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.
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
[...] 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.
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