We at B4place focus on forward-looking, property development ideas, which we call “Property Experiments”. For this Property Experiment, we’re exploring what it would be like to submit to a hypothetical design competition–the MVU Award.
The MVU Award is focused on solutions for the social, ecological, and economic challenges of today’s property development market. The award aims to draw out adaptable and scalable solutions from innovative designers.
Minimum Viable Urbanism Award and Competition Details:
This award promotes lifestyle patterns and technologies to enable high resource-consuming populations to decrease their footprint and at the same time enable low-resource consuming populations to increase their standard of living.
Focused on solutions for the social, ecological, and economic challenges of today’s property development market, the award aims to draw out adaptable and scalable solutions from innovative designers.
Thriving through the challenges of the 21st century requires a concerted effort to reduce our footprint. We need to find new avenues to re-acquaint ourselves with our low-consumption heritage while also inspiring novel solutions for an enduring future.
The judges are interested in the rules, supply chains, and governing philosophies for the making of these communities—especially in relation to the current social and macroeconomic conditions in the world.
Another strong consideration is the story told about the development–with words, numbers, and images.
Submissions for the award should include considerations for the following:
- Durability, with cheapest-to-maintain per quality-of-life ratio and longest depreciation horizon.
- Use of locally sourced raw materials.
- Designed to be a template that is adaptable and scalable across different climates and geographic locations.
- Minimum possible consumption of all resources and energy (construction, maintenance, and occupancy).
- Mixed-use with all the services and amenities required for daily life in close proximity.
- Consideration for the background and culture the residents will bring with them. How are differences accommodated, and how are they adapted for modern, blended communities?
- Designed for remote, undervalued places that lack access to standard supply chain infrastructure and necessities like clean water.
So that’s the context for the hypothetical award submission, which we’ll described below:
Introduction and Summary
In a currently unused section of California City, California is known as the “Largest City Never Built”
Koyotl @Cal City is proposed to be a compact, one-square-mile desert mini-metropolis for 50,000 people located between Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada.
The name “Koyotl” is derived from the pre-Columbian Nahuatl word for Coyote.
Our proposal is inspired by the low-consumption, desert cultures of the world—from the nomadic San of South Africa, to the more settled Yemeni Arabs and Puebloan Americans.
This plan is not about fantasy city-building, with experimental visions taking precedent over tried-and-true forms and approaches. Instead, the top priority of the plan is to create a place that works well from a practical standpoint and can survive the test of time.
The compact plan will allow residents to benefit from the “Proximity Paradox”, which means that closeness and compactness make neighborly bonds stronger and social dynamics more respectful. Rather than causing problems, well-designed proximity triggers our best instincts.
Also, when communities are built densely and compactly like this, people can more easily share resources. Therefore, far less infrastructure is needed for utilities, and a proven impossible location becomes possible.
Koyotl features small, shady streets, with mostly 3-12 story buildings. People easily get anywhere in the small town on foot, or by bicycle or mobility scooter.
Spontaneity, serendipity, and neighborliness become a daily norm again.
At the center of the town is a small cluster of taller business-district buildings, with a grand bazaar at its core.
Like other traditional desert cities, the orientations of the narrow streets are optimized for shade from the relentless Southern California sun.
Who Needs Single-Use Zoning Anyway?
Koyotl will have no pollution-causing factories, so single-use zoning won’t be necessary.
Restaurants, workshops and other businesses, which might be considered nuisances in other places, is a welcome part of the neighborhood. Their presence will be appreciated as part of daily life, rather than being strictly regulated and segregated.
A Town of Poly-Cultural Villages
The features and details of Koyotl will reflect California’s diverse population of people from all over the world. People will bring their different cultures, foods, fashion, arts, philosophies, and religions. This diversity will continue to attract new residents eager to live in such an exciting and fun place.
There will be five villages of about ten thousand people each, with the borders between the villages blending into each other.
At the street level, the neighborhood differences will be reflected in the diversity of materials, colors, patterns of the buildings and spaces. Much of the architecture and forms will be unadventurous and familiar though, but there will also be a lot of the unique and handmade.
From the neon of old Hong Kong, the soft candlelight in Italy’s cathedrals, to the stained glass windows of the mosques of Tabriz–these places use lighting to great effect and inspire Koyotl’s dark-sky and wildlife-friendly lighting. The objective is to create an atmosphere that gives people great joy for very low input costs.
Using RGB LEDs and lasers, the lighting in the public spaces will be programmed to feature different colors at different times of the day and year—yellows and greens in the spring, and ambers and oranges in the autumn for example.
The sequences and patterns will be programmed to feel spontaneous and organic. This technology will positively impact people’s well-being and sense of place by evoking times past when people celebrated the changing seasons and ritualized special occasions.
Along with the day-to-day enjoyment this lighting scheme will bring, it will create a special ambiance for public festivals and neighborhood parties—allowing each community’s lighting to come alive in its own unique way.
The vast majority of homes will have only small-scale kitchenettes rather than large full kitchens. Day-to-day meals will occur in affordable local restaurants, food courts and street vendors, like those that are common all over Latin America, Africa, Middle East and Asia.
The economic, social, and environmental benefits associated with this shared dining strategy can’t be underestimated. It allows people to more easily have serendipitous social lives and regular incidental interactions with neighbors.
It also consolidates the supply and waste streams associated with one of the most resource-intensive parts of people’s lives.
Efficiencies Through Consolidated Infrastructure
Another defining feature of Koyotl’s design is the minimization and consolidation of utilities and other infrastructure wherever possible. This is especially important in challenging environments that are far from other utilities with little water.
The development in Koyotl will rely on simple shared strategies–therefore avoiding the excessive infrastructure that has proven so costly and destructive in current sprawl-based development.
In day-to-day life, most residents will use public toilets that tie into the municipal septic system while also being maintained to a high standard. This arrangement allows most private residential toilets to be off-grid, using new technologies like the Nano Membrane Toilet.
Otherwise, household gray water will flow into local re-purposing systems, including groundwater recharging.
Bringing Back the Pubic Bath
To further decrease water use and consolidate infrastructure, most residences will be equipped with low-flow showers and no bathtubs. There will be numerous public bathing facilities distributed evenly around the square mile for people who want a more luxurious bathing experience from time-to-time.
- Hybrid design inspired by the great desert caravan cities of Eurasia, like Urumqi, Kiva, Samarcand, Baalbek, and Fez
- Food courts, street markets
- Solar canopy shade structures through the greenbelts and rooftops
- Freshwater derived from desalinated piped-in seawater. Recovered brine used as bacterial cement nutrients
- Narrow streets and alleyways through the neighborhoods creating shady places to walk
- Thick building walls to keep temperature in homes and courtyards stable
- Retractable shade structures in the public squares like those in the Gulf states
- Street priority is given to cyclists and pedestrians.
- Pervasive sports facilities built into the public easements, including rock climbing and hiking across the surfaces of the taller public buildings
- ADA compliance with ubiquitous chamfered curbs and linear induction elevators for taller buildings.
- Small-scale commercial and utility vehicles and hardware to navigate the tight easements
Inspired by and attracting people from all over the world, Koyotl is a perfect template for re-imaging highly social development for a resource constrained century.