Here’s how “Temporary urbanism” can transform struggling industrial towns

The J.L.Hudson building, Detroit, being demolished in 1998: the tallest building ever imploded. Image: Getty.

What will become of manufacturing towns in a post-industrial world? From the Ruhr region of Germany to the American “Rust Belt”, once-prosperous factory cities are today faced with dwindling industry, shrinking populations and fundamental questions about their role in the modern global economy.

The population of Detroit, Michigan, for example, an auto manufacturing centre that was once one of the United States’ largest cities, has declined from 1.85 million in 1950 to just 675,000 in 2017.

Reinvigorating these legacy cities, as they are sometimes called, is not easy – but it is not impossible. Based on my research in Europe, and inspired by the work of the urban planning nonprofit Die Urbanisten, located in my hometown of Dortmund, I have identified several innovative redevelopment models that may offer lessons for post-industrial cities across the globe.

These three movements focus on ephemeral, flexible solutions that are broadly applicable to any city seeking to reinvent faded manufacturing zones: tactical urbanism, sustainable landscapes and the tiny homes movement.

Temporary, tactical urbanism (Plantage 9, Bremen)

Plantage 9 in Bremen. Image: Robin Chang.

For decades, the post-industrial harbour city of Bremen, in Northern Germany, struggled to to adapt to the socioeconomic ideals of the 21st century.

Today, it is known for the success of its tactical urbanism-inspired approaches. Officially coined by the Street Plans Collaborative, this approach broadly encompasses all short-term, low-cost, scalable measures that instigate longer-term, community-building change.

In Bremen, the the ZwischeZeitZentrale (ZZZ), a local organisation set up to work as a project middlemen, set out to match underutilised urban spaces in Bremen with projects in need of a home.

One result was Plantage 9, an old textile factory turned culture and innovation hub with over 30 independent, creative and entrepreneurial temporary users, including a food-truck kitchen, bike repair workshop, and studios and galleries for young artists.

Some of these businesses stayed for less than two years. Others remained, and in 2012 these users negotiated a new lease and management contract between the city and the collective. Plantage 9 has gone from a pilot project to a community association with an ongoing role in the city’s cultural life.

This temporary urbanism experiment succeeded in large part because of citizen engagement. ZZZ played a moderator role between citizens and the municipality, working with a cook, a bicycle mechanic, students, teachers, photographers and filmmakers, among other Bremen residents, to conceptualise and coordinate these tactical initiatives.

As Plantage 9-style matchmaking revitalised lifeless spaces with exciting projects, Bremen’s national reputation has changed, too – from struggling post-industrial city to dynamic urban innovator.

Sustainable landscapes (Zomerhofkwartier, Rotterdam)

 

20/2 14-16uur uitreiking #prijsvraag #Archiprix in #ZoHoLab!

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Local residents in Rotterdam, Netherlands, have also cultivated comprehensive urban revitalisation processes in one neglected neighbourhood. The result: Zomerhofkwartier, aka Zoho,, the new face of a former industrial area near the city’s central train station.

Originally conceived as a temporary project by the group ZOHOCITZENS in 2013, Zoho now includes permanent co-working spaces, along with studios that host events, classes, green spaces. Already in this decade-long process that its developers have dubbed “slow urbanism”, the area has matured into one of Rotterdam’s core makers’ district.

Zoho’s innovations include climate-proofing, and the site serves as an urban laboratory for ecological adaption and transition. Thus far, the project has implemented water collection, storage systems in public spaces, green roofs, urban gardens, and the reduction of hard surfaces.

The ultimate goal is to increase the whole district’s ecological resiliency and the socioeconomic vitality of the district through the micro-greening of the specific locations in the urban concrete fabric.

Tiny Houses (Berlin)

 

Troubled to see a long queue of asylum seekers shivering for hours on a winter's day outside Berlin's notoriously chaotic registration centre, Van Bo Le-Mentzel decided to take action. "I fetched my drill and collected some wood that I found randomly in the streets and brought it to the line where people were standing there bored to death and we just started building," the architect told AFP. The end products were pint-sized playhouses that children could crawl into for shelter as well as break up the monotony of the endless wait. It also marked the birth of the so-called Tiny House University, a project bringing together architects, designers and refugees to experiment with innovative ways to house a population in need. "We are trying to create new kinds of housing forms in society in which it's possible to live and survive without having land or money," said Le-Mentzel. #berlin #survive #survival #house #housestark #instahouse #land #money #houses #instahouse #instastay #instagram #instagrammed #instagrammer #instagallery #tinyhouse #tiny #tinyhouseliving #tinyhouseuniversity

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The Tiny House Movement, which relies on small modular units that recall images of cottages, has ballooned in the aftermath of the US housing crises as an alternative for affordable housing. These wee residences, which are sometimes standalone and other times secondary units, have even inspired an American TV show, “Tiny House, Big Living”.

This movement is firmly established in North America, but is still developing on the European continent (as this tiny house map confirms).

While the typical context for tiny homes is residential, the Bauhaus Campus Berlin collaboration between the Tinyhouse University and Bauhaus Archive from the Museum of Design in Berlin is demonstrating how these units can temporarily reconceive unused spaces for social justice, learning and research.

Inspired by the challenges with providing housing for new residents and refugees in Germany, for example, the project established in early 2017 an educational forum and workshop that allows people to learn how to build their on tiny homes.

Recently featured in German media alongside other similar projects, Bauhaus Campus Berlin includes 12 tiny homes on the front lawn of the museum and promotes tiny house building through design crash courses, panel discussions, and other cultural gatherings.


Scaling innovation

These European narratives reveal resilient trajectories of temporary urbanism, comprehensively coordinated at the neighbourhood scale, using informality to engage citizens and ensure that municipal governments respond effectively and inclusively to contemporary urban quandaries.

Temporary use at the street and neighbourhood level in its diverse range of formats are not limited to post-industrial cities, nor are they confined to Europe. Denver, Colorado, for example, took a tactical approach to launch one of the US’s first large-scale modern bike share systems in a highly automobile-dependent city. And Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, included pop-up landscapes as part of the revitalisation of its Delaware River waterfront, engaging entrepreneurial municipal officials, urban planning agencies, and landscape designers to strategically harness and catalyse investment.

Something is working. But from a scholarly perspective, however, we still know little about the mix of enablers and drivers that inspire such transformative moments. What, exactly, are the factors that make one temporary urbanism project succeed where another fails?

Much critical literature seems stuck on questioning whether the ephemeral has just as much impact as the planned, and whether citizens are as entitled to create effective urban revitalisation as professional planners are. And most current research on temporary use is descriptive or expository – narrating and cataloguing the process and types of users, formats and instruments seen in tactical initiatives.

Critical scepticism is healthy to understanding the change. But I believe that this adaptive practice is the next frontier in city planning.

Ultimately, we have to work backwards to measure the specific dash, dosage, amount and numbers of specifically defined stakeholders, processes, and mechanisms necessary to replicate those results and develop pre-configured “recipes” for more resilient temporary urbanism.

The ConversationBy deconstructing the successful conditions and their combinations can we help cities across the globe build new and modern futures for their residents.

Robin Chang is a research associate at the Technical University of Dortmund.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 
 
 
 

These maps of petition signatories show which bits of the country are most enthusiastic about scrapping Brexit

The Scottish bit. Image: UK Parliament.

As anyone in the UK who has been near an internet connection today will no doubt know, there’s a petition on Parliament’s website doing the rounds. It rejects Theresa May’s claim – inevitably, and tediously, repeated again last night – that Brexit is the will of the people, and calls on the government to end the current crisis by revoking Article 50. At time of writing it’s had 1,068,554 signatures, but by the time you read this it will definitely have had quite a lot more.

It is depressingly unlikely to do what it sets out to do, of course: the Prime Minister is not in listening mode, and Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom has already been seen snarking that as soon as it gets 17.4m votes, the same number that voted Leave in 2016, the government will be sure to give it due care and attention.

So let’s not worry about whether or not the petition will be successful and instead look at some maps.

This one shows the proportion of voters in each constituency who have so far signed the petition: darker colours means higher percentages. The darkest constituencies tend to be smaller, because they’re urban areas with a higher population density. (As with all the maps in this piece, they come via Unboxed, who work with the Parliament petitions team.)

And it’s clear the petition is most popular in, well, exactly the sort of constituencies that voted for Remain three years ago: Cambridge (5.1 per cent), Bristol West (5.6 per cent), Brighton Pavilion (5.7 per cent) and so on. Hilariously, Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North is also at 5.1 per cent, the highest in London, despite its MP clearly having remarkably little interest in revoking article 50.

By the same token, the sort of constituencies that aren’t signing this thing are – sit down, this may come as a shock – the sort of places that tended to vote Leave in 2016. Staying with the London area, the constituencies of the Essex fringe (Ilford South, Hornchurch & Upminster, Romford) are struggling to break 1 per cent, and some (Dagenham & Rainham) have yet to manage half that. You can see similar figures out west by Heathrow.

And you can see the same pattern in the rest of the country too: urban and university constituencies signing in droves, suburban and town ones not bothering. The only surprise here is that rural ones generally seem to be somewhere in between.

The blue bit means my mouse was hovering over that constituency when I did the screenshot, but I can’t be arsed to redo.

One odd exception to this pattern is the West Midlands, where even in the urban core nobody seems that bothered. No idea, frankly, but interesting, in its way:

Late last year another Brexit-based petition took off, this one in favour of No Deal. It’s still going, at time of writing, albeit only a third the size of the Revoke Article 50 one and growing much more slowly.

So how does that look on the map? Like this:

Unsurprisingly, it’s a bit of an inversion of the new one: No Deal is most popular in suburban and rural constituencies, while urban and university seats don’t much fancy it. You can see that most clearly by zooming in on London again:

Those outer east London constituencies in which people don’t want to revoke Article 50? They are, comparatively speaking, mad for No Deal Brexit.

The word “comparatively” is important here: far fewer people have signed the No Deal one, so even in those Brexit-y Essex fringe constituencies, the actual number of people signing it is pretty similar the number saying Revoke. But nonetheless, what these two maps suggest to me is that the new political geography revealed by the referendum is still largely with us.


In the 20 minutes it’s taken me to write this, the number of signatures on the Revoke Article 50 has risen to 1,088,822, by the way. Will of the people my arse.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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