The Mexico City studio conducted during Spring 2007 explored the manner in which the physical and conceptual understanding of landscape can enrich current forms of architectural and urban design practice. The Xochimilco area of Mexico City is well known for its extended series of canals — the remaining vestiges of an ancient system of lakes stretching for most of the valley of Anahuac in the middle of which Tenochtitlan, the impressive capital of the Aztecs, was located. Originally drained by the conquistadors to reproduce the conditions found in Spain, today the lake-bed is almost entirely occupied by Mexico City. The loss of subterranean water has had various ecological ramifications including: the gradual sinking of large parts of the city, loss of natural habitats, depletion of native vegetation, and the obsolescence of traditional agricultural methods of cultivation in the middle of the water called chinampas. Often referred to, incorrectly, as “floating gardens,” the chinampas were in fact, stationary artificial islands created by staking out the shallow lake bed and then fencing in the area with wattle. The fenced-off area was then layered with mud, lake sediment, and decaying vegetation, which eventually brought it above the level of the lake. Chinampas were separated by channels wide enough for a canoe to pass.
The worsening environmental situation in Xochimilco has generated a demand to conserve its landscapes and artifacts while also integrating them to the needs of modern society. The creation of an Archeological Site Museum and Botanical Park was seen as an important catalyst for this goal. Arguing that archeological exhibits need to be conserved within their contexts rather than as objects of display based on their aesthetic values, the studio attempted to connect each exhibit to the historical relationship between nature and man.
To understand the social, political, and environmental context of design, and in order to foster collaboration with Mexican students, architects and landscape designers, UC Berkeley students visited Mexico from January 8th to the 15th. Students were asked to research Mexican culture, artists, and architects; study precedents; create films; and collect rubbings and photographs of the building/construction sites in Mexico. They were also required to draw and research twenty pieces displayed at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City which would be exhibited in the Xochimilco Archeological Museum. Throughout their design process, students were frequently asked to switch from the urban to the museum-interior scale and vice-versa.
The program for the Archeological Museum was developed in conjunction with students from the Universidad Iberoamericana of Mexico City headed by Isaac Broid, Mauricio Rocha and Luis Villafranca, and an advanced studio from the California College of Arts (CCA) in San Francisco headed by Sandra Vivanco. Mid-semester review for the studio took place along with the CCA and Mexican students at a grand review held at the CCA. The objective of the international studio was to encourage cooperation and collaboration among higher educational institutions in the United States and Mexico, increase the knowledge of cultures and institutions in both countries, and help prepare students to work throughout North America. The work of the three schools was exhibited in the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco from May 18 to June 1, 2007 and will also be exhibited at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City later this year.
By Jean Eisberg, Master of City and Regional Planning ‘07
To a planner, China is opportunity. Over a billion people and growing; rising skyscrapers and a soaring GDP; poverty, pollution, and potential. The issues are rich, but the place is even richer.
During the spring 2007 semester, I traveled to Jiaxing, China with a group of students, faculty, and professionals for an interdisciplinary design studio. We were fortunate to be able to collaborate with students and professors at Tongji University, located nearby in Shanghai. The Tongji group guided us during the trip and throughout the studio.
I studied China as an undergraduate student and while visiting the country again, I was reminded of why I was initially so intrigued. This is a country whose history, politics and social structures have changed radically over the past several decades. Jiaxing exemplifies this dynamic.
Jiaxing boasts a mix of cultural and historic amenities as well as modern industry and technology. Water defines the landscape; it is, at times, beautiful, but it is also polluted and often strewn with debris. Nearly empty eight-lane roads portend the growth to come. But, today, it is difficult to differentiate Jiaxing from the many other mid-size industrial cities in China. Our group needed to enhance the existing assets in Jiaxing to bring out its unique identity and ensure its competitiveness in the region. The central government’s proposed high-speed rail station offered an incredible opportunity to make this happen.
After returning to Berkeley, it was time to get to work. But, as planners, urban designers, architects and landscape architects, we did not always speak the same language. We spent several weeks sketching, arguing, and jumping in and out of scales. Out of the chaos emerged some great ideas about water, open space, transportation, energy, architecture, and urban design. Our recommendations encompassed all scales — from architectural materials and façade details to a transit plan and renewable energy resources — reflecting the range of disciplines represented among the students in our studio.
The Tongji students helped us to understand the traditions, policies, and culture that define and affect architecture and development in the region. Collaborating with our colleagues at Tongji was one of the highlights for me. With a year of college-level Mandarin muddled in the back reaches of my brain, I got a chance to practice speaking and drew laughter for my errant tones. But even better was the chance to share opinions on what planning means in our respective countries. As one Tongji student admitted, China plans and develops without always considering the repercussions or offering mitigations. I countered that in the United States, legislation and politics often necessitate intense scrutiny and lengthy processes that can prevent projects from moving forward. We both wondered about the middle
I still see opportunity in China in terms of its tremendous growth. But I also see the possibility for China to become a leader in sustainable development, something we can all learn from.
By Marina Christodoulides, M.Arch, and M.C.P. Student
It all began on January 7, 2007, in the haze of the San Francisco night lights, when UC Berkeley students checked in at SFO airport for a flight to Delhi, India.
“Who is working for Nano City? Is he? Is she?” I thought to myself as I filed into the aircraft — the suspense and excitement building as we funneled into the tight space. I could not begin to fathom what was in store for me and my fellow classmates. I can now say that the excitement and enthusiasm never curbed, that the surprises and curve balls never ceased and the characters involved were rich with idiosyncrasies, making the journey a tumultuous, boisterous affair that culminated into one of my most enriching academic experiences.
The majority of our weeklong stay in India was spent in transit inside a big red Volvo bus, fusing camaraderie between our client, Sabeer Bhatia, and his group, the faculty leading and accompanying the studio, and other UC Berkeley students. As this was my first trip to India, I became mesmerized by the world outside the window. The streets were a continuous spectacle of the hustle and bustle of Indian life. Motor rickshaws, cows, monkeys, bicycles, squatters, villagers, men playing cards, shaving, defecating, cooking, carrying cargo — a bazaar of private life paraded across the stage of the public sphere. The images blasted in front of me like a blaring television screen, consuming my attention and senses even though my physical self remained protected by the now familiar interior of the red Volvo bus. This panorama of sights and sounds was occasionally interrupted with breaks for the restroom and meals, meetings with the Governor of Haryana and its ministers, an intense conversation with the villagers living on the site, and nights spent in the comfort of five-star hotels.
On one hand, the trip to India was a complete whirlwind; on the other, the perspective we gained was a mere Cliff’s notes introduction to our site and its larger context. However, it whetted our appetite for future work and upon our return to Berkeley, we immediately began design work for Nano City while simultaneously taking Professor Nezar AlSayyad’s course on housing and urbanization in the Third World.
So began the challenge of the semester. As we became increasingly educated about issues of housing in different parts of the world, our design required further development. The contradiction of designing a private city with growing awareness toward issues of informality and housing could not slow us down from every impending deadline. And while theory could not be espoused without a design implication, design could not occur in a vacuum of ignorance. There was a constant tug-of-war between our conceptual knowledge and our practical design solutions.
The complexity of the project did not end there. The studio was composed of two eight-person groups that were each commissioned to design a master plan. And while working in groups and for a real client is quite foreign to the traditional architectural studio, it put us in a scenario that was much closer to professional practice. In the end, the product was much richer than anything we could have done as individuals. By continuously learning from each other, and building on each other’s strengths, the final studio product reached an admirable level of resolution.The Nano City Super Studio pushed and pulled at the boundaries of academic theory and practice, of individuals and teamwork, of disciplinary boundaries such as architecture, city planning, landscape and urban design. Through continuous struggle, friction and contradicting demands, we found our home in the complex beauty of the Nano City project.
On December 26, 2004 a massive undersea earthquake in the Andaman-Sumatran subduction zone spawned a huge tsunami that killed over 200,000 people in countries bordered by the Indian Ocean. Thailand suffered widespread damage in six southern provinces.
Dwellings were damaged or destroyed. Natural resources — coral reefs, beaches, mangrove areas and freshwater aquifers — sustained extensive damage. Also hard-hit was public infrastructure, such as fish and shrimp farms, landfills, and wastewater systems. Rebuilding and recovery have been uneven and slow. Tourist areas with casualty-insured facilities are recovering the fastest, while local settlements with little insurance coverage and unclear property rights are slow to rebuild.
In most areas, the focus is on near-term recovery rather than long-term issues. But broader questions need answers — what role should tourism play in Southern Thailand? What should be the balance between environmental protection and cultural preservation and the economic benefits of tourism activities?
In February 2005, the University of California at Berkeley, Chulalongkorn University, and the Thai Public Policy Foundation formed a partnership to provide technical assistance to help shape long-term strategic planning in the Andaman coastal region. The project began when Chote Soponpanich, President of the Thai Public Policy Foundation, contacted Chancellor Robert Birgeneau of UC Berkeley to ask how the university could provide technical assistance for tsunami relief. Building on a previously successful partnership between the Thai Public Policy Foundation, UC Berkeley’s Department of City and Regional Planning and Goldman School of Public Policy, and Chulalongkorn University Social Science Research Institute, the three institutions decided to work together. Short-term humanitarian aid was abundant, so the team envisioned a project focusing on long-term strategic planning for tourism, given the needs of the impacted tourist areas and the partners’ combined expertise.
During the week of March 21-25, 2005 the partners visited three provinces — Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga — assessing conditions and defining the project. They met with local elected officials, planners, and community leaders, conducting interviews and visiting tsunami-inundated areas, where they assessed local technical capacity, surveyed the scale of international humanitarian assistance activities, and gauged the level of interest of each of the provinces in receiving long-term strategic planning assistance. In Bangkok the partners also met with government officials to learn about ongoing planning activities.
Based on these field visits and discussions with Chulalongkorn faculty and the Thai Public Policy Foundation Board of Directors, the partnership agreed to concentrate efforts on Krabi Province, developing an overall strategic framework, focusing on sustainable tourism development, community development and income generation, and regional level infrastructure needs. In addition, the partnership agreed to develop an active community participation process to engage stakeholders and reflect their views in the final product.
On May 23, 2005 in Bangkok, 20 graduate students and six faculty from Chulalongkorn and Berkeley met to form the project team. Participants had backgrounds in city planning, architecture, government, and landscape architecture. After briefings, the team traveled to Krabi Province to begin the project. From May 26 to June 4, they met with local government officials, business leaders, community groups and tourists, then on June 5 returned to Bangkok to prepare the strategic plan and presentation.
Tourism’s rapid expansion in southern Thailand provides economic benefits for many, but affects many facets of daily life. In Krabi Province, tourism’s pluses can drive the region’s development and growth, creating jobs and generating local government revenues. Tourism’s minuses include environmental degradation, social dependency, underdevelopment, and adverse socio-cultural effects, especially for rural populations. The tsunami’s aftermath offers the opportunity to assess benefits and costs of tourism, and to reframe a tourism strategy that is environmentally sustainable, economically productive, and socially acceptable.
Stakeholder meetings, informal interviews, and extensive fieldwork throughout the province allowed researchers to collect both qualitative and quantitative data on the province’s existing conditions. The team identified issues surrounding sustainable tourism development, environmental protection, community development, income generation, and regional level infrastructure needs. Back in Bangkok, the team used a strategic planning and scenario assessment method to assess tourism strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and to consider possible future strategies.
The region’s rebuilding provides a unique opportunity to develop long-term strategies for guiding future development. The resulting Strategic Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development in Krabi Province discusses the direct and indirect economic, social, and environmental linkages between the distinct sectors and stakeholder groups within the province and shows how their activities may affect Krabi Province’s future.
In describing the approach and method of the project, the Strategic Plan provides a general overview of Krabi Province, and discusses tourism trends from international, national, regional and provincial perspectives. The report also presents a vision of sustainable tourism, an assessment of the province’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (a SWOT analysis), and three tourism strategies. Then, using a scenario planning process, each strategy’s likely performance is evaluated. Finally, the report summarizes the results of the scenario analysis and proposes a range of implementation options for consideration. In addition, it outlines the next steps that should be taken to achieve sustainable tourism in Krabi Province.
The Strategic Plan differs from, and complements existing, national, regional and provincial plans in several important ways. First, alternative tourism strategies are tested against external scenarios to gauge resiliency. Second, communities and residents are viewed as main drivers behind tourism management and planning, not just as economic stakeholders. Third, tourism is viewed not as a sector in and of itself, but in the broader context of the province’s whole economy, with tourists as integral stakeholders, not just a source of external demand.
Researchers developed three distinct tourism strategies: Krabi Riviera, Krabi Highlights and Krabi Discovery. Krabi Riviera is a market-led laissez faire approach emphasizing mass tourism. Krabi’s beaches and islands become the main draw for tourism activity, with most development occurring along the coast, concentrating on large coastal resorts and supporting facilities. Fragile ecological areas such as mangrove forests, wetlands, and other critical habitat open to development of resorts, hotels, and other tourist amenities, taking precedence over the quality of tourism and community life.
Krabi Highlights, a government-led strategy promoting nodal development with greater local linkages, features six nodes, or locations, for tourism development. Each node becomes a hub for a particular niche market, such as eco-, cultural, and religious tourism, providing visitors with differing experiences. The government proactively promotes and encourages promotion and a combination of measures to encourage development in desired locations and limits tourism elsewhere.
Krabi Discovery is a community-led strategy emphasizing fine-grain development. Local-self governments in the more popular destinations treat the tourism market as a driver of community development, placing priority on the promotion of community-based economic development while taking readings from the tourist market, rather than trying to explicitly satisfy market demands. Chief stakeholders are local communities, which define the scope and scale of tourism development and participate actively in tourism planning and implementation, while the central and provincial governments facilitate the community empowerment through the provision of loans, infrastructure, marketing of tourism in the rest of the country and abroad, and coordinates the creation of pilot programs to experiment with different niches and activities.
To test the future likely performance of the strategies, the team created three external scenarios — Global Boom, Global Median and Global Downturn. Global Boom posits maximum economic growth, social cohesion and environmental stability, in which worldwide economies grow at above average rates and average incomes increase. Greater disposable incomes mean greater global demand for tourism, and Thailand captures an increasing share of both domestic and international tourist markets. Thailand improves in both social and political realms, with the Thai people achieving higher levels of education and training. Human factors bolster the overall strength of the nation and the region. Environmental factors, both natural and manmade, are stable and positive, water supply is sufficient, and there are no new environmental problems or risks.
The next scenario, Global Median, builds on current global and regional trends, with average economic performance, a steady sociopolitical state, and some environmental threats. Growth is moderate and capital is not as readily available as under the Boom scenario, but Thailand grabs an increasing share of that growth, though with less demand for specific types of niche tourism. Sociopolitical situations remain much the same, however, environmental factors present some problems at global and national levels, with water shortages, industrial pollution and continued global warming leading to moderately rising sea levels.
Global Downturn is the last scenario, a pessimistic projection of economic stagnation, social conflict, and environmental trauma. Under this scenario, external conditions follow the Global Boom trends until 2015, at which point economic, sociopolitical, and environmental threats are realized, severely affecting the tourism industry. A stagnant or declining global economy precipitates a decline in Asian economies, with negative effects on domestic and international tourism, as well as demand for niche tourist activities. Sociopolitical strife escalates, collaborative intervention from foreign powers increases tension and upsets traditional ways of life. The environment suffers, with severe droughts affecting some areas, while dramatically rising sea levels impact Thailand’s coastlines.
The results of the scenario analysis indicate that Krabi’s natural environment will come under significant pressure if the Krabi Riviera strategy is pursued and driven by the Global Boom scenario. Alternatively, the other strategies pose less risk to the environment regardless of which external environment occurs in the future. However, the results of the scenario analysis do not suggest that one strategy is best. Each strategy offers a distinct set of benefits and costs that need to be carefully considered as the community thinks about and plans its future tourism industry.
About the Author
City planning professor David Dowall was director of the Institute of Urban and Regional Development (IURD) from 2004 to 2008 and worked with IURD since joining the Berkeley faculty in 1976. Over the years, his research has focused on both domestic and international land management, housing policy, economic development strategy and infrastructure planning and finance. Internationally, Dowall has carried out policy research and designed technical and financial assistance strategies for cities and regions in over 40 countries. Although he is known for his empirical and analytical work on urban land economics and infrastructure finance, he has spent over 20 years working with governments and nongovernmental organizations on neighborhood and urban development projects.