Douglas (Doug) Tompkins is an American environmental activist and eco-entrepreneur. The founder and manager of The North Face and Esprit has become the largest private landowner in Chile. In 1990 he sold his shares of both companies for 250 million dollars and has since acquired huge areas in Patagonia (southern Argentina and Chile) to create national parks. 1991 Douglas Tompkins bought the Reñihué Ranch with the intent to protect the rain forest-covered terrain. In the following years he bought together with the U.S. Environmental Foundation The Conservation Land Trust other related areas.
In Chile Tompkins has acquired 3,000 sq km land in an area, which stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the heights of the Andes on the border to Argentina. His goal is to create a contiguous protected area with the official status of a reserve. With his Chilean EDUCEC Foundation (Education, Ciencia y Ecologia), he has acquired large areas of the Parque Pumalin. The park is located in the Región de los Lagos in Chaitén. Tompkins has bought a total of over 10,000 sq km land in Chile and Argentina.
Conservative forces in Chile and the lobby of the entrepreneurs fought for years against his projects. They saw a danger in Tompkins for the Chilean national interests, especially for the country’s development and economic exploitation of the rain forest areas. But not only among entrepreneurs and conservatives there are opponents of his projects.
Chile’s environmental laws encourage this type of private initiative, although the Foundation receives no financial help from the Chilean State. Since this is a new kind of environmental commitment in Chile, the project was faced with some political resistance, particularly from those who do not understand how a private initiative for environmental protection work. Nevertheless, slowly but surely confidence could be established, both at local and national level, and the project continues to progress and is now open to the public as it was originally intended. Thus, the tourist infrastructure is developed in accordance with strict rules to preserve the natural, similar to the services that exist across the world in other National Parks. There are hiking trails, campgrounds, information centers, cafes, restaurants and cabins were set up and attractions on land and sea are developed. Thousands of visitors have already taken advantage of this offer.
For further information please visit Parque Pumalin and Environmental Leader of the Year: Douglas Tompkins – Preserver of the Land.
The Colosseum was operated for 500 years. A life span that arise naked envy in today’s planners and investors, particularly because of the flexibility of use. The Trajan’s Market and Forum was operated “only” 200 years as a mixed use property, but already fulfilled all the requirements at that time for flexible floor plans at reasonable cost in a first-class location and in some cases 5-storey structures. To be fair it has to be pointed out that sustainability was required at the time, because otherwise it would had been impossible to organize daily life. In this respect planners and architects had some natural advantages which need to be learned again today.
The Trajan’s Market and Forum hit the zeitgeist, as only a few mixed-use forms and buildings do so today, by a mix of leisure uses, retail and office spaces in one building complex which were collected and connected on different levels and in absolute top inner city location. Because of its location, the therewith given excellent accessibility, and the best internal development of the facilities at that time, the success were granted throughout almost two centuries. Today there are only a handful of buildings with comparable size and longevity.
The Colosseum with a highly flexible special-use concept, sophisticated visitor management and an exemplary safety concept even for today’s standards in all relevant areas featured outstanding stage techniques, including could be completely flooded the arena to host water spectacle. The Colosseum far outpaced all (macro) economic and political expectations in many ways. Today there are nearly no buildings which range even close to the national and international importance and brilliance of the Colloseum. No other building complex of this kind in the history ever was so close connected with was so much for progress, internationalization, unity, equality, democracy and openness, but also for power orientation and expansionism. With this, as early as 2000 years ago, light and shadow, success and challenge were given a form and ideological language, which hasn’t lost its topicality and importance up to today. It took 1800 years until the French artist Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi was able to manage to create a work with similar appeal. Today it stands on Liberty Island in the port of New York City and was a birthday gift from the French government to the 100-year anniversary of the United States of America. The Statue of Liberty is meant, of course.
What can planners and developers learn from this?
The Colosseum was a public building. In particular mayors and district councils can learn from it that buildings which are intended for public need to be planned like this. Not everything what the city treasurer like does work sustainable and not everything what does work sustainable is liked by the city treasurer. Especially when it comes to buildings with long life spans this shouldn’t be the first priority anyways, because the buildings shall meet public interests and don’t follow political intervals. By keeping this in mind great and awesome results can be achieve.
The Trajan’s Market and Forum, though publicly funded, were used for private purposes and therefore exceptionally successful because the operators were always ready to adapt and implement the latest zeitgeist to react on new requirements, sided with the necessary basic building of the complex, which led to the economic sustainability. Only slowly and under pressure from investors today’s planners and developers learn that sustainability and the so-called third party usability isn’t an option but mandatory in the planning.
For further information please visit Colosseum and Trajan’s Forum.
What’s the message?
The Bahrain World Trade Center is a good example to describe how the remaining challenges can be adopted. This is the first skyscraper complex in the world, which is independently supplied with wind energy power. The successor project, the Burj al-Taqa, will be completely self-sufficient energy operated and be the first zero-energy skyscraper in the world. Try to sell one of these or a similar concept to your city treasurer and you know what is meant here. Meanwhile he would engage in it because he can see that it works, but what about the follow-up concepts? They will fail again because of the discouragement of decision makers. This is one of many reasons why the Colosseum and Trajan’s Market and Forum could survive for so long as a benchmark, instead of being replaced by e.g. autonomous and fully sustainable floating cities. The technical possibilities for this are available for quite some time.
Architecturally there aren’t that many challenges left yet. There are hardly any uses or forms that haven’t been tested or at least tried before. Compared to this, engineers are facing far greater challenges, particularly by improving building energetic sustainability, but also when it comes to achieve further improvements of building materials as a whole, e.g. for greater strength, durability and load carrying capacity by simultaneous reduction of resource uses. The fields “development in stock” and “sustainability” are without doubt the play grounds of the present. Demographic change and therefore reduced space requirements are another.
How do you look at the current and future challenges and how should they be adopted?