Imagine a city that functioned with the seamless ingenuity of nature: the interconnected systems--from school, to store, to street, to restaurant--benefiting and feeding one another without depleting resources.
Re:Vision, a group that has launched a series of urban design competitions, has asked contestants to think boldly about what that model city might look like. The first part of the competition, Re:Volt, looked at intelligent urban energy. The second, Re:Route, focused on transportation. Three additional contests are underway: Re:Store, about urban economy; Re:Connect, about urban planning; and finally, Re:Vision, remaking a city block into a thriving mixed used area.
Stacey Frost, who founded Re:Vision, says the response has been impressive. These designers, she says, understand how to work with existing infrastructure. "It isn't sexy," says Frost, "but somebody has to look at the whole system. You're maximizing resources. The closed loop has tremendous opportunity for revolutionary design."
Sarah Atwood, a winner in the Re:Volt competition, proposed an "Active Energy Play Space," which harnesses kids' energy as they scamper across playground equipment to power LED lights that keep the playgrounds lit at night. Another winning design team offered "Cell Block," which takes city blocks from inefficiency to zero impact through a nature-based, replicating cell model.
"The hardest part was designing systems that are at the intersection of functionality, good design and affordability," says team member Kate Randolph. The group brought together existing green technologies, from generating hydro-power from gray water, to creating biofuels from local restaurants and growing living roofs. In each of the completed contests, certain trends arose. In the case of Re:Volt, it was combining energy systems--wind, solar, hydroelectric. De-signer Brian McLaughlin's "Recharge" system involved solar arrays and wind...