Play the City Talk Show

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Former Design as Politics colleague Ekim Tan (teacher in our 2012 ‘We the People’ studio) will host the talk show ‘How City Gaming will Save City Planning’ on Friday 12 September in the Mediamatic Fabriek, Amsterdam.

The event is organized to celebrate the completion of her doctoral research earlier that day, and the publication of the corresponding book Negotiation and Design for the Self-Organizing City. In this book she describes the development of the method through the evaluation of six real city games. Each game was designed to support local city-makers, from architects to neighborhood groups, housing corporations, cultural institutions, and municipalities, in their joint efforts to evolve their cities. The Play the City Talk Show has a great line-up of professionals who gather to discuss the relevancy of City Games to Collaborative City Making, so don’t miss it!


Nurul Azlan at he Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space conference

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The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis organized The Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space conference from June 18th-20th 2014. 150 papers from 200 participants were presented, with themes ranging from the transformation of publicness to creative industries, and democracy and activism. Design as Politics’ PhD candidate Nurul Azreen Azlan was one of the speakers.

Social media has been a pervasive force in contemporary public life, redefining the way we connect and communicate within the past ten years. This meteoric rise and rapid development, combined with the robust nature of the technology and the fluid way it permeates different aspects of life, make it an endless source of fascination for scholars from a variety of disciplines.

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Nurul’s work was presented within the Global Protest theme, where she talked about the state’s response to digital activism in postcolonial Malaysia, where social media played (and still play) a crucial role as a platform of communication for dissenters. This free flow of information happening in the cyber realm (Twitterjaya) started to loosen the monopoly of the state on the material urban space, resulting in several street protests since the first Bersih protest in 2007. Used to keeping more traditional media in line with a set of laws that encourage self-censorship, the state is limited by their own policy of no censorship when it comes to the internet, a result of the Multimedia Super Corridor initiative set up in the mid 1990s to jump on to the knowledge economy bandwagon. The democratisation of both public spheres is happening simultaneously, and the state is playing catch up in the social media game.

Post Bersih 2.0 in 2011, the police released a video depicting their own version of the protest, where they presented themselves in a more positive light compared to the protesters’ version of the event. In another protest against the rising cost of living, Bernama, the state news agency, used a different hashtag to refer to the event, using the more provocative #guling (topple) than the hashtag used by the organisers: #turun (down/go down). The term ‘cyber troopers’ also surfaced since 2011 to refer to people ostensibly paid by the state to monitor and counter the statements and claims that are critical of their policies and actions. Countering this, the term Red Bean Army was used to refer to people in similar roles tweeting and facebooking for an opposition party, the DAP. Individual politicians also got on board, tweeting and setting up facebook pages to reciprocate their counterparts in the opposition. The Malaysian Prime Minister’s twitter account has two million followers, making it the most popular account, if the number of followers is the measure you use to look at how popular social media accounts are. Some savvy politicians use social media to engage each other and communicate with their constituents and the public in general, while some are more careful and use the technology as they would with traditional media, as a broadcasting outlet.

These are then propped up by already existing laws like the Sedition Act 1948 and the Emergency Ordinance which allow for arrest and detention if you are deemed to make seditious and subversive statements, and the Printing and Publication Act 1984 and Broadcasting Act 1984 which regulations demand that licensing is approved on annual basis. Add to that the libel and defamation suits slapped on bloggers and online newspapers, and one can say that they got it covered pretty well.

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So what does this mean for the imagery of public sphere in Malaysia? In a way, if you were to take dissent out of the equation, the development of the Malaysian cyber sphere has managed to mirror that of the offline public sphere, with the urban-rural and communitarian and sectarian divide, and also the consumption of content which is more heavy on shopping and entertainment than political discourse. The Prime Minister may come first in the top ten list of tweet accounts that have the most followers, but the rest of the list are made up of entertainment artistes. This observation is also extended to blogs, with the most read blogs made up of tech and gossip sites. As Evegny Morozov has informed us in his excellent book The Net Delusion, East Berliners who could access Western media content were more interested to watch Dynasty than getting alternative views of political issues.

There is this disjuncture between this image of the internet being a liberating tool what with the proliferation of protests and all, and the actual situation if you were to zoom out a little to get an overview, only to find out that Internet has probably only widen the public sphere, and that’s about it. Then again, maybe that’s exactly what we need, a widening public sphere, and given how fluid and fast the technology is changing, this will pave way for more positive changes.

A Clockwork Jerusalem

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Design as Politics’ Professor Wouter Vanstiphout together with his office Crimson Architectural Historians and FAT Architecture, is curating the exhibition of the Britsh Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia

The exhibition titled A Clockwork Jerusalem will explore how the international influences of Modernism became mixed with long standing British sensibilities. It examines how traditions of the romantic, sublime and pastoral, as well as interests in technology and science fiction were absorbed to create a specifically British form of Modernism.

The exhibition focusses on the mature flowering of British Modernism; the moment it was at its most ambitious socially, politically and architecturally, but which also witnessed its collapse. A variety of large scale projects offer insights into the way architecture was central to manufacturing a new vision of society at a scale inconceivable in today’s Britain. It will explore how the modern future of Britain was built from an unlikely combination of interests and show how these projects have changed our physical and imaginative landscapes.

The Venice Biennale will be open to the public from 7 June to 23 November 2014, with preview days on the 5 and 6 June. The title chosen by curator Rem Koolhaas for the 14th International Architecture Exhibition is Fundamentals. The British Pavilion, is located in the Giardini. All national pavilions have been asked to respond to a common theme – Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 – exploring the history of architecture in their country during this period, with its own particular emphasis and originality. In total 66 national participations will be exhibiting in 2014, in the historic pavilions of the Giardini but also as part of the Arsenale, and across the city of Venice.

The Spatial Interdependencies Beyond the City


Design as Politics’ Marta Relats will be in Berlin next week to talk at the public symposium REGION AS CITY: The Spatial Interdependencies Beyond the City – organized by ANCB in collaboration with the Leibniz Universität Hannover and the Netherlands Embassy in Berlin.

Marta will present the key outcomes of the 2012 design workshop ‘Shrinking Regions, Growing democracy’ in which Design as Politics’students explored a democratic urban future for the Prignitz region.

The event takes place at 12 May 2014, 3:00pm and will be in English. Admission is free. Please register at

NEW! Graduation Studio 2014/2015

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The Design as politics team is very proud to announce our 2014/2015 TU Delft Master graduation Studio: New Utopias on the Ruins of the Welfare State.

During this studio, we will try to find the utopian thinking that comes up when old orders collapse. We are living in an age where nation states seem to become weaker and weaker, under the influence of privatisation, localism but also of globalisation and supra-national politics like that of the European Union. Countries seem to be both falling apart in small fragments as well as being dissolved into huge global networks.

Architecture and Urbanism have for a long time been dependent on the nation state. We cannot imagine doing without a strong government and huge public investments for developing housing projects and public buildings, or for designing huge and even utopian visions for new cities and regions. Architecture and planning are starting to lose their traditional role and authority to represent the nation.

But is this a bad thing? Can we imagine a world without the state? Can we imagine architecture and planning without public authority? Can we imagine a purely community based design? Now that we see the structures and certainties of the twentieth century crumbling around us, the new ideas are coming from small, autonomous even anarchistic communities and initiatives. Here we find the imagination of new societies: on the ruins of the welfare state.

Utopian thinking and design happens when you imagine what to do when forced to start all over again. With this studio we ask students to imagine their ideal small community, as a radical alternative to the large systems that we are living in but that cannot function much longer. After painting their ideal utopian community, the students are asked to develop plausible ways of realizing them. All scales are allowed, all ideologies are allowed, all levels of realism are allowed, as long they are consistent, imaginative and relevant to the problems our cities and regions are facing right now.

New Utopias on the Ruins of the Welfare State, will offer an intense Msc3 and Msc4 studio, that offers great freedom in defining and developing your own idea, but also collective workshops and lectures by specialists in the fields of architecture, planning, philosophy, art and politics.

How to apply?
If you are an architecture or an urbanism student at Delft University of Technology, willing and able to dedicate yourself to a studio that is at once rigorous and experimental, freethinking and super-pragmatic, individualist yet with a strong team spirit, then send us an email describing your utopian community and your motivation to join this studio (max. 1,5 A4 / 600 words), and include some examples of your previous writings and designs before May 7th 2014.




Colour Your Space


One of the important factors leading to attractive cities and neighborhoods, is the quality of the public space. Still we know very little of what people really think of their immediate surroundings, while they are the ones who use it the most.

This is one of the reasons our PhD candidate Els Leclercq is currently developing an app as part of her dissertation. The app allows anyone to assess, rate and record the quality of their public spaces in a simple way in their own time. This does not only generate empirical data about the status of our public space by a variety of users, but the tool could also be used to increase the input of local residents and users in any regeneration project. Based on an unbiased assessment, spaces can then be reconfigured with design interventions that are responsive to the experiences and aspirations of daily users. 80% of the Dutch population now has a smartphone and could potentially engage in new more democratic forms of changing cities.

In a first step to test this new form of interactive consultation, a pilot project was launched at Tiendplein in Rotterdam. Local residents, business operators and passers-by are being encouraged to give their opinion of the public realm in an easy and straightforward way via their mobile phones. The output will eventually be used for the re-design of the square.

Also interested in rating  your local area, wherever you are in the world? Then download the app Color your Space from the app store. All feed back is at this stage enormously helpful to be able to further develop Color your Space.

Follow the progress and results of Color your Space on facebook.


The New Town- From Welfare City to Neoliberal Utopia

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New Towns are Politics! That’s why, at the end of this month we will start a public lecture series organized in collaboration with the International New Town Institute carrying the title ‘The New Town- From Welfare City to Neoliberal Utopia.’

The lectures will follow a chronological story on new town planning in the 20th century, explaining how the design of New Towns was based on experiments in the pre-war period with utopian, communal living, was then discovered by national governments as ways to further their very diverse political agendas, later became a symbol of modernization and progress in the postwar period and is now used as a tool for investors, developers and multinational corporations to create huge profits, thereby abandoning the original public goals of New Town Planning.

The weekly lectures will take place on Tuesdays  from 13:45 – 15:00, starting April 22nd. For each lecture we invited a specialist from the field of urban design, planning or theory to give you a multidisciplinary overview of the New Town planning all over the world. Amongst the speakers are: Michelle Provoost, Wouter Vanstiphout, Len de Klerk, Vincent Nadin, Ivan Nio, Sophie van Ginneken, Arnold Reijndorp and Anthony townsend [TBC]. Click here for more information and the most up-to-date schedule.