Sustainable Cities™

Thomas Ermacora: The metabolic city

Thomas Ermacora, director of Etikstudio and founder of the CLEAR Village Foundation, discusses the importance of liveable cities that exist in symbiosis with nature.

Q: What are the three qualities that should characterize a sustainable city?
'One of the things that I would find attractive in a city would be that it has a very strong focus on liveability, that the lifestyle component really makes you feel that you don't have to be an eco-monk.... It's the wanting, rather than the having to, which I believe we have to perform as a paradigm shift. And that is really why I believe that the participatory nature of the process would help, because people need to empathize with it.'

'Of course, we probably need density in terms of sustainability, if we want to hit emissions agendas, but there is a kind of density that I would prefer to call semi-density, or the semi-dense urban form. It's something that you find in the rural context, so it's not a romantic ideal of going back to the Middle Ages and the villages... I don't believe in cities that are hyper-dense and, on the side of them, landscapes that are free and open and wild. I really think that people have become symbiotic in their approach to urbanism and landscape-they want both at the same time.'

'I would like our civilizations to achieve a kind of metabolic city, where it lives organically and dynamically in symbiosis with nature, has a very strong technological component that is hidden, and lets all of the human aspects emerge strongly. And that is what I would call a poetic landscape, where actually all you have to do to make it sustainable is completely discrete, and everything that you manage to create as systems operates in collaboration with nature, effectively allowing human temperament to emerge.'

Q: What are the challenges that top the to-do list in cities around the world?

'One tendency in building and architecture and probably contemporary urban landscape is to build icons. We can talk about the Guggenheim Museum or the Sydney Opera, ...but these are just a few examples, and they are too few compared to the number of icons that we try to build. So we build wastelands of icons that are not usable to people.'

Q: What are the three most promising initiatives that would make living in cities more sustainable?

Architecture for Humanity
'Architecture for Humanity gave me the trust in the idea that we can have creative commons licensing applied to design and to space, and that we can make business models as well as solutions for people very effectively. Architecture for Humanity is not necessarily only about sustainability at all; it's more about providing solutions to people that are in need and rebuilding communities, but it still integrates sustainability quite effectively thanks to the designs.'

Urban Re:Vision
'Urban Re:Vision brings the creative energy out there, and they output it to make an ideal block formulation. So right now they got to a point where they're going to transform a part of Dallas according to the series of contests that they did. I think that this is a really interesting way of making sustainability happen, because you just involve so many people.'

'BedZED is a project launched by the Peabody Trust in the UK that focuses 100 percent on zero-carbon housing.... They've made tours so that people from London can see what it's like to live there.... If sustainability is going to creep into our lives effectively, it is probably by having been through these things and been there - a bit like you cannot talk about where your food comes from if you haven't been to a farm. So I have a focus on looking at examples that not necessarily exemplify or create templates of sustainability that we need to attain but rather that make it possible for people to connect with what it means.'

About Thomas Ermacora

Thomas_Ermacora_photo Thomas Ermacora is the creative director & owner of Etikstudio, a sustainable design strategy consultancy and project incubator started in Paris. In 2008, he founded the CLEAR Village Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to channelling the creation of real life sustainable villages.

CLEAR Village Foundation is a privately funded non-profit organisation serving as a collaborative design catalyst for the redevelopment of villages and fostering sustainable communities. Its focus is on community empowerment and co-creative trans-disciplinary excellence at the village scale.

Over a five year period, the initiative will implement a participatory planning process in dialogue with a community to upgrade, retrofit and extend a site that is currently being identified. Using a network of high-level sustainable design professionals and organisations CLEAR Village Foundation aims to promote knowledge sharing in order for solutions to emerge faster.

>> Etikstudio
>> CLEAR Village Foundation

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014