72 Hour Urban Action

I came across this project tonight…’72 Hour Urban Action’…and I got excited…excited as to its global potential…the local to international statement it could make  by commenting on the development of contemporary architecture today through personal interactions in and between different localities and cultural contexts in the urban and built environment. I want to get involved. Why aren’t there more projects like this going on?

’72 Hour Urban Action’ is the world’s first real-time architecture competition, where 10 international teams have 3 days and 3 nights to design and build projects in public space in response to local needs. It was founded by architect and social developer Kerem Halbrecht, who is also Co-Director of the project in collaboration with the cultural planner and curator Gilly Karjevsky. Halbrecht is also co-founder of an interesting initiative called The Spaceship in Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, Israel. It is ‘an independent collaborative group aiming to create and promote new, unorthodox and open platforms for cultural activities. It seeks to explore the viability and changing nature of public space within the constraints of an increasingly privatized world.’ Again I’d be interested in getting involved with this group as they seem to have a quite an individual creative dynamic. Anyway, back to ’72 Hour Urban Action’…Halbrecht and Karjevsky state ‘By channeling people’s passion and enthusiasm, it is possible to achieve a huge amount of work – 120 people, each giving 72 hours, this makes 8,640 hours of professional work donated. Everybody gains; the residents, the municipality, the participants. Architecture can be fun.’

‘The teams design, build, sleep and party on site to generate interventions in public space within an extreme deadline, a tight budget and limited space. ’72 Hour Urban Action’ invites professionals and residents to become active “agents of change”, from the bottom-up, and to leave a lasting impact on the urban landscape. The project seeks new ways to provide space for experimentation in public space, to involve alternative players in the creative process of urban design and to bridge the gap between planning and construction. These quests, at the periphery of the architecture and planning professions are examined in cities the world over.’ It aims to challenge accepted ideas around the ownership of public space by asking can we bring immediacy of action into the realms of architecture and planning? Who has the right to intervene in public space? Whose responsibility is it? Can we change the preconceptions about these rights and responsibilities?

The first ’72 Hour Urban Action’ took place in September 2010 as part of the Bat-Yam Biennale of Landscape Urbanism in Israel and drew participants from 20 nationalities. The Bat-Yam Biennale is a unique civic action model that encourages activist action in public space in collaboration with the local authorities. The two examples shown below are ‘Northern Gate’, which suggested a public space that would allow different uses at different times of the day, enlivening the entrance to the Business District at the intersection of two streets with different characters…the other is ‘Space Invaders’, which was awarded an honorable mention at the Bat-Yam Biennale as it suggests new applications for public space, which is increasingly invaded by individuals for their personal use.

This Summer, ’72 Hour Urban Action’ will take place in Stuttgart, all around the site of the largest urban redevelopment in Europe – Stuttgart 21 – the center of a 30 year heated public debate. Following plans to dig the entire main train station and leading lines underground, a local upheaval and social protest arose, and the city’s planning department went back to the drawing board on big parts of their plans. In this context of civic discontent, ’72 Hour Urban Action’ and local partner Kunstverein Wagenhallen, work together to provide residents and municipality with alternative mechanisms for participatory urban planning. All participants will live together on site, in an old disused train-repair hanger converted into a sleep/work center, thus enriching the neighborhood with a multicultural intense experience. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. Such a shame I’ll be nowhere near so there’s no chance I can document it as it happens. I wonder if it would come to China at all? Although I’m not sure this could even physically happen in China…and we all know why…the ’72 Hour Urban Action’ team seem to like a challenge though…make it happen!

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