agileurbanismAgility is a much-valued concept. We’re impressed by the skills of our favourite athletes, we love it when our service providers are able to switch quickly to take into account new circumstances, and we increasingly demand multitasking and quick changes in working life.

Here at Sefaira, our software development follows agile principles (see here for a great introduction), as we believe that only with a short-cycle feedback loop can we be sure we’re building the right product (and building the product right, for that matter). For those who aren’t familiar with Agile, this means that all our software developers work in short (2-week) ‘sprints’, planning, building, testing and delivering working software within that timeframe.  Inadvertent time wastage (i.e. spending a lot of time building something that’s not needed) is substantially reduced and stakeholders get frequent opportunities to change the course of the software.

So who are the innovators translating agility for the built environment? Koen Olthius, whose floating buildings we mentioned in our blog on flood resiliency, has modeled urban areas –in his case, he focused on slums- with agility in mind [Pictured]. His theory is that a city should be like a smartphone; multiple apps which can be downloaded or deleted as needed, preferably at the tap of a button. In practical terms this would involve floating platforms, some with buildings and some with power generators or similar services. These could be transported through canals, and moored where needed, when needed, without a crop of redundant, difficult-to-repurpose buildings scattered around the city in the wake of demographic or economic change. Olthius has not had the chance to put his model into practice yet, but it’s certainly one to watch.

Modularity is not limited to aquaspace either; Perkins+Will recently highlighted their SproutSpace modular classroom; a temporary (or permanent) design that doesn’t bring to mind the dingy, stuffy, and downright unpleasant portacabins that I remember from school.

heatmetalsAgile Materials will also play a part in a truly agile city; they are a popular topic among TED Talk fellows, such as Rachel Armstrong, and Doris Kim Sung. These future materials are increasingly being described in terms that reference change rather than stasis: metabolic, organic, dynamic, or even ‘like our skin’- a reference to automatic adjustments, generally in response to temperature fluctuations, which enable materials to mimic our thermoregulatory systems.

For example, the Future Materials Gallery designed by Blackstone Architects at Ecobuild 2013 [pictured] displayed metal vents that open in response to heat, by curling gently upwards.

The attractions of Agile thinking are clearly being explored in multiple areas. Do you have an application for Agile thinking you believe is unique or out of the ordinary? Why not let us know on twitter?