On September 19th 2018 I had the pleasure of joining peers from fields as diverse as climatology, meteorology, archeology, planning, policy making, and more at Understanding Risk Balkans Conference in Belgrade. Hosted by the government of Serbia in collaboration with the European Commission, The World Bank and its Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, and 5x15, the 3-day conference comprised an agenda covering several of the foremost critical concerns for the built environments of the present and near and medium-term future including mapping and analysis of hydrological, geological, and meteorological threats including floods, seismic activity, and wildfires; crowdsourcing, citizen science, open data, and crowd-mapping; catastrophe insurance, financing disaster resilience, and recovery from asset to city scale within both the private and civic sector; community resilience and social protection systems including early warning advisory systems; and science and urban development policy.
Though focused on urban risks within the Balkans region, the conference drew on international case studies, insights and expertise from speakers including Lucka Kajfex Bogataj, Head of the Centre for Agrometeorology and Professor of Climatology at the University of Ljubljana; Panos Giannopoulos, meteorologist at the Hellenic National Meteorological Service; Marko Blagojevic, Director of the Serbian Government's Public Investment Management Office; Sameh Wahba, Global Director for Urban and Territorial Development, Disaster Risk Management and Resilience at the World Bank Group's Social, Rural, Urban and Resilience Global Practice; IHE Delft Institute urban water systems, risk assessment, climate change adaptation, and hydroinformatics expert Prof. Zoran Vojinovic; Janusz Zaleski, Professor at Poland's Institute of Meteorology and Water Management; Lejla Hadzic, Executive Director of Cultural Heritage Without Borders; Olivia Vereha, Cofounder/CTO of Code for Romania; Reinhard Perfler, Vice-Head, Institute for Sanitary Engineering and Water Pollution Control, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna; Roberto Sanchez Avalos, Director of the Data Science Lab, General Directorate of Geostatistics and Beneficiary Registries, Mexican Ministry of Social Development; Michael Staudinger, Director, Austrian Central Institute of Meteorology and Geodynamics; Miljana Radiojevic, lecturer in archaeomaterials, UCL; Radu Vacareanu, Professor of Structural Reliability and Risk Analysis, Technical University of Civil Engineering, Bucharest; Biljana Abolmasov, Professor, Faculty of Geology and Mining, University of Belgrade; and Savina Carluccio, Project Lead on the Resilience Shift, Arup, amongst others.
Invited to deliver the Closing Keynote, I discussed how recent and emerging developments in satellite and terrestrial technologies, and their interface, is enabling increasingly sophisticated real and near-to-real time data aggregation, processing, and analysis, which in turn is facilitating more accurate, efficient, and expedient means of protecting citizenry and essential urban systems and services. Having highlighted the Balkans role in building the foundations of western, and in turn world culture, including its historic role in the development of codification and communication of societal and environmental information, beliefs, and values, I posited its potential to play a critical role in building global resilience to the most pressing meteorological and geological issues of our time. In closing I discussed aspects of my research into the potentialities for evolving greater resilience to wildfires and affiliated hazards through the development of a new architectural and urban paradigm modelled on the biochemistries and behaviours of floral and faunal species indigenous to fire-prone habitats, together with some of the philosophical, psychological, and practical questions the paradigm presents.
A flawlessly produced, vibrant, inspiring, and generative event, Understanding Risk Balkans Conference facilitated timely, dynamic, and critical conversations and collaborations between individual participants, organisations, and in turn country regions, both in-person, and online. The launch-pad for the World Bank's inaugural livestream, I joined volcanologist Alanna Simpson, one of the World Bank's Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist in a head-to-head conversation in which we expanded upon issues central to GFDRR, the World Bank, and both the Balkans' and upcoming Understanding Risk conferences around the world. A provider of umpteen tools for they working in urban risk mitigation, planning, and policy, you can find our more GFDRR and the World Bank at the links below:
World Bank - https://www.worldbank.org/
Understanding Risk - https://understandrisk.org
GFDRR - https://www.gfdrr.org/
Image: Chris Schnepf, University of Idaho under CC BY 3.0 licence.
For they that had not the pleasure of joining 5x15 at Wilderness Festival, sharing the podcast of my talk, ‘Wildfire in the Wilderness: fire, ecology, and us’, in which I share a few thoughts on fire ecology past, present, and possible future...
One of the most exciting events of the summer season, Wilderness Festival is a celebration of nature and the wild, which takes the nature reserve it calls home, at Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, as it’s “drawing board”. Designed to “inspire, challenge, and enrich” the lives of they participating, its programme is as vast as it is unique. The event, which spans Thursday August 2nd to Sunday August 5th 2018, encompasses music, theatre, cabaret, comedy, variety, talks, debates, workshops, cocktail bars, banquets, retreats, spas, sport, and much more.
Curated by some several leading arts institutions, including the Royal Academy of the Arts, V&A, The British Film Institute, London Review of Books; The RSA; The Idler Academy, amongst others, and partnered by icons of the literary world including Verso, Faber & Faber, Unbound, Picador, Little Brown Books, Pan Macmillan, Harper Collins, and Bloomsbury Sigma, its speakers line-up is comprised some of the most compelling thinkers on the circuit, including Murray Lachlan Young, Shappi Khorsandi, and Carole Cadwalladr.
Having participated as a speaker and workshop host in Wilderness Festival’s inaugural year, 2012, I’m delighted to be back, this time joining the ever-thought provoking 5x15 for their session in The Forum on Sunday 5th. Joining a line-up comprised Emily Penn, Caspar Henderson, Alex Beard, and Jamie Bartlett, I’ll be discussing ‘Wildfire in the Wilderness: fire, ecology, and us’, sharing insights from fire ecology past, present, and possible future.
Read more and buy tickets here: https://www.wildernessfestival.com
Supported by some of the foremost influential creative leaders and organisations in design visualisation, The Rookies is the world's leading international annual competition for young, up and coming student and graduate designers, creators, innovators and artists. A juror since 2016, I was delighted that the 2018 edition attracted an exceptionally high standard of entries from art, design, architecture, and film schools spanning several continents.
However, numerous though the outstanding entries were, one entry stood out above all others, for its author, Joshua Puppe, an architecture student from Nebraska-Lincoln, U.S., exhibited extra-ordinary imagination, relevance, and production skill across illustration, film-making, model making, and overall concept development. Puppe’s entry, The Authors [images above], comprised beautifully considered, composed, and cinematic imagery as evidences he has an exceptionally exciting career ahead of him.
See Puppe’s entry at: https://t.co/jWQxviAZOg
Read more about The Rookies at: http://www.therookies.co/
The weekend of July 6th - 8th sees the launch of Timber Festival, which a joint venture between the National Forest Company and Wild Rumpus will explore "the transformative impact of forests on people and places with artists, musicians, scientists, and thinkers". Set in the National Forest, which planted over 25 years ago spans the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Staffordshire, the event will encourage festival-goers to "re-imagine our relationship with our environment", while enjoying an "arboreal wonderland".
Aboard the inaugural speaker line-up, I’ll be exploring humanity’s relationship with wildfire at the interface of forests and cities past, present, and future. Having delivered a précis of my research of this past several years, together with a short provocation, I'll invite they present to join me in debate and discussion around this, quite literally, hot topic! Part of the Charcoal Sessions, where writers, artists, academics, politicians, and scientists, together with they working in woodlands will come together around a fire at dusk, atop the National Forest's historical coal pits, and below the forest canopy, I'll be sharing insights from wildfire’s deep past by means of illuminating its integral role in Earth and human systems.
Although the festival's installations, performances, and activities are too numerous to list, highlights include:
*The greenfield festival premiere of Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon [pictured above] - an extraordinary 7m Moon sculpture featuring detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface and sound by BAFTA and Ivor Novello award-winning composer Dan Jones.
*Bespoke Timber Festival installation, The Fire-Garden, which produced by leading artists, sculptors, designers, and technicians pa-Boom, will turn the foremost ephemeral element into an arts medium.
*Award-winning immersive virtual reality experience In the Eyes of the Animal by Marshmallow Laser Feast, which will enable participants to 'be an animal in the forest through the eyes of four woodland species'.
*A listening walk with composer and sound-artist Jason Singh, exploring voice and technology to mimic nature and birdsong, while gathering sounds to create instruments from plants, plant data, and other living and non-living elements of the forest.
Read more at: http://timberfestival.org.uk/
On a mission "to serve society by making science open, inclusive, and accessible", 500 Women Scientists aims to become the foremost organisation for the transformation of leadership, diversity, and public engagement in science. So far, over 19,000 female scientists worldwide have stepped forward to participate, many of whom are now registered on its global data base of scientific expertise spanning all science genres.
Lend your support and find out more at:
On December 14th I had the pleasure of critiquing the first term outputs of the latest Urban Morphogenesis Lab cohort. One of The Bartlett Bpro's MArch Urban Design programmes, the research cluster, which is led by ecoLogicstudio cofounder Prof. Claudia Pasquero, "pursues a non anthropogenic understanding of the urban landscape", its intention that of creating territories "of self-organisation and co-evolution of multiple dynamical systems". A juror since the lab's inaugural year [academic session 2013 - 2014], I've been consistently impressed by the students outputs, and by the course leadership and curation, which has gone from strength to strength to become one of the foremost respected research units in its field.
Building on the lab's past interrogations into the potentialities of working with non-human intelligence, including bacteria, fungi, bioluminescent phytoplankton, algae, and ants, this year's MArch students are exploring the material, engineering, design and computing possibilities of working with slime moulds, silk worms, and arachnids, including tarantulas. Aims and objectives of the experimental works include the identification of new applications for ecological intelligence within architecture, urban design and planning, the scalability thereof, and associated risks and opportunities, including the creation of new design morphologies, methods, approaches, and aesthetics (see slides above and below).
A programme with close links across the biodesign, biotechnology, and biomimetic architectural and urban design community, fellow jurors of the Urban Morphogenesis Lab include Pasquero's ecoLogicstudio cofounder, Marco Poletto; Professor of Experimental Design at University of Newcastle, Rachel Armstrong; author and founder/director of the Emergent Technologies and Design Programme in the Graduate School of the Architectural Association, Michael Weinstock; and Bartlett professors including Mark Smout and Marcus Cruz; amongst others.
Read more about the Urban Morphogenesis Lab and The Bartlett's Bpro programme:
Shared a few thoughts on, amongst other things, how ecological regime shifts will impact upon people and planet in the 22nd Century for Factor magazine's Winter 2017 edition. Exploring myriad aspects of the not so distant future, and free to download on mobile, tablet, and laptop, the edition marks the launch of Factor's new format, which bigger and slicker than before is a joy to behold.
Read Factor's 'Life in the 22nd Century' edition here.
The Geovation Challenge seeks to find and support ideas that benefit human and environmental health and wellbeing. Successful entrants will receive support and opportunities for funding during a programme that launches in London in spring 2018. I've entered an idea titled GEO ECO NET, which highlights the need to increase awareness and understanding of ecological networks within and across cities, focused on the need to help not hinder fauna to traverse the architectures, and more broadly, the environments we create.
If you'd like to support the idea, please give it your vote at:
GEO ECO NET: Ecological and Social Network
"Humans aren’t the only ones that need traverse cities. Both here in the UK, and worldwide, innumerable faunal species need travel about urban environments too. Some species are permanent residents, of which one example is the hedgehog. Whereas others, including a great many bird species, come and go throughout the year, their movements synced with the seasons. Others still, are sporadic, but welcome visitors that tend drop in when weather conditions necessitate, of which waxwings are one.
However, urbanism, and in particular architecture and planning that works against not with the needs of faunal species interferes with these movements, and in the worst instances to the extent of causing injury and mortality. For example, did you know that bird deaths into the hundreds of millions per annum are attributed to the use of non-friendly bird glass in buildings? Or, that many bird species navigate by moonlight or starlight, meaning light pollution at the scale now manifest in many cities sends them off course?
The above are just a few of the ways in which human activities are undermining the integrity of faunal movements at the local, national, and global scale, and to such extent as may endanger some species. But, much is there that we can do to help mitigate the problem.
As with so many other types of challenge, we first need assess what need be done, how and why. The task is far too great for any one individual, any one school, any one city, or any one nation. And, not least, because complex though faunal migratory routes are, at a time of environmental flux, life is evolving in ways both expected and otherwise."
Read more here.
Share the idea on Twitter via #GeoEcoNet
Open access, peer-reviewed, and featuring contributions from leading-edge researchers and practitioners worldwide, the Journal of Biourbanism is the bi-annual online publication of the International Society of Biourbanism. Edited by Dr. Stefano Serafini, and featuring papers from Prof. Rachel Armstrong, and Prof. Sergio Los, and Prof. Besim Hakim, its latest issue, explores the epistemology of design at the interface of architecture, planning, and the environmental and social sciences. A few words on my contribution are below:
Mind the Gap:
A Discussion of Philosophical and Psychological Dichotomies
Abstract: Differences, dualities, and dichotomies play a fundamental role within the psychological and philosophical frameworks through which humans interpret phenomena. Boundaries and binary oppositions abound in our thinking and actions, manifesting metaphysically and physically, internally and externally, and on all conceivable scales. Drawing upon insights from past and contemporary systems thinkers and integrating an assemblage of personal experiences, together with observations, the present work aims to understand how and why our psychological, thereon our philosophical relationship with oppositions frame the collective societal response to rapid change and upheaval, and what role might transdisciplinary thinking have to play in reconciling societal differences.
Download the Journal of BioUrbanism Vol. 5 here.
Melissa Sterry, PhD, design scientist, systems theorist, futurologist, founder Bionic City®.
Asking the question "how would nature design a city" since 2010.
© Melissa Sterry 2019 All Rights Reserved