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Alive Architecture | Urban installations to raise awareness and drive change

Category: creativity+urban social design+urbanism+⚐ EN

Alive Architecture

Earlier this year Belinda had the pleasure to meet Petra Pferdmenges and know about her practice, which is close to the concept of tactical urbanism and to our way of using urban actions or ‘mockups’ to test concepts in the city and trigger engagement. In her own words:

Quick and simple urban performances allow engaging with the local population and observing their reactions towards the performed project. In case of success the tests may stimulate a dynamic that forwards the initial action, often independent of the actual designer who generated the process.

The practice

Alive Architecture, based in Brussels and founded by her in 2010, is a research-based practice that celebrates design engagement through urban actions in order to generate urban dynamics. The applied tools are performances that establish a dialogue with the local actors. The intention is to enter into a feedback loop between testing a project (the expertise of the designer) and observing the local population’s reactions (the expertise of the local population) and allows furthering the initial project. Successful projects generate a more permanent dynamic in the neighborhood.

In commissioned projects this method is applied in order to test preliminary design proposals that will then be furthered through the observation of people’s reactions. In self-initiated projects the quick and simple actions are a way to raise a dialogue on the potential of a well-chosen site through engaging with the local population.

The use of popular media as Facebook, postcards, fanzine’s or flyers supports the construction of exchange among the different actors involved in the project. The dissemination of the work in form of publications, writings and conferences may expand the dialogue beyond the local scale.

In order to give you a glimpse into her work, here is a series of projects initiated and realized in and around Brussels red light district:

Visible Invisible

Visible Invisible by Alive Architecture

Visible Invisible by Alive Architecture

Collaboration with: Stijn Beeckman, photographer
Date: December 2010 – January 2011
Place: Vitrine 11, Brussels (Ixelles)

The request by the owner of the gallery ‘Vitrine 11’ to propose an installation to be set up in a display window leads us to the question: ‘How to make a window display alive?’ Reflection on domesticated windows in relation to the public domain brought us to the neighborhood of the Rue d’Aerschot, Brussels Red Light District. Here, the curtain behind the window allows cutting off the private sphere from public life. We proposed a copy paste of the lived windows in the Rue d’Aerschot to the window display in Ixelles, a sophisticated neighborhood in Brussels. The space becomes transformed and used in a way that is different from the original use, and provides for an encounter of the passers-by with the topic of prostitution that remains taboo.

The project provoked reactions and dialogue among people in the neighborhood. Some people became worried about their neighborhood becoming a red light district, others taking it with humor, few calling the police and again other people to try to meet the woman that never appeared behind the window. While a ‘finissage’ a series of experts on prostitution joined the discussion and were the source of the follow-up projects in the red light district itself.

Flash-Paint

Flash-Paint by Alive Architecture

Flash-Paint by Alive Architecture

Date: March 2012
Place: Brussels (Schaerbeek), rue d’Aerschot

One of the actions to advertise the vacant spaces was realized within the street itself. The intervention was inspired by the signs hung behind many of the windows on the ground floor announcing ‘Cherche Serveuse’. The papers indicate that the place has free window space for a woman to offer sexual exchange against money. I took this as an inspiration to place additional signs saying ‘Cherche Locataire’ on the windows of the vacant spaces on the ground floor to indicate the search for people to rent the place. An email address on the sign invited people to express their interest. A small number of emails were received but the actual encounter in space was much more fruitful. Singh, the person employed to run the night shop in the street, was getting exited to have his own shop in the street. A series of immigrants without papers stopped to ask for the price and were ready to pay a rather high amount of money to rent a studio in the street. Further, potential pimps started discussions to test if the spaces on the ground floor could be rented for the function of prostitution. The method of performing within the street rather than advertising space in the surroundings was a success: the direct relation between acting in the street and discussing with people became a way to exchange with those usually impossible to engage with otherwise. Therefore the same method was applied in the third action while spending more time on it to engage more in depth with people.

As in the action Flash-Paint, the intention to occupy one of the vacant ground floor spaces within the framework of the project ‘I love Aerschot’ is furthering this project and may, in case of success, generate occupation of several vacant ground floors along the street.

Food for love

Collaboration with: Piadina Wagon
Date: April – October 2012
Place: Brussels (Schaerbeek), rue d’Aerschot

Among a series of other actions responding to people’s needs in Brussels red light district I curated a pop-up restaurant Piadina Wagon in the street. The owners sold for the duration of a day their Italian specialties in the street. On one side the installation of the restaurant that expanded onto the sidewalk had a short-term value to improve the livability of the street. On the other side we recognized the socio-economic success of the project and it became evident that there is a potential for pop-up restaurants in the street that may have a long-term impact on the life in the neighborhood. The owners of the Piadina Wagon agreed to install their restaurant once per month in the street from June to October 2012, this time including a delivery service.

Dissemination of the project through local media announced the success of the project and the dates of the presence of the mobile restaurant in the street. After several articles and announcements were published a second restaurant with the name Pink Panther arrived to sell Lebanese specialties in the street. While the Piadina Wagon stopped their intervention this November, the Pink Panther continues selling Lebanese food once a week in the street.

In the follow-up project currently developed with Escaut architectures and OKUP, a series of public dinners and breakfasts will further the idea of food places in the street and contribute to the dialogue among the different actors.

Sweet Flowers

Sweet Flowers by Alive Architecture

Sweet Flowers by Alive Architecture

Date: April 2012
Place: Brussels (Schaerbeek), rue d’Aerschot

‘I wish for better clients’ – a wish expressed by several sex workers is a challenging task for a designer. The initial idea to respond to that wish was to curate a person who would sell flowers to potential clients. The seller may give the idea to men to bring a flower when visiting a sex-worker and therefore transform them, temporarily, into better clients. It turned out to be impossible to convince any flower seller to spend an afternoon in the street as they expected the financial profit to be low in that specific neighbourhood. In order to not abandon the idea I handed out the flowers myself and became therefore not only the initiator but as well one of the actors in the event.

Several men accepted the flower and were strolling with a flower in their hand along the street. Some of the big sisters were happy about receiving a flower for free and placed them in a vase inside of the bar. Some sex-workers behind the window ended up placing a flower behind their ears. Singh, the owner of the night shop, received several flowers that he fixed between the chocolate bars in the night shop.

Recording the relational performances allowed disseminating the project through the local TV station and Archiurbain. The project generated dialog on a future of this grey and abandoned street and contributed to the call for ideas that was published end of 2012. The chosen team to realize the project is Escaut architectures in collaboration with OKUP and Alive Architecture and is currently developed and realized by the team.

People’s Wall

People's wall by Alive Architecture

People’s wall by Alive Architecture

Date: April 2012
Place: Brussels (Schaerbeek), rue d’Aerschot

‘I wish for a less grey wall’ – was expressed by several big sisters as well as people from the local association l’Attitude Nord. To respond to this wish the series of collages of the ten micro-transformations for the street were exhibited on the wall. The intention of the exhibition was to activate the wall by transforming it into a more colorful space that could create encounter, interaction and attract people from outside of the area into the street. Invitations were sent to city authorities and local associations and flyers were distributed to the big sisters and the sex-workers.

Once the performance of placing the images on the wall started some passing-by people asked questions about the work and therefore engaged into the performance. Passing by people stopped to have a look at the exhibited work, Some sex-workers sneaked out of their window to see what was happening in their street, several big sisters crossed the street to find out what the exhibition was about, a series of office workers from the two associations joined the event and a group of eight people from the city of Schaerbeek made their way down to the rue d’Aerschot.

Moments of different situations occurred on the sidewalk, each having a different density of people transforming the space. Discussions were generated between passing by people and those visiting the exhibition. At the peak moment that was at the time of lunch break a crowd of about 25 to 30 people who joined the event and transformed the sidewalk into a collective performance in the street.

In the project ‘I love Aerschot’ the project is furthered through a projection on the wall throughout the summer 2013.

Displac(d)

Collaboration with: Piadina Wagon
Date: April – October 2012
Place: Les Ateliers Claus, Brussel, Belgium

‘The three short movies ‘food for love’, ‘sweet flowers’ & ‘people’s wall’ were exhibited in the showcase of ‘Les Ateliers Claus’ in Brussels. For the opening the window became a stage for performance in which people could engage and therefore become part of the making of the event. The engagement was filmed and exhibited behind the showcase that provoked further engagement of passing by people into the relational performance.

Mapping

Another interesting line of work is the mapping of existing realities, in which she redraws and annotates objects and spaces, making visible the way people live, the spontaneous solutions they use and the interactions that happen around them. An great example of this is her work on informal structures built by urban nomads.

Research on urban nomads in Kyoto by Alive Architecture

Research on urban nomads in Kyoto by Alive Architecture

For more information, you can check:

Website: www.alivearchitecture.eu
Video interview (French): ARCHI URBAIN | Alive Architecture – Installations urbaines

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Digital social tools for the city l New series: Social Toolbox

Category: social toolbox+technologies+⚐ EN

Today we present a coming series of posts about digital social tools. With this term we mean digital platforms, software, and online projects developed for the improvement of cities and neighbourhoods through direct participation by their citizens. Digital social tools can be open platforms that allow anyone to sign up and collaborate or applications that can be applied to different participatory projects.

What is the social potential of information technology and of the development of open source software and web-based social projects? To answer this question we will begin by establishing a theoretical framework contextualizing this spreading phenomena in contemporary society. In the end we will propose a system for a graphic representation to help us better understand and compare their underlying structure.

 Marta Battistella

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Mass culture: How to not die of

Category: city+sustainability+urbanism+⚐ EN

Last summer, different cities from different parts of the world screamed through their squares and streets, and the messages from their voices revealed more than what we could see at first sight.

2013 Taksim Gezi Park by Flashstorm

2013 Taksim Gezi Park by Flashstorm

In Turkey, protests clashed initially in Gezi Park in Istanbul, where the government wanted to impose a new shopping center in the middle of the city, where a green park stood. The protests appeared trivial and useless, as the decision to build another shopping center, commonly and always justified as part of innovation and development of a country, could not compete with citizens’ willingness to keep a green area in the city center. Anyway it appeared incredible that due to this occupation, government military forces started a real fight against the ‘riots’, so that from a little episode, the phenomena started to expand to the whole country, augmenting the size of the protest and people’s involvement.

Photo by Diren Gezi Parki on Facebook

Photo by Diren Gezi Parki on Facebook

Likewise, Brazilian people began to occupy their streets in the name of stopping their Government for what they considered a waste of money and resources: the forthcoming World Football Championship. As it is known, the investment for this is a huge cost, involving the building and the re-organization of new spaces. Citizens occupied the streets asking to invest that money in more urgent sectors, as education, health and security. For sure, behind this people movements, behind their complaints and their need of being listened to, there are several dimensions of a same problem.

The ‘problem’ is that people would like to be part of a democracy, as the Governments define themselves, and have access to a democratic life, having the chance to be active part of the decisions taken. Mass culture takes part as a dimension of the phenomena. We can try to understand why and to what extent.

The context for much of the current interest in material culture is a fear. It is a fear of objects supplanting people. That this is currently happening is the explicit contention of much of the debate over postmodernism which is one of the most fashionable approaches within contemporary social science. (Miller, 1998:169)

This statement is extracted from an article where the author explains that the fear described is an overrated feeling in sociology. If we consider the Marxist position, it uses to refer to a distinction between an assumed pre-era, far from material objects, and the modern one, made or dominated by material; anyway there is actually no evidence of this historical distinction from ethnography or past studies, as even old societies were rather engaged with cultural media (Miller, 1998). However, Miller’s thought is contextualized in a different discourse, whilst the theme, that hereby is going to be explored, touches that argument in the most ‘materialist’ way possible: Indeed it will be the consideration of mass culture intended in its symbolic and representative meaning, and especially in which way the symbolic and the representative are intertwined with the material objects and massive quantitative consequences of its use as media tools.

In this case, I would argue that fear is not overrated, rather it is underestimated. Indeed, fear is real as much as deaths due to climate change and revolutions; fear is real to the extent that some people have too much and others have nothing. In this essay mass culture will be discussed from the aspect of its weight on people and planet lives, in particular inside our cities. I would try to discuss mass culture from an ethic point, not asking if we are dominated or whether there is the domination of a Western or capitalist culture, but rather inquiring if we are dominated by mass culture without recognizing its cost in terms of social justice, sustainability and depleting resources, and thus, if we could change something before crashing indirectly also due to mass culture’s effects.

Mass culture and the city

Image by AlexandraGalvis

Image by AlexandraGalvis

Mass culture is, first of all, an incredible phenomenon itself. With this term, I will refer to the huge flowering of cultural products and cultural media that surrounds our daily life, often strongly driven by markets, and that, due to the global streaming, reach masses and are consumed quite globally. Thus, it is clear that within the phenomena, arts, events, shopping and most of the rituals and media we experience daily are directly involved. Above all, mass culture has a relation with the consumerism system and technology development. Furthermore, when we talk about mass culture, we talk about a collective culture production, and thus of a result due to human interaction. (Grazian, 2010).

It is not so difficult to imagine the particular relationship that mass culture engages with cities. Not just because it is possible to observe it directly, but because cities are primarily the first concentration of masses where people live into the network of relationships, where their lives are indeed organized and intertwined within the social system. Literature supports various different traditions and points of view: For sure the city has always been seen as a great place for commercial, business, capitalist trades and often cities have been built according to these interests. For instance, Marx Weber in his classic ‘The city’ (1958) discusses it in these terms, trying to identify their main features, stressing what defines a city and what is not enough:

Both in terms of what it would include and what it would exclude size alone can hardly be sufficient to define the city. Economically defined, the city is a settlement the inhabitants of which live primarily off trade and commerce rather than agriculture.

Certainly, due to chances of trades, relationships and exchanges, the city is the realm of business. Weber also considers citizens according to their consumer role:

Similar to the city of the prince, the inhabitants of which are economically dependent upon the purchasing power of noble households, are cities in which the purchasing power of the other larger consumers, such as reinters, determines the economic opportunities of resident tradesmen and merchants.

Moreover, he claimed that:

Thus, we wish to speak of a ‘city’ only in cases where local inhabitants satisfy an economically substantial part of their daily wants in the local market (…). In the meaning employed here the ‘city’ is a market place. The local market forms the economic center of the colony in which, due the specialization products, both the nonurban population and urbanites satisfy their wants for articles of trade and commerce. (1958)

So, as a central crossroads of activities made of relationships and exchange, soon the city became the symbol of economy, gathering around itself both producers and consumers, and creating for them a whole life, including mainly rituals and tools of innovation concerning demand/buying and offer/selling. This is well explained by Jayne in his essay ‘Cities and Consumption’ (2006). He conducts an analysis about the rising of the industrial revolution, mass production and the consequent mass consumption, and the rituals of shopping and entertainment that had developed around these, collocated in the spaces of the cities, according to class distinctions, social system and capitalist interests. And mainly it is from this process that mass culture developed for the most as we know it today. Jayne stresses also how the dominant class pictured the shape of cities basically operating on the re-organization of spaces in order to respond functionally to a social meaning of class division, but also to respond to new needs of rituals primed by economic growth and capitalist fuel (2006).

It is in the first years of the 20th Century that the consumption of objects as media tools of culture in a massive style starts to be established and spread, thanks to the incentive of mass commodification and the technology advances. As it has been described by Veblen (1899), and Bourdieu later (1984), consumption and possession became icons of status. Precisely, as affirmed with the concept of cultural capital, the consumption of a specific culture and lifestyle became the symbol of distinction within the capitalist societies, where agencies and institutions worked to perpetuate the status quo (Bourdieu, 1984).

A kind of economic frame-centrism seems to exist, indeed economy is often the most considered starting point for analyzing society, as an invasive factor that defines all that it touches. Anyway, according to me, it is necessary not to forget that economy is not the only working force, because, not considering the phenomenon exactly in its whole, we risk to fall into determinism, being partial, and not seeing alternative ways of operating.

Robert Park, the major exponent of Chicago School, in 1916 talks of the city from another point of view, in my opinion also changing the vision of mass culture related. I found his words extremely interesting:

The city, from the point of view of this paper, is something more than a congeries of individual men and of social conveniences-streets, buildings, electric lights, tramways, and telephones, etc.; something more also, than a mere constellation of institutions and administrative devices -courts, hospitals, schools, police, and civil functionaries of various sorts. The city is, rather, a state of mine, a body of customs and traditions, and of the organized attitudes and sentiments that inhere in these customs and are transmitted with this tradition. The city is not, in other words, merely a physical mechanism and an artificial construction. It is involved in the vital process of the people who compose it; it is a product of nature, and particularly of human nature. (1916)

Considering that, I would see mass culture more like something belonging to the city in a virtual and potential way, then created by people and by their relations built there, and as something that is not just derived by economic forces and consumerism traditions. Again, the city characteristics assume a more human look. Park doesn’t forget the economic side and recognizes its importance:

The city is not, however, merely a geographical and ecological unit; it is at the same time an economic unit. The economic organization of the city is based on the division of labor. (…) Much of what we ordinarily regard as the city-its charters, formal organization, buildings, street railways, and so forth-is, or seems to be, mere artifact. But these things in themselves are utilities, adventitious devices which become part of the living city only when, and in so far as, through use and wont they connect themselves, like a tool in the hand of man, with the vital forces resident in individuals and in the community.

Another last important aspect:

The fact is, however, that the city is rooted in the habits and customs of the people who inhabit it. The consequence is that the city possesses a moral as well as a physical organization, and these two mutually interact in characteristic ways to mold and modify each other… (1916)

Thus, the city is first of all the space of human action and the shape and personality of its citizens. It is the place where culture and ideas flourish, as a fruit of human interaction.

Image by Oleksandr Hnatenko

Image by Oleksandr Hnatenko, www.pohtography.com

Following this pattern, we can look at analysis that see the representative idea of a city today, as the core of creativity, the essence of innovation, and the development and growth of a contemporary era. The same Richard Florida best seller ‘The rise of creative class’ (2002) contributed to expand the idea of a different city representation. Together with the ‘The creative city’ by Landry (2000), the authors indicated culture in its whole manifestation as the best creativity booster factor to attract the main potential resource of innovation: creative people.

By the way:

Hall unfolds a very important aspect of urban creativity, i.e. the people involvement. In fact, in the view of many scholars concerned with popular culture, people are not only passively consuming goods, as ‘mass’, they are also creatively determining the production and circulation of culture (Chambers, 1986; Fiske, 1989a, b) and shaping accordingly their view of the city. (Botta, 2006)

Mass culture could be seen as created, influenced, inspired by and consumed in the cities. But, in a double way, the same city is protagonist of mass culture, of narrative and imaginary, recounted and repurposed as representative of an idea of the city itself.

Mass culture, consumption and sustainability

Once the interrelationship between city and mass culture has been observed and after having stressed how there is not an only way to intend this liaison, we could now focus on the weight of mass culture. This weight could seem invisible to most, in first place because they don’t want people to see it, and then because people don’t want to see it either. Indeed, I am talking of a complex plot process among mass culture, consumerism and mass consumption, something that concerns deeply our ‘normal’ representation of daily life, as the best life possible.

Every day we get up and go to work. We work to earn money and with that money we buy everything that can permit us to conduce a comfortable life, possibly happy, healthy and rich. The more we work, the more we earn, the more we want to have. Having objects, first of all, does not imply them to be stupid ones. We love design, we love to show off concern for our culture: So we fill our houses with books, compact discs, vinyls, vintage pieces, clothes, shoes, cars. We love of course an independent big house with all comforts, hot in winter and cool in summer. We love culture, we love style and good food, we love travelling around the world, we love a comfortable life, we love shopping. We love sports, we love concerts and dancing. And above all, we love doing everything in a single very amusing and cozy place: a big city that can offer this and more.

That above seems almost one of those pictures or statements that we can commonly find on the teenager’s timeline on Facebook. A real statement about ideal life underpinned by mass culture. Unfortunately it is a sad reality if observed under another point of view. I regret to communicate that our planet is not big nor rich enough (not anymore) to grant the same treatment to all the teenagers of the world. I am sorry to communicate to my friends that their passion to collect rock compact discs is increasing the garbage that someone else will probably find as plastic junk in the sea. I am sorry to communicate to citizens that our big cities are not going to be livable anymore if the presence of toxic gases will increase. I am sorry to communicate that while your favorite an-alcoholic drink brand, Coca Cola, launches its new advertise, assessing their will to help people and make the world a better place, with children singing in the background, in India their factories are exploiting the country’s water resources to produce their drink and the company is collaborating with Government to privatize the same water, taking it away from people.

Image seen in Global Environments & Societies wiki

Image seen in globalenvironmentssocieties.wikispaces.com

It is not easy put in discussion the best lifestyle possible people’s idea: but it is time to really face the cost of our lifestyle, and our lovely mass culture. Maybe mass culture has become a natural part of our life that it is really difficult try to reason on it in terms of sustainability for the planet in which we live, the only one. This is because mass culture currently concerns almost all the rituals of our everyday life, including education, cultural capital, identity, wealth, traditions, and all the ‘soft’ symbolic part turned on rituals.

Anyway, at this point, it could be useful to make a distinction. For me, when we talk about mass culture we are not talking just and necessarily of consumerism, but perhaps more of rituals and activities that are deep-rooted within the consumerist society; this has then for sure been emphasized to an excess, in quantity and in stimulation and expansion of people’s needs. Indeed, Chandra Mukerji (1983) has historically described examples of consumer culture in the 15th Century Europe, where the exchange of media culture, such as books, exotic pieces from far places, jewels, spices and textures, was usual among royalty and upper classes (Wilk, 2002). Moreover, Peter Corrigan argues that the concept of ‘fashion’ was already well known in the Elizabethan times, when London was the center of trends (1997).

Today the modern consumption and the consumerism culture has achieved an exaggerate level of production of goods, if not waste. We could think that the human nature aims to have as much as possible or that being greedy is a natural component of human behavior; instead it is fairly reasonable that not in all societies, in the past nor now, people have the same need of possession, nor the same notion of richness or comforts. Nowadays, we can also say that not even the whole population belonging to the same society has the same notion of values in life and of our cities. Coming back for a moment to Turkey and Brazil, it is clear that a great number of people doesn’t agree with their Governments about which are the priorities for a good life in their cities. Could another shopping center create better conditions for people or enrich people more than a green space? Could a world event solve the social basic issues of inequity and poverty of a country? People are recognizing more and more that what is really important for their cities are adequate spaces for themselves, where they have the chance to choose their rituals or maybe to create them.

We are in a cyclic system that resembles a treadmill, where the whole society is involved, into the process of producing needs, old and new, and then producing goods. The index to indicate the level of wealth and growth is the GDP that measures the quantity of goods – products in one year per country. Is the huge quantity of goods produced seriously making our societies better and prosper?

Whereas mass culture (or mass cultures) is made of tools, symbols, icons, practices, rituals and it is something concerning people and their consumption in a certain way, what distinguishes pure consumerism today is: The quantity of goods produced; the stimulation and the expansion of needs; the pushing, by few stakeholders, of society towards consumption and possession. For sure marketing and selling strategies have always done a good job to lead practices, rituals and symbols around their products.

Buy More Stuff, Black Friday 2009 - Photo by Michael Holden

Buy More Stuff, Black Friday 2009 – Photo by Michael Holden

Consumerism affects mass culture so much that is primarily a mean of identity and interaction with others, because historically our Western capitalist societies consider money and the quantity of goods as distinctive symbols of wealth and success in life. Sure is that, the existence and the use of mass culture both suffer this deal. But in a society where we are conscious of the issues concerning the exploitation of resources and the return of it under the shape of garbage and where the first value is keeping safe life conditions, mass culture could change look. Already now we are adhering to style trends for smart cities, car sharing, waste recycle and other practices, that if inserted as pieces of mass culture into our lives could help to change mass culture too.

Thus, we cannot just criticize our consumerism society in terms of the damage that we are causing. We should start to reflect on our daily cultural practices, which are indeed made of mass cultural media tools, starting by city spaces, where our activities are concentrated and where more than other we could see the rituals and the proliferation of mass culture. And thus, we should begin thinking of a new approach based on them. I am persuaded that we could indeed change mass culture through mass culture itself.

According to the anthropologist Margaret Mead, there is no single approach working successfully in every society; rather, each one has a “culturally appropriate” approach, concerning the specific characteristics of its individuals (1953). In this perspective, Wilk argues:

They imply that no single set of solutions, technological, legislative, or cultural, is going to work in every society. On the contrary, we should expect great diversity in the ways different countries and cultures deal with sustainability problems. How can we expect things to change in the countries that presently consume so much more than their share of global resources? (2002)

When we talk about cities, we then talk about mass culture too, thus maybe cities could live by a different mass culture. As the city has been the protagonist of growth of mass society and mass culture of consumerism, it could also happen that the city may see the birth of a new and fairer society. Indeed, change should begin from here, from the set of organizations and citizens, in creating different rituals and use of the spaces.

Image by Starkart

Image by Starkart

Bibliography:

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: a Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice. Harvard University Press.
Corrigan, Peter. 1997. The Sociology of Consumption: An Introduction. London: Sage.
Florida, Richard. 2002. The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Basic Books.
Grazian, David. 2010. Mix It Up: Popular Culture, Mass Media, and Society. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
Jayne, Mark. 2006. Cities and Consumption. New York: Routledge.
Landry, Charles. 2000. The creative city. New York: Routledge.
Mead, Margaret; World Federation for Mental Health. 1953. Cultural patterns and technical change. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Miller, Daniel. 1998. “Coca Cola: A Sweet Black Drink from Trinidad.” Pp. 169-187 in Material Cultures: Why Some Things Matter, edited by D. Miller. London: UCL Press.
Mukerji, Chandra.1983. From Graven Images: Patterns of Modern Materialism New York: Columbia University Press.
Park, Robert. 1916. “The city: suggestions for the investigation of human behavior in the urban environment” Pp. 90 -130 in Classic Essay on the Culture of Cities. New York. 1969, edited by R. Sennett. New York Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Weber, Max. 1958. “The City.” Pp. 23-46 in Classic Essay on the Culture of Cities. New York. 1969, edited by R. Sennett. New York Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Wilk, Richard. 2002. “Culture and Energy Consumption” Pp. 109-130, in Energy: Science, Policy and the Pursuit of Sustainability, edited by Robert Bent, Lloyd Orr, and Randall Baker. Island Press: Washington.
Veblen, Thorstein. 1899 [1973]. The Theory of the Leisure Class. Introduction John Kenneth Galbraith. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

This is a guest article by Simona Ibba (@PenniLeyn). Thanks, Simona!

If you want to get your own article published, see this.

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Treib Gut magazine | A publication by Schwemmland + Our thoughts about Linz harbour

Category: events+urbanism+⚐ EN

TREIB GUT magazine - Cover

As we told you in this previous post, last June we were in Linz, Austria, invited by Roland Krebs for a lecture and a workshop, part of an event called Identity City Lab. The workshop, led by local collective Schwemmland and Ecosistema Urbano, was aiming to provide some fresh insights and proposals about the eastern harbour area of Linz, a big extension of former ‘schwemmland’ (alluvial land) turned into an industrial area during the second part of the 20th century.

The people from Schwemmland, who have been living, thinking and working around the area for a long time, used the occasion to launch TREIB GUT magazine as a new means of communication with the city. We recently received some copies, and wanted to share with you the results of this effort.

TREIB GUT magazine - Index

Branded as ‘the independent harbour journal’ and published in German using a newspaper-like format, this publication looks like a great way to disseminate the results of the workshop, together with other reflections on Linz and its harbour area. The aim of such an important communication effort  is to transmit to the rest of the city the thoughts, proposals, reflections and actions that have been taking place around the harbour.

For this issue, we were asked to write a report about the workshop and our thoughts on the harbour area in general. Since we already published a report here, I’m going to share with you the last part of the article, which is a kind of ‘statement’ or manifesto that summarizes our point of view on this project and part of our general approach to urban social design:

Linz harbour – Looking to the future

TREIB GUT magazine - Article by Ecosistema Urbano

TREIB GUT magazine – Article by Ecosistema Urbano

[…] So, what can Linz do with such a place? Here are ten points that summarize and contextualize some of the most important things we have learned from our work in the city. We think they can provide a conceptual framework for the development of the harbour area.

Reactivate the existing as an alternative to expansion. The docks and the surrounding areas are full of unused spaces, concrete platforms, green fields and water surfaces that provide plenty of room for new activities without the need of huge transformations.

Develop constructive criticism
, as an optimistic approach to existing reality in order to bring up creative solutions. The harbour development plans are a reality the city has to live with, but also an opportunity of making things better if the city gives some space for complementary proposals.

Take care for the public. We believe the concept of the city is completely linked to the creation of public space, and this area of Linz should not be an exception. Between the private lots there is still a chance to create a meaningful, diverse public space that gives citizens easy and universal access to the river.

Rely on low-cost to make great things with less resources. Taking advantage of the qualities of the place it is possible to have positive impact with a relatively low investment. Simple, minimal and clever installations can turn a forgotten spot into a lively, comfortable place.

Create open systems in order to allow the development of a changing reality. Planning can be done over decades, but urban life changes both slower and faster. Leaving open ends and room for change will guarantee an easier adaptation to future needs. Use removable systems that permit relocation or dismantlement. Adopt construction standards that allow for easy improvement, repair and maintenance. Allow the citizens to develop their own solutions on top of the existing infrastructure.

Bring instant change through urban actions. Small actions can provoke huge reactions and great experiences, acting like tests for the future of the area. Do you think it could work differently? Just try it, experience it, and learn from the results in order to improve quickly. Three smaller interventions can drive more changes and give more useful lessons than a huge one, while being more cost-effective.

TREIB GUT magazine - Photos of an urban action

TREIB GUT magazine – Photos of an urban action in Linz harbour

Integrate the citizens into the processes of changing their environment. Make them aware about the opportunities, inspire them and work at a social level to find out what they would really use and enjoy. Listen, think, build and try things together, and be patient about the results: social change and citizen involvement can be slow, but they are powerful.

Build networks to share knowledge and experiences. Count on existing and active collectives or associations, communicate beyond the most involved people, continuously share ideas and resources to create a responsive network and a ‘social warmth’ around the place. Keeping the most active people and the possible future users involved can be crucial for the success of an urban project.

Take account of the intangible using new technologies as a mechanism to create awareness about the complexity of the place. Track and map impressions, feelings, opinions, data and contents related to the harbour area in order to visualize the collective imagination about that place.

Keep positive to be able to push ahead reality. Dare to think in terms of desirability, more than possibility or probability. Dream about things that were never done in that area, build fantastic experiences on the water, the docks, the streets or the natural spaces. Imagine the citizens bathing, creating, playing, cultivating or flying near the Danube, the river that made the city of Linz possible.

Our report Linz harbour: a city and a river | Identity City Lab workshop with Schwemmland
Post in German by Roland Krebs, organizer of the Identity City Lab
Post in German at CreativeRegion website, with more photos
Post about the conference at CreativeRegion website

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Energy Carousel | Segundo premio Taipei Design Award 2013

Category: city+ciudad+competitions+concursos+design+diseño+espacio público+sostenibilidad+sustainability+⚐ EN+⚐ ES

ENERGY-CAROUSEL10

Hoy tenemos el placer de comunicaros que Ecosistema Urbano ha recibido el segundo premio del Taipei International Design Award 2013, con el Energy Carousel en la categoría Diseño de Espacio Público.

continue reading

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Collection of e-papers on Collective Intelligence in ArXiv | Link + download

Category: downloads+findings+research+resources+⚐ EN

If you are interested in collective intelligence, crowdsourcing, collaboration, reputation mechanisms, collective decision making and related topics, then you’re in for a treat!

Collective Intelligence - Illustration by vladgrin on Shutterstock

Collective Intelligence – Illustration by vladgrin on Shutterstock

The page may look unimpressive at first sight; you could say it’s pure ‘Internet 1.0′, but the contents are really worth a careful look. Along with full e-papers, it contains poster papers and abstracts from plenary sessions at the MIT. They are usually available as downloadable PDFs and in other formats, sometimes even including video.

2012 collection of e-papers on Collective Intelligence – arXiv

ArXiv is one of the oldest (1991: that’s pre-World Wide Web!) and most well-known repositories for electronic preprints of scientific papers in different fields of science which can be accessed online and downloaded. It is now hosted and operated by Cornell University, with 14 mirrors around the world.

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ecosistema urbano lecturing in Canada

Category: events+news+⚐ EN

University of Toronto - Photo by bobistraveling on Flickr

University of Toronto – Photo by bobistraveling on Flickr

Next 28th and 29th October Belinda Tato will be giving two lectures in Winnipeg and Toronto, Canada.

Belinda will talk about past and current works of ecosistema urbano including the Energy Carousel in Dordrecht, the dreamhamar network design project for Hamar, and the design of the new experimental Educational Centre for the Reggio Children Foundation in Reggio Emilia.

Two days, two lectures

Two days, two lectures

So if you happen to be around those days, you’re invited to come by and meet Belinda!

More information:

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Guidelines to build participatory and inclusive societies

Category: architecture+art+city+creativity+placemaking+research+sustainability+⚐ EN

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In order to achieve the Post-Master called Urban Research Lab Sardinia – Environmental Design at the Università di Sassari (DAP), in partnership with the Dessau Institute of Architecture (DIA) of Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, an article will be published about the project made during the italian period, under the supervision of Ecosistema Urbano: Punto d’incontro.

This is an excerpt of the introduction, including some references and case studies.

The role of the architect

The role of the architect has always been, throughout ancient and modern history, a reference point for the city growth and development. Nowadays, this figure is undergoing a massive transformation, which cannot ignore social aspects. The modern architect helps to integrate production processes within the spaces users live and use in everyday life.

The article aims to present an experiment that was personally led in a very specific local community in Sardinia (Italy) which is affected by logistic, economical and management problems. Through theoretical studies and personal analysis of a variety of existing projects, a detailed process was drafted in order to suggest a strategic action plan.

Western society has scarce resources and the European architect often asks the following question, what can I do now without nothing? In this hard times, it is far more difficult for closed solution to be imposed by a power minority than for specific temporary actions to be applied based on grassroots talks, because sensitivity is high and social groups are highly resistant to accepting any changes which have not come from within their ranks. Ecosistema Urbano (2011). “Negotiating at all level”. A + T 38. 120

fountainhead_654

Strategy & Tactics

The first input to the change came with the drafting of Agenda 21, a voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development. It emphasises that broad public participation in decision making is a fundamental prerequisite for achieving sustainable development. The main goal is trying to involve the local communities in the construction process of the future of the cities. When public space is concerned, there are two ways to run over: strategy and tactics. Both are tools of equal value, but with different typology of method; they are usually known as top-down or bottom-up processes.

Tactics are actions which take place on enemy territory while strategy is always enacted on home ground. Which can lead to an immediate run-of-the-mill sharing out of roles: strategy is an instrument of power, tactics are used by citizens; strategy occupies space, tactics play out in time; strategy is used to control, tactics to protest. De Certeau, M.(1988). The Practice of Everyday Life. University of California Press

Recent developments of these concepts became well known under different name, but in essence they are all the same.

Tactical urbanism. It is defined as small-scale improvements in an effort to effect large-scale, long-term change.
Placemaking. It is the act of enlivening public spaces and places for the betterment of the community and its neighbors.
Participatory design. It is an approach to the assessment, design, and development of technological and organizational systems that places a premium on the active involvement of workplace practitioners (usually potential or current users of the system).

The following scheme represents the stages of the experiment:
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The Iberian trip

There was the necessity to analyze the theory, exploring some case studies and finding some references. This processes are already very disseminated all over the world, especially in USA and north Europe, where the citizens have a great sense of community and cooperation.

Nevertheless this research focused on the Mediterranean area, in this particular case in the Iberian peninsula, where the lack of organization meets high quality and creativity, typical of the Latin culture. Some of the cases shown here are real established structures, others are spaces under construction and constantly changing. The connecting link is always one of active participation.
iberian trip_654

LXFACTORY – Lisbon

An urban fragment, kept hidden for years, is now returned to the city in the form of LXFactory. A creative island occupied by corporations and professionals of the industry serves also has stage for a diverse set of happenings related to fashion, publicity, communication, fine arts, architecture, music, etc.

lx_factory

El campo de cebada – Madrid

A group of neighbours called Distrito Centro promoted a temporary use of the vacant lof of a former public pool demolished in a district of Madrid, during the time in which the work planned for urban reuse was not to be carried out. The intention is that the space will accommodate all types of proposals/activities/projects (cultural, social, artistic, sport) for the use and enjoyment of the people of the district and all the city.

cebada

Matadero – Madrid

The old slaughterhouse and livestock market, where Matadero Madrid is now located, was built according with the project of the architect Luis Bellido. The site was architecturally transformed.
Matadero Madrid’s mission is to promote creation in all its forms and expressions. With special attention to cross-sectorial propositions, it focuses on three main action areas: training, production and dissemination.

matadero

Fabra i Coats Creation Factory – Barcelona

Fabra i Coats is a multidisciplinary space which will be promoting artistic hybridisation to become a point of reference in artistic research and in the generation of new quality contents, as well as a meeting point for groups, creators and proposals from different spheres and backgrounds.
The goal is to give support to artistic creation and it has workspaces for the performing arts, music, plastic and visual arts, multimedia creation and also for projects related to information and communication technology.

fabra i coats

Sometimes these kind of actions are not supported by a physical space, but by the people that build their spaces through some collective iniziatives, occasionally supported by a politician organization or made by self-funded artistic groups.

Urbact

It is a European exchange and learning programme promoting sustainable urban development. They enable cities to work together to develop solutions to major urban challenges, reaffirming the key role they play in facing increasingly complex societal changes. URBACT spans over 500 cities, 29 countries and 7,000 active participants.

urbact

Collectif ETC

Born in Strasbourg in 2009, this collective gathered energy around a common dynamic questioning of urban space. Through different means and different skills it wants to be a medium for experimentation. They believe that the different users of the city (residents and professionals) can all be involved in its development to a wide range of scales. The purpose and importance of these urban experiments is not only the result but also the process that generates it, as well as the new environment and new behavior it generates.

colletif etc

Boa Mistura

It is an urban art group formed at the end of 2001 in Madrid, Spain. Its members have diversity of perspectives, distinct visions which complement each other, and combine to create something unique and coherent.

boa mistura

Madrid Street Art Project

It is a noprofit association that through the organization of various activities and initiatives (urban Safaris, workshops, lectures, recovery rooms) aims to contribute to these reflections, to encourage citizens to enjoy urban art, contribute to its dissemination and support its creators.

madrid street art project

Conclusions

The final article will aim to give some semi-scientific guidelines to build participatory and inclusive societies. The new frontier of the architect should be to drive local communities in the management of public and private space, involving them in the construction process of the urban renewal. This is when the architect, as a highly knowledgeable technician, plays an essential role to mend the relation between politicians and common people.

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Johnny Rabines | eu collaborators

Category: colaboradores+ecosistema urbano+⚐ EN

Today we introduce Johnny Rabines, an industrial design and interior architecture student who is doing an internship with us, helping in different projects and opening very interesting topics through our conversations and his articles. His own words:

Bonjour

IMG_3243

Born in LIMA (Peru), grew up in STRASBOURG (France), now living happy in MADRID (Spain) for four months to work with Ecosistema Urbano. In real life I’m a student at the Ecole Camondo (product design and interior architecture) located in PARIS. Here you have an overview of some stuff I’ve done.

In 2012, I took part in “Design in the city” the first workshop organized by the association Particule 14 in partnership with the direction of the development of the city of Bordeaux and the School of Fine Arts of the City of Bordeaux.

« En écho au Projet de Trame Douce (déambulation urbaine et revalorisation de parcours pédestres méconnus) développé par l’architecte urbaniste Nicolas Michelin (Agence ANMA), ce workshop aura pour ambition de mettre en valeur des pépites (excroissances urbaines remarquables) in situ.
Les travaux des 25 étudiants venues d’écoles européennes (Camondo, La Cambre, Politecnico, Brighton, Esad, Ensadse…) ont été présentés le long de la trame douce et trouveront écho au sein du H14 pendant Agora (Biennale d’architecture, d’urbanisme et de design de Bordeaux).»

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Improvised goal on narrow street.

With Poppy St James Wilson (University of Brighton) and Paolo Chiorino (Politecnico di Milano), our proposal was anchored in a process of “proximity design” close to the choices and habits of affected streets’s urban dwellers.

The same year, with Paul Marchesseau and Wladimir de Lantivy, I’ve co-founded DANT (acronym of Design Architecture and New Technologies), a research collective integrated to Art&Flux (CNRS research team on art, economy & society integrated to ACTE Institute, UMR 8218, Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne University). For us, this entity is a lever for the exchange, exploration and application of ideas in connection with space, object and fair use of technology. Indeed, as practitioners, we keep the project finality in mind.

Photo conférence vernaculaire numérique

On 19th of March 2013, the first DANT conference was held in the auditorium of the Ecole Camondo together with Yasmine Abbas (french architect, author of the book Le Néo-nomadisme : Mobilités. Partage. Transformations identitaires et urbaines.) and Victor Petit (french teacher and researcher in philosophy of science and techniques) around the theme we called “digital vernacular“.

 

Currently, I began my master thesis about the impact of digital technology on future school environments designs. Thus during my internship at Ecosistema Urbano, I have initiated writing a serie of posts on the issue called EntornoEducativo. A coincidence with the experimental school in Reggio Emilia ongoing project and the launch of EU-education. In the right place at the right time!

Before that, I’ve worked in two product design studios.
2011: Nathalie Dewez, designer _ Brussels (Belgium)
2012: Mathilde Brétillot, designer _ Paris (France)

Moi & nathalie2

Nathalie Dewez and me at Ampersand House (Brussels)

Thanks Ecosistema! Great place, kind people, creative food and interesting work!

Occupation: Industrial design and interior architecture student, DANT’s co-founder
Interests: Digital, education, sociology, economy, food, design, architecture, cities, drawing, graphic design
City/country: Paris, FR
Web: twitter, linkedin

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MetaMap | MapTube by CASA

Category: city+internet+MetaMap+technologies+the environment+⚐ EN

MapTube Homepage

Today I present the interview with Richard Milton, member of the research staff at the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), a unit at the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment (The Bartlett).

CASA’s focus is to be at the forefront of what is one of the grand challenges of 21st Century science: to build a science of cities from a multidisciplinary base, drawing on cutting edge methods, and ideas in modeling, complexity, visualization and computation. Our current mix of architects, geographers, mathematicians, physicists, archeologists and computer scientists make CASA a unique department within UCL.

His current position in the centre is described as the following:

Richard is a Senior Research Associate currently working on the ESRC funded TALISMAN project, having previously worked on GeoVUE and GENeSIS. He is the key developer in these projects, being responsible for the e-infrastructure developed in GENeSIS and GeoVUE, which is currently used for real-time web-based geospatial data visualization. This infrastructure is currently used in the MapTube, SurveyMapper and Gemma websites.

MapTube is a free web resource for viewing, sharing, mixing and mashing maps online. The main principle of MapTube is that shared maps can be overlayed to compare data visually. For example, you can view a map of the London Underground overlayed with a map of building volumes to get a new perspective of the city.

Overlay of London tube map and London building volumes

1. How did you get to the practice of mapping?

I originally got into mapping by working on weather visualization systems for the UK Meteorological Office. After that, I worked on a project in UCL on GPS-tracked carbon monoxide sensors, displaying the data through both 2D and 3D views of the city. Then, I started working for CASA, developing the GMapCreator software, allowing people to create Google Maps from the data stored in shapefiles, which led to the MapTube website.

2. In what way do you obtain and treat the data for your mapping?

I often have to do a lot of pre-processing of the data before it can be mapped, but on an ad-hoc basis. The real-time data is also quite challenging as there are often errors in the data that have to be cleaned and the pre-processing for the London Underground, National Rail, and Bus data are quite involved. The data is sampled on a 3 minute basis, so all processing needs to happen very quickly.

Global McDonald’s Big mac prices, 2007

3. What is the application of the open source mapping you are interested in the most?

I think the amount of data that’s now in the public domain is the greatest interest. We are getting to the point where we are being swamped with data and need to look for methods to handle much larger quantities than before.

4. What is the next phase of development your research is undergoing?

The next phase of development is very hard to quantify. We’re looking into various things like BigData, Real-time data and DataMining.

5. What are you personal references about the theme of mapping (from ancient to contemporary ones)?

My interests are really in automatic mapping, from data and how you handle it from multiple sources (data fusion) to visualizing complex situations.

England grade of land use

This is the last post (for now!) in our MetaMap series about mapping. You can follow the conversation in your favourite social network through the #metamap hashtag.