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.
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?
How Residential Areas Become Car-Free
In Barcelona, the idea of the superblock—an urban area made up of several smaller city blocks and bordered by large streets—has been reinvented in recent years. It promises solutions for cities with high emission levels caused by motorized vehicles. The reduction of traffic means that the value of public spaces increases or that a space becomes truly public for the first time, and existing uses are increased or new ones made possible. Six such superblocks have been realized in Barcelona to date. Fears that the retail trade would suffer as a result of reduced access for cars have not come true. Instead, the number of trips made on foot or by bicycle have gone up and the air quality has improved. In recent years, other cities have also begun to implement the model since its potential becomes apparent everywhere when you look at the city from the perspective of those who walk instead of drive.
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.
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.
A Different Kind of City Kitchen
When Yuriy Fylyuk and his friends moved from Kyiv to Ivano-Frankivsk in the summer of 2008, they found a place with scarcities of all sorts. Out of this, Teple Misto or Warm City emerged—a network that today includes around sixty local companies. A restaurant became one of the platforms for the group’s activities and serves as a place for meeting as well as exchange. One hundred people participate as co-financiers in the Urban Space 100 project. Since 2015, parts of the restaurant’s profits have gone into a pot that finances and supports initiatives, small and larger projects. The money collected in this way has already been used to restore historic building entrances, procure computers for medical facilities, and organize sporting events and festivals.
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.