Peer to Peer (P2P) Urbanism

The Importance of P2P and Open Source

Recent developments in information and communications technology are having an impact on P2P-Urbanism. The free software movement, thinkers who are establishing a new domain of open-source productions freed from the restrictions of copyright, and the peer-to-peer network emerge from the World-Wide Web and re-examine the basis of closed-source thinking. The Wiki format coupled to the idea of Patterns brings the approach to city building back to genuine human needs. The Internet has made possible an open-source environment, thus challenging the obscurantist wave of “experts” and copyrighters who drastically limit both choice and innovation.

P2P-Urbanism: A New Community of Practice

In the XXI century, new architectural movements, socially-engaged urban planners, innovative urban theorists, and online/offline P2P communities are coming together to challenge the established post-modern professional and architectural academic environment — the latter dominated by the belief that a few single demiurge-architects can determine urban dynamics. The definition and ideals of P2P-Urbanism are constructed from the bottom-up. This process takes scientific results and theories on human biological and social needs and adds them to the on-the-ground experience of a myriad of actors and agencies (architects, urbanists, small firms, professional studios, NGOs, social workers, etc.) that are confronted daily with urban problems on the micro-scale. P2P-Urbanism is now in continuous development, and merges technology with practical experience in a way that is innovative, open, and modifiable.
Beyond its obvious socio-political implications, P2P-Urbanism means to establish a framework for sustainable built environment in the following sense. The ability to adaptively shape the urban fabric allows its residents to actively participate in its growth. This endows emotional ownership to the place, coupled with the responsibility to care for it and love it. A collective vision — whether generally shared or embodying a healthy diversity — makes it possible to connect to living local traditions and to better resist anti-urban forces imposed from the outside by systems of power uninterested in the inhabitants, the culture, or the unique specificities of the place. Often, the answer involves re-kindling the local building tradition that has been suppressed by outside developers implementing a generic industrial model.

Re-Establishing The Commons: Learning from Squatter Cities

The world’s housing problem can only be solved by channeling those same forces that generate informal settlements. Bottom-up forces arise from a natural need to use available materials, to build the most physically and emotionally comfortable human-scale environments, and especially to weave the urban fabric so as to nurture ordinary life on the street and in urban spaces. P2P-Urbanism, therefore, is not just about design; it is about enhancing and supporting the energy in informal settlements by providing P2P services of all kinds. We will also develop the idea of social credits as a possible way for governments to recognize and honor the social capital of informal settlements. A community that provides support to its own members and the rest of the city would earn “social credits”, which could be traded a bit like carbon credits for building materials, infrastructure, or anything else the community needs. This approach makes informal settlements not just recipients of what government needs to do for them, but it puts communities in a stronger position to negotiate what they want on their own terms.

A Biological Paradigm
After the work of Edward O. Wilson on Biophilia, we now know that human beings react positively to the biological information in their environment and to specific types of complex mathematical structures such as fractals. Thus, the need for a certain type of structural complexity in our surroundings is not simply a matter of aesthetics but a key to our physiological wellbeing. Alexander, and other researchers following his lead, identified those precise structures that generate a healing environment. P2P-Urbanism is intrinsically biological, in the sense that it learns from nature and from living processes, and follows as an unintended complement to natural morphogenesis. It is impossible to follow this process without keeping in mind the problem of “objective science” and a critical envisioning of subjectivity, real human needs, goals, and meaning.

A new synthesis between consolidated architectural and urbanist thinking and peer-to-peer urbanists is arising from the failures of a political approach to urbanism, and this will allow us to plan for a better urban environment in our future.

More Information
Background on human-scale urbanism:

Publications on Peer-to-peer Urbanism: organizing_Society

The Smart Code: US Gulf coast neighborhood Renaissance Centers:

Reference Books
1. Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, and Shlomo Angel (1977) A Pattern Language, Oxford University Press, New York.
2. Nikos A. Salingaros (2005) Principles of Urban Structure, Techne Press, Amsterdam, Holland.
3. Caperna A., Serafini S. (2013). “Biourbanism as new framework for smart cities study”. In Handbook of research on “GIS for Smart Cities”, a book edited by Prof. T.M.Vinod Kumar, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, India. Copal Publishing (Link)
4. Caperna A., Giangrande A., Mirabelli P., Mortola E., (2013). Partecipazione e ICT. Gangemi Editore ISBN13: 9788849225365; ISBN10: 8849225369; T206D S20c G38e (Link)