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architecture : strategy and design

AGORA 2014 / Francesca Ferguson on Public Space


150914 - Minutes 1 : During #Bordeaux #architecture biennale many new insights were shared thanks to the participants of debate on "reappropriating public space". Merci!

On the photo from left to right : Hocine Alioouane-Shaw, Francesca Ferguson, Christiaan Weiler, Claire Calogirou.

Minutes 2 : I just came to remind myself of a thought that guides me : "We have to use what we know conscienciously to pursue our idea of 'happiness', or else we will never be able to inspire others that this approch leads to something desireable."

Of course each initiative should prove it's independent viability, as you repeated, but not just economical. I think maybe the south half of the continent has less economical resilience, but more hapiness resilience. The beginning of a great european exchange programme?


Initial announcement :

Je suis très content de pouvoir confirmer la participation de Francesca Ferguson, editrice de Make_Shift City - Renegotiating the Urban Commons . Son livre regroupe des exemples d'urbanisme alternatif sous diverses formes.



Son intervention, le 110914 à 10:00 à la Caserne Niel, aura lieu dans le cadre du programme proposé par L"écosystème" Darwin, qui a été invité à cet objet dans le 6ième biennale d'architecture AGORA à Bordeaux . Les autres intervenants seront Mme Calogirou sur les cultures urbaines (skate et grafity), Hocine Aliouane-Shaw de Bruit-du-Frigo, Karim Asry de Espacio Open Bilbao, et Philippe Barre de Evolution. Le débat sera animé par Jean-Marc Gancille.

Make_Shift City - Renegotiating the Urban Commons

Avec Hocine Aliouane-Shaw, Irina Dobre, et Madina Querre, nous avons mis en place une groupe de réflexion (NUEE, voir ici ). L'invitation de Francesca Ferguson fait partie des initiatives pour se constituer "un curriculum de formation continue". En préparation des débats j'ai préparé des questions (en uk) pour Ms Ferguson. Ils vont vous motiver pour lire l'ouvrage.

Introduction : Urban growth is a continuous process for allmost all cities. People come to look for their fortune in urban areas, and the city keeps growing. On a global scale, at this moment a majority of the population will be city dweller (cf World Health Organization). It has been estimated that buildings and cities consume 40% of all energy, at present (20% resid. 20% comm. cf Inst. Negawatt). Also we realise that we are using much more energy than we can produce. Oil, that runs pratically everything, will be depleted in 30 to 50 years (cf International Energy Agency). So the process of urbanisation is challenged with many factors that have to be integrated : 1) adapting to the accelerated and multicultural demography, 2) limiting the environmental impact, and 3) dealing wih the depletion of resources. To put a very complex task simply : how to make a better city, having less means to do so?

Make_Shift City tells the stories of several project initiatives, where awareness of this new context leads to new planning methods. They are unconventional and non-commercial initiatives - the initiators are often artists, architects and inhabitants. Taking a step back and out of the ordinary, they re-evaluate and reclaim public space with projects that follow an agenda of sustainability, be it social, technical or economical (or all three). The book is a valuable showcase of alternative and complementary techniques of an inclusive and collaborative urbanism and architecture.

Q01 : The spirit of these practices, outside political and capitalist institutions, is maybe not entirely new. The 70-ies were quite knows for proposing alternative experiences, then as critique of capitalism (Situationist 56/72, Anarchists, Pacificists, etc.). Could you say what are the differences and similarities, between the situation and the actions in the 70-ies and now?

Q02 : I rediscovered the subject of urban regeneration through the initiatives in Detroit and post seismic Christchurch (Gapfiller, LIVS, Festa), thanks to Monocle24 radio shows. In their case it is a question of true catastrophy and thus urgency for redevelopment. To what extent are the practices in your book Make_Shift City comparable? How would you describe the degree of urgency in the european cases of Make_Shift ?

Q03 : Several days ago the event 'Future of Places' was held in Buenos Aires (1-3 sept 2014, theme : "Streets as Public Spaces and Drivers of Urban Prosperity", related to a new research report from UN-Habitat concluding that: "prosperous cities are those that recognize the relevance of public spaces ..."). Public participation and even Grassroots activism are stimulated in their vision. How are the alternative urbanist practices evaluated on a global platform? What are the values they pursue? Are there tools for evaluating the 'added value'?

Q04 : What is the role of ownership? How can one take initiative in/at properties one doesn't own? How can owners be convinced for temporary activation? When operating on private property, be it exterior space or a building, do these projects take place despite the owners, thanks to the owners, or in favour of the owners?

Q05 : In the chapter on the London municipal team we see a rare case of an institutional alternative urbanism. There is the example of 'Splash Adelaide', where the Mayor actively invites citizens to create ephemeral events, making it possible with adapted legal conditions. What role could be imagined for local governments in the context of collaborative urbanism?

Q06 : Most projects are presented as good examples of process, of participation, of emergence and resilience. What, would you say, is the importance of artistic creativity and aesthetics in these processes and the results?

Q07 : The collaborative aspect of the examples makes one think of baugruppen, or housing coop's. It invokes also notions found in industrial innovation, called 'service design' = integrating the need of the customer in the product. This requires the participants involvement, and even investment (at least in energy). To what extent would you consider the projects to be viable for all layers of the population, not just the willing few, or even further off 'the poorgeoisie' (Guardian 2009)?

Q08 : For the projects in the book, it seems there is no clearly identified 'client', even if there is a certain benificiary group. Is there an 'business-model' that is common to the teams? How do they get the means and budgets to organise their laborious projects?

Q09 : If we take the example of many metropolitan areas, low-profile neighbourhoods often serve as a low-cost opportunity for alternative cultural developments. These neighbourhoods then snowball into artist spots, and then high-brow commercial areas, in some cases simply gentrification. Can collaborative urbanism (need to clarify what specific scales we are talking), with its alternative value scheme, 'survive' and last along side conventional property development? How can one protect the 'investments' in slow money from the mechanisms of fast money?

Q10 : In many cases in the book, making people that share a place meet and connect is a big part of the objective. With the existence of Facebook and such, and their capacity to connect people, what role can social media play in activating a collaborative attitude for real space?

Q11 : Many public places have been privatized : highways, parkings, shopping areas, business sites. In these areas the law functions very well, and for example : you can't smoke. When smoking was banned from cafes by law, associations have found a way to provide that 'freedom'. Could private be the new public?


L'écosystème Darwin à écrit sa présentation du contexte, caractérisé par le mot "transgression positive".

Appropriations de l'espace public : entre légitimité et trans-gression ? L'espace public, normé et strictement défini dans l'architecture et l'urbanisme contemporains comme d'abord un lieu de passage rétif aux stationnements de tous ordres, contraint la plupart du temps ses usagers à n'en voir que le coté réglementé et subi. Comment la population peut-elle se réapproprier ces espaces et influer sur le sens des projets qui y sont menés? Comment la société peut-elle y laisser une place à l'improvisation, à l'appropriation non prévue, en un mot à la liberté ? La volonté des collectivités territoriales d'affecter à chaque surface un usage bien défini, peut-elle s'accommoder de ces nouveaux lieux laissés temporairement à l'autodétermination ? Le monde économique peut-il être le partenaire de ces appropriations ou sa présence en disqualifie-t-elle la légitimité ?