Design Shaping New Possibilities for Urban Life

image via sd.polyu.edu.hk

So DS4SI has been thinking about a LifeLab to bring divergent fields together to consider design solutions to a familiar problem: how can we rearrange our lives so we can afford them, so they don’t destroy the earth, and so they aren’t completely dependent on the very systems that dispossess our local communities. Here are some European folks thinking along similar lines with us from across the pond and some interested examples to learn from and share. Check out “RESHAPING URBAN LIVES – DESIGN AS SOCIAL INTERVENTION TOWARDS COMMUNITY NETWORKS”


Conflux 2009 this weekend in NYC

From architects to skateboarders, Conflux participants have an enthusiasm for the city that’s contagious. Over the course of the long weekend the sidewalks are literally transformed into a mobile laboratory for creative action. With tools ranging from traditional paper maps to high-tech mobile devices, artists present walking tours, public installations and interactive performance, as well as bike and subway expeditions, workshops, a lecture series, a film program and live music performances at night.

Don’t miss — http://confluxfestival.org/2009/

The Village Voice describes Conflux as a “network of maverick artists and unorthodox urban investigators… making fresh, if underground, contributions to pedestrian life in New York City, and upping the ante on today’s fight for the soul of high-density metropolises.”

[MURMUR] Making Place Matter

image via murmurorange.com

Are the places that matter most to you part of the official narrative of your city? Chances are they are not…

But projects like [murmur] help to make places matter for everyone. The latest launch comes to us from a group of high school students in Orange, NJ recorded people’s stories about places and developed this: http://murmurorange.com/

At its core, [murmur]‘s mission is to allow more voices to be woven into the “official” narrative of a place or city, democratizing the ability to shape people’s perspectives of place, and making cities, neighbourhoods and ordinary places come alive in new ways for listeners. [murmur]’s stories, though personal or even purely anecdotal, inevitably reveal elements of the wider social, civic and political history of a given spot, its surrounding location, and the communities and individuals connected to it. And each story’s details truly come alive as the listener walks through, around, and into the narrative. By engaging with [murmur], people develop a new intimacy with their surroundings and “history” acquires a multitude of new voices, while the physical experience of hearing a story in its actual setting – of hearing the walls talk – brings uncommon knowledge to common space, bringing people closer to the real histories that make up their world, and to one another.

What places would you put on the [murmur] map in your city?

You can join us for the official launch party!!

[murmur] Orange Launch Party, Ironworks Studio, 406 Tompkins Street, Orange, NJ 07050,

Sunday September 20, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Directions from nyc: Take the 1:11 NJ Transit train from Penn Station to Highland Ave.  From Highland Ave.: Walk downstairs and go right on Freeman Street, walk two blocks and turn left on Tompkins Street.  Ironworks Studio will be on your left.

Idea of the Week

Youth Urbanism

We came up with this term as we thought about the question: How do we as folk who care about civil society and young people think about the ways in which cities impact youth? And how do we think about how young people impact cities? It came from a long-term conversation we've been having with our colleagues about how we work on population-wide concerns, particularly for youth. Cities tend to be constructed from the perspective of adults, and youth tend to get a bad rap in and from cities. Young people function ideologically as “matter out of place” in many cities, to quote Mary Douglas. Their presence is often reduced to nuisance, and their activities and habits of congregations in cities are suspect to adults. We think that the ways in which youth then become situated and create places for themselves in cities, places from the margins, leads to population-wide problems for youth.

If what we just said in any way rings true to you, and your work in any way intersects with youth and/or cities, we ask you this question: How are youth affected by places that see them as a detriment, a detractor to that places imagined set of user experiences? We all know when we aren't wanted; what happens when this attitude is carried out structurally in real space and time?

Now turn that on its head! If cities were imagined to help youth have a generally good experience of being young and for youth to contribute to everyone's experience of the city, how would cities look, feel and function? What would need to be different for design to include youth from the get-go? What would be the end result? We think it would be cities that were more interesting for all of us!