The 11th International Conference on Urban Regeneration and Sustainability (The Sustainable City) took place at the University of Alicante in Spain. The meeting was the occasion to award the 13th Prigogine Medal.
The Conference addressed all aspects of urban environment, aiming to provide solutions leading towards sustainability. The meeting originated in Rio (2000), followed by Segovia (2002), Siena (2004), Tallinn (2006), Skiathos (2008), A Coruña (2010), Ancona (2012), Kuala Lumpur (2013), Siena (2014) and Medellin (2015). The 2016 Conference was co-organised by the University of Alicante, represented by Prof Antonio Galiano-Garridos, and the Wessex Institute, represented by Prof Carlos A Brebbia.
Most of earth’s population now lives in cities and the process of urbanisation still continues generating many problems deriving from the drift of the population towards them. These problems can be resolved by cities becoming efficient habitats, saving resources in a way that improves the quality and standard of living. The process however, faces a number of major challenges, related to reducing pollution, improving main transportation and infrastructure systems. New urban solutions are required to optimise the use of space and energy resources leading to improvements in the environment, ie reduction in air, water and soil pollution as well as efficient ways to deal with waste generation. These challenges contribute to the development of social and economic imbalances and require the development of new solutions.
The challenge of planning sustainable cities lies in considering their dynamics, the exchange of energy and matter, and the function and maintenance of ordered structures directly or indirectly, supplied and maintained by natural systems.
The Conference addressed the multi-disciplinary aspects of urban planning; a result of the increasing size of the cities; the amount of resources and services required, and the complexity of modern society.
Opening of the Conference
The Conference was opened by Prof Carlos A Brebbia who referred to the excellent and long-established links between several research groups at the University of Alicante and his own Wessex Institute. Alicante – Carlos explained – is a comparatively young and dynamic University committed to a programme of excellence in all its areas of research. The city itself combines a rich history with a lovely coastline and beaches. The old centre, in particular, contains many historic churches and buildings. The most representative site in the city is the Castle of Santa Barbara, situated in an imposing elevated location from where the whole city and surrounding coastline can be fully appreciated. The Castle itself was a defence fort since prehistoric times. It became a major defence site during Moorish times and was considerably enlarged after that by the Christian reign of Spain. Its rich and varied history parallels that of Alicante itself.
Carlos then explained the importance of this Conference for the programme. Sustainable City is one of the most important meetings organised by the Wessex Institute and in many ways indicative of its interdisciplinary type of activities. WIT – Carlos explained – encourages the dissemination of knowledge at international level and fosters interdisciplinary collaboration.
Sustainable City is part of WIT’s international conference programme, which consists of 20 to 25 meetings per year. In addition, the Institute carries out a variety of training and research activities on its own Campus in the New Forest National Park, located near Southampton.
WIT – Carlos explained – is renowned throughout the world for its pioneering work on setting up the basis of the Boundary Element Method (BEM), a computational method used for solving engineering and science problems. The basis of the method – and indeed its name – originated in the research group at Southampton University, before the work moved to the Wessex Institute.
Research and Development work continues at the Wessex Institute campus on further advances and applications of BEM. Carlos then proceeded to show a series of representative examples demonstrating the use of BEM as a simulation tool in aerospace, energy engineering, hydrocarbon problems, medical studies, mechanical applications, electromagnetics, and others.
Another important objective of WIT is the dissemination of knowledge. In this regard the Institute has taken an important step in making all its papers – such as those presented at this conference – freely available on its website. Colleagues from all over the world can download this PDF. This gives greater visibility and large numbers of citations to papers presented at WIT conferences, which are also listed in Google Scholar and other important databases.
Consistent with its aim of bringing together different disciplines and exploring new areas of research, WIT has launched a series of International Journals which are now becoming well established. Of particular interest to this conference is the one on Sustainable Development and Planning. Others related to this meeting are Design and Nature, and Safety and Security (all these papers are also freely available in the Institute eLibrary site http://www.witpress.com/elibrary).
During a recent conference that also took place at the University of Alicante – Carlos said – a new Journal was launched, ie entitled Heritage Architecture. The publication, in spite of its short history, has proved to be highly popular and has attracted numerous contributions.
Carlos ended his welcoming address by thanking the delegates for their participation in this important meeting and, in particular, to the University of Alicante for hosting the conference.
Addresses from the University of Alicante
Prof Juan Llopis, Vice Rector for International Relations, welcomed the participants in the name of the University of Alicante and thanked them for having participated in the Conference. He also expressed his appreciation to the Wessex Institute for having arranged for the meeting to be held at the University.
Juan explained the importance of Urban Development for Spain where the construction industry is of primary importance. Alicante has been impacted by the recession of the building industry with relation to tourism.
The University of Alicante carries out research on different aspects of urban sustainability. The University Campus itself, which is new, has been developed with a large number of open green spaces.
The University, in spite of its recent foundation, has grown considerably in the last few years, reaching now a number of 30,000 or so students, 4,000 of which are postgraduates. Teaching and research are carried out by 2,500 members of staff.
The University of Alicante is always keen to develop strong links with other institutions and to add new international projects to the many already underway.
Prof Antonio Galiano, Head of the School of Architecture, then welcomed the delegates and spoke of his commitment as Director of International Relations to foster strong links with other schools.
The Conference programme was enhanced by a series of keynote addresses by well-known speakers:
• “Urban metabolism and regenerative economics”, by Brian Fath, Towson University, USA.
• “Relative vulnerabilities of urban residential development to oil depletion: pilot case studies of a representative building typology in the Australian context”, by Roger Brewster, Bond University, Australia.
• “Reforging spatial identity for social sustainability”, by Robert Barelkowski, West-Pomeranian University of Technology, Poland.
• “Public participation in the process of improving quality of the urban frame”, by Antonio Galiano, University of Alicante, Spain.
• “Urban growth and urban infrastructure relations in Turkey”, by Sirma Turgut, Yildiz Technical University, Turkey.
• “Exploring affordances of the street”, by Andrew Furman, Ryerson University, Canada.
• “Social conflicts in coastal touristic cities. Holistic renovation of buildings in Benidorm”, by Victor Echarri, University of Alicante, Spain.
• “The role of public spaces to achieve urban happiness”, by Marichela Sepe, University of Naples, Italy.
• “Planning and management challenges of tourism in natural protected areas in Baja California, Mexico”, by Rosa Rojas-Caldelas, Autonomous University of Baja California, Mexico.
• “Illegal pedestrian crossing at traffic signals: a study on tourist behaviour”, by Antonio Pratelli, University of Pisa, Italy.
• “Urban management foundation in Risk Reduction”, by Cristina Olga Gociman, University of Architecture and Urban Planning, Romania.
• “Water quality of the beach in an urban and not urban environment”, by Yolanda Villacampa, University of Alicante, Spain.
There were also three special sessions organised by members of the International Scientific Advisory Committee, as follows:
Special Session on Sustainable urban regeneration and public spaces, organised by Marichela Sepe, University of Naples, Italy, consisting of papers on the following topics:
- The role of public spaces
- Place identity and sustainable urban regeneration
- Quality of public spaces and sustainable urban development
- Place making and its implications for social value
- Interdisciplinary transformation of Warsaw University of Technology buildings
- Sustainable living methods
- Concepts and methods to evaluate uses of a noise polluted site
- Urban regeneration of public spaces in down town Cairo
- Solid waste management strategies
- Social dimension of urban renewal, the case of Yildirim districts
- An approach to identify Napes real driving cycle regarding WLTC framework
Special Session on Pedestrians behaviour in different traffic situations, organised by Antonio Pratelli, University of Pisa, Italy, consisting of papers on the following topics:
- Pedestrian crossing at traffic signals
- Modern and ancient pedestrian mobility
- Pedestrian level of service
Special Session on City and beach, organised by Yolanda Villacampa, University of Alicante, Spain, consisting of papers on the following topics:
- Water quality on the beach
- Urban development in Denia and its influence on the beach
- Alicante beach, city sustainable development
- Alicante coastal management
- Sustainable development in the city-beach of Alicante
The numerous papers presented at the conference were classified under a series of topics, as follows:
- Urban conservation and regeneration
- Urban strategies
- Urban metabolism
- Urban planning and design
- Urban development and management
- Landscape planning and design
- Urban regeneration and public spaces
- Quality of life
- Waterfront developments
- Architectural issues
- City and beach
- Socio-economic issues
- Pedestrian behaviour
- Case studies – sustainable practices
Prigogine Medal 2016
The conference was the occasion of awarding the Prigogine Medal to the 2016 candidate, Prof Brian Fath. The ceremony was presided by the Vice Rector, Prof Rafael Muñoz Guillena. The academic process included twenty or so doctors from many different countries, as well as from the University of Alicante.
The Vice Rector opened the act, inviting Prof Carlos A Brebbia to say a few words about the history and the person and personality of Prof Brian Fath. Carlos proceeded as follows:
“Ilya Prigogine was born in Moscow in 1917, and obtained his undergraduate and graduate education in chemistry at the Free University in Brussels. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his contribution to non-equilibrium thermodynamics, particularly the theory of dissipative structures. The main theme of his scientific work was the role of time in the physical sciences and biology. He contributed significantly to the understanding of irreversible processes, particularly in systems far from equilibrium. The results of his work have had profound consequences for understanding biological and ecological systems.
“The Prigogine Medal was established in 2004 by the University of Siena and the Wessex Institute to honour the memory of Prof Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Prize Winner for Chemistry. This medal is awarded annually to a leading scientist in the field of ecological systems. All recipients have been deeply influenced by the work of Prigogine.
Previous Prigogine Laureates are:
2004 Sven Jorgensen, Denmark
2005 Enzo Tiezzi, Italy
2006 Bernard Patten, USA
2007 Robert Ulanowicz, USA
2008 Ioannis Antoniou, Greece
2009 Emilio del Giudice, Italy
2010 Felix Müller, Germany
2011 Larissa Brizhik, Ukraine
2012 Gerald Pollack, USA
2013 Vladimir Voeikov, Russia
2014 Mae-wan Ho, UK
2015 Bai-lian Larry Li, USA
Brian D. Fath is Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Towson University (Maryland, USA) and Research Scholar within the Advanced Systems Analysis Program at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Laxenburg, Austria). His research is in the area of systems ecology and network analysis applied to the sustainability and resilience of socio-ecological systems. His interests range from network analysis to ecosystem theory to urban metabolism to systems thinking and environmental philosophy. Dr. Fath has taught courses on ecological networks and modelling in many different locations around the world. He holds visiting faculty appointments at the School of Environment, Beijing Normal University and at the State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences both in Beijing, China. He was also Fulbright Distinguished Chair at Parthenope University of Naples, Italy.
He has published numerous research papers, reports, and book chapters. He co-authored three books: He is Editor-in-Chief for the journal Ecological Modelling; President of the North American Chapter of International Society for Ecological Modelling and, among other appointments, he is a member and present Chair of Baltimore County Commission in Environmental Quality.
The Vice Rector then proceeded to award the medal to Prof Brian Fath and invited him to deliver his inaugural address, which was entitled “Systems Ecology, Energy Networks and a Path to Sustainability”.
Abstract of the Prigogine Address
One of the great advances of the 20th century was the rise of a formal systems science and systems thinking. This progress influenced ecology in ways that provided new insight to the structure and function of ecosystems using tools from thermodynamics, networks, information theory, and more. This led to a better understanding of how ecosystems function in terms of using available energy to create complex structures to move away from thermodynamic equilibrium and how these self-organizing structures adapt to changing situations. Ecological goal functions can measure this orientation of ecosystem growth and development. This presentation will address how these metrics attuned for ecosystems have relevant application in socio-economic systems. In particular, Energy network science (ENS) is a new paradigm that draws from thermodynamics, information theory, and network analysis to assess the organization, patterns, and dynamics of diverse systems such as ecosystems, financial systems, and urban metabolism. ENS will be demonstrated for community resilience in terms of 10 measures of regenerative vitality. These measures can help urban and community planners improve the overall ‘metabolic’ performance of the relevant ecological, economic, or social systems.
(Note the full version of the presentation can be seen in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Design and Nature with Ecosystems, and can be freely downloaded from the digital library of the Wessex Institute at http://www.witpress.com/elibrary.
The International Scientific Advisory Committee (ISAC) met over dinner to discuss the meeting and arrange for it to be reconvened in 2018. The general impression is that the conference has been very successful and the list of topics describes well the objectives of the meeting. Nevertheless a few more themes were proposed to ensure that Sustainable City 2018 attracts the latest developments. A few more names for the ISAC were nominated by the Committee.
The Conference dinner took place in a well-known restaurant located in the Alicante marina. The excellent cuisine and good local wines provided an excellent environment to strengthen the links between the participants. The night was made more enjoyable by the performance of a music and dancing group which performed local pieces using typical Alicante musical instruments. The recital was excellent and well received by the delegates who had a unique opportunity to listen to regional music.
Close of the Conference
The Conference was closed by Carlos who thanked all delegates for having participated in the meeting and particularly the authors who contributed to the sessions of the conference. He hoped that they will continue to be in contact with WIT and be able to visit its Campus next time they are in the region.