DEAR ALL, WHAT NOW?
Since we began with PRC in February, our scope has always been to find relationships outside of our own spheres, to explore around the fringes of our fields and to find solutions for the issues at the heart of our profession.
We prefer to leave the detailed recap of 2020 to the extra-lengthy television shows that will air around the globe. In short, we witnessed a year of extremes: On the one hand, we saw the highest temperatures ever recorded in Antarctica, devastating bushfires of unprecedented scale, burning refugee camps, the outbreaks of despotism in various states around the world and the revival of concentration camps not even 80 years after its fatal origins.
On the other hand, women’s representation in parliaments has more than doubled around the world, the Black Lives Matter movement was the biggest civil rights movement in human history, (neo-)colonialization was finally made a public debate and we might end this year with vaccination developed in not even twelve months after the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2.
In 2020, we have been learning about the depth of a system in need of change. At an earlier point, the pandemic ultimately forced the raging frenzy on this planet to pause for some time. So, we asked ourselves: To what point does inertia carry a system? And where do we go from there?
Crowd Protesting on Street.
(Shane Aldendorff. Amsterdam, 2020.)
In this year, when crises from various fields began to overlap, we saw the concentration of systemic mistakes just as much as responses. Several examples show how we have abandoned the human scale this year in various fields. The Big Five tech companies control the absolute majority of global communications and thereby determine what we call virtual space. Amidst the pandemic, these companies have proven to be just as systemically relevant as nurses, doctors, cashiers and caregivers. In 2020, we have no other choice but to see the virtual space just as important as our physical surroundings.
In physical space, inner-city housing is regarded as luxury in most European capitals as the concept of a deregulated market survived the turn of the millennium. It now poses an existential threat to a majority of underprivileged persons. Europe, a continent which exploited the world for the majority of its history, which had set forth the idea of the enlightenment and democracy and which is currently home to about 400 million people, is on its best way to neo-feudal times.
The cities, the hinterlands, the suburbs, the countryside and the grey zones of the in-betweens are filled with tensions from these overlapping crises. Direct cause-and-effects relations are redundant; as the past months have shown, issues from virtual space can have just as much effect in our daily, physical lives as vice versa. Which is why our greatest chance and obligation as planners is to dig deeper into the intricacies of spatial consequences and to go beyond the known concepts of architecture and its neighbouring fields.
After all, it might be worth to re-think our fundamental beliefs: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity have formed the backbone to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Some 70 years later, we find ourselves in a position which requires more care for our environments. Now, growth could happen concomitantly: As individuals in a fragile world, we can alter our beliefs to Freedom, Equity and Responsibility for an inclusive, sustainable future of our planet.
Approaches to Collaboration
How does this relate to architecture then? We should instead ask the other way round. Most of the mentioned issues are partially or severely, but in any case directly connected to the spatial practices we share. The question is not to be posed inwards, but we have to strive for leaving our bubble: What can we do as spatial planners?
In the past months, we had the chance to get in contact with all of you around the world to work on occurring issues. The hours which all of us devoted to re-define the core of our acts not only helped with existential doubts, but more importantly strengthened the belief in our daily lives to do a little better every time. We were even lucky enough to host some great guests who were willing to contribute their free time in exchange for alternate perspectives from within the profession. We cannot wait for what the next months will bring in experience and new thoughts towards a more inclusive future.
Finally, every one of us can ask: In which future do we want to live? Collaboration means to shift the focus away from products and onto processes, to seek for the sustainable future of an autonomous system, and to foster the free exchange of information, resources and affection between one another. It is crucial to be well aware of the consequences of our actions in order to guarantee a more inclusive and progressive environment.
Panta Rhei Collaborative