2 February 2012

Anagram Urbanism - Re-shuffling the City

Jellyfish Theatre London 2010 (image source)
When skimming through my notebook today, I got reminded of a lecture by German artists Köbberling/Kaltwasser back in November at the University of the Arts Berlin. The artists were presenting a series of projects and urban interventions in public space under the subject of considering the city as anagram. Their site-specific interventions use locally sourced materials that are transformed into object-like architectural constructions. Characteristically, the appearance of those constructions is imperfect and unfinished. After the destruction of the installations, objects and houses, the materials the artists have been using, disintegrate in the materiality of the city again.
Conceptually, they understand their work as a snapshot of recycling and reshuffling a city's materials and therefore employing the concept of an anagram. I would argue further to not only understand their way of reshuffling materials as being analogous to the anagram, but also the fact that many of their constructions are executed in a collective effort to integrate local inhabitants in the process of building: 'Beyond creating art and design objects and architecture, we initiate action'. Hence, through a participatory approach and the way in which a city's materials get recycled and reshuffled the whole process might be termed as Anagram Urbanism: Reshuffling and recycling the built and human fabric of the city. Thinking this further, such a conceptualisation of an urbanistic approach presupposes that the ingredients for urban change are already inscribed in the city itself; the actions that need to be taken are excavating this pre-existing potentials lying within the urban human and nonhuman networks and initiating and orchestrating a process of reshuffling. The Anagram Urbanism approach would then be in close dialogue with Saskia Sassen's work on Open Source Urbanism which has been recently presented here on this blog. Discovering the pre-existing potentials or utilising the existing recources inscribed in the city, Anagram Urbanism then is comparable to Sassen's understanding of the city as incomplete and the potential of the city to 'talk back'. And to go further, would that mean that the approach of an Anagram Urbanism would make our cities more resilient, environmentally and also socially? I am not able to give the answers yet but I believe that this conceptual framework is definitively helpful to think about the present and also future state of the city and, furthermore also bears the potential of being incorporated into urban planning strategies.  
To finish this thought, here are some images of Köbberling/Kaltwassers work, that, in case you have not recognised yet, is also featured as the new header image on top of the blog.

Jellyfish Theatre London 2010 (image  source)
Hausbau Gropiusstadt Berlin 2004 (image source)
Hausbau Gropiusstadt Berlin 2004 (image source)