Lessons on urban cooperation

Image available here

The other day I was watching a documentary (in Greek) on Berlin’s housing problem. According to the researchers up to 2010, Berlin was one of the European cities with the lowest average rent prizes. However, this condition was dramatically changed in the more recent years as private real estate companies made massive acquisitions of state-owned housing units and then doubled the rent. In fact, people appearing on the doc claimed that it has become impossible for the weaker social groups (refugees, single families, unemployed, students) to rent a descent house.

Today I ran into this great article in Places Magazine that described the successful efforts of a band of artists to turn the Haus der Statistik into affordable housing units. This group of artists had originally formed the Alliance of Threatened Berlin Studio Houses to protect people who could no longer afford their rent from evictions. Yet in the light of the continuous privatization they developed another endeavor; to turn Haus der Statistik, a derelict building near Alexanderplatz into a “gentrification-proof island” and turn it into affordable housing units; studio space for artists and communal space for the public. After several months of research and negotiations with all stakeholders they managed to become official partners in the consortium responsible for bringing their ideas to life.

What started as a mere protest has now become a exemplary public initiative based on people’s massive cooperation. Their systematic approach helped them to establish trust and defend their claims in a way that could work. Very inspiring indeed.

The Digital Matatus project (digitalmatatus.com)

https://lsecities.net/archives/transportation-and-technology-urban-age-conference-2018/

Lack of data on popular transport enables official invisibility of (these) mobility systems in planning (…) Rallying against this, a ‘digital commons’ movement has emerged in support of better transport planning globally. This movement leverages the digital revolution to build high-quality, open and standardised public transport data for planning, information services and as the basis for moving towards a new mobility paradigm. Within this paradigm, the ability to access a wide suite of high-quality mobility options via a mobile phone becomes a more compelling ideal of freedom than simply owning or using a car. This transition to freedom of movement by not owning a car but accessing and paying for a choice of multiple transport modes via mobile-phone technology is a key step towards more equitable, clean, safe and low-emissions cities (…) with this vision, civic activists (hackivists) are using basic GPS-enabled mobile phones and other technologies to build high-quality, standardised data for public transport including dominant popular transit modes. This data is made open and shared widely to improve understanding and discussions of how to improve transport planning and build passenger information systems, the stepping stones to a new mobility paradigm (…) The Digital Matatus map and data allow us to see a critical part of Nairobi’s circulatory system (…) Evidence is growing that this kind of trip-planning information can help people make more efficient trips and, when coupled with real-time information, reduce waiting. This, in turn, improves the way passengers interact with and feel about public transport.

https://lsecities.net/archives/transportation-and-technology-urban-age-conference-2018/

Jacqueline M. Klopp, Visualising popular transport, full article available here

The ‘abrazo’ (embrace) ideology

https://www.cinetecamadrid.com/programacion/experimenta-distrito

“Experimenta Distrito” launched by Media Lab-Prado is a programme involving citizens in neighbourhood workshops hosted in the spaces of La Nave, libraries, social and cultural centres (site in spanish only: https://www.experimentadistrito.net/ )

This is one of the many initiatives taken by the mayor of Madrid in promoting the city as a warm and welcoming place as he described them in DOMUS and his interview with Manuela Carmena.

La Nave: Located in Villaverde, a district on the outskirts of Madrid, La Nave Böetticher was once a lift factory owned by the Böetticher company. An industrial building from the 1940’s refurbished for use as a public facility by Madrid City Council, and inaugurated in 2016. La Nave is dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation and hosts a great number of activities and events related to the promotion of new technologies, technical dissemination, training, and employability. Characterized by a central open-plan space covered by a large barrel vault and a skylight, the refurbishment preserved certain historical elements as decoration and added vertical latticework inspired by the colors of fiber optics to the concrete façade. Its main areas are the Pavilion, the Tower, the Classrooms, the Auditorium, and the Containers. The building has thermo-solar and geothermal energy; it collects rainwater for watering, and it features a roof garden. The roof offers a panoramic view of the Villaverde neighborhood. (http://www.lanavemadrid.com/ )

allokataplixis: the wonder of the other or otherness

(…) real engagement with your environment also means noticing things that are not necessarily charming at all: security cameras, potholes, weeds, ruins, irritating strangers hollering into their phones. But sometimes these deserve attention too (…) Below are five ways to notice more in your city:

  • Look for ghosts and ruins
  • Get there the hard way
  • Eat somewhere dubious
  • Read the plaque
  • Follow the quiet (my personal fav)

Image & Full article available here

The Circular Kitchen @Pakhuis de Zwijger


https://dezwijger.nl/programma/the-circular-kitchen?fbclid=IwAR3esnKWeVtnw5U4UkeAW-3MLtm5Q2lBVra-T-7U7U7BKrWTrI8rX3QEWPQ

AMS Science for the City #12 – May 7 at Pakhuis de Zwijger – on creating a circular kitchen: the business model behind the components, the products and food you use, and choices you make – share your ideas on the topic! 

With a.o.: Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment TU DelftDe Ceuvel

More info: https://dezwijger.nl/programma/the-circular-kitchen

Impact Hub event

I happened to see the add for this event the other day and I said why not(?) and today it turned out to be a very interesting day. Given the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the Impact hub initiative a three day event is dedicated to discussing how technology can change everyday life; how collaboration can be achieved at an urban scale and what is circular economy and how can cities profit from it. The day started with a panel discussion between Charles Landry, Sebastian Schlueter representing Actors of Urban Change and Tom Fleming from tfcreativeconsultancy.

All three speakers shared their experience from projects they are currently involved in that enhance open participation and seek to bring people together in joint activities or causes. Landry spoke of the need of a systemic change that draws attention to how the individuals can perform better.This is an idea he has already experimented with in his Creative Bureaucracy concept (and book) and through the related festival that bares the same name*. Schueter spoke of the need to be critical of public initiatives for they sometimes tend to obscure some other important perspectives. In particular, he spoke of the Berlin Tempelhof Airport and how peoples’ persistence to keep it as a park blocked any discussion on how this vast area could be used for the common good. Finally, Tom Fleming, spoke of cultural activities as a means of bringing people together. He specifically mentioned how we need art festivals more than museums as a way of being with others and interacting in real time with them instead of simply observing them from a distance. The panel discussion ended with a few inspiring comments from Miograd Kuc who claimed that art cannot necessarily provide all the answers in terms of raising public interest; instead, art is supposed to question society’s power dynamics in the first place and therefore it needs to maintain its independent character.

In the second half of the day, we split in four different workshops. I joined Sebastian’s workshop on collaborative practices in cities. It was a great round table discussion between people representing various agencies whether civic; public; or private. The two questions that were raised were a. what are the difficulties we come up with in collaborations that involve multiple parties from different fields/interests and b. what can sustain such a collaboration in time.

This three-day event will culminate tomorrow at Kypseli Market with a series of live events. As Landry eloquently put it, a city is a drama in time.

*The second Creative Bureaucracy festival will be held in Berlin from 20 to 22 September 2019

Storm King Art Center

Image retrieved here

I just heard of this today on a tv documentary, I wish I could visit. The centre covers a vast rural area one hour north of Manhattan. It was established in 1960 by Ralph E. Ogden and its collection has been growing ever since. The image above, belongs to one of the most prominent works -in my opinion- of Menashe Kadishman and his 1977 collection “Suspended”:

With no visible evidence of the engineering holding the sculpture up, Suspended prompts contemplation of the relationship between its two conjoined, towering masses, coupled with questions about what lies below ground. Rich and rusted, the patina of the weathered steel wraps the stark geometric shapes in a skin-like sheath.

Excerpt from The Storm King Art Center webpage

The center also accommodates many of the works of Mark di Suvero, among which “Mother Peace” (image below), a work completed just before Di Suvero left the US to protest against the war in Vietnam.

Image retrieved here