More Park(ing) Spaces!

2021 Type: Glossary

When observing the city, what happens is similar to looking at one of those illusionistic pictures with hidden features we immediately discern. The trained eye recognizes figures it is familiar with, that it expects to see. And it is difficult to escape from an established visual impression, even when mistakes emerge, or when conditions and needs change. Urban Practice always changes our perspective of the urban and experimentally turns images on their head.
In Mannheim’s office of public order, a dispute broke out over whether Mr. Kleeberg, a passionate cyclist and employee of the university administration, was permitted to occupy a municipal parking space with a mobile patch of garden he had planted in a bicycle trailer. The pertinent argument put forward by the city administration against the “parking offender” was so-called parking pressure. A new patch of park-cum-parking space is not regulated by the road traffic regulations, but why not? So we move the mobile garden from one building to the next, from the traffic office to the parks department. We should have guessed: the traveling green space was immediately rejected here due to a lack of jurisdiction, because only fixed parcels can be listed in the cadastral map of green spaces.
As can be seen on a daily basis from the shifts in the demographic, social, ecological, and cultural coordinates of the urban corpus, the conventional allocations of public authority no longer suffice. The fluidity of and ties between urgent issues demand cooperation at the planning and administrative levels, require a knowledge transfer and interconnections among experts, and they also need the involvement of everyone that makes (up) and designs the city.
What does it look like, the new, the possible? Urban Practice has an artistic mindset: using visualizations, performances and “structural infections,” what we are accustomed to can be pushed aside to let the future shine through. The new living space, the “city,” cannot be shaped using the existing regulations, test procedures, and planning tools. Urban development that proceeds from a retrospective perspective, “as it once was,” will only patch fundamental mistakes and tweak problem areas. Impulses from home and abroad, collaborations, and empathetic cooperation across all government offices would be helpful now. And pilot projects, creative construction sites, and new “figures” as well—an exploratory Urban Practice that is radical in its experimentation and posits the unexpected.

Barbara Meyer is director of the cultural center S27 – Kunst und Bildung in Berlin Kreuzberg. She grew up in Switzerland and studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, then art in context at the HdK in Berlin. In 2006 she organized the OFFENSIVE KULTURELLE BILDUNG (Cultural Education Offensive), commissioned by the Rat Für die Künste (Council for the Arts). She is a member of the Berlin Refugee Council and a cofounder of the Initiative Urbane Praxis.