How it all started


In April 2018, Radicalzz.studio joined a debate organized by one of the leading Polish newspapers - Rzeczpospolita, called ‘City - a Collective Responsibility’.


The discussion concerned the issue of participation of city inhabitants in urban development. The meeting involved representatives of city councils, architects, urban movements, and developers.
A month later, we were invited by the debate’s hosts to give a keynote about the future of education in urban areas during the Real Estate Impactor conference.


During the talk, we were convincing the audience that proper schooling, based on collectiveness, empathy, participation, and making, is crucial to building better cities. As a follow up to the speech, we have decided to conduct an experiment proving our point.

Background






When we think of the cities of future we might imagine a Sci-Fi environment, with flying, driverless cars, houses made of glass, convenient transport solutions and wide scope planning.


However, it seems that the data is not consistent with such visions. Cities are bothered by air and noise pollution, issues of waste management, uncontrolled gentrification, and a decline in social interaction.



That last fact is crucial to the process of shaping the future of urban areas.

Who else, if not the city inhabitants are more responsible for its development?
Still, a political scientist J. Eric Oliver’s suggested in his 2001 paper that political participation declines with the increase of urban area size.


Sociologist Richard Sennett believes it is caused by two main factors:


Broken geography:

creating structural divisions without obvious borders and distinctive places;

Creation of a system,

in which large companies occupy spaces and destroy communities;

Sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman believed that healthy cities need to embrace the diversity.

Gentrification often leads to the destruction of meaningful communities, instead offering a sterile environment without identity.

This causes people to get passive, inert and unwilling to cooperate and often even to interact with their neighbors.



Nevertheless, there is hope. Through the observation of current sociopolitical trends, we have noticed that in more and more cities the agency is passed from city officials to local communities. 


In Barcelona, a project called Fab City, revolving around the ideas of local, small scope and collective production of goods, is researched and tested in practice. Other example, El Alto, Bolivia is an 842,000 city in which the political power is divided into small neighbor communities called ‘vecinos’ that decide on local matters and participate in construction works.



Challenge







As we were trying to come up with the solutions for potential problems of future cities we decided that the best way we can instill responsibility in people is through proper education, starting from a very early period of life.


We decided to work with children because we believe that the current generation of kids, as the future decision-makers, should be taught to engage in collective work, to think critically and be able to look at problems from many perspectives.


We divided children into several teams and provided them with sets of tools asking them to come up with models depicting cities of the future which are either utopian or dystopian.



By that, we tried to prove that by providing children with means, agency and proper environment based on collectiveness, we will make them share their awareness of potential issues, define them and work on solutions together.



Outcome




The utopian models were focused on people and their well-being. Colors used by children were the ones commonly associated with nature - green and brown. The technology was designed to aid humans in everyday life. Kids came up with both far-reaching ideas, such as an anti-gravity sports pitch and those more plausible like depending city transport on renewable energy sources,‘becauseeverything here is ecological’, as Zosia, one of the participants, said.



Dystopian models, on the other hand, were covered in the smog and put in a shade of huge skyscrapers with logotypes of global companies. Although machines took many human responsibilities, they have also enslaved the people. Nature was destroyed, there were no parks or any other places dedicated to recreation.


The experiment showed that children are able to define the issues bothering the urban areas. They also know the direction in which the future should develop, proved by the implementation of renewable energy sources and general sustainable approach.


Moreover, the kids turned out to be optimistic about the future. Although they are aware of problems of waste management and air pollution, they also identify them as ‘temporary’.
They notice a surge of institutions dedicated to sustainability and expect more of them to appear. They also seem to prefer bikes over cars, as the latter ‘cause air pollution and destroy nature’, as Ola says.





It seems that, provided with proper tools and opportunities to make, kids could become our partners in the creation of urban spaces as they are both very imaginative and directly concerned with the future in which they will live.


This leads to a conclusion, that the education should be based on a paradigm that not only revolves around passing the knowledge but also gives agency and opportunities to solve problems through creativity.



Collaborators in this projects


Kaja Baszkiewicz 
Tomasz Żuchowski
Sylwia Ziemacka 
Akademia Retoryki
Rzeczpospolita
Skanska

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