Every last Friday of the month, cyclists meet in both large and small cities to take to the streets in convoy and as sheer mass. The principle of this gathering uses a rule of the road traffic regulations according to which a group of at least twelve cyclists is considered a vehicle and can, therefore, pass through a traffic light that turns red. Those who cycle in front decide where to go. The cyclists want to draw attention to the fact that even today, the car-friendly city from the last century is still a reality in many places. Thus, Critical Mass is a peaceful and solidary protest against the hegemony of motorized traffic in urban planning worldwide.
Critical Mass for Freedom and Movement
From Locomotive Workshop to Library
In 2009, the municipality of Tilburg, together with two large real estate and construction groups, acquired a massive plot directly behind the main railway station. The original plan was to demolish existing buildings, such as the former locomotive hall, or LocHal for short, and to construct huge office and apartment complexes. However, the decision was reversed. Instead of demolition, redevelopment and conversions took root. And so, in 2019, the municipal library—which is much more than just a collection of books—opened here. Its glass hall protects an inner-city square with a café and open staircase. There are also archives, offices, as well as event rooms and, on the perimeters, workshop areas and small meeting rooms. The many people who use the building for a wide range of activities make it clear that public space will continue to play an essential role in the future.
Work Yard for Construction Materials
Why is the current mantra in the construction industry build, build, build—when reuse, recycling, or other forms of responsible use of resources should be the focus of attention? The interdisciplinary collective Bellastock addresses this and other major problems in the construction industry. La Fabrique du Clos in Stains, a small town in the north-east of Paris, was used to store materials from the demolition of residential towers. Yet the yard also became a meeting place and stage for the neighborhood’s residents. There were discussions: about future urban spaces, how and by whom and with what they will be designed. These activities resulted in prototypes for sheds, planting beds, arbors, street pavement, playground equipment, benches, pavilions, and much more. They show how small-scale alternatives can challenge established systems.
Thomas Hirschhorn’s works address the challenges of our time. They deal with climate emergency and justice, consumer excess and alienation. Many of the geopolitical discussions raised by the artist, which we can usually hold at a distance, collapse over and upon us. We break in. We become part of the Hirschhornian cosmos, which so clearly says how important it is to take a stance. At first glance, the exhibited collage seems strangely sober, almost alienated. Values and attitudes, not solutions, are at its core. We seek simple answers to the multitude of questions in vain. Rather, the project is about establishing social relationships, acting together, the invention of practices that produce or change spaces.
Architecture’s Second Life
The work of Rotor and Rotor Deconstruction (RotorDC) is not concerned with the construction of buildings or cities as we know them. Instead, the office develops strategies for the careful deconstruction of houses slated for demolition. Materials recovered through these processes of dismantling are re-claimed and offered for sale on a website. The spectrum is broad and ranges from cabinet handles to oak parquet, from lamps to porcelain washbasins, from glass blocks to floor tiles. Rotor’s general aim is to raise awareness of existing assets and create a legal framework for reuse. Many local authorities now use the collective’s handbook when considering new lives for existing public buildings.
Like a Fox in the City
An increasing number of wild animals are living in our cities. The diversity of species in urban agglomerations is even greater than in the areas surrounding them. The photographic series by artist Tue Greenfort propels this coexistence of human and fox into plain sight. He points out that the abundant and growing diversity of animal life in cities confronts us with new challenges—because not everyone is happy about this cohabitation. As a result, planning faces significant challenges. It must not only take increasing and more comprehensive care of the diverse needs and desires of different people but also those creatures with no voices of their own in urban development processes.
The Cooperative Housing Project Above a Tram Depot
The large, up to seven-story residential and commercial building in Zurich’s Wiedikon district is anything but ordinary. The building is like a small town: complete with daycare center, doctor’s office, bank, art-house cinema, bars, restaurant, flower shop, and tram depot. Furthermore, Kalkbreite is a certified »2000 Watt site in operation«: Through active sustainability measures, those living and working there reduce their ecological footprint. People cook and eat together, workrooms are shared, an object library makes it possible to borrow equipment, and no one has their own car. The resulting savings are currently around 50% compared to average household usage in Zurich. The visionary approach of the Kalkbreite will, in the long term, be applied to the entire city in order to contribute markedly to climate justice.
Transformation Instead of Demolition and Construction
All over the world, large housing estates like Cité du Parc rise upwards out of spacious park landscapes. They are often considered »social hotspots.« As is the case here. In the early 2000s, the French state decided to rethink the future of such housing estates. This is where the architecture firm Lacaton & Vassal with Druot comes in. The team had been working on this question for some time: How can spatial transformations be planned and implemented so that they do not lead to occupant displacement? The office’s work illustrates that alternatives to demolition and new construction do exist. And they define new qualities in buildings, which many believe cannot be improved.