Current Issues on Urban Metabolism & Harvard University Graduate School of Design Lectures, Part 3 of 3.

Source: Youtube. This video is not owned by Earthniversity but by Harvard University Graduate School of Design in connection with their lectures on Projective Views on Urban Metabolism which they uploaded and published on youtube on February 14, 2014. Thank you HUGSD for sharing this video/lectures with all interested people on planet Earth.


Urban Metabolism has always fascinated me. I came to know about this in 2000 when I was attending a short course on Designing Sustainable Development under the Master in Urban Management Program in the University of Canberra in Australia. Since then, I got hooked by it because of its relevance to urban planning and design. Its idea of treating urban area or as I would like to use it – human settlement – like a human body that metabolizes, is really relevant in the development, planning and designing of cities and urban areas. But what is Urban Metabolism?

The word urban refers to or pertains to a city, or belonging to a city. (Wikipedia)


“Metabolism (from Greek: μεταβολή metabolē, “change”) is the set of life-sustaining chemical transformations within the cells of living organisms. These enzyme-catalyzed reactions allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. The word metabolism can also refer to all chemical reactions that occur in living organisms, including digestion and the transport of substances into and between different cells, in which case the set of reactions within the cells is called intermediary metabolism or intermediate metabolism.” (Wikipedia)

WHAT IS URBAN METABOLISM? The Wikipedia has a nice explanation on this:

“Urban metabolism is a model to facilitate the description and analysis of the flows of the materials and energy within cities, such as undertaken in a Material flow analysis of a city. It provides researchers with a metaphorical framework to study the interactions of natural and human systems in specific regions.[1] From the beginning, researchers have tweaked and altered the parameters of the urban metabolism model. C. Kennedy and fellow researchers have produced a clear definition in the 2007 paper ‘’The Changing Metabolism of Cities’’ claiming that urban metabolism is “the sum total of the technical and socio-economic process that occur in cities, resulting in growth, production of energy and elimination of waste.” [2] With the growing concern of climate change and atmospheric degradation, the use of the urban metabolism model has become a key element in determining and maintaining levels of sustainability and health in cities around the world. Urban metabolism provides a unified or holistic viewpoint to encompass all of the activities of a city in a single model.”


In my research about Urban Metabolism, I encountered this video on youtube about “Projective Views on Urban Metabolism” presented by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. It caught my attention very greatly that I wish to share this to our readers. I do not claim to be an expert on this topic because I am also a “student”, a searcher just like the rest of us.

This is the explanation of HUGSD on this video which focuses on the main topic entitled: The Agency of Design.

“DDes Conference: Projective Views on Urban Metabolism (Part 3)In the last two decades, the concept of urban metabolism, aiming to grasp the continuous processes of energy, material and population exchange within and between cities and their extensive hinterlands, has been subject of both extensive empirical research and, increasingly, critical discussion within the social and natural sciences. However, these interdisciplinary challenges have not yet been met with a synthetic response from the design disciplines. The goals of this one-day conference are, through the lens of urban metabolism, to: generally reassess the planetary rescaling of contemporary urbanization processes; unpack the transformation of spatial forms and structures and subsequently, the emergence of new operative territories for design; explore the agency of design in confronting these challenges.”

This is the last part (Part 3 of 3) of the lectures conducted by HUGSD on Projective Views on Urban Metabolism. This portion is about The Agency of Design. The speakers are the following:

1. Dr. Mitchell Joachim. He is Co-Founder of TerreForm One. He is also an Associate Professor at New York University. He will talk about their research on TerreForm One.

2. Chris Reed is an Associate Professor in Practice of Landscape Architecture at HUGSD. His research interest includes The Impact of Ecological Science on Design Thinking and City Making Strategies in Form by Landscape Systems and Dynamics.

3. Ila Berman is connected with the University of Waterloo College of Architecture. She is a Doctor of Design Graduate from HUGSD. Her research topic is: Investigate the Relationship Between Culture and Evolution of Contemporary Materials and Spatial Practices.

Moderator: Hashim Sarkis

Toastmasters are: Daniel, Nickos and Pablo.


Earthniversity would like to thank the Harvard University Graduate School of Design for uploading this video on youtube. We hope our followers and team members have gained so much knowledge from this sharing on the topic about Projective Views on Urban Metabolism. Again thank you HUGSD and youtube. These videos, Part I, II, and III are available here at Earthniversity blogsite and these are also available on youtube. Thank you everyone….

Temperature Controlled Mall of the World, Dubai

Earthniversity would like to share this video uploaded by Dubai Holding and is entitled “Mall of the World”. Once constructed, this newest development in Dubai will showcase one of the world’s best practices in Urban Planning, Urban Design, Architecture, Engineering, state-of-the-art facilities and to a greater extent Urban Metabolism.

In a news item written and published by Sapa-AFP on July 07, 2014, the article chronicles the newest initiative of Dubai to promote that region as one of the world’s center of Business and Trade, Hospitality and Tourism, Cultural Celebration and many others.

Here is the news account of Dubai’s Mall of the World by Sapa-AFP:

“Dubai is planning to build a temperature-controlled city featuring the world’s largest mall and an indoor park, as well as hotels, health resorts and theatres, the developer said.

Already home to one of the globe’s biggest indoor shopping complexes, Dubai Mall, the glitzy emirate known for its love of grandiose projects said it is now planning to build the “Mall of the World”.

The all-pedestrian complex would occupy a total area of 48 million square feet (4.45 million square metres), said Dubai Holding, the developer owned by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

The project “will comprise the largest indoor theme park in the world” under a glass dome that would be opened during winter, it said in a statement.

The seven-kilometre (4.35 mile)-long promenades connecting the facilities would also be covered and air-conditioned during summer, it added.

“Our ambitions are higher than having seasonal tourism. Tourism is key driver of our economy and we aim to make the UAE an attractive destination all year long,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

“This is why we will start working on providing pleasant temperature-controlled environments during the summer months.”

The statement issued late on Saturday did not say when construction would begin, nor did it reveal the cost of the project.

Dubai hopes the “Mall of the World” can attract more than 180 million visitors each year.

The emirate is known for its numerous malls and many hotels, including the Dubai Mall, touted as the world’s largest shopping, leisure and entertainment destination. It is also home to the world’s tallest tower, Burj Khalifa.

Dubai has established itself as a global hub for air transport and transit trade, as well as a regional financial centre.

And it beat off opposition from Brazil, Russia and Turkey in November to win the right to host the World Expo trade fair in 2020.

The emirate’s economy was hit in 2009 by the global financial crisis, but it has since made a strong comeback, thanks to growth in the trade, transport and tourism sectors.”


Since I mentioned that this project – The Mall of the World – will also showcase the concepts of Urban Metabolism, I therefore posted a video of Professor Herbert Girardet delivering a lecture on Urban Metabolism. This is for your easy reference. Professor Girardet is the Co-Founder of World Future Council on Urban Metabolism and therefore an authority on the field of U.M. This video was uploaded by UCL-ISR or University College London – Institute of Sustainable Resources for the world to watch and learn from. Thank you youtube and UCL-ISR.

Let me just define some terms to help you with this lecture.

Definition of Terms:

1. Urban Planning – “the branch of architecture dealing with the design and organization of urban space and activities.” (

2. Urban Design – “is the process of designing and shaping cities, towns and villages. Whereas architecture focuses on individual buildings, Urban Design addresses the larger scale of groups of buildings of streets and public spaces, whole neighborhoods and districts and entire cities, to make urban areas functional, attractive, and sustainable.” (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)

3. Architecture – “The art and science of designing buildings and (some) nonbuilding structures. It has to do with planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience to reflect functional, technical, social, environmental and aesthetic considerations.” (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)

4. Engineering – “The creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation or safety to life and property”. (The American Engineers’ Council For Professional Development or ECPD).

5. Urban – “relating to, or concerned with a city or densely populated area”. (

6. Metabolism – “is the sum of all biological, chemical and physical processes that occur within the organism or an eco-system that enable it to exist, infinitely”. (From the lecture of Architect Ana Maria Orru, Architect and Lecturer on Urban Metabolism, uploaded by KTH at youtube. Also available at “Human Settlements and Urban Metabolism, Lecture Series #7” at Earthniversity –

7. Urban Metabolism – is used to describe the resource consumption and waste regeneration of cities (or urban areas) as indicator of sustainability. (on Ana Maria Orru’s lecture on Urban Metabolism).


“It wasn’t until 1965 when Abel Wolman fully developed and used the term urban metabolism in his work, “The Metabolism of Cities” which he developed in response to deteriorating air and water qualities in American cities.[2] In this study Wolman developed a model which allowed him to determine the inflow and outflow rates of a hypothetical American City with a population of 1 million people. [5] The model allows the monitoring and documentation of natural resources used (mainly water) and the consequential creation and out-put of waste.[6] Wolman’s study highlighted the fact that there are physical limitations to the natural resources we use on a day-to-day basis and with frequent use, the compilation of waste can and will create problems. It also helped focus researchers and professionals of their time to focus their attention on the system wide impacts of consumption of goods and sequential production of waste within the urban environment” (Urban Metabolism, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia).

Note: You can also check on the analogy of Human Body’s Metabolism to the Urban Body or Urban Center’s Metabolism at “Human Settlements and Urban Metabolism, Lecture Series #7” at Earthniversity –


1. youtube – Mall of the World uploaded by Dubai Holding.
2. http:www/


Activity: Lecture Series on Sustainable Urbanization by the People and Partners of U.N.- Habitat.

This lecture series is very timely for those Local Government Units that are on the stage of developing their cities. This is also an important information for the city’s staff and employees, urban planners and developers to consider as they formulate urban planning and design that could be more relevant for the future. Let us welcome this opportunity to hear the ideas of experts from all over the world in just one video.

Earthniversity would like to thank U.N. Habitat for sharing this video on youtube.

Also, this lecture series is parallel to Earthniversity’s topic entitled Human Settlements.