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Competition: Reinventing Cities

An unprecedented international contest has been launched to sustainably regenerate 47 brownfield sites across 17 of the world’s greatest cities (Deadline: 20 April)

Open to multidisciplinary teams of architects, developers, environmentalists and artists, the two-stage competition seeks innovative proposals for new carbon-free and resilient developments on a range of dense city centre sites.

The project, backed by C40 Cities and inspired by the city-wide Reinvent Paris contest, will transform a wide variety of sites including empty plots, abandoned buildings, a former airport, underused car parks and an abandoned incinerator. Participating cities include Auckland, Cape Town, Chicago, Houston, Lima, Madrid, Milan, Mexico City, Montreal, Oslo, Paris, Portland, Quito, Reykjavik, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and San Francisco.

East Garfield Park, Chicago

East Garfield Park, Chicago

East Garfield Park, Chicago

Announcing the contest, C40 chair and mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo said: ‘Think local, act global is the 21st-century state of mind. By launching this global competition, we make this philosophy very concrete celebrating the most vibrant innovative solutions to environmental challenges.

‘Reinventing Cities will set new standards of sustainability in cities, and who better than our citizens to imagine the future of their cities? I am convinced that the winning projects will surprise us all and present innovations we are unable to imagine today.’

C40 Cities is a network of major cities representing more than 650 million people and one quarter of the global economy. The campaign group focuses on tackling climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks in urban settings, while increasing the health, wellbeing and economic opportunities of local residents.

The latest competition has been inspired by the ongoing Reinvent Paris initiative which this year sought ‘open, vibrant and radiant’ proposals for a 150,000m² swathe of subterranean sites across the French capital.

Contest sites include an abandoned 1,400m² factory in Paris

Contest sites include an abandoned 1,400m² factory in Paris

Contest sites include an abandoned 1,400m² factory in Paris

David Chipperfield and Sou Fujimoto were among the winners of the first Reinvent Paris in 2016, which sought proposals for a range of buildings include the landmark Immeuble Morland office which backs on to the River Seine.

Reinventing Cities aims to deliver a series of flagship schemes that act as beacons of future urban sustainability and resiliency. Applications will be judged on their innovation and ability to harness ‘striking architecture’ and deliver benefits for local communities.

Competition sites include a 1ha civic centre car park in Cape Town; a number of unused plots in East Garfield Park (pictured), Chicago; an abandoned 1,400m² factory in Paris; a 121ha former landfill in Houston; and a 1,880m² municipal market in Madrid.

Between three and five teams will be shortlisted for each site. The overall winners of each contest will enter into legal arrangements with the respective site owners to either purchase, rent or lease back the land needed to develop their scheme.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for applications is 12am (UTC) on 20 April

Contact details

C40 Cities
120 Park Avenue
23rd Floor
New York
NY 10017
United States

Visit the competition website for more information

Leeds Climate Innovation District case study: Q&A with Geoff Denton

The partner at White Arkitekter London discusses lessons learned designing a new sustainable mixed-use future for a brownfield site in Leeds, England

Geoff Denton

Geoff Denton

Geoff Denton

How will your Climate Innovation District transform a former industrial site into a new low-carbon mixed-use community?

Our design for the Leeds Climate Innovation district places quality of life at the heart of the community and promotes the area of Leeds as a walkable, healthy, family-friendly environment underpinned by good design and great places. The area will provide a mixed-use and safe urban district with integrated activities, housing, services, accessible healthcare and education, and a diversity of urban spaces that are vibrant and accessible to all. It will also offer a range of opportunities for recreation and culture a short walk from the city centre. The district will have a clear hierarchy of pedestrian, bicycle and traffic routes and a distinctive urban design.

Leeds Climate Innovation District by White Arkitekter London

Leeds Climate Innovation District by White Arkitekter London

Leeds Climate Innovation District by White Arkitekter London

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

Our approach to street structure places identity and streets at eye level and, by inserting business and cultural activities into ground-floor spaces, creates safe and interesting street environments. Climate adaption methods have been adopted throughout the scheme. Tree-lined streets will provide both a drainage opportunity and a natural provision of shading. All ground surfaces will be permeable where possible and the Climate Innovation District will endeavour to embrace natural resources. The River Aire will provide the focal point for residents as well as an opportunity for a public learning centre for climate adaption in urban planning.

Leeds Climate Innovation District by White Arkitekter London

Leeds Climate Innovation District by White Arkitekter London

Leeds Climate Innovation District by White Arkitekter London

What advice would you have to contest participants on rethinking sustainable futures for brownfield sites around the world?

  • Observation: What context and cultural values exist. How do people live and how do people move?
  • Think holistically: What needs to be connected?
  • Speak to people: What should be improved what should be preserved?
  • Collaborate: Fnding common goals and agreeing on a vision for a place will give guidance.
  • Vision: What do we want a place to become for the inhabitants of today and the future?
  • Nature and the environment: Think of what help “ecosystem services” can bring.
  • The elements: Support biodiversity and adopt natural methods to support the environment once completed.

Leeds Climate Innovation District by White Arkitekter London

Leeds Climate Innovation District by White Arkitekter London

Leeds Climate Innovation District by White Arkitekter London

One Brighton case study: Q&A with Jason Cornish

The partner at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios discusses lessons learned designing a sustainable housing development for a former brownfield site in Brighton, England

Jason Cornish

Jason Cornish

Jason Cornish

How did your One Brighton Project transform a former industrial site into a low-carbon mixed-use community?

The One Brighton project is a high-density mixed-use scheme which is part of the New England Quarter, adjacent to the main train station. It provides 172 residential units above community and business uses. The development was pioneered by a partnership between WWF, Bioregional Quintain and Crest Nicholson.

The project was conceived from the outset as the first One Planet Living community. The design fully embraced Bioregional’s ten one planet living principles, which establish an armature for socially and environmentally sustainable developments. This holistic view on sustainability generated design innovations that have become ubiquitous on new developments, such as car clubs, composting, and rooftop allotments. The systems within the building including a central biomass, PV panels and local MVHR, all enable a zero-carbon lifestyle that the residents can engage with. The development promotes sustainable living, working and socialising, with the green management programme encouraging and supporting the residents to minimise their carbon footprint.

One Brighton by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

One Brighton by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Source: Image by Tim Crocker

One Brighton by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

The form and materiality of One Brighton is routed in its wider topographic and historic context. The rendered Georgian terraces set among surrounding hills offer the backdrop for its white rendered buildings. The concrete structure was exposed internally to use thermal mass for optimising thermal control, while the building façade with its low-energy Ziegal block and wood wool insulation provides a low carbon, highly insulating and thermally tight envelope. The change in level has been used to reinforce urban connectivity, these are also used to conceal the bins bikes and plant, and in doing so provides active frontages at the three entrance levels.

One Brighton by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

One Brighton by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Source: Image by Tim Crocker

One Brighton by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

What advice would you have to contest participants on rethinking sustainable futures for brownfield sites around the world?

Our work in One Brighton, and the subsequent post-occupancy evaluations, showed us how a building can enable a zero-carbon lifestyle, but only by keeping the residents firmly in mind. It is the occupants themselves that will keep the building sustainable through their choices, and all aspects of the development should guide them towards the most sustainable decisions.

One Brighton by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

One Brighton by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Source: Image by Tim Crocker

One Brighton by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Q&A with Hélène Chartier

C40’s senior adviser discusses her ambitions for the Reinventing Cities competition

Hélène Chartier

Hélène Chartier

Hélène Chartier

Why are your holding a competition to regenerate various brownfield sites around the world?

C40’s Reinventing Cities competition seeks to demonstrate that cities and the private sector can work together to create new models of sustainable, low-carbon urban development. The principle of Reinventing Cities is to use publicly owned sites as leverage to accelerate the transition towards zero-carbon and climate-resilient urban development. Seventeen pioneering cities - Auckland, Cape Town, Chicago, Houston, Lima, Madrid, Milan, Mexico City, Montreal, Oslo, Paris, Portland, Quito, Reykjavik, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and San Francisco have identified a total of 47 under-used sites, which they are now inviting private actors to help transform. C40 and these cities invite architects, urban planners, designers, developers, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, start-uppers, neighbourhood collectives, innovators and artists to collaborate and compete for the opportunity to transform these sites into new beacons of sustainability and resiliency.

Two years ago, Paris organised a similar competition, Reinvent Paris, on 23 sites. It emphasised innovation in architecture, typology and usage. It mobilised more than 600 teams, comprising multiple urban actors – 15 different nationalities, 30 professions. Reinventing Cities is more than a design competition. By demonstrating that development based on sustainable principles, can be economically viable, attractive and popular, Reinventing Cities will have an impact far beyond the 47 sites we launched last year.

What is your vision for the future of these plots?

The objective is to use this competition as test beds for innovations and replicable solutions. Therefore, it was important to propose various types of sites. The smallest site is a 610m² plot in the centre of Milan, the largest site is a former landfill of 121ha in Houston. The competition also includes a former airport, eight car parks, four historical mansions, 17 empty plots for new development and 12 large sites to reorganise and densify.

This great variety will allow us to showcase a wide range of solutions. All the projects should demonstrate innovative and replicable climate solutions in key fields such as energy efficiency, resiliency, water management, waste management, sustainable building materials and other components that will lead to a carbon-free development. Not only will the bidder teams need to creatively address both content and form, they must also demonstrate that environmental performances can be achieved in combination with great architecture and community benefit.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

Each team submitting an application must include at least one architect and one environmental expert. Apart from that, there are no mandatory rules regarding the composition of the team, and no limit regarding the size of the participating companies. Small and large architecture agencies are both welcome to join, and the variety of sites offer opportunities for everyone to showcase innovative projects in this high exposure competition.

We also encourage applications that combine small and large firms, international and local expertise, and to build interdisciplinary teams to foster ‘out of the box’ thinking. In addition to architects, environmental experts, investors and contractors, teams could also include artists, community groups, entrepreneurs, and other groups.

Are there any recent carbon-neutral brownfield regeneration projects you have been impressed by?

The Barangaroo project in Sydney was inspiring. It was Australia’s first large-scale carbon-neutral precinct, including great innovation specifically in the field of water management. Also, I also would like to mention three winning projects from Reinvent Paris. ‘Fertile Island’ designed by TVK proposed the first carbon-neutral development of Paris. ‘En Seine!’ proposed the first service station providing only clean energy, and the ‘farm track’ is an urban farm combined with a shelter for homeless that will collect the organic waste of the neighborhood. These projects demonstrate that zero carbon urban development is not just about building, it is also about new services to foster decarbonised ways of living in cities. 

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