• 12.21.11

Making More Livable Cities With Shade Stands, Rainwater Collection, And Closed Streets

The world’s cities are going to have to support most of the world’s growing population. So we have to make them easier to live in. Three award-winning projects are documenting their quest to bring sustainable measures to some of the world’s growing urban areas.

Two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. That’s a lot of people packed in tight spaces. Depending on where you are, that means millions of residents living in unsafe, unclean areas that lack the infrastructure to take care of basic needs. The winners of the Philips Livable Cities Award take on the challenges of city living in three locations: Sana’a, Yemen; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Kampala, Uganda.


The challenges of creating a “livable city” changes depending on where you are. In New York City, it might mean overhauling restaurant regulations to favor locally owned businesses. In much of Africa, it could mean having clean drinking water. Wherever you are, your local livable city initiative probably focuses on three things: economic, environmental, and social good.

Sabrina Faber, one of the winners of the Philips competition, received nearly $98,000 for her idea to keep Sana’a, Yemen going during dry spells. Rainfall shortages are common, bottled water is too expensive for many people, and drinking the city’s dirty water supply leads to infection. So Faber–a longtime resident of Yemen–is building prototypes of a rooftop water tank that keeps precious water from being wasted. Filtration systems added to the tank could also make the water potable.

Buenos Aires resident Manuel Rapoport took $36,200 for the Plaza Movil Project–a plan to fix the city’s lack of access to parks and other public spaces by closing off various streets during weekends and holidays for pedestrians to use, a la San Francisco’s Sunday Streets. The Plaza, which will rotate to different spots in the city, will feature a mobile playground, benches, flower planters, and more.

James Kityo of Kampala snagged the other $36,200 prize for his Shade Stand, which provide a respite from the city’s scorching sun and hard rains. Lack of protection from the elements is a big problem in the city, where train platforms and bus stops are often completely exposed to the outdoors. Kityo is working with a number of people, including an artist and local metal fabricator, to get the project off the ground.

All of the Livable Cities winners are keeping video diaries of their experiences turning the proposed projects into reality. Check them out here.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.