What does community planning mean? - interview

How can you determinate smart city in your point of view?
From my point of view a smart city is where people understand that they are a part of a larger community that should actively indulge in forming their urban landscape. Landscape should not only be meant as a physical environment, it should also be understood as social environment that is in a dialectic relation to the physical sense. A smart city probably is where people understand that all environmental, governmental and policy issues are a part of one interconnected complex system and every act is part of this whole which should result in taking responsibly for one’s act. Landscape in all is the collective cultural, historical and philosophical manifestation of a community’s identity and we are all part of that community. It is up to us to decide to take active part in forming it as we all have a right to the city, it is up to us if we live with our rights or stay passive destroyers of our urban landscapes.

Why did you start to deal with community planning?
I believe that such interventions that promote cooperation, interaction and participation, through which strong local community identity can be developed, play an ever important role in societies of today. Considering urban life these interventions also play an active part in creating lively and livable cities and an open society. From the urban aspect it can be seen that community planning and art projects which advocate social process by creating cultural activities can be effective tools in place-making. I also think it does well for the designer himself to actually work with the public instead of designing for an invisible and unknown one. I got involved with this way of thinking because I also agree with Stan Allen who argues that innovation should derive from existing knowledge, opposed to creating an absolute new as the modernist way of thinking put it. He goes on to say that architecture should be more concerned with what it can do than what architecture itself is. (Allen, Stan: Stocktaking, Nine Questions About the Present and Future of Design, Harvard Design Magazine, Spring/Summer, 2004.) I find that equally important in the approach we should take on in the 21st century.

From where did the idea of Pollmap come? 
As being our first temporary public intervention the idea derived from the belief in the aims of socially engaged public, as in engaging people in the process of creation, to open up dialogue, in modeling possible situations and in creating experimental, perceptive, and participatory models. I find it important that such works also play an active role in the representation of the silent figures of society – as Bea Hock puts it (Hock Bea: Nemtan és a pablikart, Lehetséges értelmezési szempontok az utóbbi másfél évtized két művészeti irányzatához, Praesens, Budapest, 2005.) – and takes active part in social process and community building. This is exactly what pollmap is about: it breaks down boundaries between people by focusing attention to a collective common good: the city itself. The stickers that can be placed on the surface of the aerial map are really easy to use for communication while making the experience of sharing opinion all the more playful, which is an essential element in creating a self propelling interactive public intervention.

What are your experiences after these projects?
I believe that continuous artistic/architectural presence gives time and space for cognition: to learn about a place and its’ dwellers and gives a chance for people to become part of a long term process; hence gives base to participatory design and for local networks to develop. Creative interventions that are developed as part of a durational working method strongly contribute to changing and developing future perspectives of a community. As a supplement to urban rehabilitation the approach plays an important role in exploring local identity and in creating socially inclusive spaces, hence gives base to social sustainability.

As we know your favorite research field is the connection between art and urban planning. What are your conclusions in concerning Smart City Budapest?
I would give a short overview of this interest – just so everyone has a clear idea. In urban development and rehabilitation long term strategic approach and interconnected economical-ecological-social thinking should be advocated, where social and cultural aspects are taken into consideration, which is deeply connected with the creation of ‘good’ public spaces, as common good. This is where the role of implementation of public art comes into the picture where, as the theory goes, a ‘chain of public art events’ – concentrated on a specific site, act as acupuncture needles constantly activating the locals and the site – are integrated in the rehabilitation to become an active part of the regeneration process, helping social and physical aspects of the rehabilitation to rise, that will initiate a meaningful engagement between people and space.

Through constant feedback this strategy creates time and space of inner renewal that rehabilitation processes alone cannot possess. With the means of the chain of public art events constantly activating the site local identity can be developed as a base for rehabilitation process and sustainability. As an organic part of the rehabilitation process it affects the futures of communities in describing culturally embedded aims and helps new common goals to develop. Consequently it helps in creating an open and a culturally richer and socially embedded environment to rise.

Regarding my conclusion I would say that all the more people dealing with interventions as such all the better, as the small acts of art/architecture will in time hopefully meet up on a larger scale. Nevertheless in end I would quote John Hopkins, who - upon the words of Kofi Annan - draws the attention to the fact that in order for real changes to arise and to achieve sustainability ‘new global political economic system needs to be fashioned on the basis of a global environmental ethic.’ (Hopkins, John: Music-makers and the dreamers of dreams, in: Harvey, S., Fieldhouse, K. (eds.) The Cultured Landscape, Designing the Environment in the 21st Century, Routledge, New York, 2005., p.35)

Interview with Dominika Tihanyi (Újirány Landscape Architecture)