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Flatscapes workshop – social context mapping

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FLAT.SCAPES:LAB 4.0 is a one-year urban study programme aimed at deeper understanding of the principles, methodologies and challenges in Dutch theory and practice in urban design. The lab is initiated to define and produce independent knowledge in urban planning realities for the Balkan region. As part of the study program about 150 students of architecture, urban planning and related disciplines from Novi Sad, Belgrade & Niš (Serbia), Skopje & Bitola (Macedonia), Podgorica (Montenegro) and Banja Luka & Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) explored, studied and examined the cityscapes of different cities in the Netherlands from 19- 30 July 2014. Their agenda included site visits, workshops, debates and lecturing sessions with local partners, like TU Delft, Powerhouse Company, Berlage Institute, NDSM wharf and many more. On Sunday Placemakers provided a workshop about possible integration of the social and physical disciplines in urban development. Assignment for the students was to explore the area of Amsterdam Noord through a new Placemaking app. They had to gather informal knowledge and process this in a ‘social-context map’ of the area.

First Placemakers presented about co-creation and participation in urban developments as an alternative to top-down, hierarchical models. In order to involve people and local knowledge in the design process you need to ‘read’ locations in different ways and be aware of a variety of indicators such as facilities, networks, social groups and athmosphere. These indicators are both socio-economic and physical and form a fundamental framework for development of new functions and initiatives for the area. In other word: insight in what is happening ‘on the ground’ is an important precondition for Placemaking.

IMG_6483Students walked from the creative hub de Modestraat at the Buiklotermeerplein to a festive gathering at the Noorderparkkamer at the Noorderpark. Basically they walked through an area visually in transtion – from the reminders of the modernist times, passing some indicators for the new Noord-Zuid metroline and along the water with traditional dike-houses for the affluent class. The groups arrived and presented their findings in a park that recently gained new life by the new creative citizens that started selling houses in the area in the past ten years.

During the walk students used their senses and awareness to ‘map’ the social context. They made notes on the post-its and used the new ‘Placemaking app’ to tell what they saw and felt. What kind of impression did they get from the environment? They mapped different aspects that are part of the whole context. Next to social aspects – the population in terms of age, cultural background, behavior, services – they indicated physical aspects, like different kind of buildings, green space infrastructre. Not only did they map the objects and infrastructure, but they also posted indicators about the use and feel of it: Whether they liked the area aesthetically, or whether it feels (un)safe or not. They indexed all these aspects in a creative way and made ‘soft’ and colourful social-context maps of part of Amsterdam Noord.

The Placemaking workshop might form an inspiration for new formats to gather information from the field and translate local insights and networks in a product that could be useful for urban development of areas that are diverse or/and in transition – a status that is very much applicalbe to the the Balkan countries. Since in their integration process goes hand in hand with a transition of economy, politics and education paradigms there might be space for new methods and insights for urban research.  

SCAPES:LAB is generated through three phases; (1) ANALYSIS: Mapping & Research / January-June 2014, (2) CHECK-IN-SITU: study visit tour / July 2014 and (3) Experience Archiving: Evaluation / August – December 2014. The initiative is co-initiated by IDnet and Center of Architecture, Serbia. Partners of the visit in the Netherlands (phase 2) are: NDSM, TU Delft, Salomon Frausto, Nanne de Ru / Berlage, Shapeshift Rotterdam, Placemakers, Post Office, Mitesh Dixit / Domain office, OMA, MVRDV, KAAN Architecten, Powerhouse Company, Blok47, Eva de Klerk, Piet Vollard, Spaceandmatter, Roel van Herpt & Guilio Margheri, Florian Weigl, Failed Architecture, Milena Stopić, Monnik and Francesca Miazzo.

To be continued!

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