At the Culture in Urban Space Conference , we met artists, designers and planners from across Europe. We shared our ideas of using the artist studio to test new urban design/planning concepts and to engage the general public in conversations about our cities. We learned about interesting work happening all over the world.
For instance, in Belgium, Lars de Jaegher, the curator for the Gent City Museum presented on how the museum acts as a forum to host exhibits that feature artists’ interpretations of city plans, to assist city officials better communicate with the public and solicit feedback on planning projects (http://www.stamgent.be/en).
Konrad Steyn, an architect and urban designer from South Africa (http://www.blocdesignstudio.com/index.html), discussed how typical Western urban design methods cannot be replicated in urban renewal projects in South Africa. Instead, he proposes sensitive and comprehensive interventions focused on multiculturalism and diversity, considering that physical, social, historical and cultural mediation are needed to respond to the context.
We specifically related with a group of researchers from Queens University, Belfast. Their research group, entitled Translating Improvisation, are exploring the role that improvisation can play in urban space/urban design. Typically associated with music and the arts, improvisation can be used during the exploration of urban spaces. Improvisation can act as a rehearsal - a way to explore places, to resolve and solve problems, and test new ideas at low risks. Instead of focusing on formal, permanent and planned architecture, improvisational architecture is informal and temporal, where the architect/planner is not in charge but instead works with the community to explore ideas. This concept of improvisation is already central to our work and we will continue to explore it through our upcoming projects.