Networked Urbanism

design thinking initiatives for a better urban life

Design critics: Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo, principals of Ecosistema Urbano
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Joyce Lee
Carolina Yamate
Hayrettin Gunc

Vision and understanding about Bahrain and Muharraq

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After several weeks of desktop research, one seven day site visit, and two expert guest lectures, students began to grasp an understanding of Bahraini culture and the needs for public space in Muharraq. As a whole, Bahrain is full of tensions. It is a society with extreme weather conditions, where summers can reach over a 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the air conditioned indoors can be in the low 50s; where the public values privacy; and where half of the population are non nationals who lack voting rights.  Within this backdrop, the Ministry of Culture established a pearl trail to serve as public space in Muharraq and to celebrate the nation’s pearl diving past. While elegant and modern, the trail appeared underused during the students’ site visit and a bit exclusive with its expensive amenities. To complement the Ministry’s effort, the design team wished to establish something temporary that celebrated the present and was inclusive to all types of users.

Strategic concept

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After visiting the site, the design team felt humbled by the nuances and intricacies within the city. We realized there was so much to a city we could not observe, experience or understand within the short duration of our visit and the scope of the semester. Our original conception of public space did not jibe well with local conditions. Based on our limited knowledge, we felt it was most appropriate to design a process or urban strategy rather than a fixed space. To do this, we identified a few parameters as if we were to design each space, but then left the actual choice to the users. We followed this process for small, medium and large scales, or for intimate use to larger social gatherings. Given the short length of the academic term, the design team only focused on detailing the medium scale.

Focusing the concept: presenting the research and approach

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This project went through many iterations, but for the final presentation, the design team relied on five screens and one floor projection to narrate the process and introduce the design. This method engaged the audience through multiple senses–visual, auditory and physical (the audience needed to stand up and gather around to see the floor projection). Since students had the luxury to visit the site, we wanted to bring as many sensory elements to the performance.
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– Human scale: how social life will be affected.
The proposed design offers a low cost cooling mechanism that allows for more social interaction on the street level.
– Zoom out Urban scale: how the city life will be affected and transformed.
On an urban scale, this project introduces more active participation in the public realm. This design takes into consideration the many different types of city residents and attempts to offer some form of accommodations for all.
– Envisioning  the future
This project aspires to create public space that is fun, desirable and inclusive. It is an experiment that explores social agency and challenges how we design and who we design for.

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