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.
A Somewhat Different Ministry of Space
Even if Ministry of Space sounds quite official, it is not a state-run ministry. Concealed behind the name is a small group of activists committed to social justice. Thus, the group fights for a city that benefits all those who live there. They fight against corrupt practices, the misappropriation of public money, and—as they argue—abuses of power by political players. In this way, the activists monitor, analyze, and critically comment upon large-scale urban development projects by transnational corporations and the privatization of public assets. They scrutinize the construction of luxury residential properties or shopping centers. Through their work, the group thus supports a broad protest culture that demands civil society inclusion in urban policy events.
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.
The works of constructLab unfold in the cosmos between imagination and life. But the focus of the collective’s work is not on creating fixed and unalterable facts. Instead, they actively seek ways to give form to the desires and hopes expressed in appropriations. The Baukiosk takes on the role of a symbol in this context. As a complex structure, it embodies a particular form of city-making that combines—or deliberately collides—differing interests with different opportunities. Thus, the kiosk is a meeting place as well as a collection point. Analog billboard and digital display. Information system and resting point. It is always many things and everything at once.
Due to out-migration, the city of Görlitz has shrunk by a quarter of its population since the 1990s. In 2008, a research group of the TU Dresden and the Görlitz city administration dared an experiment to attract new people to the city. Temporary living in Görlitz should reveal the qualities and potential of this place. Probewohnen, Stadt Erleben, and Stadt auf Probe, and now the fourth edition of the project is underway. Those interested can try out living in the city and get to know the networks in the cultural and youth sectors. They can use shared workspaces as well as workshops and thus directly explore new social and professional perspectives.
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.
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.
From Wasteland to Neighborhood Local
In the north of Brussels, surrounded by streets and yet almost hard to find, a small paradise has emerged. In 2013, a diverse team put an idea into practice: they combined the special and unique features of a park with urban agriculture and micro-farming. Involved were local initiatives and groups that had been using the fringes of the fallow land for some time for the collective cultivation of fruit and vegetables, small animal husbandry, and pigeonries. The resulting location—Parckfarm—still brings the neighborhood together today. Different actors organize various activities, workshops, gardening, and debates. However, a land use plan for the area is now in place. Neighborhood associations and initiatives see access to and use of the park as threatened.