally Defined
Tablets are revolutionizing how people interact with information. We can now walk around with libraries in our knapsacks and the touch screen interface has enabled us to bridge the physical-abstract divide. The universe is now pushed and prodded, and just as the universe is expanding, so is our access to digital information.

A new app by Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, called Ecological Urbanism, is the start of a deep dive into innovation research, with real prospects for finding urban sustainability treasure.

Harvard Graduate School of Design: Ecological Urbanism App from Second Story on Vimeo.

The app is well mixed with information; with staple projects like the High Line and Masdar, and exotic new discoveries like “Effectual Decentralization,” a project in Argentina that plans urban subdivision by watersheds. The information has a Wikipedia like feel, but the target of innovative hits a well curated mark; nothing less then what you’d expect from Harvard. The user interface is a little frustrating at the start of the learning curve. And I don’t like that you can’t zoom in on images, but it works well as an exploration and search tool for innovative projects and ideas. My biggest concern, however, is how the information will expand into the future. Will it maintain it’s high level of curation? How will new projects be discovered? Important questions that I’m sure the design team at GSD is already considering. Perhaps as waves of graduate students conduct research each year, the app will become an ever-expanding repository of urban innovation. The app is based on information from a book, Ecological Urbanism, which we reviewed back in 2010. But the closest thing I could find for how new content would be added is this statement: “This book is also part of an ongoing series of research projects at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design that explores alternative and radical approaches between ecology and architecture, landscape architecture, planning, and urbanism.” So will this be just another book made app? And how is Harvard going to grow this community of innovation seekers? Check it out. The app is free. And we shall see.

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Examining contemporary life through design, architecture, interior design, product design, graphic design, crafts, planning, and preservation.

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