We love this time of year. First, New York City absolutely turns gorgeous in the Fall and second, everyone from all over the world gathers in NYC for the annual UN General Assembly and the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). This year’s topic, Designing Ideas at CGI, was familiar for MIIM Designs LLC, as it is the driving force and passion of our work.
Whether there to discuss providing sanitary water to areas in need, mobilizing impact across Africa, or addressing mental health issues for Syrian refugees, everyone was present to try to alleviate difficulties and respond to the needs of our fellow neighbors. There were two topics in particular resonated with MIIM: (1) Designing and Building a Better World and (2) How Women can Save the World Economy. However, this piece will primarily focus on the design-related issues.
Designing and building a better world is a common and recurring theme at MIIM Designs LLC. This is also, of course, a major theme at CGI. One of the vital conversations at CGI 2013 was about building “Resilient Cities.” Resilient Cities is an initiative that seeks to build and adapt any city to allow for the infrastructure to quickly be built and the city to be able to rebound from natural and man-made shocks and stresses. Moreover, it strives to build partnerships and to mobilize people and ideas across the globe: according to the initiative, “We are not only mobilizing people, but mobilizing an idea that is working on the ground.” During this panel discussion on urban resilience with Dr. Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Jim Young Kim of the World Bank, and Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of NYC, moderated by Fareed Zakaria, all of the participants reflected on the major natural and manmade incidences that have occurred from NYC to the tsunamis of Haiti, Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia.
President Bill Clinton noted, "Every five days, a million people move from rural to urban areas. Cities around the world are struggling to confront the interrelated challenges of urbanization, globalization, and climate change. As natural and manmade shocks continue to intensify in both size and frequency, they must build for resilience. The need to do that has never been clearer." Some of the most intriguing and re-worked ideas reflect back on the traditional way of life: cyclist and walkers are given a pristine pavement while cars are forced to rumble along dirt and undeveloped roads. Slums are a common factor in any developing country and are often within distances of the metropolitan cities nearby. Statistically, these sprawling high-density regions are where a vast majority of the world’s population resides. Rather than a hindrance, the limited resources of these communities should be an inspiration to designers, architects and planners. Whether it is rethinking the way we live or the materials that we are using, such as local earth, shipping containers and other resilient materials, MIIM Designs LLC hopes to be able to weave and preserve the culture that already exists in the next set of resilient cities as we create communities.
Carving out seating spaces out of public spaces and streets can allude to “green landscape.” Cities like New York City have done an exceptional job of reclaiming the street with a few cans of paint to delineate where cars, bikes and buses should go. The carved out space can be a newly painted infrastructure park where the neighborhood can enjoy.
Besides the commitment that CGI has to building more resilient cities, the most impressive moment of the night was the Rockefeller Foundation’s $100 million commitment to resilient cities. This donation can easily be geared towards preventing another Hurricane Katrina and Sandy here at home and other tsunamis around the world. We are very much excited about what the future of social impact and social design is able to do and how we are designing the next set of resilient cities.
Maryam Eskandari is Founder of MIIM Designs LLC, an architecture and research studio based in Palo Alto, California, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. She graduated from the Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture at Harvard and MIT.