Log in to
Email Address
Password
Forgot your password?
Not a member? Sign up now!

A Call for Change: From Collaboration to Participation

As MoMA prepares to open the exhibition Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities, the exhibition's curator Pedro Gadanho lays out the active curatorial model of the exhibition. He calls for a renovation in the ways that audiences engage with the crucial issues of uneven urban growth, reflecting on the outcomes and potentials of extended collaborations and continued engagement through participation in urban planning.

Author

Pedro gadanho

Pedro Gadanho

Curator, Architecture and Design The Museum of Modern Art Pedro Gadanho is an architect and writer, and is curator in the Department of Architecture and Design for The Museum of Modern Art. He was the editor-in-chief of Beyond,... Read more »
Show Less

A Call for Change: From Collaboration to Participation

As MoMA prepares to open the exhibition Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities, the exhibition's curator Pedro Gadanho lays out the active curatorial model of the exhibition. He calls for a renovation in the ways that audiences engage with the crucial issues of uneven urban growth, reflecting on the outcomes and potentials of extended collaborations and continued engagement through participation in urban planning.

Show More

As MoMA prepares to open the exhibition Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities, the exhibition's curator Pedro Gadanho lays out the active curatorial model of the exhibition. He calls for a renovation in the ways that audiences engage with the crucial issues of uneven urban growth, reflecting on the outcomes and potentials of extended collaborations and continued engagement through participation in urban planning.

After more than one year of workshops, presentations, and public discussions, Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities has reached its final and most important phase. Over fourteen months, teams of architects reflected on a wide range of problems caused by today’s urban inequality. Art projects, essays, local reports, and bibliographies produced along the course of these activities were published here on post. With the opening of the exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, on November 22, however, a wider audience is directly invited to engage with the results of the project’s crucial explorations, and the ways in which we may envisage a response to issues raised by current urban conditions is six world cities: Hong Kong, Istanbul, Lagos, Mumbai, New York, and Rio de Janeiro.

As I note in the exhibition’s catalogue, “as urbanization continues to expand across the globe, the distribution of spatial and economic resources in cities is increasingly lopsided.”1 Statistics, academic studies, and general discussions alike now concur that after a golden age of major improvements in the quality of life for a significant part of the world’s population, social and income inequality is gaining ground. If urban migration once enfolded a dream of amelioration, today’s new urbanites are often trapped in inescapable poverty, rampant informality, unaffordable living standards, and other critical conditions.

From its inception, the Uneven Growth project aimed to go beyond the mere assertion of such a state of affairs. Its main goals have been to take the debate on urbanization to a wider audience and also to trigger a discussion on how architects, designers, and other urban actors can be effective agents of change vis-à-vis the harsh inequities of current urban development. Although public discussion on inequality has become highly topical, thus confirming the pressing nature of the subject, the way change is to be induced is still open to deliberation. The exhibition and its website are seen as platforms from which such a debate can spring.

To achieve its ambitions, Uneven Growth first relied on transnational collaborations that engaged local intervenients and global research teams in devising future visions for six global, profoundly inequitable metropolises. The next step demands the participation of the public, both in direct reaction to the exhibits and through contributions to an Internet site that maps the emergence of bottom-up, tactical forms of urbanism around the globe. Visitors, specialists, policy makers, politicians, activists, thinkers, doers, and reporters are all invited to have a say. As stated on the gallery walls at MoMA, the proposals on display present “specific ideas for specific cities”; they are not intended to conclude the debate, but rather to spark it.

Of course, calls for collaboration and participation are easier said than done. Collaboration sounds like a natural, necessary requirement for human development, but ideological differences, opposing perspectives, and even the typical egocentricity of creative minds can turn cooperation into conflict—perhaps, with luck, of a productive sort. Yet, as the writer Julian Barnes recently put it, the belief remains that when “you put together two things that have not been put together before,” the world is inevitably transformed. “People may not notice at the time, but that doesn’t matter. The world has been changed nonetheless.”2 The belief remains that none of the Uneven Growth participants would have imagined the resulting design scenarios if they had worked on their own.

Participation is similarly problematic—if not actually the stuff of nightmares, as some would have it. Social media make it increasingly apparent that the illusion of participation may mask a real lack of involvement by people in top-down decisions that directly affect their lives. And yet, a key element in Uneven Growth, and in several other curatorial projects undertaken in recent years,3 is its intent to map actions and projects through which communities have taken the destinies of their urban surroundings into their own hands. Moreover, this cartography of recent tactical urbanisms is open-ended and encourages participation: it depends upon instigators or beneficiaries of such urban interventions to contribute their own examples online. In sum, the project as a whole encourages the audience to renounce its usual passive role.

Following curatorial projects at MoMA on the effects of climate change on ocean levels (Rising Currents, 2010) and on the effects of economic crisis on prevailing models of suburbanization (Foreclosed, 2012), Uneven Growth addresses a global societal issue that requires immediate response from those with the tools and knowledge to generate visions for a viable future. For those visions to truly effect change, several crucial measures must be taken. These include drawing inspiration from tactical forms of urbanism to transform the nature of architectural practice, entering various forms of collaboration and participation so as to engage diverse voices in an unrelenting process of urbanization, and last but not least using all means available to create broader awareness of the problems at hand.

New York, November 2014

1.

Pedro Gadanho, “Mirroring Uneven Growth: A Speculation On Tomorrow’s Cities Today,” in Pedro Gadanho, ed., Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2014), p. 15.

2.

Julian Barnes, Levels of Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), p. 3.

3.

See Giovanna Borasi and Mirko Zardini, eds., Actions: What You Can Do with the City (Comment s’approprier la ville), (Montreal/Amsterdam: Canadian Centre for Architecture/SUN, 2008); Elke Krasny, ed., Hands-on-Urbanism 18502012 (Vienna: Architekturzemtrum Wien/Verlag Turia + Kant, 2012); Cathy Lang Ho, Ned Cramer, and David van der Leer, eds., Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good (New York: Architect Magazine, special issue Venice Architecture Biennale, 2012).

Discuss Print