Action! On the Real City
Play, Negotiate and Act!
‘Livability’ has become an inescapable buzzword in contemporary planning and politics, as cities scramble to attract new business and investment. But what actually contributes to quality of life in an urban environment? How can cultural and social spaces like cafes, bars, restaurants, and performance venues play a catalytic role when it comes to livability? Presented in collaboration with the Zurich-based property developers We Are Content (WAC), this elective course will focus on understanding how architects and developers can partner in creating distinct spaces that activate and anchor the social life of a neighborhood, while also promoting a vibrant local economy. Students will help develop an innovative new methodology to measure and improve the impact of these projects, with special reference to WAC’s redevelopment and reprogramming of the Volkshaus Basel as an in-depth case study.
Beginning with a consideration of how conventional livability metrics might change if we zoom from the city scale to the level of a neighborhood or cluster of blocks, the course will then explore the ‘special’ role of cultural and social spaces and the different interests – investors, patrons, community, architects, local authorities – they embody. Building on this interdisciplinary discussion, which will touch on ideas from economics, sociology, psychology, and public policy, a series of practical case studies focused on existing sites in Zurich will be used to develop a new methodology that could guide architects and developers in the design and execution of future projects. The course aims to provide both creative and analytical tools, and will draw extensively on the real world experience gained by WAC in projects like the Volkshaus Basel, Helvti Diner, and Hotel Restaurant Helvetica.