In June 2019 the appointed Curator of the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale Hashim Sarkis introduced the theme of the next year’s event “How will we live together?” where architects were invited to think of a new spatial contract in the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities. Today, the main premise remains the same, yet the context now involves the consequences of a pandemic. So we at TSPA now ask ourselves “How Will We Act Together?” This is a relevant moment to think of the role of cooperation, self-organization and knowledge exchange to deal with long term crises.
Since the beginning of the year, the alliance of Anke Parson, Janin Walters, Aleksandra Katasonova and Thomas Stellmach came up with the idea of developing a school for city-making where actors from different sectors share their experience and create joint initiatives and act together.
City-making is a concept rather than a clear term and it is built around the idea of improving our cities through the use of social and urban innovation. It means that literally everyone is able to contribute to city development and become a solution provider using their own experience.
Why do we think it’s important to educate for that?
TSPA started 2020 with the goal to become a more sustainable team and we even went on a team retreat to start this office transformation. By discussing our core values we reflected on our own experience and the impact we want to achieve. As part of our conclusions, we understood that our practical experience is of value and therefore worth sharing. In addition, when COVID-19 started spreading around the world, the contingency affected our office as much as it has affected hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. We understood that overcoming challenges is much easier when you collaborate and think and act collectively.
The new COVID-19 pandemic stimulates us to learn and build alliances for faster adaptation to the changing realms. This is our chance to change the perception of the city as a service provided by ‘someone’ to a ‘home’ that we are building together. Why? Because most urban problems are relevant regardless of administrative boundaries, and they can not be solved only by individual sectors or entities. Cross-sectoral cooperation and intensive knowledge exchange could foster answers to current rapid changes.
We came up with the idea of Autumn Academy Berlin as a school for city-making and actor empowerment. A school where actors learn from each other; where authorities, private sector players and civil activists “put themselves in each other’s shoes” and share solutions for requests.
Researching multifarious educational and networking formats we identified some gaps:
- Lack of cross-sectoral interactions. Most activities are built around one sector.
- There aren’t many activities aimed at creating cross-sectoral alliances; participation formats that mostly build around “what do you want” rather “what could you do”.
- Lack of activities aimed at creating ownership of the city; discussion vs action
- Misunderstanding between technology perception and reality; cities driven by technology vs technologies working for cities
We want to encourage multifarious stakeholders from different sectors to combine their knowledge and efforts in a new way, solving real cases and establishing a community of aware DOers, who are able to productively communicate, act and take responsibility for common today and future.
Berlin has already a bright scene of grassroots initiatives with their experience in self-organization. Added, numerous tech start-ups are able to create fast innovation for a certain request. City authorities can support a participation process, while big companies bring capital to the city. The moment when we all of a sudden experience the same challenge gives an opportunity to join efforts in one direction.
The Autumn Academy will explore the ways we could work together instead of against each other to improve city-making and deal with challenges sharing responsibilities. We decided to document the whole process in a blog series to observe its different components and create a “know-how” from this experience.
In the next post we will explore the role of cooperation, self-organization and knowledge exchange in contemporary cities. Follow these posts and our social media for more.