Report about the activities- People and Spaces

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With this project we wanted to learn about the city of the future. We started to read a lot of articles about cities to find some kind of trends going on. This lead to three keywords; mobility, sustainability and temporality. People can be mobile in the space, or spaces can be mobile by itself. Think of a festival as a mobile space, or the floating markets. This is closely connected to the temporality. In the city a lot appeared to pop up temporary, think of pop-up stores, restaurants, museums and hotels. Another focus in the city laid on sustainability and being a green city. In Hong Kong we explored the city to find out how that city worked with these keywords. We made a booklet to guide this treasure hunt, but this appeared not to be needed. We just walked around in different areas and talked about what we saw. It was all very spontaneous, we decided at the moment where we would go to. In the end we searched for a place to reflect the day. We ended up in a café. Here we had a long talk about our findings and our ideas about the city.

After our adventure in Hong Kong, which was very interesting but also rather chaotic and loose-ended, we decided it would be good to choose a theory to hold on to in answering our broad questions. This theory turned out to be Michel De Certeau’s ‘Walking in the City’, which helped us very much in setting up our excursion. In his text, De Certeau discusses the different views on the city; from above, from below and the entanglement in between. With this he explains the strategies and tactics at work in the shaping of the city, with strategies thought of by urban planners and tactics exercised by people walking in the city. This idea of a tension between the conception versus the experience of a city inspired us to analyze this in different cities in the Netherlands. We eventually decided to do a comparative analysis between Utrecht and Almere, since we felt the tension between strategies and tactics was really differed in the cities. To properly analyse this difference, we first discussed the concept of the cities, then experienced them and then reflected on the differences and similarities. In Utrecht we started with a discussion on De Certeau’s text (which we all had read) to set a framework for the day. After, we discussed the ‘concept of Utrecht’ as the municipality has conceptualized it in its strategies for city branding. Of course we wanted to see for ourselves as well what Utrecht did for us. That’s why we went into smaller groups to exercise psycho-geographic walks. Psycho-geographic walks are walks in the city which were invented by the Situationists (a movement led by  Guy Debord) in 19..  and were used to experience the city in an alternative way. An example is choosing a colour and following that in the city, instead of going your normal path. This way, you adopt a wandering attitude towards your surroundings, you could say like a flaneur[1], which we think was exceptionally important for the students from Utrecht to be able to see the city in a new way. In the train to Almere, we reflected upon our findings. In the center of Almere we adopted a different approach. After a short talk on the way Almere was constructed and thought out, we formed smaller groups again and searched for different spots to stand still and observe the place. We had formulated some general pointers for observation, but not too much, which worked out really well since all the groups came back with different interesting approaches of the observation; people had not just watched and taken notes but had also photographed a lot and had interesting conversations with each other as well as with inhabitants. We also went to Almere Buiten, a neighbourhood where the inhabitants get to design their own houses. We got see one house from the inside and heard the story from the owners as well as the neighbour, who kindly offered to give us a tour of the whole neighbourhood. We concluded our day back in Utrecht, where we visualized our thoughts on strategies&tactics, Utrecht&Almere and Hong Kong&The Netherlands onto posters.

These posters were eventually part of our exposition at BAK, the base for actual art (basis voor aktuele kunst). In the corner of the exposition room that was at our disposal we  presented different things. We divided the space we had into a realistic and imaginative space. In the realistic space we beamed two moving photo collages (made in prezi) that represented our experiences of Hong Kong and the Netherlands. Also, we invited the audience to tell us about their cities by letting them write on the wall. In the imaginative space the visitors could also write on the wall, but then about what they would find in their ideal city. It was in this corner that we also showed the posters as part of a brainstorm wall, where we showed our process of thinking by hanging up all of our notes, mindmaps and other papers we had collected during the project. Like this, all the aspects of our project, our thinking process, our excursions in Hong Kong & the Netherlands and our speculations on how cities should look like, came together.

[1] Walter Benjamin

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