The week began with the contrasting view of the semi-frozen canal and the taste of warm coffee. Once everyone arrived at the ground floor of ARCAM, and as it is accustomed in this type of event, the introductory presentation and quick welcome to the participants were followed by a round of individual presentations: “your name and background, please”. This simple gesture developed into an interesting exercise as it quickly became clear that the room was filled with people from very diverse professional areas. Architects, product designers, digital artists, activists, visual thinkers, academics and policymakers were, amongst others, taking part in the workshop. The heterogeneous backgrounds of the participants acted as an early reminder of the complexity (and openness) that accompanies some of the underlying questions of the event. To begin with, the basic concerns regarding just by whom, and with which skills and perspectives, the “social cities of tomorrow” should be designed.
The idea of a social city was further characterized during the presentation given by Martijn de Waal (The Mobile City). A social city can be interpret as the product of a shared desire to map, trace and, most of all, generate connections between the people that live together in a city and the space they inhabit. More concretely, how can we design cities that people feel they are at home, that they belong, that it’s their city? That they want to take responsibility, take action, how do we design for ownership? How do we involve people with their surroundings? These concerns can all be condensed into the question of how to engage and facilitate the weaving of an urban fabric that is based on human connections and needs. When looked at from this perspective, to borrow an expression from Mark Shepard, post-disciplinarity becomes a requisite for building a city that facilitates innovative actions and modes of participation amongst their citizens. How are these principles already palpable in the workshop room going to be applied to the case studies and how will the combination of the different skills and perspectives of the participants will dialogue and provide innovative solutions are definitely an exciting thing to look forward to.