The German word Anlage has many meanings such as attachment, site, arrangement, facility, creation, investment. Urban Practice uses artistic means in an attempt to create visions and strategies for an improved urban coexistence. To this end, present-day challenges are tackled, community solidarity is strengthened, and, above all, urban space is reimagined. The Anlage can be understood as the germ cell or command center of this new urban action. In existing or new locations, it arranges local, interdisciplinary, collaborative, relational, and visionary working methods. The objective: collective urban design. Urban Practice is neither project, process, nor profession, but an experiment of what we envision urban community to be: a cooperative high-rise, neighborhood campus, peripheral museum, university on stilts, urban-pasture music school, material-cycle warehouse—what do you need in your city?
The idea is not necessarily to establish new institutions, as this inadmissible list would seem to suggest, but about discussing and shaping what we as city dwellers actually need. This can, for instance, also be something temporary, performative, or anarchic.
So it is initially up to us to facilitate what we need. What sounds like a big task can be done quite easily if you just imagine a garden, commons, or other shared space. These are indeed very familiar principles to us, because for centuries we have been practicing how to develop land and spaces that a group of people deem necessary for the welfare of the community. These cultural achievements can take on extremely varied forms in today’s big city: long-planned, large-scale, and visible from afar or—exactly the opposite—needed at short notice, excitingly interventional, and rooted in the local scene. Sometimes something entirely new is put in place—or, instead, something is created using existing structures—like a board game in which, as it were, the missing piece is attached. Of greatest importance is that it invites people to participate. We have certain predispositions, that is, existing needs that must be discussed in the context of rapidly changing cities. Where is it worthwhile to make an investment or rather, what do we as a community actually want to invest in?
Since what it takes to make things better usually doesn’t yet exist, we create it: Where’s a good location? Whose involvement do we need? How does that actually work? Some parts already exist—and simply need a home, more activism, or a facelift. Much is new, however, because for the embryonic Anlage, the discipline or institution involved is not that important. That is to say, it operates with a visionary view of the goal to be achieved, acquires the knowledge needed, and mobilizes political persuasion: infectious, collaborative creation.
The outcome is a new or rediscovered place, as a contribution to the common good and with a rousing image for the future of our cities. A new site.
Anton Schünemann is an expert in cultural and political education. As a graduate of the Bauhaus University in Weimar and the European University in Frankfurt/Oder, he advises and supports foundations, NGOs, academic institutions, and others. He has been a program coordinator and strategy developer at S27 – Kunst und Bildung since 2014. He is cofounder of the work integration initiative Arrivo Berlin, the Haus der Materialisierung center for circular economy, and the Initiative Urbane Praxis.