Larissa Fassler builds and draws space. Yet nothing here is cleaned up or ordered according to scale. In the large-format drawings of cities, she shows us what we experience when we walk over traffic islands, through underpasses, and passages, or into the entrances of buildings. The artist overlays the built space with appropriations. She observes and walks through the space over and over again, collecting and mapping what she finds. This is also the case with her work Kotti (revisited). The many fragments layered on top of each other tell stories of a complex space that proudly says: »I am city. I am neither easy to understand nor easy to plan. I will defend myself if you seek to question my existence.« The big colorful picture calls for planning to take care of and work with lived space instead of against it. Because where is this city going to go if it has to leave here?
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.
This Is Our House!
Housing, just like land, must not be a commodity—this is the goal of the Mietshäuser Syndikat in a nutshell. Since its official foundation in Freiburg in 1993, it has developed and promoted self-organized housing projects. The unique feature of the syndicate is that land and buildings are permanently decommodified. This means that the organization, together with the tenants of a house, buys the property and the land, thus dissolving traditional ownership structures or other dependencies. By withdrawing buildings and the land they stand on from the real estate market, the syndicate positions itself explicitly against speculation and profit. Today, around 160 projects in Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria exist under the syndicate’s umbrella, making long-term affordable residential, working, and living spaces a reality.
A Quarter Taking Matters Into Its Own Hands
In the 1980s, Toxteth is the setting for violent class struggles. People move to other parts of Liverpool; many of the Victorian row houses fall into disrepair. As a result, a group becomes active in the neighborhood. They clean up, plant flower beds, paint windows, and establish a market. A Community Land Trust is set up. The aim: to create affordable housing that is owned by the people from the neighborhood. The group convinces the municipality not to demolish the houses. Later, the architecture collective Assemble comes on board and develops a plan for the area. Although the work is still unfinished and many houses are still in need of further attention, the people’s goal of taking the future of their area into their own hands has been achieved for the time being.
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.
Small Fortified Buildings
We peer into a pit dug deep into the ground. In the middle: a last isolated house on a massive clump of earth. Nail houses, that’s what these structures—left in apparent wastelands—are called. For Ahmet Öğüt, these houses are »expressions of individual everyday resistance against strategies of state or corporate constraint.« They are remnants of hasty urbanization processes and, at the same time, speak of displacement. Öğüt’s model representations of the nail houses record this state of things as a warning. And so, resistance to the relentless global real estate industry and speculative land development is made visible in the long term and thus negotiable for others.