Institute

Mission Statement

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The two skins of the Earth define the ‘real space’ that humans operate in. The First Skin of the Earth is nature in its totality. The Second Skin is whatever we, humanity, have created on top, within and underneath. This Second Skin is an intensely interconnected and dynamic construction, lightly interweaving between the crust of the Earth and the atmosphere. This ‘weaving’; a constantly balancing act between nature and human action, is becoming overstressed. Instead of coexisting in a planetary biotope, people are beginning to influence the balance significantly. This careless influence is most evident in our energy behavior that endangers not only the Earth (ʻsave the planetʼ is the faint plea in all hotel rooms to reuse your towels), but also humanity itself. The unbalanced interweaving within this dynamic skin has become the strongest feature of the global Energy Landscape that people plan and live in, and where humanity projects its possible futures (there is no escape: the next habitable planet is around 600 light-years away). These futures cannot be traded solely by hedge bankers for a quick buck; they are real life choices. In a Sustainable Energy Landscape, this balance has to be managed successfully for the sake of us and our posterity. Most current debates hail Smart Cities as the new answer to the ever-increasing Climate Change threat. Or so we are told by a range of multi-national companies entering the field of urban planning, with solutions ranging from smart grids to smart governance. But what is a Smart City? And how does it connect the dangers and potentials of globalism with technological innovation and cultural imagination? If nature is the first skin of the earth, the Second Skin of the Earth is the interface between humanity and nature, energy, water, food and so forth. Greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts are exchanged across this interface. What is the role of architecture and design within this interface, and how do Smart Cities create new values, new currencies in our relationship to a changing climate?

About CHORA

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Chora has a long-term commitment to developing new methods for architectural design and urban planning that help mitigate and adapt to the challenges of climate change. It operates as a cloud of research and practice clusters in Berlin, London and Chengdu. Chora city & energy here at TU Berlin actively engages in questioning the current appropriation of the Smart City concept by the technocratic aspect of the practice. We aim at counteracting this trend by developing projects that put the profession of urban design back to the centre of the (smart) city discourse. Chora is pioneering the use of new planning methods for low-carbon urbanism and the integration of CDM (clean development mechanisms). Recently, Chora has conducted commissioned low-carbon studies and stakeholder game workshops for the cities of Xiamen, Taichung and London, and has acted as a Consultant to the London Development Agency on the planned Green Enterprise District, East London. Chora has won a range of prizes on large-scale urban projects including 1 prize for Tempelhof Urban Ideas Competition in Berlin, and winning entry for the Schuytgraaf Public Space Competition.