of 2018 Activities
Executive Director Michael Mehaffy interviews Board Member Ward
Cunningham on the invention of Wiki, pattern languages of programming,
Agile, and other innovations, as part of the Building Beauty course
curriculum in Sorrento, Italy, in association with the office of
Christopher Alexander and the Center for Environmental Structure.
Report by Michael Mehaffy,
This year the focus of
Sustasis’ work moved increasingly toward broader topics of systems and
transitions, with a special focus on collective knowledge and action
systems. We have participated in collaborations with the
International Society for the Systems Sciences, Pattern Languages of
Programming, and the Ax:son Johnson Foundation. Research,
education and publication has continued to focus primarily on global
urban challenges including the current era of unprecedented
urbanization. At the same time, work has expanded to
explore the additional insights that are available to us from the
sciences, as well as from cultural innovations like wiki (and
Wikipedia) and pattern languages.
One of the most important
projects now under way is an ambitious new edition of patterns
tentatively titled A Pattern
Language for Growing Regions: Economy, Technology, Quality of Life. The
book is planned to launch a new repository of shareable and editable
patterns. (You can download a preview copy here.)
An additional project now
under way is to expand on the first short film about Christopher
Alexander, Life in Buildings,
with a full series of six “chapters,” each of which can stand alone as
an Internet short, or be combined into a feature-length film. The
current short will be lightly edited to become the third of the series.
Executive Director Michael
Mehaffy has also helped to develop new curricular materials for a new
Masters program in architecture and urbanism at Sant'Anna Institute in
Sorrento, Italy, in partnership with the University of Strathclyde in
the UK. As part of those materials, he interviewed Board Member
Ward Cunningham, exploring the history of pattern languages and wikis.
The video is available on the Sustasis website, and has been shared
widely on social media.
Michael Mehaffy also gave several talks
surrounding the launch of Sustasis Press’ latest book, Cities Alive: Jane Jacobs, Christopher
Alexander and the Roots of the New
Urban Renaissance, co-published with our partner, the Centre for
the Future of Places at KTH University in Stockholm. The book continues to receive very
positive reviews. Gerald Erion, professor of philosophy at
Medaille College in New York, said “Mehaffy’s discussion of Jacobs,
Alexander, and complexity science is tantalizing, and his attention to
distinctively philosophical issues seems especially noteworthy...Such
weighty philosophical issues may seem abstract, but in Mehaffy’s
writing, they become key underpinnings for his more pragmatic advice.
In fact, his book includes practical suggestions for design
professionals and urbanists of all kinds. His section on the United
Nations New Urban Agenda may be especially instructive here, as are the
photo essays and interviews of his final chapter. Thus, Cities Alive demonstrates both the urgency
and the potential benefits of an urbanist philosophy as we confront a
range of global challenges in the decades to come.”
Reviewer Emily O’Brien, writing
in Traditional Building magazine, described the book as “an alluring
and thought-provoking read for students, government officials,
architecture professionals and more,
Cities Alive will have you nodding your head as you read along,
offering an intricate and intelligible understanding of city structure
as it examines essential philosophical ideas about cities and what they
offer their inhabitants...What’s most remarkable is that in the latter
half, Mehaffy pulls from his curated pot of somewhat rather abstract
ideas, garnered from Jacobs and Alexander, and transforms them into
solutions that can be implemented in very tangible, realistic ways.”
You can order the book here.
Author Phil Langdon with a buyer and
Executive Director Michael Mehaffy at the IMCL conference in Ottawa.
Our earlier books Design for a Living Planet and A City is Not a Tree: 50th Anniversary
Edition are also available in print or eBook - you can order them here. Work continues on several new books, including
the aforementioned A Pattern
Language for Growing Regions, and What is a City? – a kind of
textbook on urbanism – as well as a book on “place network theory,”
helping to explain how good-quality public space can be made and
We also continued
our collaboration with the Ax:son Johnson Foundation, KTH University,
and the Centre for the Future of Places, further developing ongoing
partnerships with UN-Habitat, Project for Public Spaces, CNU, and other
key allies. We also continued our implementation work for the New Urban
Agenda, completing a Memorandum of Understanding between our partner
the Centre for the Future of Places and UN-Habitat.
ABOVE: Michael Mehaffy
(left) completes the MOU with UN-Habitat and the Centre for the Future
of Places, a collaborator with the Sustasis Foundation. Pictured
are Shipra Narang Suri, head of urban design and policy unit at
UN-Habitat (center) and Saidou N’Dow, head of the legal office for
Speaking and/or Co-organization of Conferences, Symposia and Meetings
Executive Director Michael Mehaffy, unless otherwise noted)
space in the New Urban Agenda: Research into Implementation,”
co-organizer and moderator/speaker, World Urban
Forum, Kuala Lumpur, February 2018
interviews of key participants, International Urban Conference of the
African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, South Africa,
Science, New Architecture… New Urban Agenda?” Keynote lecture at
50th anniversary conference of Urban Design Programme at Aalto
University, Turku, Finland, March 2018
Gentrification Challenge,” keynote at Cities for All conference, KTH,
STIPO and Project for Public Spaces, Stockholm SE, April 2018
- “Coding Beauty,” lecture to the Building Beauty school, Sorrento Italy, April 2018
- “Open Data and the New Urban Agenda,” keynote at the University of Salzburg conference, GIS and the future of Data, May 2018
- “Humanizing Cities,” keynote speech to “Humanizing Cities” conference, Madinah, Saudi Arabia, May 2018
- “Best practices in new public space projects,” moderator and presenter for Dubai International Awards, Dubai UAE, May 2018
- “Lessons from Orenco Station,” presentation at Vivre en Ville conference, Montreal, CA, May 2018 (presented in absentia)
the New Urban Agenda: Changing the ‘Operating System for Growth’",
keynote lecture at International Making Cities Livable conference,
Ottawa CA, May 2018
Urbanism and the New Urban Agenda: Partners for action,” co-organizer,
presenter and moderator at session on the New Urban Agenda, Congress
for the New Urbanism, June 2018
the Commons: Developing Indicator 11.7.1,” co-organizer and presenter
at UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, side event
co-organized with UN-Habitat, ISOCARP, European Commission Research
Office, City of Johannesburg, and the World Bank.
science, new architecture, New Urban Agenda? How the new sciences
are changing the game for the built environment,” co-organizer,
moderator and presenter of session, “The Math and Science of
Architectural Beauty,” at 2018 Traditional Building Exposition and
Conference, Princeton, NJ.
languages as systems tools: An exercise in applied mereology,”
presentation at 2018 International Society for Systems Science,
Corvallis OR, July 2018.
Lessons Learned: Defining how city-wide public space strategies are
articulated with city development plans.” Presentation at
UN-Habitat Expert Group Meeting on implementation of the New Urban
Agenda, ““From Site to System: City-Wide Public Space Strategies,”
Engelsberg, Sweden, September 2018.
in Jheronimus Academy of Data Sciences seminar, “Data Challenges on
Spaces and Places,” Engelsberg, Sweden, September 2018.
space in the New Urban Agenda: A global perspective on our common urban
future.” Presentation at the Venice Biennale, September 2018.
- “Implementing the New Urban Agenda.” Lecture for Strelka Institute, in Novosibirsk and Kaliningrad, Russia, October 2018.
new main streets: Lessons from Portland, Oregon.” Presentation at
University of Chicago, conference on “Does Main Street have a future?”
- “A pattern
language for rapid urbanization: Launching a digital pattern language
repository.” Presentation and panel discussion at Pattern Languages of
Programming (PLoP) conference and Portland Urban Architecture Research
Laboratory (PUARL) 10th Anniversary Conference (joint event), Portland
OR, October 2018.
- “Tools and
strategies to combat the decline of green and public spaces in Africa,”
and “Creating safe, inclusive and accessible public space in urban
Africa: From inventory to implementation,” presentations at AfriCities
conference in Marrakesh, Morocco with UN-Habitat and the City of
Johannesburg, November 2018.
- “Why public
space matters: Research on the economic, social and environmental
benefits” and “Placemaking for healthy cities: Research into practice.”
Presentations at Placemaking Conference in Wuhan, China, hosted by
UN-Habitat and Wuhan Municipal People’s Government, December 2018.
(our) urban nature: The role of nature and urban green space in
sustainable cities.” Delphi Conversations, video series at KTH
University, December 2018.
at a workshop on implementing the public space provisions of the New
Urban Agenda, moderated by Michael Mehaffy (top rown, center right) at
the AfriCities conference in Marrakesh.
paper, "From the Charter of Athens to the New Urban Agenda:
Implications for Urban Form and Public Space." (In press)
paper, "Neighborhood Choice Architecture: A new tool for
lower-emissions urban planning?"
paper, "Evaluating Landscape Urbanism: Evidence from Lafayette Park,
We welcome your questions, comments, or proposals for collaboration – and as always, we are grateful for support in all forms!
- Blog, Livable Portland, livableportland.org, in partnership with IMCL (numerous posts on issues of Portland livability)
Future of Places Research Network, foprn.org, in partnership with
Ax:son Johnson Foundation and the Centre for the Future of Places
(numerous posts on implementation of the New Urban Agenda)
neuroscience of architecture: The good, the bad – and the beautiful,”
Traditional Building, February 2018 (with Nikos Salingaros)
- “Five key takeaways from the World Urban Forum,” Planetizen, March 2018
- “The ‘Jacobs Curve’ and Gentrification,” CNU Public Square, April 2018
- Book, A Pattern Language for Growing Regions, Sustasis Press (TBC)