Friday, August 21, 2009

Power of 8 : Experimenting with Imagined Urban Fabrics

Power of 8 is a collaborative project developed by Anab Jain, a designer whose work investigates intersections between digital, biological and sociological fields. Her current efforts investigate design alternatives that impact present development practices and experiment with the collective expression of imaginative urban forms. In this project "8 people from different walks of life work together to build a public conversation about their individual aspirations for a desirable future."

Power of 8 blurs overlapping space between the public and private sphere and carries my interest for a variety of reasons. In part it is open source and participatory in nature, it makes use a variety of cognitive mapping techniques and explores the development and social expression of urban form in relation to fantasy. Beginning with a series of workshops the crew of eight share their ideas and formulate imaginative visions of the future.

The project is of particular interest because it has manifest as a part of the art world. It is funded by the Arts Council England, presented within the gallery environment, and extends traditional roles for artists, designers, and other professionals; emphasizing transdiciplinary approaches to the development of the urban fabric.

The approach taken is one that begins exclusively and unfolds in the public realm. While typical design-build projects dictate urban morphology from the top down this project is inclusive, moving from the ideas of its eight original participants to the public, facilitating in the process of imagining alternatives to the existing urban fabric. While public participation did not occur from the onset, the shift from private to public practice was planned and implemented at an early stage in the life of the project. Preliminary results of the project workshops were presented to the public during a gallery opening and a large abstracted map of Brentford, the area surrounding the gallery, became a central interactive component to the exhibition. The idea was to "engage with the local people by situating some of our imagined scenarios over the map, and inviting them to do the same."

The incubation period, during which the professional crew initiated the process and developed individual and collective visions, could very well have provided a successful way to show that images of the future need not be limited in scope. Ideas that emerged from the workshops appear to have included a wealth of creative proposals and initiated a creative response from the public.

"Over the course of two days we had a steady stream of participants ranging from the radically activist to the playfully naive populated this map of their local area of Brentford with walking houses, snow stimulators, solar powered airships, public free boxes, trees that could talk to one another, new wireless connectivity, new species of underwater organisms and human spinning tops. The table was transformed into a landscape of fantasy and possibility in what appears to be a distant edge suburb of London."

Following the exhibition ideas generated through the Power of 8 project are intended to move freely through the public realm. "After October, the work will discursively enter the public domain, and each collaborator will be able to have equal ownership over the material and disseminate it in a way that suits him/her best." In this way the project will have seeded the landscape with ideas of the future, opening the local community to the creative potential of collectively imagined landscapes and inspiring new visions for the future.

In essence this project exemplifies an optimistic and inclusive approach to the development of our shared habitat. It combines the creative potential of forward thinking professionals with that of everyday citizens, those who share in the lived experience of the city and its infrastructure, to produce a collective expression of the future.

to see more visit: The Power of 8

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