La MéMé experience of participatory design

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Students protest the classical pastiche designs made for the Medical School (1968) at the University of Louvain/ University agrees to the formation of a student committee/ Students produce a counterproposal by Lucien Kroll who had no ties to the University/ Kroll organises collaborators and students into teams and turns design into an assemblage of disparate political fractions/ Work is done in his studio at a distance from the institution to ensure freedom/ Collaboration becomes “a kind of architectural method acting” accepting every outcome even if it defies prevailing arch conventions (de Graaf)/ Kroll, when denied the participation of le Roy, his preferred gardener, also engages the adjacent community into participating in the landscape component/ For two years this is an harmonious collaboration/ However, University representatives who visit the site oppose the outcome and the budget increase and fire Kroll/ Kroll exposes the contractor for high pricing but is then accused of vandalising the building site during his open call to the neighbouring community/ The building is highly criticised as a “failed experiment” and “less than a sum of its parts” (de Graaf)/ Petitions for the building’s demolition are opposed by massive support (Excerpts from Reinier de Graaf’s book: Four Walls and a Roof)

In a DOMUS article dated back in 2010, Kroll is presented as “icon of democratic architecture”:

Communication through architecture is an eminently political act, Kroll maintains: the architect is the catalyst of a creative process and social dynamic, in respect to which they make their knowledge available for the translation of interpersonal relationships into a suitable space (…) architects must step out of themselves and put themselves in the shoes of future residents.

Full article available here
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Parangolés

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Parangoles concept and form were introduced by Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980)  in an attempt to expose the chaotic web of relations of being-in-the-world. Oiticica worked to transform the “spectator” into a “participant. The colorful, improvised capes/cloaks encourage unpredictable movement that in turn signals the transition from the art-object to the body-subject:

we must be willing to get out of our comfort zones in order to reclaim the physical and symbolic spaces produced by hegemonic forces that attempt to confine relations between our own bodies and the bodies of others

For more on Parangoles click here, here and 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/ )

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

Circular cities

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Article discusses the efforts of Prof. Williams in UCL in promoting the ideas and practices of the Circular City by establishing UCL’s Circular Cities Hub in 2016.
A book is to be expected in 2020 entitled “Circular Cities: A Revolution in Urban Sustainability” by Williams that will be published by Routledge.

Part of this has involved viewing cities holistically. This means not just looking at resources, but seeing urban areas as organisms that constantly adapt to changes, such as migration and increasing diversity, as well as considering different trajectories of development, from shrinking, post-industrial cities such as Detroit, to places like London, where corporate and foreign investment is squeezing out lower-value, circular activities.

Future Cities

futurecities

Which are the Future Cities of the world?

This is a five-part web documentary by Yvonne Brandwijk (photographer) and Stephanie Bakker (journalist)  that tries to answer which cities are looking to outstrip the current megacities in terms of growth, innovation and creativity.

The two creators examine 5 cities; Kinshasa, Lima, Yangon, Medellin and Addis Ababa. They look at the world behind the demographics and search what energy drives them change and innovation. All videos are incredibly interesting and refreshing to see. Check them out!

 

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Design with a capital D

DESIGN

RCA Report on the nature of design with a capital D

  • central concern is “the conception and realization of new things”
  • it encompasses the appreciation of “material culture” and the application of “the arts of planning, inventing, making and doing.”
  • at its core is the ‘language’ of ‘modelling’; it is possible to develop students’ aptitudes in this ‘language’, equivalent to aptitudes in the ‘language’ of the sciences – numeracy – and the ‘language’ of humanities – literacy
  • design has its own distinct ‘things to know, ways of knowing them, and ways of finding out about them’

Education in any of these ‘cultures’ entails the following three aspects:

  • the transmission of knowledge about a phenomenon of study
  • a training in the appropriate methods of enquiry
  • an initiation into the belief systems and values of the ‘culture’

If we contrast the sciences, the humanities, and design under each aspect, we may become clearer of what we mean by design, and what is particular to it.
the phenomenon of study in each culture is:

  • in the sciences: the natural world
  • in the humanities: human experience
  • in design: the man-made world

the appropriate methods in each culture are:

  • in the sciences: controlled experiment, classification, analysis
  • in the humanities: analogy, metaphor, criticism, evaluation
  • in design: modelling, pattern-formation, synthesis

the values of each culture are:

  • in the sciences: objectivity, rationality, neutrality, and a concern for ‘truth’
  • in the humanities: subjectivity, imagination, commitment, and a concern for ‘justice’
  • in design: practicality, ingenuity, empathy, and a concern for ‘appropriateness’

Perhaps it would be better to regard the ‘third culture’ as technology, rather than design (…) Technology involves a synthesis of knowledge and skills from both the sciences and the humanities, in the pursuit of practical tasks.

 

References

Cross, N., 1982. Designerly ways of knowling. In Design Studies, Vol. 3, no. 4 pp. 221-227

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