Emergent Public Space: A Framework For New Green Urban Commons In San Diego
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Emergence can be defined as “the movement from low-level rules to higherlevel sophistication” (Johnson, 2001). Emergence helps to explain how systems develop and change, and there is a growing body of literature where emergence theory is used to explain urban environments as Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS). A challenge remains, however, to translate our understanding of emergence and CAS into operative guidelines for the design of resilient urban environments. Several landscape architectural theories including Landscape Urbanism, Ecological Urbanism, and the writing of Rod Barnett have endeavored to reconcile our understanding of CAS with the act of designing urban landscapes. This project builds upon this discourse by applying Barnett’s description of emergence theory to the design of specific landscape phenomena called green urban commons (GUC). These niche landscape phenomena loosen existing institutional structures and allow novel forms of land use to materialize (Radywyl and Biggs 2013). Related to the nascent practice of iterative urbanism, GUCs take various forms and o en involve the conversion of underutilized urban land into productive community assets. These landscapes are iterated and changed over time by stakeholders, and temporary land uses o en transition to more fixed, institutionalized change. The goal of this pragmatic research-through-designing project is to encourage the creation of GUCs in San Diego’s Mid-City and Southeastern communities as a means to improve resident quality of life and urban resilience. The explicit application of emergence theory is presented as a way to enhance the landscape quality of GUCs, and a framework is proposed to encourage and expedite the development of new GUCs on city-owned vacant land in San Diego. To assess the scalability of the framework’s prescriptive recommendations, portions of the framework process are applied to three vacant urban lots in the Mid-City/ Southeastern San Diego study area. The speculative impacts of these case studies are then discussed in light of Barnett’s criteria for civic landscapes that exhibit emergent characteristics.