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Urban Development

How universities are revitalizing urban areas

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In the middle of the country, between two coasts and the two metropolises of New York and Los Angeles, is the friendlier, more mild-mannered version of the two: Chicago.

One hundred years ago, the poet Carl Sandburg famously called Chicago the “hog butcher of the world,” and the “nation’s freight handler.” The character of the city has changed with each decade, and throughout the years.

Chicago has established itself as an educational hub, with world-class research universities, robust community colleges and ample opportunity for people to earn degrees and get ahead in life.

A force of change

During uncertain times, Chicago’s colleges and universities have stood as a guiding light for the city, signaling hope, change and opportunity.

In a city that has long had neighborhoods underserved and marked by economic hardship — one university has had a particularly strong impact on the community and the city as a whole: Saint Xavier University.

For more than 170 years, a mission to serve the community and inspire future generations to succeed and make a difference has guided the university.

As the city has changed, this core mission has adapted to serve students in the 21st century. Through the dedication of students, faculty and staff, the university has been acknowledged as a source of growth in the community in the following ways:

* Ranked No. 4 in Illinois for helping underserved students overcome barriers to complete their bachelor’s degrees, according to the Illinois Education Research Council’s 2017 report.

* Saint Xavier University has a stable and optimal student-to-faculty ratio of 14-to-1.

* Two-thirds of Saint Xavier’s student body are the first in their family to attend college.

* As part of the university’s mission, Saint Xavier directs academic programs and units to partner with local, national or international nonprofit, public, private or faith-based organizations to provide opportunities for engagement, scholarship or service/service learning for students, faculty and staff.

Degrees that open doors

While Chicago’s universities and colleges are the pride of the city, the question on almost every parent’s and incoming student’s mind is: What will I get out of the financial investment?

The School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Saint Xavier University offers top-ranked programs in the high-demand fields of nursing, speech pathology, exercise science and more. The job market for certified nurses is expected to grow by 16 percent during this decade.

This combination of high-ranking programs in growing career fields has led U.S. News and World Report to call Saint Xavier one of the best-value schools for students.

Saint Xavier University is a strong example of how universities are reviving the city of Chicago and opening doors for those who may have thought those doors were closed.

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Urban Development

Moscow to host international online forum – the Smart Cities Moscow

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On May, 25-26 Moscow will host the Smart Cities Moscow, international online forum dedicated to the development of smart cities and current topics of adaptation of the urban environment to the realities of the “new normal”.

The forum hosts over 50 speakers, including heads of administrations of the world’s largest megacities, professors and experts from the world’s leading educational institutions, business representatives and international experts in the field of informatization and development of smart cities.

Smart Cities Moscow Forum will bring together speakers from countries and cities boasting the best urban infrastructure in the world, based on advanced IT technologies. The online format of the event provides a unique opportunity for millions of people from around the world to join sessions and participate in discussions. The event will become a prologue to the Smart Cities Moscow offline forum, which will be held in 2022.

As part of a series of online conferences, international and Russian experts will discuss how large metropolitan areas are being transformed in the modern conditions, dictated by the society and environment. Speakers will share the best success stories for the development of healthcare, city transport logistics, telecommunications, culture and education of the city.

The business program will cover three major areas: Smart city’s infrastructure and technologies, Smart City for a Smart Living, and Smart city’s sustainability. The experts will discuss urban development in the post-covid period, changes in the sustainable development strategy, infrastructure challenges and the deployment of IoT, Big Data, and AI technologies. The sessions will also focus on city renewable energy, creation of a favorable urban environment, and other topical issues. Various communication formats are provided within the framework of the forum: from panel discussions and expert sessions, to show-cases and case studies.

The Forum is supported by The Government of Moscow, Department of Information Technologies.

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Urban Development

Cities and Pandemics: Towards a more just, green and healthy future

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A new report on pandemics and cities from UN-Habitat, points the way to how hard-hit urban centres can reduce the impact of future outbreaks and become more equitable, healthy and environmentally friendly.

Cities and Pandemics: Towards a more just, green and healthy future’, launched on Tuesday, describes how urban areas have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis. 

“95 per cent of all cases” were recorded in cities in the first months of the pandemic, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director, said. 

Cities on the frontline 

“Throughout this pandemic, it has been up to local governments and communities to move quickly and decisively to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure an effective response,” Ms. Sharif added.

Despite these pressures, many local governments and community leaders responded quickly and effectively to prevent the spread of the pandemic and mitigate its effects. 

The UN-Habitat report recommends actions for a sustainable recovery based on evidence from more than 1,700 cities.

Life and death inequalities

It found that patterns of inequality, due to a lack of access to basic services, poverty and overcrowded living conditions, have been key destabilising factors in increasing the scale and impact of COVID-19. 

Eduardo Moreno, Head of Knowledge and Innovation at UN-Habitat, said that due to the pandemic, an estimated “120 million people in the world will be pushed into poverty and living standards will reduce by 23 per cent”. 

“The conclusion is that income matters”, he added.

According to the text, urban leaders and planners must rethink how people move through and in cities, using lessons learned from the last year of COVID-19. 

This includes an increased focus at the local level on planning neighbourhoods and communities that are multi-functional and inclusive. 

Planning, affordability

The report explores how well-planned cities combining residential and commercial with public spaces, along with affordable housing, can improve public health, the local economy and the environment. 

It calls for cities to be at the forefront of moves towards a Social Contract between governments, the public, civil society and private sector.  

The new social contract should “explore the role of the state and cities to finance universal basic income, universal health insurance, universal housing”, said Sharif.

For one real-world example, Claudia Lopez Hernandez, Mayor of Bogota, explained how in the Colombian capital, their new social contract prioritises women and children. 

It is a “social contract that includes women, that provides them with time, with time to take care of themselves, with time to educate themselves, and with time and education skills to come back to the labour market”. 

“To have self-sustainable women is to have self-sustainable societies”, Hernandez explained.

New priorities

The Report outlines how a new normal can emerge in cities “where health, housing and security are prioritised for the most vulnerable, not only out of social necessity, but also from a profound commitment to human rights for all.”  

This requires governments to focus on policies to protect land rights, improve access to water, sanitation, public transport, electricity, health and education facilities and ensure inclusive digital connectivity. 

The Report recommends strengthening access to municipal finance to enable city leaders to build a new urban economy that reduces disaster risk as well as addressing climate change by developing nature-based solutions and investing in sustainable infrastructure to enable low carbon transport. 

The Cities and Pandemics Report makes it clear that the way urban environments recover from the pandemic, will have a major impact on the global effort to achieve a sustainable future for all – in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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Urban Development

Paul Dass OBE and his passion for creating design led homes in Goa

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Paul-Dass

Paul Dass OBE moved from London to Goa to build a new kind of life while living his passion for creating design-led luxury homes. He is also one of the key partners who brought Soho House to Mumbai. His style of design is unique and his collaborations span across the world. However, despite having a worldly view of building, architecture and design, Paul Dass OBE incorporates the local into the modern and brings two different worlds together.

Tell us more about your journey in construction and architecture.

I made a conscious decision to move to Goa from London to ease into the only kind of life I knew was worth living – inspired, tranquil and charming. During my search for a new home, I could not find the right home with requirements I had in mind. So I thought, why not build a home for myself and to the high end real estate market that’s looking for similar properties?

I wanted to take the ingenuity and create bespoke living through Mayaland Homes, bringing to Goa all the knowledge I possessed over the last three decades of creating design-led homes in London and across India.

How is your style different from other architects in Goa?

Mayaland Homes combines high-quality British and international architecture, design and progressive technology with the best Indian professionals, artisans and creative artists. The architecture for Grande Gemeo Villa I & II reflects Goa’s famous heritage, offering the timeless charm of Indo-Portuguese architectural style.

However, we have taken the modern approach by incorporating the highest international standards in design, construction as well as sustainable methods and merging progressive technology from around the world with the heritage of local artisans to develop spaces that are absolutely unique.

Tell us more about your work with Soho House in Mumbai.

I was one of the three partners who brought Soho House in India. I was a local partner, along with David Fischer and Kris Jones. They trusted my caliber and allowed me to build Mumbai’s famous landmark at Juhu. The construction and design of Soho House was done by my in-house construction company – Pacific In.

During this time, I met Aaron at  Soho House in Mumbai, who was designated as the designer and it was then that I knew, we could create magic. When I saw his work, I knew he was the right person to work with and ever since there has been no looking back. I took him on as our design director at Mayaland Homes.

If not Goa, where would you be in India?

I travelled across India and Goa is just perfect. If not Goa, then London would have been my final destination. 

Which has been your dream project so far?

My dream is creating the next Beverly Hills in Goa and what better location than Assagao? The Mews, Assagao is my ultimate dream to build a community of like-minded individuals. It will be a private lane surrounded by the forests of Assagao, dotted with gorgeous villas that reflect Goa’s famous architectural heritage. On completion, the area will offer a combination of private luxury homes and a maze of cool walkways for residents to truly soak in the wonder of nature.

What inspires you to create?

In Goa we take inspiration from the Iberian Peninsula – researching traditional Portuguese paint colours and classic wall paneling from Lisbon. I just fell in love with the fusion between Goan architecture and Portuguese architecture. Here, we are recreating Portuguese architecture with a modern approach.

What do you like most about Goa and why should people choose it as a destination for their second home?

Goa is a very special place and everyone here has a very wide mindset due to international exposures, right from the time Goa started radiating its beauty to the world. The fusion of cultures along with its charming surroundings and spots has given Goa a unique potential of being an international tourist destination and has resulted in making Goa the most sought-after place to live in India.

How do you incorporate traditional Goan architecture in your work?

As an international design studio, we always reference our project’s local history and surroundings. It’s important to us to create spaces and buildings that feel natural and comfortable within their environments. In Goa, we use many traditional components of classical Goan architecture, such as balcao seating at the entrance or apuntado arched windows leading to Juliet balconies. Our future projects will look to classic Goan roof tiles and reference a modern take on Goan pattern cement tiles. The idea is that we are always looking to see how we can re-invent these classic elements with a more modern, luxurious touch.

What role do you think collaborations play in your industry?

We want to be the leading, most creative interior design firm in India, and know the only way to achieve that is through collective creativity and collaboration. Our initial goal is to first build an international in-house creative studio, but once established, work and collaborate with local designers and artists. India has an incredible creative history of craftsmanship, artistry and imagination, which positions it as a leading, yet untapped creative playground for designers and architects. Specifically, we want to forge connections with furniture designers: to create luxury, bespoke furniture pieces for our homes and artists to fill these homes with leading, contemporary Indian art.

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