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A Digital nomads in contemporary cities

Digital nomads in contemporary cities
Adykhanova Bekzat OP9OXY - Boysal Ece K7TWIQ - Julia Gracia V5KWB
Diigital nomads in contemporary cities
Cities of the World
AA 2022-2023
Adykhanova Bekzat
Boysal Ece
Julia Gracia
Integrated MSc Program in Architectural Engineering - Integrated master
Faculty of Architecture
BME Budapesti Műszaki és Gazdaságtudományi Egyetem
Image in the cover: Collage designed
by the authors using a photograph
from Moey Hoque, a photograph from
Kijken naar Haarlem Oost and a photograph from Guillermo Esteves.
The working habits have changed during the last decade, and in most cases, the physical presence is not compulsory and in consequence, there has
been a rising of digital nomads around
the world. The arrival of digital nomads
in a city has implications ranging from
the temporary appropriation of neighbourhoods and buildings, the creation
and displacement of programmes and
activities, the emergence of a shortstay architecture and even it affects the
image of the city from outside.
In this paper we’re going to analyse
the different consequences of this new
lifestyle in the architecture and urban
design of a city, and how it can influence the growth and development of it.
Then, we will discuss three different
case studies from cities around the
world: Almaty (Kazakhstan), Turkey,
and Zaragoza (Spain), to see the similarities and particularities of each one
of them.
Digital nomad - Digital nomadism - Contemporary cities
- Lifestyle mobility - Urban upcycling
- Tactical urbanism
Context: Historical nomadic culture
The vernacular architecture related to historical nomads in the past
evolved to suit very specific environments, situation, and transportation. Their infrastructures were social and they were mostly related to
rural areas and relied on human and
animal transportation to cover very
long distances.
They relied on hunting and gathering first, and then in migratory
herding animals, and for all of that,
they have always tended to walk a
very thin line between comfort and
strife, the activity for subsistence
dominating their time.
Hunter- gatherer Nomadism
Pastoral Nomadism
Although hunting and gathering generally imposes a degree of nomadism on a people, it may range from
daily movements, as among some
Kalahari San, to monthly, quarterly,
or semiannual shifts of habitat. In
areas where resources are abundant
or where there are storage facilities,
populations may be more or less
stable. Nomadic hunters and gatherers are usually organized into small, isolated bands that move through a delimited territory where they
know the water holes, the location
of plants, and the habits of game.
Pastoral nomads, who depend on
domesticated livestock, migrate
in an established territory to find
pasturage for their animals. Most
groups have focal sites that they occupy for considerable periods of the
year. Pastoralists may depend entirely on their herds or may also hunt
or gather, practice some agriculture,
the map showing sources of the area
map showing pastoral nomad settlements
The generic denomination of steppe
nomadic or seminomadic peoples
encompasses the varied groups who
have at times inhabited the steppes
of Central Asia, Mongolia, western China and what is now Russia.
They most probably contributed
to the domestication of the horse,
vastly increasing the possibilities of
their specific nomadic life, and subsequently emphasized horse-breeding, horseriding and pastoralism.
or trade with agricultural peoples
for grain and other goods. Some
seminomadic groups in Southwest
Asia and North Africa cultivate
crops between seasonal moves. The
patterns of pastoral nomadism are
many, often depending on the type
of livestock, the topography, and
the climate.
Context: Historical nomadic culture
Tinker or trader nomads
These groups include tinker or trader nomads, who may also make
and sell simple products, hunt, or
hire out as labourers. The diverse
groups that are loosely termed Gypsies are the best-known example of
this type of nomadism.
Nomadic Empires
Another kind of historicaltemporary lifestyle is nomadic empires,
as kinetic empires that turned mobility into an imperial strategy. Open
landscapes of seppes and desserts,
much like sea, promoted the trading
and cultural relations between relatively isolated regions of sedentary
agricultural culture of Eurasia.
map showing trade networks
Some examples of ancient nomads:
are hunter-gatherer people such as
the Eskimos in Greenland, Amazonian populations in South America,
the Chichimecs in Mexico, nomadic
pastoralist people such as the Tuareg in the Sahara desert, transhumants in Spain, Arab Bedouin people and some populations in Central
Asia. Numerous gypsy groups also
practice this way of life in Europe.
Nomadic populations are as diverse as their origins, the evironments
in which they live and the ways in
which they subsist.
Many of them have survived to this
day, and are protected as a heritage of the ancestral nomadic culture. Some of these nomadic origins
have survived in some settlements,
influencing new currents of
nomadism, while others have disappeared due to industrialisation, rural exodus or globalisation, among
other reasons.
Digital nomads
What is a digital nomad?
Nowadays it is becoming more common to meet people whose ideal is to
combine a lifestyle that allows them
to work with the security of a monthly
salary without sacrificing their desire
to see the world. The figure of the digital nomad seeks to take advantage
of a minimum internet connection
infrastructure to exchange their services or knowledge remotely so that
their work does not oblige them to be
permanently in a specific place.
around to find food. Before digital
nomadism even existed, it was widely predicted for decades.
Worlds best countries to be a nomad
(survey conducted by the German company Paul Camper)
The rise of nomad hubs and multi-city living. The top places on Nomad List became overnight nomad
hubs. Chiang Mai was the original
nomad hub from the first wave of
nomadism, but from just tens of nomads there back in 2013, it grew to
thousands of nomads by 2016.
New nomad hubs also sprung up after Chiang Mai: first Ubud in Bali
in 2015, which before that was a hippie spot (e.g. Eat, Pray, Love) but
with the founding of Hubud Coworking started attracting nomads.
Phenomena such as the COVID-19
pandemics and high levels of stress
in the hardest stages of isolation, the
widespread possibilities od relatively
fast connection to the global world
through portable technology and the
curiosity to experience other ways
of living, among many others, are
key factors that explain why there
has been a rising of people wanting
to experience the nomadic life. Many
of them migrate to a different city or
country in search of a better climate,
lower costs and opportunities for development in different areas.
In 2020, the sudden Coronavirus pandemic forced people and
companies to adopt and embrace
remote work, as the virus caused
lockdowns of entire societies for billions of people around the world.
This might start the next wave of
nomadism as people working from
home for the first time will realize
they can work from anywhere, and
many won’t want to return back
to the traditional work setup. The
effects of this, we are starting to see
in 2021 as traveling recovers and
masses of people are starting to live
Nomadic life dates back to the
pre-agriculture days of nomadic hunter-gatherers. Without farming humans were often forced to move
Digital nomads
We live in a fast-changing world,
yet we continue rooted to ideas of
permanence. Digital nomads and
contemporary nomadism challenge
these suppostitions and current lifestyle of the city, hinting at a future culture, more adaptative in their
living and working spaces, and less
attached to the material.
Benefits of digital nomads in a
The lifestyle of digital nomads
could be the beginning of a new experimental transformation of the urban habitat into a more sustainable,
liveable, environment. They engage
in urban intervention and catalyse
community activity. Subsequently,
they are also incentivising a new
economic opportunity in the cities.
Contemporary nomadic lifestyles
The contemporary nomad has many
variations on the general nomadic
mode of living. Some of them prefer
a more solitary, frequently mobile
life, relying on shelter designed to
be smaller and all-inclusive in function as well as weather resilient.
Other could prefer to stay in communities, where the housing and
working spaces were more sheltered and indoors, relying on larger
shared structures.
How the nomadic lifestyle is impacting and influencing our way
of inhabiting?
Tactical urbanism: Ways of incorporating nomadic architecture in
contemporary cities
Knowing how mobile our society is
nowadays and how flexibility is becoming important in the domestic
environment, the line between what
we characterize as permanent and
temporary habitat is now very blurry.
- Quick adaptative reuse of industrial, commercial, and other type of
buildings and areas around the city.
Many of the elements designed for
nomadic living would be perfectly
functional in the more permanent
habitation and workplace context,
allowing nomadism to be transitional into more sedentary lifestyles.
- Creating stationary habitat structures in strategic locations for seasonal
and cyclic nomadism.
- Incorporating deployable or demountable structures for different
functions around the city.
- Designing permanent but freely
changeable homes.
The digital era, the networking jobs
and the online social interactions
have made the daily life functions
of a traditional city critical. Are our
cities nowadays adapted to our
way of living? Can we learn something about this new era of nomadism and digital nomads? Can
we share some similar lifestyles
that could coexist in a city?
This new era of nomadism is not
only about mobility and travelling,
but as a new adaptative response to
an increasingly dynamic situation
of life.
Case studies
Case studies: Turkey
In history nomadic movements in
Central Asia spanned quite long
distances, had military character
and led to serious political changes. In contrast, the nomadic culture of Anatolia had been regional
and non-military. (1) The Yörüks
(nomad tribes)move to the plateaus
around April and May and go back
to their winter settlements around
October and November. (2)
The semi-nomadic Turkish tribes
have produced characteristic spatial configurations compatible with
different cultural and geographical
contexts they experienced (Yalman
1993: 53-57).
The semi-nomadic culture, in its
traditional form, is still practiced by
a very limited number of people living in the Western Taurus region.
The history of nomadism is highly
affected by the relations with sedentary state mechanisms. Today,
plateau life has become a limited recreational time needed for refreshment in the hot and humid summer.
However, the Yörüks cannot leave
their traditional life completely.
They stay in their permenant dwellings in “kışlak” (winter) villages
and move to plateaus where they
also constructpermenant dwellings
instead of traditional black tents.
Transportation between the kışlak
and yaylak is no longer done in traditional methods but instead,motor
vehicules are used. (4)
The Flexible The Kışlak (Winter) – Yaylak (Summer)
Routes and Names of the Yörük Tribes in the Western Taurus
Digital nomads in Turkey
Turkey, located at the crossroads
of Europe and Asia, is a culturally
rich and dynamic country. It also
just so happens to deliver all the ingredients of a dream digital nomad
destination: a combination of low
cost of living, convenient remote
working infrastructure, and ease of
visa obtainability. Of course, each
nomad may have additional requirements based on their personal
preferences, but these three are pretty universal.
Topak Ev (yurt): The Flexible Usage of
Closed Surfaces and Spatial Configuration.
1. Cost of Living. There are few
places in Europe where you can get
more bang for your buck than Turkey, whether it’s in terms of rent,
food, or cultural events.
2. Remote working infrastructure. Turkey’s wifi speeds on mobile
and fixed broadband average
The Spatial Configuration of the Traditional Vineyard Dwellings
Enriched by the Semi-Closed Ayazlık Spaces
26-32 mpbs download speed as of
January 2022, according to Speed
Test. While this is on the lower
side for Europe, it’s higher than the
world average.
3. Ease of obtaining a visa. This is
arguably the most important consideration. No digital nomad wants
to go through laborious paperwork
and jump through a multitude of bureaucratic hoops when a number of
countries are keen to attract remote
workers by making visa processes
a breeze.
No digital nomad wants to go through laborious paperwork and jump
through a multitude of bureaucratic
hoops when a number of countries
are keen to attract remote workers
by making visa processes a breeze.
Case studies: Almaty
Historical nomadic culture of Kazakhstan
those herd hosts living in Kokpek
area usually take a way via the lake.
The semi-nomadic community is
not as large in Kazakhstan nowadays; it consists of individual livestock owners, and their assistants
(mostly shepherds). Every May, the
families of owners (it is normally
done in the family) start moving
with herds of horses up: the young
are chased first, the broodstock and
stallions follow later.
Kazakhstan culture reflects the history of the nomadic tribes which
roamed the Kazakh steppe forming
their unique worldview, creating
eclectic customs and traditions,
and mixing with neighboring cultures. Many Kazakhs adopted a more
sedentary lifestyle in the 19th and
20th centuries, leading to the development of new cultural characteristics for Kazakhs, such as huge,
glittering, modern cities.
Digital nomads: Almaty
To date, there are more than 35 million digital nomads, who spend
$787 billion annually on this lifestyle, according to research made
public by the UK’s Daily Travel
Modern nomads: Almaty region
Kazakh people historically lead a
nomadic way of life. Despite the
fact that now most of the country
dwellers are settled, some of us still
adhere the traditions of nomadism,
tough in a modified way. The modern semi-nomadic cattle risers of
Almaty region, in particular, take
their livestock to the highland Asy
plateau for the summer period, and,
watching those huge flocks of sheep
and horses travelling up by the Turgen gorge every spring.
Their way normally starts at a village, or at a winterland camp, and
it may take up to a week to make
this transhumance happened (the
normal distance is 150-300km up
to Asy highland plateau which is
considered the best summer pasture
in the region). There are two main
ways to enter Asy: from Turgen side
and from Bartogai lake, therefore
According to the survey conducted by the German company Paul
Camper – the largest rent surveyor
in Europe, Kazakhstan ranked 16th
among world’s top 25 countries for
digital nomads, overtaking such
countries as Sweden, France and Israel in the rankings.
Almaty is a fairly soviet style city
with a growing modern twist. The
tree-lined streets are wide with multi-lanes for vehicles and sidewalks
for pedestrians, built in a block-like pattern. Many modern cafes and
restaurants line the streets with a
number of parks, orchards, outdoor
markets, shopping malls and art galleries.
Case studies: Zaragoza
In the past, the nomadic life in the
region of Zaragoza was reduced
to the rural areas. ‘Transhumance’
refers to a type of farming characterised by the seasonal movement
of livestock from one pasture to
another according to annually recurring cycles. In the border mountains between Spain and France, the
Pyrenees, located in the region of
Aragón, this seasonal livestock movement has remained throughout
history until the present.
Digital nomads in Zaragoza
many of them uninhabited, and although this practice has lasted until
today, it does not have the same importance today as it did years ago.
Zaragoza has several coworking
spaces spread in a network around
the city, but without any connection
between them. They are considered
to be multifunctional centres where
you can rent a workspace. Some of
them organise events and trainings,
such as Impact Hub Zaragoza, other
combine the working functions with
an hotel for temporary and short
stays, as Out of Office, but none of
them fully solve the needs of contemporary digital nomads.
Perspective of the future: new
opportunities in the city
In terms of lifestyle, Zaragoza
could become a city that accommodates a new era of digital nomads.
There are around the city a number
of unused buildings and areas that
could house the contemporary and
nomadic architecture.
The nomadic lifestyle was a compulsory part of their way of life. The
livestock farmers who practise it lived in the valleys near the passes
where the livestock spent the summer, so that the wintering pastures
were located far from the familiar
home. The shelters where they stayed in these seasonal cycles were
temporary homes for them but permanent in the territory.
During all these years, there has
been a rural exodus from the villages to the city of Zaragoza, leaving
Case studies: Zaragoza
Urban nomadic upcycling: Expo
functions and activities for digital
nomads. Given the privileged location of the Expo, and the good connections to the city centre, it is the
perfect setting for this new project.
One of the best examples in the city
is the 2008 International Exhibition
facilities. Located on the banks of
the Ebro Riber, the Expo provided
spaces for leusire, culture, festivities, reflection and exchange between the different participants.
Using the skeleton of the existing
buildings, different uses could be
accommodated inside:
- Various forms and sizes of personal cabin houses grouped in clusters.
- Central shared areas around which
clusters are organised.
- Cooking areas, cafeterias, urban
vegetable gardens.
- Energy collectors for zero energy
waste such as solar or wind heliostats.
- Connections area with wifi and
data center.
- Workstation areas for different
work activities.
- Leisure areas.
- Markets, exhibitions and more.
Among the different projects and
infrastructures that housed the exhibition, there are different pavilions,
a large tower that is now a symbol
of the city, squares and temporary
structures. In addition to that, a
whole series of road, railway, tourist and green infrastructures were
planned and have changed the physiognomy of Zaragoza, marking a
new urban landmark into the city.
Imagining the importance that a
project of such a scale once had in
the city, it is unimaginable to think
that today, most of these buildings
have fallen into disuse, or have been
partially relegated to public offices.
This type of nomadic lifestyle could
also coexist in the city with other
practical uses such as low cost student housing, transitional housing,
temporary marketplaces, mobile
science, industry, business, residence for artists, art installations, urban
intervention projects, and more.
This is why these infrastructures
could be reused today to give them
a new purpose and host different
Historycal nomads bibliography
Digital nomads bibliography
Abad Martínez, J. M. (2019). Temporaray Settlements: Nomadism in the Contemporary Age. Repositorio de la Universidad de Zaragoza - Zaguán.
Alkan Bala, H. (2021). Designing eco cities with the undestanding of digital
nomads, (335-350). Igi-Global.
Reha Kaval, K. and Bakir, I. A Comparative Analysis of the Past and the
Present: Plateau Settlements and Semi-Nomadic Life in the Taurus Mountains
Bonneau, C. and Aroles, J. (2021). Digital nomads: A new form of leisure
class? InJ. Aroles, F.X. de Vaujany and K. Dale (eds.), Experiencing
the new world of work, Cambridge University Press, pp. 157-177.
Pallaruelo, S. (2012). Cuadernos de la transhumancia, Icona-P.Nacionales,
Yakar, J. Traits of Nomadic People Ethnoarchaeological and Archaeo logical
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