24 Sep 2013

Amsterdam Urban Innovation Week

Last week Pakhuis de Zwijger hosted the Amsterdam Urban Innovation Week. I attended three sessions:

Redefining Growth
Specially interesting in this session was the talk of Kate Raworth. Raworth demands the inclusion of "the environment" (natural resources, social capital, etc.) in the analysis of our economic model, questioning the perpetual pursuit of economic growth.  Through her diagram of the "Doughnut Economy", she claims for an economic model that balances our needs and the resources available to meet them. A clear and engaging talk for "dummies" in economy, like me.

Makers Movement: 3D printing
This session showed how active is the 3D printing community in Amsterdam and the Netherlands, it involved 15 speakers on the subject! Once again, the discussion of the 3rd Industrial Revolution came up (with Peter Troxler as a first speaker). This time, the message is that the 3D printer is an icon of this change, not necessarily the technology that enables it. In the same line, practitioners highlighted that "it is just one more tool", an statement that is certainly not aligned with the repercussion this technology is having in media. Overall, it seems that the popularity of the 3D printer as a world-changing machine is starting to decline. The managers and representatives of many "maker spaces" pointed out that digital fabrication tools complement traditional technologies. The main gain of this movement, according to them, is that it empowers people; they realize that they can solve their own problems and feel happy to be "in charge".

The Circular City: Sustainist Design
A promising session that didn't quite meet my expectations. However, John Thackara's talk was worthwhile. He claimed we should "forget about cities", since they are part of a bigger system and the circular model is not really achievable. Cities depend on many bigger systems and to ignore them prevent us to take action. With a hands-on approach, Thackara finds that solving local problems through direct engagement with the community is the only effective way to understand the bigger systems; during the talk he presented several local projects in developing and developed countries that involve farming, water systems, etc. as examples of this approach.