About sixteen years ago, two skaters found a plot of fallow land in Hanover-Linden’s industrial area. They start to clean up and build a small skate park. In 2009, they form an association, negotiate an interim use contract with the owner together with the city council’s support, and reach a lease agreement for one euro per year, which is still valid today. In 2013, another association is created: Platzprojekt aims to create a space for initiatives, a place for self-help, for mutual support offering knowledge, tools, and craftsmanship. Research funds and state subsidies enable the establishment of long-term participation structures for young people who want to discuss their cities in self-organized spaces and actively shape them.
Art and Activism
Prison reforms, fair national budgets, justice for immigrants, the appropriate determination of tax burdens, the eradication of racial segregation in schools, the fight against corruption, or the questioning of police surveillance of the broad public—all of these are topics for the Centre for Artistic Activism (C4AA). What is unique in their work is the combination of art methods and formats with social movements. In workshops, seminars, summer academies, and other programs, they discuss the motives and working methods of different groups together with artists and people who are primarily active in social movements. This is intended to sharpen demands and organize actions in a more directed manner. Everything else, according to the founders of the organization, would be an unforgivable strategic mistake.
Be Heard: The Right to the City
The Chor der Statistik was brought to life in 2019 by musician Bernadette La Hengst and experimental architecture collective raumlaborberlin. An open call attracted people who wanted to sing about the challenges of urban development processes. The specific reason for the choir’s initiation is the ongoing transformation of the long-empty Haus der Statistik in Berlin. The jointly developed songs raise questions, address fears, and formulate demands. And so, the choir sings about displacement and the right to the city, it articulates problems around rent increases and the privatization of space. Singing together and public appearances are equally protest and demonstration at the same time. »For a better future,« says the choir director, raising her baton.
While it is usually only political and municipal decision-makers who sit around the table to decide on urban planning projects, the games created by the Play the City agency bring various groups and players together: employees of city administrations, neighborhood residents, local business owners, initiatives, but also representatives of real estate companies, architecture offices, and many more. Everyone should partake in the discussion and decisions. At least, that is the great premise of the game. It should be played in the run-up to large-scale construction and urban development projects, say those who develop the game to suit local contexts, to expedite consensus building, support decision making, and resolve conflicts.
Tracing Colonial Histories
For about five years, an archive has existed in Amsterdam, revealing that which is buried and rarely told. It makes visible (again) eradicated and suppressed voices, histories, and stories. Building on the legacy of the Surinam-born and later Amsterdam-based social scientist Waldo Heilbron, a center for (post)colonial history was established. From this base, hegemonic and Euro-centric historiography is expanded upon with other aspects, data, and facts that paint a more differentiated and multi-perspectival image of global developments over the last 400 years. As a place for collecting, researching, mediating, and producing knowledge, The Black Archives demonstrates how history can be oriented differently and, step by step, supplemented and expanded with exactly those missing and suppressed voices.
A Model City of Memories and Dreams
That the houses assembled here seem to be thrown together is because the individual buildings, as they stand there, do not necessarily exist as built structures. They are memories mixed with visions of one’s future four walls. Built by refugees from Iran, Syria, Morocco, and Pakistan, World City, as the project is called, was created together with Berlin-based association Schlesische27 and other organizations. This global city of a different kind is both speculation and dream: about a future without borders, the city as a process of dialogue and its polyphony, of which there’s still too little to date.
Participation in City Design
More than 400 people assembled at a self organized meeting in FC St. Pauli’s ballroom in Hamburg in February 2014. The reason for the unusual gathering were dramatic changes in St. Pauli. The neighborhood called for a »bottom up-organized, democratic planning process.« With the experience and the mobilization power of the broad Right-to-the-city-movement backing them, the interdisciplinary planning office Planbude is founded to develop a new land use plan for the city. Wish production starts in late summer. Planbude’s claim: »Knack’ den St. Pauli Code!« (Crack the St. Pauli code!) becomes the leitmotif for a process that builds on multilingualism in expression and making. The results of the process are captured in a contract and become the foundation for a planning competition. Local knowledge builds the basis for the reinvention of the city.
Attempt at Radical Participation
Superkilen is one of many public spaces that have been created over the past twenty years in the Copenhagen district of Nørrebro. The park aimed to create an extended social space that would integrate Nørrebro more closely into the urban fabric. It was also intended to establish conditions for co-management and inclusion, so that various cultural and ethnic groups could become part of the planning. Thus, the aim went beyond simply creating a space where the neighborhood’s residents wanted to spend time. The design was also to reflect their diversity. In the process, a series of spaces was created that were shaped by different aspects and programmed by various activities. But this conversely raises a multitude of questions about the precise ambitions for and implementation of civil society participation processes.
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.
A Sign for Europe
The work EUROPA was created in the aftermath of Britain’s referendum for withdrawal from the European Union. Europe, according to the architecture and planning office morePlatz, lacks visibility, public presence, and positive feedback. The huge luminous tubes, which have been on display in Berlin and many other locations across Germany and abroad since their first installation in November 2016, were conceptualized to address this articulated lack. But this notion of Europe that these letters and this light fixture are meant to represent is also viewed critically by many for Europe’s external borders are being increasingly sealed off and defended. The promise of an open and solidary Europe remains for many an unattainable goal. Radiant EUROPA does not shine equally for everyone.