Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Via Archinect I discovered EcoMetropolitanism (EcoMet), and exciting and provocative proposal for a new form of urbanism by Mari Fujita and Matthew Soules of Vancouver. Obviously I find it exciting because it is a concept that is intimately connected to the PHREE_Urbanism concept I have been proposing in my last few posts.

Fujita and Soules proposition consists of seven points to make Vancouver a more wild and exciting place through an intensification of Vancouver’s already existing unique relationship between nature and urbanism. I really like this concept of the hyper-local—finding what is truly native to a place and exacerbating it.* This seems to be the Fujita and Soules’ MO for this and other projects. In Fujita’s blog I found an excerpt of a paper she submitted to the ACSA discussing the notion of several types of urbanity and needing to address places with more specificity, and going so far as to declare Vancouver as a verb and a new –ism. Fujitas declares that Vancouverism is the model of density and diversity within a livable framework. EcoMet, for Fujita and Soules, is a supped-up, accelerated, version of Vancouverism—a Vancouverism on anabolic steroids, if you will.

EcoMetropolitanism Vs. EcoDensity
Hyper-locality involves contending with not only the ecologic specificity of a place but also the regulatory specificity as well, and EcoMet seems to be a direct response to Vancouver’s EcoDensity zoning system which was just put into place last year. According to the Vancouver’s EcoDensity website claims that

Part of the City of Vancouver’s response to these challenges is a new initiative
called EcoDensity. The program will be designed to create greater density
throughout the city, and do it in a way that lowers our impact on the
environment; ensures the necessary physical and social amenities; and supports
new and different housing types as a way to promote more affordability. (
I personally do not know much about the EcoDensity initiative except that it sounds nice as an idea. But Fujita and Soules use EcoMet as a critique of the new program: "It's very much a critique of EcoDensity," says Soules. "There's many different ways in which density can occur, but EcoDensity makes no specific claims really about what form density will take. So EcoMet is an attempt to be more specific about what kind of density can occur." (2) Another way that they directly respond to Vancouver's regulations is by taking Vancouver's existing view cone regulations and invert them.

The following is a description of EcoMetropolitanism straight from the horses mouth, Mathew Soules’ website:

EcoMetropolitanism is a joint research project by MSA and FujitaWork that seeks
to understand, articulate, and visualize possibilities for the hyper dense,
super diverse, and radically optimized cities of the future. Cities in which the
vibrancy of the metropolis is amplified by ecologically designed architectural

The project takes its departure from Vancouver as a city
with a specific and provocative relationship between dense urbanism and natural
environment. The EcoMetropolis can be understood as an accelerated Vancouver. In
building the EcoMetropolis certain performative strategies are instrumental:
Expanding upon received ideas of density to account for broader systems and
populations, inverting and redeploying Vancouvers view cone system, intensifying
programmatic diversity, maximizing building envelopes and creating productive
ecologies inside building interiors.

The Seven Points (all text and images via The Tyee)

Point One: Make EcoMAX
Measure not just simple human density but also plant and animal life and diversity.
Point Two: Invert the View Cone
EcoMet proposes Urban Habitat Cones, Urban Agriculture Cones, Density Release Cones, and Mixer Cones to view our newly exciting city.

Point Three: Intensity Use
Fujita and Soules re-imagine Vancouver's downtown tower-on-podium template to serve much richer and more varied purposes: wildlife corridors slice through the commercial space at ground level; bridges and platforms host bird habitats and micro-agriculture.
Point Four: Exploit Co-Existence
Don't just make a "green roof" that no one can see or feed from; design it as a source of animal food and human entertainment.
Point Five: Broaden Structure
EcoMet augments structure and infrastructure's extant function of supporting humans by capitalizing on their potential to service the city's expanded population.
Point Six: Maximize Envelope
Take the dull, predictable condo tower envelope and fold it, warp it, substract and protrude until you come up with a visually exciting and highly interactive architecture: all those new ledges and crevicess will allow plant and animal integration.

Point Seven: Ecologize the Interior
Soules and Fujita suggest mainstreaming Vancouver's time-tested "interior agriculture" (a.k.a. grow-ops) into new crops--say, hydroponically-grown tomatoes-- that not only provide a source of fresh local food but could also generate a colourful "living wallaper" and other aesthetic qualities for the inhabitants.


namhenderson said...

Most of the other commenters on Archinect didn't seem that impressed by this concept.
Granted it isn't groundbreaking but i really like the imaginative level to which they "apply" their concepts. plus, the imagery as i said on the post is pretty, render free.
I mean granted their would be some difficulties with implementation but as a piece of eco-architectural fiction i thought "Bravo".

Dave Brown said...

Nam, I appreciate the renderings as well! And while some of the images may not be structurally feasible I think it is important as a provocation. The ideas are probably more interesting than the forms proposed. I particularly like the local application of concepts that are being more generally discussed these days.

colluvial said...

I like it! We've lived for too long with a nature vs. humanity divide which leads us to assume that wildlife in the city is out of place.

The EcoMet concept ties in well with the increasing interest in green roofs. The majority of green roofs use a standard pallet of drought-resistant plants that aren't especially useful to wildlife. But if we establish species from local, shallow-soil plant communities, we may be able to cover the city in wildlife habitat.