And the winner is… The Audi Urban Future Award 2012 ceremony was held in Istanbul which is celebrating its first Design Biennale. Five international architectural practices competed for the prestigious €100,000 prize. Each represented their home megalopolis. A 2030 vision (2020 vision plus 10?) of urban mobility anchored in its locale yet capable of global application set the scene.
Mobility was examined as a broad spectrum embracing not just transportation and accessibility but also connectivity, energy, the environment and economics. The brief included the role of the car in wider urban mobility.
Audi Urban Future Initiative, a powerhouse of thinking on future mobility, was launched in 2010. It aims to influence the transition towards a new era of mobility. A multifaceted programme establishes the dialogue between the interconnectedness of mobility, architecture and urban development. The Audi Urban Future Award, one of the Initiative’s facets, addresses a pivotal period in the evolution of the 21st century metropolis. The next 18 years – a time for cities to grow and grow up.
The goal of the 2012 Award is to stimulate the development of proposals that identify opportunities for sustainable transformative interventions in each of the five metropolises. A wide range of questions are addressed. What kinds of paradigm shifts need to take place? Who or what drives change? What technological innovations will play a role? How can existing infrastructure be adapted to a rapidly changing urbanscape? What new infrastructure needs to be designed to increase sustainability?
In no particular order (to borrow the X Factor phrase), CRIT prepared a concept for Mumbai; NODE Architecture & Urbanism represented the Pearl River Delta; Höweler + Yoon Architecture, BosWash (aka Boston to Washington); Urban-Think Tank, São Paulo; and Superpool were at home flying the Ayyıldız flag for Istanbul.
The architects’ Vorsprung durch Technik was as dynamic as the new Audi A8. Coordinated human interaction maintains the economic miracle of Mumbai. The streets of Shenzhen in the Pearl River Delta are brought back to life. In BosWash the American Dream is reinvented. Mobility blockages in São Paulo are removed. Citizens reclaim the streets in Istanbul.
Despite the disparity of the five regions, common threads emerge. Space is an extremely scarce resource in megacities. The automobile must be adapted to deal with it efficiently. As housing becomes more expensive, sharing transport economically gains attraction. Seamless intermodal mobility is the sustainable future.
American architects Höweler + Yoon scooped the prize. Their ambitious architecture and planning idea ‘Shareway’, revolutionising the commute, won over the hearts and minds of the jury. At its core is a merging of private and public transport by a mobility platform. This holistically combines existing infrastructure with intelligent traffic flows and networks.
A new social consensus is proposed. A community focus takes priority over individual ownership. It means reorganising and integrating all modes of transport – yes, even the Audi (or any other car) – in an optimised high technology constantly flowing mobility aorta. The ‘Bundle’ is born. Over 53 million people can be connected between the ‘burbs and the ‘bright lights’ via the Bundle.
Urban theorist John Thackara, chair of the interdisciplinary jury of the Audi Urban Future Award 2012, explains the choice of winner. “In our view Höweler + Yoon implemented the task most concretely. They included a high potential for implementation of ideas, at least in part, and in the competitive set timescale to 2030. The jury appreciated the thorough analysis of the social and economic context. Their concept includes both social and technical innovation on a system wide level. The jury was also impressed with the architectural quality of the implementation.”
The car shaped the city. Now it’s the turn of the city to shape the car. Over to the winners for the last words: “This has been a privilege and an incredible journey. Research in our own backyard! The issues are bigger than architecture. This initiative has the potential to actually move forward with realistic ideas discourse between city planning, architecture and automotive technology. All these factors are important for a deeper understanding of design.”
Words: Stuart Blakley