Design and Politics: the next phase
4 - Learning to Provoke

Tuesday, 21 October 2011

The fourth of seven thematic debates taking place in 2011 / 2012.  'Design and Politics: the next phase' was initiated by ANCB The Metropolitan Laboratory in collaboration with Henk Ovink, Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. Standard urban planning approaches are no longer effective. A more politically engaged, pro-active and provocative alternative is necessary, grounded by the primary objective of giving meaning to the challenges and their development in our cities. Political design confronts these challenges, their factors, their various actors and their local situations. It is in urban architecture, in planning and urban design, that this 'politicalness' of design emerges.

Part I: Introduction

Part II: Statements and Discussion

Part I
Welcome and Introduction
Dr. h.c. Kristin Feireiss, Director, ANCB The Metropolitan Laboratory - 00:00 - 04:35
Bart Hofstede, Head of Press and Culture Department, Dutch Embassy Berlin - 04:35 - 08:38
Henk Ovink, Director for National Spatial Planning at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment - 08:38 - 29:31

Part II
Christopher Dell, Institute for Improvisation Technology, Berlin - 00:00:00 - 00:05:12
Theo Deutinger, Founding partner TD Architects, Amsterdam and Salzburg - 00:05:13 - 00:12:42
Marcus Fernhout, Co-founder of CODUM, Activistic Real-Estate Development, Rotterdam - 00:12:43 - 00:18:31
Wouter Vanstiphout, Art Historian, Professor of Design and Politics, TU Delft - 00:18:31 - 00:28:54
Petra Wesseler, Head of Urban Development Projects for the City of Chemnitz - 00:28:55 - 00:35:03

Podium Discussion
moderated by Henk Ovink, Director for National Spatial Planning at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment - 00:35:03 - 01:29:19


Henk Ovink began with a call for a politically-engaged, proactive, and provocative alternative to ‘standard’ urban planning. He then framed the discussion with provocative questions: Where are the designers to provoke the structure and process of making city? What does politics mean in this context? What can design education and research contribute to contemporary urban issues?

Podium presentations then raised a number of issues, such as: ‘architecture is still taught in isolation from politics’ [Christopher Dell]; ‘design only provokes twice – once when it works and once when it doesn’t work anymore’ [Theo Deutinger]; ‘design must engage with real economy rather than the speculative economy’ [Marcus Fernhout]; and ‘architects need to learn to provoke with a smile’ [Petra Wesseler]. Wouter Vanstiphout delivered a rousing sermon that emphasised the ‘moral responsibility of government towards the public realm’ and concluded with a call for ‘designers to engage with politics and to re-imagine wholeness’.

The discussion began with a consideration of the appropriate content and context for effective and meaningful provocation, as opposed to superficial avant-gardism. It was agreed that discussion is critical to identify and articulate pragmatic proposals with the currency to engage public enthusiasm and attract the support and sanction of public funding. Regarding the current scarcity of public funding, it was agreed that design can help politics make strategic decisions by supplying compelling holistic visions for the city and the analysis to educate both politicians and the public. Further discussion of strategic political decision-making focused on the framework or rules or criteria that must be applied to adjudicate upon ‘quality’. It was suggested that western society has lost the idea of shared values and that in their absence the city has lost its bearings in terms of determining which initiatives to support.

It was agreed that the masterplan can provide benchmarks for the assessment of quality and guiding principles to re-engage with the promoters of development when specific proposals are refused permission to proceed. Regarding a new form and vision for the masterplan as a collective cultural act, there was discussion concerning the need for a new diversity of masterplan types and scales; the need for the masterplan to be informed by participatory processes in order to adapt to changing social, economic and physical conditions; and the need to relate the masterplan to a compelling narrative of change.

Summary by Matthew Beattie for ANCB The Metropolitan Laboratory

We would like to thank the following institutions and enterprises for their generous support:
Netherlands Ministry for Infrastructure and Environment
Netherlands Architecture Fund
Dutch Embassy in Berlin
Pfefferberg - Haus 13
Kling und Freitag

ANCB Programme


Collaborative Project

For a full summary please click here


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