Category Archives: Debate

Upcoming Public lectures

lets work lecturesLets Work Urbanism Poster

We have two amazing public lectures coming up next week as part of our graduation studio Lets Work! – Industry, Architecture and the City.

The first is on Monday 29 September, by Design as Politics professor’ Wouter Vanstiphout about the theme of this year’s graduation studio and what this means for Architecture and Urban Design. Albert Kahn’s daylight factory, Cedric Price’s Fun Palace, the precariat, robotization, off- and onshoring, the share economy. It’s all part of this brand new Design as Politics lecture! So join us on Monday 28 Sept. at 08:45 in Room B at the TU Delft Faculty of Architecture.

For the second lecture we’ve invited Economic Geographer and Urban Planner Ronald Wall – head of the Urban Competitiveness and Resilience department at the Erasmus University. Ronald will give an interesting perspective to the topic of work and urban development. He will talk about the relationship between global and local economic development, urban competitiveness and what this means for the design of our cities. The lecture takes place on Tuesday 29 September at 15:45 – 17:15, , TU Delft Faculty of Architecture, Room B

Lecture Ronald Wall

Wall is specialised in urban economic development, city network analysis and urban planning. He worked for various mayor urban planning offices like OMA, MVRDV and West 8 as well as for the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM) –  working on planning in China, Ghana, South Africa, South Korea and various European countries. He worked for the Berlage Institute / South Korean government on the development of a new town in South Korea and worked with Volume/AMO and the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, on research concerning Middle Eastern cities and their economic networks with other cities around the world.

Design as Politics PhD Nurul Azlan in IIAS newsletter

Protest and public space in Kuala LumpurKuala_Lumpur_Malaysia_Bangunan_Parlimen_Malaysia-02 copy

Design as Politics’ PhD candidate Nurul Azlan wrote an interesting article in the Newsletter of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) about protest and public space in Kuala Lumpur. Read it here below:

‘Mansuh! Mansuh! Akta Hasutan!’ (Repeal! Repeal! The Sedition Act!) chanted the lawyers marching towards the Parliament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 16 October 2014. This protest, organised by the Bar Council, was one of the latest events since the 2007 Bersih rally kick-started a renewed protest culture in Malaysia. Most of these protests happened in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, even though since 1998, most government functions have moved twenty-five kilometres away to Putrajaya, a purpose-built administrative capital built in the heyday of the mega-projects of the 1990s. Despite this, the wide boulevards of Putrajaya remain relatively bereft of public claim-making acts, save for a few protests now and then.

The world’s first Intelligent Garden City
Political protests aimed clearly at particular authorities customarily take place where the authorities in question are. This is why protests take place in front of the White House or No. 10 Downing Street. In the Netherlands, which also has two ‘capitals’ like Malaysia, protests happen equally in The Hague, the seat of government and also in Amsterdam, the commercial capital, depending on the cause. Not so in Malaysia, where Putrajaya hardly ever invites those wishing to demonstrate.

An instant city built over the span of ten years, Putrajaya prides itself as the world’s first Intelligent Garden City, claiming on its website that it advances Ebenezer Howard’s concept of the ‘garden city’. Just like Brasilia, Putrajaya is typically Modernist: the programs are separated accordingly in different precincts, and as an antidote to the notorious congestion of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya was planned with ease of driving (but not mass transit) in mind, hence a network of wide roads connecting the precincts. The centre of Putrajaya, a hundred metre wide boulevard, is lined with grand buildings which house ministries and government departments. A series of squares, or nodes, are placed intermittently along this strong axis, marking the importance of the Palace of Justice, the Ministry of Finance and finally the Prime Minister’s Office Complex, which is preceded by Dataran Putra (Putra Square). An overcrowded mall, away from the boulevard, becomes a focal point of convergence for those living in Putrajaya, and the public transport interchange is situated on the outskirts of the city, serving both Putrajaya and its equally desolate neighbour Cyberjaya, once envisioned to be Malaysia’s version of the Silicon Valley.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 09.57.58

Activists and protesters in Malaysia informed me that even though the government sits there, Putrajaya is not the preferred location for protest because of the lack of accessibility, the single use of government functions, and also the coarse urban fabric of huge and ill-defined open spaces, made worse by the lack of shady trees. Dataran Putra is not really a square in the conventional sense, as its perimeters and form are not defined by the structures enclosing it, unlike Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) in Kuala Lumpur which functions more like an outdoor room. The huge square, with its intricate Middle Eastern patterns, is best appreciated from above, but the quality of urban spaces is better measured at pedestrian level.

A huge volume of people would be needed to fill in the spaces for the image to be impactful, and the logistics of moving a huge number of people to a place not accessible by public Transportation is problematic, not to mention conspicuous. The single use program also means that before and after protest, protesters would not have anywhere to go for respite and refreshments. During protest, should a clash happen, the big wide spaces make it more difficult to escape and hide from the authorities. The difficulty to protest there, and the fact that Putrajaya claims to be an Intelligent City, brings us to the current debate of the Smart Cities concept, where the drive to be efficient should not turn us into an Orwellian society. This analysis of high-tech surveillance to anticipate and avoid public disorder, however, does not apply to Putrajaya, which has managed to do it through town planning and with low-tech means.

Kuala Lumpur, the old capital
On the other hand, out-of-town protesters could take the night bus to Kuala Lumpur, arrive the next morning, do other activities while melting into the city crowd, attend the protest, get refreshments post-protest, and then take the night bus back to wherever they came from. Or they could stay in one of the many hotels in central KL. Thus, the organisers are free to focus all their attention on the running of the rally itself. This is all possible due to the accessibility; the bus station is within the protest area, and central KL is well-served by rail and town bus transports; the mix of programs allowing for other activities before and after protest; the tight urban form allowing easy walking distance and the maze of backstreets for escape.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 10.00.42

Kuala Lumpur grew organically from a mining town founded in the mid-19th century into the capital of Malaysia. The centre of activities in the early days was at the confluence of Gombak and Klang Rivers, and it was from these river banks the city grew. Its tight urban form was shaped by the fine-grained blocks of mixed-use shop-houses, and this was matched by the imposing British administrative buildings arranged around the Padang, a staid rectangular square, made all the more imposing due to the contrast with the narrow streets of old Kuala Lumpur. The Padang, renamed Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), is one of the contested spaces of protest in Kuala Lumpur, along with other spaces of national importance such as Stadium Merdeka (Independence Stadium) and the Parliament, where the recent Sedition Act protest took place.

This is despite the speedy rate at which shopping malls have taken over as ‘public spaces’ (I am using the term very loosely here) for people living in Malaysian main cities (on the ExpatgoMalaysia website you will find a list of top twenty shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur). In the controlled pseudo-urban environs of Publika, one of the newer shopping malls (it is on the list), you can even sample a slice of vibrant ‘public space’, albeit without the mess and friction you would get on a real street. But protest in a shopping mall, no matter how much it looks like your bog standard public space, is almost impossible due to the private nature of the place. In 2011, protesters who gathered in Suria KLCC, the shopping mall at the base of the Petronas twin towers (once the world’s tallest building between 1998 and 2004, the towers are also part of the mega-projects of the 1990s) were met with threats of legal action by the management of the shopping mall, citing that the protest disrupted the business operations of their tenants. Ironically, the protest, called Kill the Bill, was about the Peaceful Assembly Act, which as the name suggests, regulates public gatherings in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, in addition to serving as the theatre of dissent for political protests, the urban spaces of old Kuala Lumpur continue to thrive as new immigrants use them as public spaces. The socio-spatial patterns of Kuala Lumpur have changed, and in doing so, it remains unchanged by delivering its historic functions of hosting new immigrants.

Public space, public life
Prior to protesting in front of the Parliament in October 2014, the lawyers had held a similar protest in Putrajaya in 2007. The busses carrying them were blocked by the police a few kilometres away from the centre, and as a result, the lawyers had had to walk longer to reach the Palace of Justice. Compare this to the 2014 event, the meeting place at Padang Merbuk was only one kilometre away from both the Parliament and the closest rail station, and the Bar Council office and many law firms are in this area. In Malaysia’s often scorching heat, this difference is crucial for a good turnout. During my fieldwork, I alighted at the Masjid Jamek LRT (Light Rail Transit) Station at 10am, and joined the black and white throng heading towards Padang Merbuk. Shortly before 3pm, I took the LRT to Suria KLCC, for another meeting.

Accessibility, mixed-use programs, and well-defined and comfortable urban spaces are also criteria that define a good public space, although the discourse on liveability is normally framed in the perpetuity of everyday life; living, working, playing, and shopping. The notion that the ideal space for protest is the same ideal space for other urban activities, further cements the role of protest as an integral part of public life. One might argue about the effectiveness of treating protest as a day-outing, as those in Kuala Lumpur seem to do, but the point of a political protest is to broadcast grievances via disruption of the everyday, hence gaining the attention of the authorities in question, and also to instil awareness and hopefully gain support from those watching on the side. Being able to do this is part of public life, and as it also has the same spatial requirements of other urban activities, should be treated as such. The availability of high quality urban spaces, where public roles could be played, should take precedence over the proliferation of shopping malls. Perhaps by going to the streets to protest, the trend of substituting public space for shopping malls will start to reverse, and hence, the role of the public will change again from being consumers to citizens. Perhaps, the picturesque and ‘intelligent’ urban spaces of Putrajaya will also become actual public spaces.

The New Town on Gebiedsontwikkeling.nu

New Towns Then and Nowc-55464b183dc1f

We have recently started again our public lecture series ‘The New Town – From Welfare City to Neoliberal Utopia” in collaboration with the international New Town Institute. Eric Burgers – A reporter from the independent Dutch platform Gebiedsontwikkeling.nu attended the first lecture and wrote a nice piece about it:

On 21 April, Michelle Provoost (director INTI International New Town Institute) en Wouter Vanstiphout (professor Design as Politics) kicked off the lecture series at the TU Delft Faculty of Architecture. New town building is often associated with the post-war period, the 50’s and 60’s of the 20th century, when urban growth worldwide was often accommodated by creating new sizeable autonomous urban environments from scratch. But, as Vanstiphout points out, there are older examples of how entire urban environments are created purposefully (and top-down). As the planning structure of Washington D.C. and other capital cities clearly show, new states tend to plan and build new capitals as material symbols of state ideals. ‘Washington’s layout is the layout of US democracy.’

Garden cities
Governments are however not the only forces behind new town planning and development. Social movements, looking for alternatives for institutional urban planning, are responsible for some of the most innovative planning developments in the 20th century. Prime example is the garden city model by Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928). Combining the qualities of urban and rural communities he designed a new type of residential area, away from the disadvantages and drawbacks of industrial society and based on specific notions of social organisation, such as self-sufficiency. Vanstiphout: ‘From the twenties and thirties onward, the garden city model was appropriated by governments of all political creeds at home and abroad and thus became a basis for shaping the post-war welfare state.’ The idea that towns, cities and even an entire country, can be spatially, economically and socially restructured and reorganised by building up society from the household upwards, became a central notion in spatial and housing development. In the Netherlands, new towns, connected by new infrastructure – from telephone lines to motorways – and with all the functions and amenities that go with the welfare state clearly designated, were for several decades destined to help shape and epitomise modern society, populated by more or less egalitarian communities, ‘the whole functioning as a single state-driven machine.’ Continue reading

LECTURE AND DEBATE BY MICHELLE PROVOOST, ALFREDO BRILLEMBOURG AND HUBERT KLUMPNER

INTI vs. UTT691ba4e6-2408-4dc7-85cf-a9eb16a7340b

The chair of Design as Politics and Utrecht Manifest present Social Design of Cities – The International New Town Institute vs. the Urban Think Thank. The event starts with two presentations: one by INTI director Michelle Provoost and one by the UTT directors Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner. We conclude the evening with a conversation with a.o. Pieter Hooimeijer, professor of Social Geography at the University of Utrecht. The event takes place on the 1st of April from 17:30 – 21:30 at the TU Delft Faculty of Architecture. The evening is moderated by Design as Politics professor Wouter Vanstiphout. Sounds good? Click here to register!

The International New Town Institute and the Urban Think Tank: two practices, both constantly traveling the world from their European base stations. The first consists of historians, curators and researchers, the second of architects and planners. The INTI works in New Towns in all five continents, new towns that are being built or are in transition, and aims to improve their social and spatial qualities by starting projects in which local and international architects, researchers, activists, administrators and the local population collaborate. Urban Think Tank works all over the world, developing architectural solutions together with local groups, resulting in real interventions, often in unplanned, informal settlements in the developing world.

Both INTI and UTT believe that despite their obvious differences, the far flung places in which they work have something in common in their needs, but also have local knowledge that they can share.

Michelle Provoost, director of INTI and partner of Crimson Architectural Historians, and Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner directors of Urban Think Tank, and professors of Architecture and Urban Design at the ETH Zürich are social designers in that they are primarily interested in the social outcome of their spatial interventions. Their presentations will show two distinct but connected attitudes to the challenges posed by working globally with local actors.

What is universal and what is locally specific in their work? What do the planned New Towns and the unplanned informal settlements have to learn from each other? Where does the work of the organizer become that of a designer and vice versa? How do you measure success when your goal is incremental social change?

Program April 1st:
17:30 h door open, reception with sandwiches and drinks
18:30 – 20:30 h presentation and debate
20:30 h drinks

Location: Oost Serre – TU Delft, Faculty of Architecture
Click here to register For more information www.utrechtmanifest.nl

A Clockwork Jerusalem: architecture, politics, riots and the belief in a better world

Wouter Vanstiphout in Romearticle-2023254-0D55048800000578-693_964x594

A week from now Wouter Vanstiphout will talk at the British School in Rome, on Via Gramsci (!) about the relationship between architecture, creativity and politics.

In his lecture, Wouter will discuss how architecture and town planning have for centuries been used to create the infrastructure and the institutional icons for nation states. It has been deployed as a tool to force people into certain behavioral modes and it has been instrumental in creating the visions of future cities and landscapes, that are needed to mobilize massive amounts of state and corporate power. Architecture however struggles with this responsibility. Often it denies it, refuses to be confronted with it or has simply lost the ability to deal with it. Nowhere does this become so strongly apparent in the debate as to whether architecture can somehow be blamed for the social unrest, the civic frustration and sometimes violent anger that we have witnessed over the past decades in cities that are going through massive urban transformation projects. reaffirming the political dimension of architecture, and asking, demanding, that is takes responsibility for its political role.

The lecture takes place on Tuesday 17 February 2015 at 18.00hrs in the The British School at Rome. It is organised in collaboration with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands with the support of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, Bryan Guinness Charitable Trust, Cochemé Charitable Trust, John S. Cohen Foundation, Wilkinson Eyre.

Who will take the responsibility for public values in the built environment with changing public private relationships?


Public Values

The Design as Politics research group, in collaboration with the TU Delft chair of ‘Public Commissioning’  organise a joint debate on Friday 13 February, about the challenges attached to safeguarding the public good in a changing world.

You are cordially invited to join this debate session, which will take place in the Berlage Zalen – Faculty of Architecture – TU Delft. Amongst the speakers are Tom Avermate, Marleen Hermans, Allard Jolles, Petra Rutten, Karin van Dreven, Harry Kruiter, Patrick Healy and  Wouter Vanstiphout.

Admittance is free, but due to constrained capacity of the venue, registration is obligatory. For registration please send an email to: opdrachtgeverschap-BK [at] TUDelft.nl. More information can be found on http://tinyurl.com/publicvalues or contact Marta Relats  or Els Leclercq

Spatial Planning Seminar in collaboration with Design as Politics

spsanPoster Qu Lei

Design as Politics’  PhD candidates Azadeh Mashayekhi and Nurul Azlan will present an update on their research on Tuesday 27 January during the SpatialPlanning Seminar. The seminar takes place from 12:30 to 13:30 in room 00-WEST-670 of the Architecture Faculty. We hope to see you there!

Azadeh Mashayekhi
Dreaming of American City: Iranian consumer project of modernity   
All through twentieth century Iranian cities have undergone processes of modernization in successive political regimes that have left their traces in the physical and social form of the city.  In her research Azadeh uses particular national development plans in Iran during the Cold War to launch a central argument about how Tehran’s urban form and social structure shaped within a range of different kinds of interactions and connections with different kinds of places and policies.  This study presents a framework to analyse the transformation of the changing socio-spatial form of Tehran focusing on the post WWII until the Islamic Revolution (1946-1979). Ultimately the aim is to excavate the ways in which number of urban plans and interventions supported by specific visions produced particular kind of city while at the same time produce particular form of urban society.

Nurul Azlan  
Seditious Spaces: Dissent in Postcolonial Kuala Lumpur 
Nurul’s presentation dissects the impact of post colonial legal legacies on the spaces of dissent in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur was founded as a mining town during the British colonial period, and due to its economic success, the British had moved their administrative centre to Kuala Lumpur due to their ‘flag follows trade’ colonial policy. Apart from the urban spaces, the British had also left a suit of laws and regulations as part of their colonial legacy. These legacies have provided both the spaces for dissent and the tools to shut them. This presentation is a reflection of the fieldwork that was conducted late last year, when the Sedition Act was wielded with abandon.