Overview of 2018 Activities
Interviewing Ward Cunningham
ABOVE:  Executive Director Michael Mehaffy interviews Board Member Ward Cunningham on the invention of Wiki, pattern languages of programming, Agile, and other innovations, as part of the Building Beauty course curriculum in Sorrento, Italy, in association with the office of Christopher Alexander and the Center for Environmental Structure.

Report by Michael Mehaffy, Executive Director

This year the focus of Sustasis’ work moved increasingly toward broader topics of systems and transitions, with a special focus on collective knowledge and action systems.  We have participated in collaborations with the International Society for the Systems Sciences, Pattern Languages of Programming, and the Ax:son Johnson Foundation.  Research, education and publication has continued to focus primarily on global urban challenges including the current era of unprecedented urbanization.  At the same time,  work has expanded to explore the additional insights that are available to us from the sciences, as well as from cultural innovations like wiki (and Wikipedia) and pattern languages. 

One of the most important projects now under way is an ambitious new edition of patterns tentatively titled A Pattern Language for Growing Regions: Economy, Technology, Quality of Life. The book is planned to launch a new repository of shareable and editable patterns. (You can download a preview copy here.)

An additional project now under way is to expand on the first short film about Christopher Alexander, Life in Buildings, with a full series of six “chapters,” each of which can stand alone as an Internet short, or be combined into a feature-length film.  The current short will be lightly edited to become the third of the series.

Executive Director Michael Mehaffy has also helped to develop new curricular materials for a new Masters program in architecture and urbanism at Sant'Anna Institute in Sorrento, Italy, in partnership with the University of Strathclyde in the UK.  As part of those materials, he interviewed Board Member Ward Cunningham, exploring the history of pattern languages and wikis. The video is available on the Sustasis website, and has been shared widely on social media.

Michael Mehaffy also gave several talks surrounding the launch of Sustasis Press’ latest book, Cities Alive: Jane Jacobs, Christopher Alexander and the Roots of the New Urban Renaissance, co-published with our partner, the Centre for the Future of Places at KTH University in Stockholm.  The book continues to receive very positive reviews.  Gerald Erion, professor of philosophy at Medaille College in New York, said “Mehaffy’s discussion of Jacobs, Alexander, and complexity science is tantalizing, and his attention to distinctively philosophical issues seems especially noteworthy...Such weighty philosophical issues may seem abstract, but in Mehaffy’s writing, they become key underpinnings for his more pragmatic advice. In fact, his book includes practical suggestions for design professionals and urbanists of all kinds. His section on the United Nations New Urban Agenda may be especially instructive here, as are the photo essays and interviews of his final chapter. Thus, Cities Alive demonstrates both the urgency and the potential benefits of an urbanist philosophy as we confront a range of global challenges in the decades to come.”

Langdon et al.Reviewer Emily O’Brien, writing in Traditional Building magazine, described the book as “an alluring and thought-provoking read for students, government officials, architecture professionals and more, Cities Alive will have you nodding your head as you read along, offering an intricate and intelligible understanding of city structure as it examines essential philosophical ideas about cities and what they offer their inhabitants...What’s most remarkable is that in the latter half, Mehaffy pulls from his curated pot of somewhat rather abstract ideas, garnered from Jacobs and Alexander, and transforms them into solutions that can be implemented in very tangible, realistic ways.”

You can order the book here.

ABOVE: Author Phil Langdon with a buyer
and Executive Director Michael Mehaffy at the IMCL conference in Ottawa.

Our earlier books Design for a Living Planet and A City is Not a Tree: 50th Anniversary Edition are also available in print or eBook - you can order them here.  Work continues on several new books, including the aforementioned A Pattern Language for Growing Regions, and What is a City? – a kind of textbook on urbanism – as well as a book on “place network theory,” helping to explain how good-quality public space can be made and maintained.

We also continued our collaboration with the Ax:son Johnson Foundation, KTH University, and the Centre for the Future of Places, further developing ongoing partnerships with UN-Habitat, Project for Public Spaces, CNU, and other key allies. We also continued our implementation work for the New Urban Agenda, completing a Memorandum of Understanding between our partner the Centre for the Future of Places and UN-Habitat. 

Signing MOU
ABOVE:  Michael Mehaffy (left) completes the MOU with UN-Habitat and the Centre for the Future of Places, a collaborator with the Sustasis Foundation.  Pictured are Shipra Narang Suri, head of urban design and policy unit at UN-Habitat (center) and Saidou N’Dow, head of the legal office for UN-Habitat (right).

Keynote Speaking and/or Co-organization of Conferences, Symposia and Meetings
(By Executive Director Michael Mehaffy, unless otherwise noted)

AfriCities session
ABOVE: Participants at a workshop on implementing the public space provisions of the New Urban Agenda, moderated by Michael Mehaffy (top rown, center right) at the AfriCities conference in Marrakesh.

Research Publications
General Publications
We welcome your questions, comments, or proposals for collaboration – and as always, we are grateful for support in all forms!