Last week I attended the conference Think Space in Malmö. A very inspiriting day on the theme of “urban development in the inbetween” discussing participatory urban development, urban interventions, art-culture-social innovation as an agent for change. I heard some inspiring presentations and met with some interesting people.
Team Better Block
It started off with an energetic presentation by Jason Roberts who has a background in IT, music and arts and is the founder of team Better Block (based in Texas, US) and who works with artists and local communities on re-imagining and activating underused blocks and spaces. They work with instant actions framed as art projects, showing the potential of a place and that physical and cultural change is possible for the community and authorities. As an example they work with the locals to bring life into an abandoned block by making up a variety of new ground floor businesses, a café, flowershop etc. paint bicycle lanes, bring in or build street furniture, lend trees, etc. over a weekend leaving lasting impressions of possibilities. He’s been inspired by our work in NY amongst other things and has also learnt from our practice the power of data. The better block recipe as well as the data is shared openly and the concept is spreading around the globe. Likewise Betterblock is now also being hired by cities around the globe to do their thing. More info and TED talk – Betterblock
Another keynote was given on “Direct urbanism – the powers of ephemeral acts in public” by Markus Bader from Raumlabor_Berlin. He shared some reflections on the city, planning and time and presented a few of Raumlabors projects.
Amongst them the Kitchen Monument, an inflatable structure touring the world, in which they arrange dinner parties and other gatherings. Physically and socially interfering with a Community creating “social moments between people where things can happen”. He also introduced me to “the strategy of the Venetian bridge”, an idea of Jeroen Saris that states that when redeveloping an area one should leave a time gap of 5 years where you work to stimulate ideas, promote openness, find programmers and actors, test and act temporary before consolidating and determining on more long-term concepts.
He illustrated this by talking about their dynamic master plan for Tempelhof, old airport area, centrally located in Berlin, where Raumlabor has been working to make the space accessible and activating it in the time gap between airport use and master plan implementation.
More info – Raumlabor_Berlin
Yes we camp! Marseille 2013
Another fun project presented was YES WE CAMP! Marseille 2013 presented by Eric Pringles from Belgium. As part of Marseille being the cultural capital this year, he initiated a burning man inspired artistic and ecological camping site situated on the outskirts of town by the sea. With volunteers, artists, visitors and locals he has created and managed an organic and experimental place to stay, build and exchange ideas lasting for 6 months (still evolving). Constructions and spaces include scaffold/pallet (0 waste) dormitories, platform tents, bars, kitchens, bbqs, shower Towers, Caravan village, sunbathing, sport and farming areas…. a very rich mixture of people, content and physical spaces. The camping has seen 15000 visitors and 10000 nights have been used. The project was largely funded by crowd funding. More info – Yes we camp!
Recht auf stadt, Hamburg
Right to the city is a Hamburg network of 50+ cultural and social initiatives and movements opposed to branding the city as a ‘Company’ and to gentrification. The network and projects are very diverse dealing with the development of the city, participation, gentrification, social and ecologic sustainability, speculation and public space but share some common goals on fx. promoting user driven projects, transparency, the right to be different, fight against exploding rents, reclaiming public space etc. More info – Recht auf Stadt
Gängeviertel is one Project within that context illustrating a participatory redevelopment of a block, from squatting to formal redevelopment in collaboration with the city.