The ambition of the project Aarhus Wet City is to use the spatial dimension of architecture as a mean to interface technical, technological and scientific research with society's future needs and sustainable values.

 

We are engaging with urban public spaces as open air Laboratories. In this project the participation of the public is vital to evolve the methods and protocols of what we call "collective urban cultivation". Such methods have as main purpose to promote architecture as tools to develop resilient and sustainable future urban plans.

 

Public involvement was directly stimulated with the installation of the innovative Urban Algae Folly next to the Dome of Visions in the Aarhus' harbour, and then harvested with the application of a new Planning Interface designed to contribute to the development of the future blue-green plans of Aarhus.

 

This new instruments channel the latest innovation in digital and bio-technology to tackle the urban air pollution and carbon sequestration challenges.

Instruments

The project proposes to collaboratively test the new application of digital and  bio-technologies to the urban realm in the city of Aarhus; to achieve this goal a living, an interactive public sculpture was installed in Aarhus' harbour to operate as an incubator of the microecologies present in the city's urban waterways. 

The piece made such ecosystems visible to all and did instigate visions of a future where microorganisms will contribute to the city's own expanded metabolism, by filtering urban air pollution, growing bio-fuels as well as super-food.

The sculpture connected to a new urban planning interface, envisioning the future blue-green plan of the city.

 
 

Blue - Green Urban Networks

Blue - green ecosystems are networks, their life and proliferation determined by a large number of feedback loops that affect all the systems involved including man-made ones.  A future resilient and sustainable blue-green master-plan must recognise these existent biological networks.

 

Trees in parks are a network and so are their roots connected via biological / informational networks operated by mycelia. Such networks do not stop at the end of the park area but continue both above and below ground; insects, worms and other animals, as well as wind and rain, contribute to the resilience of these networks by providing alternative channels of communication for seeds, pollen, and so on. Architecture too can be used to expand these channels of communication.

 

Digital technologies and satellite monitoring devices enable designers to map and draw every single tree in a city and their exact geographic location: in Aarhus there are for instance 141.765.

If we then run an algorithm that draws a line connecting all the trees that sit within a certain distance from each other we can explore the nature and morphology of these urban bio-networks. We can visualize urban parks as areas with a high degree of connectivity and conversely detect zones where the network has a poor level of connectivity and new plantings may be critical to increase its resilience by providing precious missing links (see headline map).

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Such networks can be overlapped with topographical analysis and rain water flow patterns to see how water networks and trees networks spatially and physically interact. Foliage and roots systems are one of the most powerful tools we have to control and prevent flash flooding, erosion and other water related hazards. 

 

A strong and co-evolutionary blue and green infrastructure enables our cities to grow efficient carbon sequestrating and air cleaning systems.

The Co-Evolution of Natural and

Man-made Networks

A sensible planning guideline recommends that everyone of us should live in close proximity to nature and or cycle or walk along natural features on our way to work or back home. 

Our interface can simulate the shortest route connecting each and every home, workplace or restaurant in a city the closest trees of a certain density and size. It can also compute how many of those trees are necessary to offset the carbon emissions of each household.

This offers both private and public stakeholders a mean to visualise the current performance of the existing green infrastructure and to strategically evaluate the impact of future interventions.

Making It Participatory

In the case of Aarhus city centre it became apparent how a significant increase in photosynthetic potential would be necessary to close the gap between current emissions vs absorption rates.

 

The interface can be updated in real time with feed from satellite data and sensors distribution. New interventions can therefore be planned and actuated in the spots where their impact is more effective at any given moment. 

Conclusions

From this experience it is apparent how new technologies with significantly higher photosynthetic potential are necessary to reach the goals of carbon neutrality and of clean air in dense city centres.

We believe interfacing the latest innovation of microbiology and digital design provides a mean to bring such technologies to our cities inclusively.

 

Photosynthetica enables building managers, municipalities and local community groups to induce new behaviours in the population which in turn would accelerate the adoption of blue - green urban planning. 

The informatization of urban blue - green systems is one of the fastest emerging sectors in the smart city trend.  However true progress is only possible when technological innovation involves a participatory framework.

Aarhus Wet City is a demonstrator of how bio-digital technologies  can be deployed to enable the emergence of a new breed of sustainable urban design strategies and planning solutions.