The Question and Answer article series joins two creative minds from a range of backgrounds to better understand the transformation of our cities. Here, a sustainability pioneer, Professor Dr. Michael Braungart, and urban hacktivist Florian Rivière discuss how people can use a creative eye to make changes that benefit entire communities.
Urban environments are a reflection of people from every walk of life, from every human experience, who have coalesced, creating a tapestry that by its very nature is diverse, vibrant, and innovative. Sometimes this creativity, this diversity, seems to disappear—we lose sight of it in the everyday hustle and bustle.
Prof. Michael Braungart asks: How can urban communities work together to increase happiness and overall well-being?
Florian Rivière answers:
By using our imaginations to build our own environments. By being an active citizen, not a passive consumer. The pattern used in urban hacktivism experiments with how urban communities can independently reuse spaces, furniture, and objects. It shows how they can see the city like a natural space in which local inhabitants use its free resources (waste, furniture, infrastructure…) and its free spaces (streets, parks, empty sites…) to solve problems and build things.
To practice this idea, I reflected on the three main values and three main methods used to hack a city into a human environment:
> The Three F-Values: FUN (creativity/collaboration), FREE (knowledge/autonomy), FLY (civic engagement/anarchy)
> The Three D-Methods: DRIFT (exploration/drawing maps), DIVERT (observation/looking for possibilities), DIY (fabrication/sharing ideas)
Here, I show an example to introduce what urban hacktivism can do with just a skateboard. It displays how we can be more conscious of the urban space that surrounds us and shows that we can see through the reality of objects to use them in a new way—to bend, divert, and play with the rules of urban space.
I morph a simple skateboard, a symbol of the freedom to move in urban space, into something else based on urban spaces in Brighton. It’s not a skateboard, but it could be a desk you plug into a bench to work outside. It could be a bottle opener and a table you plug into a bench to have a drinks on while discussing things with a friend. It could be a hanger you plug into a bus stop to hang up your bag or jacket, or it could be a wagon to easily move objects you find in the street, or a blackboard to write messages on, or a vehicle to cross the world…and so on.
The main idea behind this simple example is to show how one can recreate an urban space using objects that are multi-use, flexible, and modular to fulfill the needs of an urban community. It shows how one can change a static or commercial space where everything is planned by someone who doesn’t live in the neighborhood. It shows how to foster a flexible space build by its own inhabitants, deconditioned through novel patterns of perception and cognition, where every resource is reused or recycled for the well-being of everyone. A complex urban space, generating creativity and happiness.