Hacking Urban Furniture
Exploring the history, present and future of urban furniture in collaboration with artists, urban explorers, administrators, politicians, activists and researchers
The ZK/U wants to start a debate about urban furniture and the economic exploitation of public space. Together with artists, urban-planners, economists, designers, policy-makers and citizens, we want to propose new, cooperative and sustainable ways of planning and producing urban furniture.
For the last 30 years, street furniture and outdoor advertising have defined the grammar of our cities. Through public-private partnerships (PPP), cities award long- term licenses to advertise in public space, licenses which are connected to the creation and upkeep of street furniture such as bus stops, public toilets, benches, waste receptacles, and signposts. This business model is dominated by a select few large, globally-oriented firms, and generates profits in the billions. A refined design language, as the perfectly marketable background for advertising clients, has become the international standard. Whether in Rome, Istanbul, St. Louis or Berlin, the feel is identical, without local identity, and oriented towards lifestyle and current design trends.
The project “Hacking Urban Furniture” wants to examine this sector, which so strongly defines the public space in our cities, and, over the course of two years, reprogram it through artistic experimental designs. The project represents the initial point of departure in a long-term discussion, whose goal is to both to raise awareness among urban planners and to achieve real change with regard to interdependencies and future tendering.
Against this backdrop, “Hacking Urban Furniture” wants to become an internationally pioneering project. Through interdisciplinary exchange, artists, architects and urban designers will analyze and reprogram the parameters of street furniture and outdoor advertising in close cooperation with a professional expert advisory board.
Special attention will be given to the economic aspects of street furniture. How can design, production, security and maintenance in open participatory procedures and local production workshops, and the resulting citizen identification with and care for the new structures, call the profit-oriented business model into question and make public advertising obsolete?
And if we can’t do without outdoor advertising, then the revenue should flow into the meaningful further development of street furniture, with societal benefit and in innovative contemporary ensembles as a framework for our built environment. Berlin, with its heterogeneous structure and increasingly active urban citizenry, seems predestined for this form of pilot project. In the competition between cities, Berlin’s urban space will become the stage for a global discourse depicting a new form of practice in and with our urban environment through new artistic concepts, artistic experimental designs, and even prototypes which could become models worldwide.