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Europan 17 – Living Cities: Care


One of the many profoundly memorable quotes from the much lauded animated adult show Bojack Horseman is when Wanda breaks up with her toxic boyfriend. Asked why she let the relationship go as far as it did, she says something that is just as true for a society obsessed with growth, as it is for abusive relationships:

“When you look at someone through rosy glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.”

After a long era of techcnoopimistic industrialization, the rosy glasses have come off and the flags are everywhere. They are not just red, they are on fire.

As we face unprecedented challenges of climate change, social inequality, and ecological degradation, designing cities that are considerate for the entire biosphere has become an urgent necessity. 

However, such a task is fraught with dilemmas. How do we prioritize our needs and desires? How do we balance economic sustainability with social and environmental justice?

Enter care: an approach that doesn’t shy away from these challenges. Care is about acknowledging the intrinsic value of everything that surrounds us, from humans to non-humans, and recognizing that they all have the right to exist and flourish.  It’s not just about understanding, it’s also about action. That everything is interconnected and that our actions, or inaction, have far-reaching consequences. Under the paradigm of Care, we can’t shy away from taking decisions and acting. 

In a culture that celebrates creation, speed and growth, maintenance is often overlooked. But without it, nothing can last. Care takes maintenance to the next level, infusing it with creativity and dedication. We actively care for our children, our gardens, our friends, and communities, and do so with the hope of seeing them flourish. When we apply this same level of care to the design of our cities, they too can become healing, evolving, and make positive contributions to the climate.

It’s only by caring that architecture can become regenerative. It’s about creating processes and places that give back more than they take, that enhance the well-being of all living beings, and that leave a positive legacy for future generations. Within the framework of care,  sustainable solutions that are only «less bad than the alternative others,» are not good enough. 

Behind the five competitions that make up Europan 17 in Norway, are coalitions of dedicated people that care. Some of the sites ask for solutions that are almost impossible to fully “solve”.  

It is an acknowledgment of the increasing complexity of urban planning, and that’s why they look to Europan to find new approaches and solutions that lie in the marginal space between what is just, comfortable and safe for humans, and the ceiling of what the ecological and climatic systems of our planet can sustain.

The five Norwegian sites in Europan 17 have challenges that may be difficult to solve. That is precisely why the five cities choose to ask you, the young architects, landscape architects and urban planners to solve them. They trust that you will dare to care. Dare to take risks, choose to test out new solutions,  and see the places as they are for what they can become in the future.

Europan Norway

Read more about the Norwegian sites here

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