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Our cities are getting busier and consequently, more expensive. Urban space — not only here in Amsterdam — has long been a valuable asset, limited in availability and therefore costly. This scarcity of space in our cities has lead to higher costs for office space and this trickles down to how much space companies plan per workspace. Consequently, space available per employee shrinks. According to one study, 5% of space per employee compared to the 5 year average was lost in the Americas, and in Europe it dropped by 2.3%.

From the perspective of a property manager, ever increasing costs for maintenance and upgrades in office buildings add to the mix — hence the need for companies to get smarter at utilising their real estate. Corporate Real Estate managers now collect plenty of data to understand how available space is used to proactively optimise and keep costs at a minimum. …

Deconstructing traffic indices

“Real-time information is crucial for cities that want to take control of their smart city initiatives”

says Eran Shir, Cofounder and CEO of Nexar in this Forbes article.

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Photo by Nicolas Gras on Unsplash

Commercial traffic data suppliers have various strategies to promote the application of their products. It certainly is easy prey for the media to have a pseudo scientific top 100 list of “Most congested cities” conveniently aggregated at hand.

Basing such a complex comparison on just one dataset and a few indicators per city, is ignorant at best. Only listing the World’s Smartest Cities asks for even more dubious methodologies.

It’s no wonder every traffic index has a different city at the top of their leaderboard — they don’t even publish the exact methodology at work. …

Is smart city tech failing us?

Commercial vendors are flooding the smart cities market (estimated to reach $774.8 B by 2021) with IoT and big data applications, spreading the vision of a Big Brother city, constantly sucking information from its citizens.

It’s just a bold vision in most cases, inspired by the potential of the technology now available on the market, distributed with huge marketing budgets of the companies ready to sell technology. …

This article first appeared in Public Sector Digest.

Technology companies have been leading the way in defining their vision of what Smart Cities of the future should look like. By deploying the latest tech at a large scale in new developments, dystopian novels appear to be at the brink of becoming reality.

This sensor-laden, tech-first approach is fit to boost the portfolios of tech companies, but seems to forget the centerpiece of what makes a city a city — its people. The stark contrast between hyper-smart developments and our organically grown cities is puzzling.

“We need to empower ourselves to build future cities organically, from the bottom up, and do it in time to save ourselves from climate change” summarizes Anthony Townsend in his book Smart Cities. …

Originally published at

In September, we announced Mapbox Cities and started looking for three cities we can work with to solve the biggest urban challenges. Since then, more than 70 cities from six continents applied, laying out their communities’ challenges and goals. We’ve spent the last few weeks interviewing cities and lining up collaborations to help cities win. Here’s a quick recap of where we are:

First, we’re excited to share that Amazon Web Services will collaborate with Mapbox to ensure that featured partners of Mapbox Cities have access to relevant global datasets hosted through the AWS Public Datasets program and access to AWS Cloud Credits for Research to provide infrastructure for any experimental big data analysis of their own data. …

This is an article I wrote in 2013 for Urban Times, which is unfortunately not online anymore. A lot of what is said holds still true though, so here it is resurrected from its digital grave:

Every architecture student learns early enough: despite the hard work university does not provide enough practical experience for the architecture profession, so especially here, internships are crucial tools in architecture education.

When choosing an internship, there are however some choices one has to make — which will influence the quality of the work experience significantly. …

National history is important

I happen to be German, so for us this is especially true. In fact, I remember that I read Anne Frank’s Diary two years before the book was to be discussed at school according to the regular curriculum. I couldn’t wait, so I made our German teacher bring it up a year earlier. Needless to say, my class mates hated me, because what followed were 7 long years of chewing on every aspect of the 3rd Reich.

18 years later, I happen to go out with an English man who’s working in advertising. Apart from common ‘lost in translation’ situations, a particular museum visit during the holidays with my family in Bavaria deeply moved both of us: The Nazi Rally Grounds Documentation Center in Nuremberg, Bavaria. …

Design Thinking Gone Architecture” is a carefully responsive, iterative approach to urban planning, based on repurposing and innovating within existing structures as much as creating new ones.

This is an article I wrote in early 2013 for Urban Times, which is unfortunately not online anymore. So here it is, resurrected from its digital grave:

Architects of Change

Architects wear their buildings the way film stars wear their gowns and politicians their rhetoric. Like politicians, star architects have agendas that hare often fundamentally apolitical — founded on the abstract currency of image and the aura of innovation.

– Toward a Minor Architecture

In this beautiful TEDx talk Michiel van Iersel, founder of the Amsterdam based collective ‘Failed Architecture‘ explains how and most importantly why more and more non-architects get involved in urban planning, and what this has to do with previous generations of ’Starchitects’: He quotes Dan Hill, a visionary design researcher focused on integrating design, technology, cities, media and people — “You shouldn’t ask an architect to reflect on the future of architecture, take someone from outside that world”. …

This is an article I wrote in early 2013 for Urban Times, which is unfortunately not online anymore. So here it is, resurrected from its digital grave:

With the start of the New Year organisations often take the opportunity to publish outlooks on the next year(s).

Now some take this extra serious and predict tech inventions even further into the future. BBC Future has released an info graphic on “Tomorrow’s world”, compiling the predictions of the world’s “thinkers, scientists and pundits”. A special treat here is, that they commissioned “the special bets department at British betting firm Ladbrokes to give […] their odds on each prediction coming true.” The odds really do the trick here, and arrange the predicted inventions and events somewhere between most likely and least likely. …


Christina Franken

I'm an architect, a generalist - instead of buildings, I prefer to create systems based on true user needs ❤️ #SmartCities #SmartBuildings #OpenData

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