How does your city sound? How does it smell, what does it look like? - On 1 September 2018, Franziska Schreiber, Hannah Göppert and Barbara Burkel explored the possibilities of new urban utopias at the Z2X Festival. Every year, this festival brings together young visionaries between the ages of 20 and 29 with the aim of exchanging ideas for improving all areas of life and defining them further.
In their workshop "How does your city sound? Urban Images of the Future", the three urban development experts discussed novel ways to make cities a better place to live. Together with the participants, they developed three models for urban utopias. At the end of the conference, the Z2X judges selected their vision for the future among the ten most promising ideas.
In an interview, Franziska Schreiber reports on the outcomes of the Z2X workshop and explains why we need to think differently about city planning.
Why do we need new city planning?
Franziska Schreiber: The urban planning debate often lacks vision: Instead of creating new prospects, the focus is on small-scale problems. It is often more a matter of avoiding or managing undesired outcomes - such as climate change or traffic jams on the roads - but rarely one of proactively shaping the future. That is why new prospects and visions of the future are so important today – without them we cannot have a discussion on what is desirable and what is not.
What exactly is lacking?
Franziska Schreiber: Currently there is a wide range of visions of the urban future. The question is whether they are the right ones and whether they adequately take people's needs into account. Our impression is that currently they don’t. People’s needs and wellbeing are not sufficiently considered by today's urban planning processes, especially not the human senses in so-called "vision-finding or model-development processes". The focus is usually on responding to problems and finding solutions. Whether this solution corresponds to the wishes of the people or not is often not discussed.
What vision do you have for a new kind of city planning?
Franziska Schreiber: We want to develop urban visions that focus more on the concerns, wishes and dreams of those who are ultimately most affected by of urban planning: the people who live in cities. To do this we need a new approach that is more playful and sensory and that opens up a space for new ideas. We would like to ask: What does the urban space of the future look like? Additionally: How does it smell, how does it feel? Anyone who engages in such imaginative thinking can benefit from new perspectives and ideas. The Design-Thinking approach offers methodical consideration of connecting points. Right from the start, the focus is on the needs of the respective target group. Based on these, a prototype is created and discussed with the target group: Is this what you would want? How do you feel about this idea? The answers help to refine the prototype and then implement it. We should also use this as a basis for urban planning.
What kind of visions did you come up with at the Z2X Festival?
Franziska Schreiber: Our workshop showed: If you give people the space to ponder freely without judgement or criticism, amazing things can surface in no time at all. Within one hour participants had created impressive models. What I find particularly interesting is that these models are virtually the opposite of the current plans and visions of the future from prevailing city planning or science fiction.
How can you tell?
Franziska Schreiber: There are no cars in any of the models. Only on further inquiry did participants accept cars, provided they are electric or underground and nobody would be disturbed by them. They intuitively designed sheltered bicycle lanes, and one group proposed natural ground for walking barefoot. In all the models, wood was the preferred and predominant building material, across a variety of architectural styles. The workshop groups worked a lot with natural materials and all tried to design resting places in their models. They appreciate the liveliness of the city, but not stressful traffic and noise. In short, they were largely concerned with dissolving the dichotomy between urban and non-urban.
This interview was conducted by Nina Roßmann (adelphi).
More about adelphi's Urban Transformation theme.