The Eighth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2006
Berkeley Prize 2006

Andrew Amara Proposal

Discover the City

Civilization is developing at a fast rate today, with an increase in rates of population redistribution from rural to urban settlements. In 1990, 73 per cent of the developed world lived in urban areas, a figure estimated to reach 77 per cent by 2020. In developing countries in 1990, 37 per cent lived in urban areas, a total that is estimated to reach some 53 per cent by 2020. Sao Paulo for example, has a population of over 26 million (Encarta Encyclopedia 2005).

During the early years of existence, man lived in scattered communities; however, today there is increased mobility, communication, production and concentration of resources, utilities and dwellings of families and individuals. More and more children and young people live or grow up in the city; in the next few years the majority of children and youth will be urban. Yet cities are failing to meet the needs of young people and their families in a variety of aspects. Few have access to basic facilities such as shelter, clean water, and sanitation while many others live in poverty. Some cities are facing problems of drug-addiction, violence, hunger or illiteracy. Climate change and air pollution is further degrading our environment.

It is against this backdrop of global situations that the United Nations (UN) established the World Urban Forum (WUF), to examine these issues. This Forum is a gathering of global partners, non-government and community-based organizations, urban professionals and academics. Some of the key workshops during this year’s forum will bring together interdisciplinary teams of municipal officials, urban professionals and child advocates around the world; working with young people to ‘evaluate their own circumstances, define priorities, and create change’. Focus will be on the needs of young people and children in the city and creating environment-friendly, sustainable urban centers; communities that are better places in which to grow up.

Vancouver, Canada, will host this forum in June (2006). The programs/activities include: · Growing Up in Cities (GUiC) program · World Youth Forum · UN HABITAT World Urban Forum · Global Design Studio

I have grown to enjoy architecture. My first year was a shock; ‘a slap in the face’. Fresh from vacation, we join the school with all sorts of expectations and we are introduced to theory of design; the lecturers usually leaving it to us to discover. These self-discovery experiments, with guidance from the tutors, are what laid the foundation for the course. One has to master how to work with discipline, beat the deadlines and cope with the pressure. As one progresses through the studios objectives vary, for instance in third year it is about making the design practical; illustrate how it will be constructed. Now I find the whole process of design, right from analysis, conceptual development through to detailing rather interesting and engaging. One of the missions of the school is to encourage team work, since the architect doesn’t work alone but collaborates with a whole spectrum of other professionals.

The World Urban Forum (WUF) presents another learning experience, a discussion of issues concerning urban development today, an opportunity to contribute and be part of a team effort. It is also a chance to see Vancouver, a city with a rich fabric of its heritage and the modern.

Cities play a vital role in “meeting the needs and aspirations of children and youth in cities”. It is the route however, that fascinates me: where the children pass, walk, run as they move through the town. Where do they step? Why do they choose this over that? What they touch as they move! Why? How do they feel? In my Berkeley Essay Competition I proposed that the route be redesign so as to give the children a unique experience of the town. Three main concepts are to be used: - The street as a learning environment. - Preserve the unique urban elements that develop with TIME in the city. - Bring a part of the physical character and nature of the land to the street.

I started my investigations a little green on the subject, but discovered that children have interesting thought patterns and ways of response. Jean Piaget, the researcher with perhaps, the most profound impact on the field of infant cognition and perception, noted that “behind their (children) seemingly illogical utterances were thought processes that had their own kind of order and special logic.” Professionals (local architects, engineers, designers) should be encouraged take part in redesign of streets/routes and execution of such projects at a larger scale, especially near a children’s facility such as schools, parks, cinemas etc.

One of the main subjects at the WUF and the World Youth Forum (WYF) this year is development of children and youth in the city. Can cities be positive places for young people-places that support and nurture their development as constructive, contributing members of a civil society? The forum provides a stage to look at child related projects and how people around the world are dealing with rapid urbanization today. In an effort to understand these issues the forum enlists ‘the energy, ideas, and hope of young people’. They will present the daily realities of young people living in the city and youth-led projects and programs to improve our living environment. It is an opportune roundtable to compare notes, substantiate and refine my Essay proposal, and probably get potential sources of support; professional, financial or otherwise.

I would particularly like to attend the Global Studio Design Workshop; the Studio provides opportunities to develop solutions to the problems of urban centers. The informal setting allows one to share and borrow ideas, and have fun while at it. The Growing Up in Cities (GUiC) programmes will also give me a chance to get some answers: for instance, how do you solve a seemingly doomed traffic problem? How can we petition legislators and planning boards to take a more active role in overseeing city developments (not just make but also implement the right policies)? Another dismay in my home capital, Kampala, Uganda, is that many of the designs in town do not adequately cater for the pedestrian. Professionals need to start discussing issues that affect the life of people in the city…

During the Forum one of the roles will be to document the various events and experiences of the participants: -Draft and issue questionnaires, to note the response of participants. -Informal discussions with participants. -Record/note proceedings of events and workshops attended. -Photography of the events/activities and places visited. -Pencil sketches of ideas mentioned and places visited. -Forum/workshop handouts and leaflets.

June 14 – June 16: GUic+10 Meeting Participate in Meetings. Share ideas. Identify and record issues affecting cities, best practices and policies.

June 16 – June 19: World Youth Forum Visit the GUiC Exhibition and Video Festival. Attend network sessions: Share best practices, connect and collaborate with other young people. View presentations of youth-led projects. Speak directly with experts attending. Attend Dialogue Sessions; - “Youth Led Development –Practice or Fiction?” Inoke Bainimarama. - “Youth on the frontlines”, Stephen Lewis. - “Youth as Community Builders”, TBA Attend the Hip-hop Concert (featuring MCs, DJs and other performers).

June 9 – June 23: UN HABITAT World Urban Forum Participate in WUF3 activities. Document activities and participant perspectives. Special interest events: -Planners for Tomorrow -RAIC Festival of Architecture -World Planning Congress, “Sustainable Urbanization: Turning Ideas into Action”

June 25 – July 3: Global Studio Design Workshop Take part in the studio program

June 4 – June 7: Self directed Tour of Vancouver. Visit the city and take photos. Visit University of British Columbia (and see some the student work) Sum up and review information collected over the 3 weeks.

HOW WILL THIS OPPORTUNITY AFFECT MY EDUCATION? After school and research, I would like to go out and solve problems. However, am being pulling in two directions: developing much needed sustainable housing solutions for the local people or creating new urban living environments, new marvels, functional and condusive atmospheres for living and working. I hope to find a compromise.

The World Urban Forum presents ways of making urban environments safer and healthier for man, and involving the society and our leaders in the whole process. It directly informs my interests and prepares me to make a difference in the quality of life in the city. The forum also introduces me to a whole new arena of discussion; work on a global level, across a diversity of regions. One of my lecturers always implores us to “think outside the box...” and be open minded. I hope to be inspired and motivated by the workshops. During my free time I will tour and walk through the city. Capture some things on paper and camera. (Photos are a powerful form of communication). One can read and see places and exploits on the internet or in magazines. But it is a whole different experience when you see the places up close, walk round or through them.

During the entire 3 weeks I hope to build friendships; get acquainted with a number of the country/city teams, partner representatives, experts and other young people.

Additional Help and Information

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Andrew Amara, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
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