RESPONSIVE URBANISM: Sustainable Development Strategies for Small Communities with an Inter-Cultural Focus
This essay explores the development of a landscape design method referred to as Responsive Urbanism, the intention of which is to reverse the negative effects of globalization currently reordering the physical and social fabric of small communities. Responsive Urbanism utilizes a landscape based framework and systems focus that emphasizes the following series of disciplines (1) ecological networks in the natural world, (2) fabric of the built environment, (3) dynamics between land and transportation, and (4) socially networked decision making. The method also integrates community design events and cross-cultural collaboration, and concludes with multi-scaled design development that makes ecological integrity and urban landscapes the centerpiece of creating revitalizing building forms and constructed landscapes. This design method, utilized in a pilot project that spanned two years and involved more than 60 students from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee (UWM) in Milwaukee, WI and the Technical University of Graz (TUG) in Graz, Austria, compared two communities of similar size and importance, the village of Mukwonago, Wisconsin in the United States and city of Radstadt, Austria. The project demonstrated that through structured analysis and disciplined project development communities can develop new tools to harness the increasing complexity, intensity, and global span of networks and realize the potentials of globalism’s universality, while simultaneously capturing the value of the singular and the local.
A reordering of the physical and social fabric of community on a global scale is underway influencing the development of new design theories and methods to address the negative effects of this spatial transformation. In the last decade of the 20th century over 50% of the global population lived in urban settlements as compared to less than 3% at the end of the 19th century. Global urbanization has been described as the extension of capitalism and the advancement of a system of nation states as instruments of influence in the global marketplace. Although there are competing schools of thought about the reasons behind the increasing scale and pace of urbanization, significant agreement exists that patterns of finance linked to the increasing speed of transportation, communication and organizational technology are the major drivers transforming the physical landscape and global settlement patterns (Clark, 1997).
While the emergence of “global cities” or global concentrations, linked to direct investments in core economies of developing nations, is taking place the spatial transformations observed in small communities within developed nations is more commonly that of dispersal and disruption. Two such small communities, one in the United States and the other in Austria, will demonstrate the challenges smaller settlements face when it comes to managing local economic pressures that have become intertwined with global networks. The same “trans-nationalization of production” that results in global brands and production patterns linked to global business structure is increasing the scale and pace of transformation as well as adding complexity to community building dynamics. The inability of small communities to make sense of these changeable, invisible and far reaching relationships is increasingly creating ecologically and urbanistically compromised building forms and landscapes.
Responsive Urbanism posits that global and local dynamics can be understood through the alternative and inclusive framework of landscape, and demonstrated through visual argumentation (Waldheim, 2006). The method utilizes a systems focus and emphasizes the following series of disciplines: ecological networks in the natural world, fabric of the built environment, dynamics between land and transportation, and socially networked decision making. The method also integrates community design events and cross-cultural collaboration. Responsive Urbanism makes ecological integrity and urban landscapes visible through multi-scaled design development. Regional ecological corridors, local water and vegetation systems, and building scale energy and environmental strategies are depicted and integrated as essential components of each project. This process gives small communities tools to create new forms of urban spatiality (Sassen, 2003) that harness potentials of globalism’s universality, while simultaneously capturing the value of the singular and the local (Tzonis and Lefaivre, 2003).
In this pilot project, two communities of similar size and importance have been compared, the city of Radstadt, Austria and the village of Mukwonago, Wisconsin in the USA. Both municipalities occupy a comparable position within their respective regions, and in their relationship to proximate urban agglomerations. Radstadt is located approximately 70 km/44 mi southeast from the provincial capital of Salzburg, which has a population of around 150,000 (210,000 metro. area). Mukwonago is situated around 60 km/38 mi southwest of Milwaukee, a city of approximately 600,000 (1.7 million metro. area). Radstadt is surrounded by five small communities and is conceived of a central recreation and nature zone; Mukwonago is also surrounded by five communities and has historically drawn recreation seekers from as far away as Chicago (145 km/90 mi) to visit its numerous woodlands and lakes.
Thomson, Christine Scott; Thornton, Kim; and Koppelhuber, Gunther
"RESPONSIVE URBANISM: Sustainable Development Strategies for Small Communities with an Inter-Cultural Focus,"
Proceedings of the Fábos Conference on Landscape and Greenway Planning: Vol. 3:
1, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarworks.umass.edu/fabos/vol3/iss1/5
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