Far too often new neighborhoods are planned, developed and sold on the premise of matching a “normal” or “mainstream” audience, but most neighborhoods where people enjoy to live has unique character and urban life. For developers, urban experiments offers the opportunity to develop the identity of the future city with its inhabitants, while it is being built.
At first look it might be hard to see why developers would be interested in working with experiments in their projects. However experiments can benefit both the development process and the future city if they are integrated in the process. There is good reason for developers to start working more seriously with co-design of their projects. Creating space for experimental activities before the construction work starts can inspire the future of a new neighborhood by creating life and giving the place identity before it event exists. Experiments can also be undertaken while the construction work is ongoing and open conversations of what kind of life the new neighborhood should and can contain. Not least when it comes to social housing, the experimental approach can help to develop attractive areas with interesting urban life for the inhabitants.
- TEMPORARY URBANISM
Temporary urbanism has become an increasingly popular tool in both private and public urban development projects in large western cities over the last decades. Letting young creatives and artists use empty buildings until they are demolished and new neighborhoods are built has been a way of creating life and giving identity to otherwise unknown parts of the city, but these approaches has also been harshly critiqued for not engaging seriously with the communities that are involved.
”At an institutional level, the temporary activities are transformed into strategically planned points of impact, designed to entertain, aestheticize and release small chunks of hedonism as long as the activities do not leave lasting traces or conflict with the final purpose. They do not have any real effect, but merely exist as symbolic gestures, a calculated tolerance… The participants are temporarily free and symbols of a tolerance, which in the end will not know of them as real co-players in the urban development.” (translated from Søberg & Kimouche, 2011)
- For the temporary to be interesting in an urban development perspective, it needs to do more than be “in between” the old and the new. It is far more interesting to see the temporary as an experiment that is intended to create new knowledge, new practices or new communities in the city. A good question to start from is “what do we want to learn” from this experiment, which at its basis requires slightly more involvement from the developer than the passive “you can use the building until we tear it down” approach, but on the other hand also opens the opportunity to create value for the future neighborhood.
- URBAN LIFE EXPERIMENTS
A core issue with newly developed neighborhoods is how to create interesting and attractive urban life. Far too many new urban spaces ends up as over-designed and deserted spaces. A way of stimulating urban life is to collaborate with citizens to do experiments in urban space, trying out different kinds of activities and venues. Instead of planning how public areas should unfold in detail, urban life experiments can be performed while people start moving in and based on the impact, the local area can be transformed to suit the desires of the inhabitants and visitors.Urban life experiments can also be performed during the building process to showw off the qualities of the future neighborhood to potential buyers. In this case, the urban life becomes one of the core selling points of the area. This approach does however require that there is space for the desired activities when the development process is finished.
- CO-DESIGNED NEIGHBORHOODS
New building projects tend to be focused on the mainstream, but isn’t it possible to create living quarters and urban spaces, that rather focuses on creating the ideal living conditions for demographic groups with special needs or desires. By working closely together with future inhabitants in co-design processes it is possible to create truly unique urban areas.