Urban Open Source, when considered in relation to city making, might initially seem a little idealistic. The notion that a multitude of people can be involved in successfully developing new urban codes – whether this refers to ways of using space, occupying existing structures, or redesigning regulations for buildings – implies an uncannily harmonious blend of transparency, shared objectives and collective expertise.
However, in the years since the financial crisis has taken hold, it’s clear that such idealism has been compelled to convert itself into reality. The austerity-focused recession economies of cities have led to the evolution of initiatives in which citizens take control, steering the process of change within their own communities. In turn, this irrevocable shift has forced a rethinking of decision-making and urban governance at the most fundamental level.
The analogy to developing code serves as the perfect lens though which Make City will investigate the methods by which people engage with in a shared project: designers have the tools to make design processes open, transparent and shared. Social media enables both the funding of new ideas and the petitioning against unpopular measures on unprecedented levels of scale and speed.
In the city of Berlin, such possibilities have seen the selling of public land to the highest bidder give way to the ‘concept process’ – Konzeptverfahren – as a direct result of civic engagement. Whether they like it or not, developers and architects are increasingly faced with the unavoidable imperative of participation: that which is coming from their future residents.