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Craig Lee Martin, City-zen: Sustainability needs people who bring qualitative and quantitative together and reveal the latent potential of our cities and citizens


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Craig Lee Martin

Dr Craig Lee Martin began his academic career at The Manchester School of Architecture (MSA, UK). As Head of Technology at the MSA his primary motivation was to increase the architectural awareness of climate change, and to create an educational environment and attitude that could respond to it at all urban scales of design enquiry.

Craig’s PhD (2006) investigated the possibility of a solar city capable of adaptation to post-industrialized contexts. In 2012, as an international specialist in climate design and urban sustainability, Craig joined the Faculty of Architecture at the Delft University of Technology (TUD). In 2014, Craig played a key role in TU Delft’s success at the largest student competition in the world, the Solar Decathlon. Craig is currently responsible for the SWAT Studio and City-zen Roadshow (funding by the European Union's Seventh Programme), both ‘on-site’ urban intensive workshops that collaborate with institutions and city stakeholders all over the world to propose vital and realizable sustainable City Visions.

To learn more about City-zen, you can visit the project's website. If you are interested in participating in the City-zen Roadshow, get in touch with Craig on




What are City-zen’s aims and what is your role in the project?


City-zen aims to develop and demonstrate Zero Energy Cities. Over 20 City-zen partners work together to achieve this in variously scaled technological and societal ways. I’m responsible for the City-zen Roadshow, a highly mobile, compact, intensive, creative and friendly venture that firmly places citizens at the heart of this challenge.


Tell us more about the Roadshow?

The Roadshow began life as a powerful but over-simplistic idea. It has since developed into a fully achievable and proven methodology that meets city challenges head-on as we aim for carbon descent. Indeed, I call it the Roadshow Methodology - a co-creative urban scientific and design approach that empowers citizens to develop their own sustainable city agendas. The method evolves city-by-city as it travels to locations with differing climate, culture, economy, urban morphology and building typology.


And what about the SWAT Studio, who is part of it and why was it created?

Students are the future! My idea was to combine the energy and enthusiasm of master’s students from the Delft University of Technology with that of the stakeholders and students of each hosting Roadshow city. The student SWAT projects, and more significantly the close relationships that were forged while collaborating on them, lay the foundation on which later to build the Roadshow.  


Which cities have you visited so far and what was the impact?

Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Belfast (United Kingdom), Izmir (Turkey) and Dubrovnik (Croatia). I would say that the greatest impact has been in the honesty and acceptance of the issues that each city has identified. Scientific, spatial and societal ‘answers’ can be many, but the right ‘questions’ are the hardest to define, and often, to accept. The Roadshow unreservedly reveals those vital questions, beginning the journey to a sustainable lifestyle…


The next stop of the City-zen Roadshow is Menorca, Spain on 24-27 April 2017. What activities have you planned for these 5 days?

The Roadshow team comprises internationally recognized experts in sustainable urbanism and architecture, carbon accounting, energy potential mapping and efficient technologies. I synergize these global specialisms with the local knowledge and initiatives, then strategically schedule and direct the activity content. The subsequent energy, design and serious gaming workshops, mini master classes and technology seminars are integrated into the intensive schedule for maximum effect.


What are the expected outcomes?

Quantitative and qualitative, all leading to a future sustainable City Vision owned by the neighborhoods in which they were conceived. The outcomes are specifically related to a series of ‘energy scenarios’ and potentials for one particular city area, and to achievable social and spatial design interventions at various scales. To be clear, the Roadshow is no consulting session, and the outcomes are not a blueprint. The primary creation is a city agenda and a change of mindset that remains when the Roadshow departs.


Which cities are on the Roadshow map after Menorca?


Roadshow city selection is based on level of commitment, enthusiasm and demand. To thoroughly test the Roadshow Method my goal has been to select 9 cities over the course of the 4-year project that display a spectrum of economic, physical and environmental circumstances. I’m currently in preparation talks with Sevilla (Spain), Roeselare (Belgium) and Klaipeda (Lithuania).


At each stop of the Roadshow the City-zen team co-creates a sustainable City Vision together with the city and its citizens. What is your city vision?

For me ‘In the Kingdom of Content, Context is King’. Over two decades in the field of architecture and urban design I can say this is true. Long-term sustainability needs the technological hardware and the creative knowhow of where to apply it (Content), but without contextual sensitivity and understanding it is soulless, disconnected and impersonal. Context is defined as locality, climate, lifestyle, accent, idiosyncrasies of place and people. My City Vision is the harmonious synergy of context and content.


Which is your favourite city in the world and why?

I’ve travelled far and wide, but Manchester (United Kingdom), the place of my architectural education. During the Industrial Revolution, its rate of change - architecturally, technologically and socially - was so vast and rapid it would later be regarded as the first ‘Shock City’. Under appalling circumstances this city did whatever it took to survive, it literally moved mountains and created inland seas. If only we could reinterpret, realign and harness the same uncompromising ingenuity, then the threat of climate change would be repelled. Let’s do that…  


If you can wish for anything at the end of the City-zen project, what would that be?

To revisit every Roadshow city and help continue the vital work the stakeholders began. The‘Roadshow Method has, and will, evolve over the course of the City-zen project and thereafter. I will ensure that the Roadshow Method continues to disseminate, inspire and empower our citizens to make a difference.  


Do you have any new professional/personal resolutions for 2017?

In my opinion, sustainability needs professionals, who can bring the qualitative and quantitative together, and people who can reveal the latent potential of our cities and people. These professionals must have the communication skills, personality and background to meaningfully engage with communities. My resolution is to advance those skills personally and educate others to do the same.