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99 actions: What You Can Do With the City

99 actions: What You Can Do With the City
01 Dec 2009

The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) presents an exhibition (now in Chicago) with 99 actions that instigate positive change in contemporary cities around the world. Seemingly common activities such as walking, playing, recycling, and gardening are pushed beyond their usual definition by the international architects, artists, and collectives featured in the exhibition. Their experimental interactions with the urban environment show the potential influence personal involvement can have in shaping the city, and challenge fellow residents to participate.

The 99 actions featured include projects related to the production of food and possibilities of urban agriculture; the planning and creation of public spaces to strengthen community interactions; the recycling of abandoned buildings for new purposes; the use of the urban fabric as a terrain for play such as soccer, climbing, skateboarding, or parkour; the alternate use of roads for walking, or rail lines as park space; the design of clothing to circumvent urban barriers against resting on benches or sliding on railings; among others.

Here are some of the projects.


Ping-Pong Connects Neighbours (© Droog Design - Photo by Misha de Ridder)

The Table Tennis Fence subverts the fence as a dividing element. A built-in ping pong table can be opened for neighbours to play with each other, transforming the fence into a meeting place. Share Fence is a related project with cut-outs in the shape of gardening tools like trowels and a watering can. Neighbours can hang tools to be shared in fence holes where they are accessible from both sides. Droog Design was founded in Amsterdam in 1993 by Bakker and Renny Ramakers. NEXT Architects was founded by four graduates from the Delft University of Technology.

Sheep and Lambs Eat City Parks (©Daniele Hosmer Zambelli)

The city of Turin saved 30,000 euros by using sheep to mow lawns at three public parks. In Pasture in the City, cows were also used during the experimental first year, but because they produced too much manure they have not returned. Traffic is diverted for the herd of sheep to enter the city. After the animals are rotated through fenced-off parks for two months, they return to the Alps for the remainder of the summer. The sheep aerate and fertilize their temporary pastures.

Reclaim Vacant Lot with What City’s Got (© Recetas Urbanas)

A proposal made to the city of Seville for legislation to assist in the temporary transformation of public and private solares – vacant lots walled off for security – into public spaces for at least six months. Wall rubble is incorporated into the design, and elements of car and pedestrian barriers are used to construct benches, see-saws, swings, and bike racks with readily available plastic materials like concrete. Instruction sheets were produced to allow residents to construct their own furniture. The project is designed to minimize material movement, cost, and other barriers to change. Santiago Cirugeda is an architect based in Seville who has proposed semi-legal strategies for housing and urban renovation under the name Recetas Urbanas, or “urban prescriptions,” since 1996. He inhabits gaps between laws, exploiting overlap and oversight to practice autonomous architecture.

Outlaw Gardeners Beautify City (© Richard Reynolds)

Richard Reynolds, or Richard 001, as he is known in the organization, descends on traffic islands, forgotten parks, public gardens, and roadway edges with troops around the world; he transforms ignored spaces into beautiful gardens. Other troops focus on productive planting, encouraging vegetable and fruit farming in the city.
Although Richard 001’s little war against mundane landscaping began in 2004 when he became fed up with the sorry condition of the yard in front of his apartment building, the guerrilla gardening movement can be traced back to at least the 1970s, when artists like Liz Christy and Gordon Matta-Clark used the term to describe illegal, and often nocturnal, horticulture missions.

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