Audi + Urban Future Award Istanbul

Turkish Delights

And the winner is… The Audi Urban Future Award 2012 ceremony was held with great aplomb in Istanbul amidst the frenzy of its first Design Biennale. A Champagne fuelled boat party breezily sailed past the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and Ottoman palaces, glistening in the last days of summer; past the cliff faces of flats clinging onto narrow streets with lingering cats on every corner, resplendent in the heat; en route to a manmade island on the Bosphorus. Architecture’s answer to the Oscars, Audi knows how to throw a party.

Earlier on dry land, Lavender’s Blue enjoyed the Adhocracy exhibition of the Istanbul Biennale. Curated by Milan based architect and Domus editor in chief Joseph Grima, it was held in the historic Galata Greek School.  Adhocracy celebrated the move from bureaucracy to innovation. An emphasis of process over product was another theme. Oh brave new world! Our favourite of the 60 projects was a model of an oh so contemporary villa. A pure distillation of Manser meets Meier. So relevant. So now. Who’s the architect? Some young Turk from the Golden Horn who knows his Golden Ratio?

Er, no. It’s a 1:333 scale remake of self taught Italian architect Giancarlo de Carlo’s villa for the Villaggio Matteotti exhibition. Dated 1970. “Architecture is too important to leave to the architects,” he once quipped. “Thus with the rise of middle class professionalism, architecture was driven into the realm of specialisation, where only the problems of ‘how’ were relevant, as the problems of ‘why’ were assumed to have been resolved once and for all.”  Process versus product again. De Carlo cites the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul as one of only a few buildings which possess perfect elegance and the power to enthral everybody.

Back to the party. Five hipper than thou architectural practices were invited to compete for the prestigious €100,000 prize. Each represented their home megalopolis. A 2030 vision (2020 vision plus 10?) or urban mobility anchored in its locale yet capable of global application set the scene.

Each of the architects examined mobility 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 evolving 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 Ayyildiz for Istanbul.

The architects’ Vorsprung durch Technik was as dynamic as the new Audi A8. Coordinated human interaction maintains the economic miracle of Mumbai. Pearl River Delta is deconstructed and reconstructed. In Boswash the American dream is reinvented. São Paulo dances to the rhythm of newfound energy. 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 appeal. Seamless intermodal mobility is the sustainable future.

Lights, cameras, action! Americans 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 heralded. 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 three million people can be connected between the ‘burbs and the ‘bright lights’ via the Bundle.

A superhub located in Newark, New Jersey, displaces New York City as the capital of Boswash. Prepare for the battle of the housewives. Prada handbags at dawn. Even more fundamentally in a material world, ownership is traded for sharing. Höweler + Yoon’s new American Dream is of freedom and opportunity. Urban shape is transformed and access to mobility is the ultimate metric of city living.

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 by the architectural quality of the implementation.”

The car shaped the city. Now it’s the turn of the city to shape the car. Corbu’s machine for living has gone mobile (Vers Une Architecture est maintenant Vers la Mode de Vie). 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.”