We Own the City Prepares to Launch: The Beginning at the End

We Own the City the publication is preparing to launch! As the journey reaches an end, a new beginning emerges with insight into re-institutionalizing urban development in a more collaborative, innovative, effective and citizen-involved fashion.

Three years ago in 2011, We Own the City emerged to portray the results of a research initiative investigating bottom-up initiatives and their relationships with urban development history here in Amsterdam, produced in collaboration with ARCAM, the Amsterdam Center of Architecture. The traction and momentum gained continued until 2013, when CITIES spent five months, March through July, developing the comparative, global research design that would culminate in the publication of We Own the City.

But what does this mean, We Own the City? Literally, we do not own the city; the name therefore metaphorically projects the intent: approaching the issue of bottom-up development by turning the discourse upside down and targeting the role of institutions in citizen-initiated urban developments.

The End: A New Beginning
Throughout the research and writing process, we have shared insight into the developments – see here and here. Today, the book is written, currently undergoing fine-tuning and sorting graphical logistics. But what does this mean for We Own the City as we near the end of such a journey?

Pakhuis de Zwijger asked this same question, and thought that others should know the story and the answer, as well, so they asked CITIES’ co-founder and managing director Francesca Miazzo to write a feature article for their print magazine sharing what we have shared so far with CITIES’ online community, and what we have not. Therefore, it is time we share what is to come in the near future culmination of We Own the City the publication and where the future is, we hope, headed.

Looking behind the scenes, establishing a relationship with Tris Kee, assistant professor and director of the “Community Workshop” in the Faculty of Architecture in Hong Kong, triggered the initial ambition to partner with Simon Franke from Trancity*Valiz Publishing Co. and gain support from the Fund for the Creative Industries that laid the first big steps of We Own the City’s journey.

After extensive research into contemporary urban pioneerism in Amsterdam, New York City, Hong Kong, Moscow and Taipei, We Own the City: Enabling Community Practice in Architecture and Planning will have its kick-off launch party here in Amsterdam at Pakhuis de Zwijger on May 27th. We are excited to throw this book launch party and will be sure to make it an event you will not want to miss. For those of you in other areas of the world, the book is scheduled to launch at Strelka Institute in Moscow on June 17th and in New York City on the 19th of September with location details and dates for Hong Kong and Taipei soon to come.

We do not only see this book launch as the sharing of our journey and culmination of informative, intensive global research, but as the beginning of a new wave that has already started forming in cities around the world. We simply saw this wave coming and did some investigative research to figure out how the transitional wave of bottom-up actors are operating within the urban development playing field of traditional top-down actors. As Miazzo comments in her Pakhuis de Zwijger article:

“The point of We Own The City is not to show people how to ‘own’ their city, but uses several cases of what is generally called bottom-up development to knock at the door of the actors standing at the opposite side of contemporary urbanism–institutions, real estate, housing associations and companies that perform top-down urbanism and are recently coping with the failures of implementing non-integrated approaches.”
 
Therefore, instead of having the urban development wave destructively crash down upon cities, we intend to inform a smooth transition, where a new wave of urban development emerges through conscious partnerships between citizen initiatives and institutions, that perhaps surfaces further ways of giving greater ‘ownership’ to citizens and altering an ever-evolving urban development landscape.

In the words of Miazzo, the heart of We Own the City pulses around this notion:

“In the process of analyzing the rise of community planning, We Own The City regards organizations and governments as actors with the power and authority to help bottom-up actors become more established. We believe, and found, that by looking for patterns, similarities and differences, it is possible to recognize valuable moments where urban development reaches the point of encounter between citizens and institutions. We Own The City seeks to bring these isolated attempts together in order to create flexible and adaptable institutionalized standards. With this approach, urban pioneers are fastened with traditional actors, creating a generational shift in the urban planning discipline. We Own The City discovers and highlights this relocation of the urban focus and shows how it is deployed in practical terms.”
 
You are invited!

Join us for the book launch in Amsterdam on May 27th at Pakhuis de Zwijger. Stay tuned for more details on the proceedings, as well as information on launches in other cities.

Created on 10 March 2014

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