Could the Desires of Citizens Shape our Future Cities?


Written by Paulene Abrey and Victoria Young

As our cities inevitably become larger and smarter, governments, municipalities and urban planners are eager to use the opportunity to create a better space for city dwellers. What do individual citizens consider to be ‘better’? More importantly, can they have a say?

For Renny Ramakers, co-founder and director of pioneering design company Droog, this has become the driving question behind her most recent project: Design and Desires.

The Design and Desires team see the need to move away from top down city planning in isolation, where the aspirations and passions of the majority are heavily ignored. The way cities are currently structured, the ability to choose where you live and therefore how you live only comes with a higher pay check. “What I am interested in is how to re-shuffle the city based on the desires of the people, not their race or class or income,” Ramakers explains.

The Design and Desires programme also takes into account migrants from one city or country to another, particularly those entering Europe in search of a better life. Many of who are relegated by default to areas of cities with the least infrastructure and social interest points. During one of their research interviews the team met a political journalist from Ghana who on moving to Amsterdam he was able to gain employment as a dishwasher. “It takes years to get a job on your level,” Ramakers explains, “Maybe he lives in a neighbourhood where people are not interested in what he is interested in.”

Through Design and Desires we’re invited to express what our needs are as people living in different areas of the world, and then Ramakers and her team very cleverly and conventionally, as if knitting a blanket, connect the squares and determine a better and more suitable outcome for all.

In order to identify these needs the team have taken a number of alternative approaches: extensive face to face interviews, citizen surveys and the use of social media. Social City, an online platform created in collaboration with Mark van den Net, invites people to participate through a game-like experience. As an avatar in action you, the citizen, take the lead in deciding how you would like to live within your city, and how this city exists. You can build a home, choose your neighbourhood and even rule the city.  Your input along with others creates a virtual city. All the information is gathered in a database which town planners and architects have access to. The findings, for example that participants have opted for cycling or walking over driving cars, may help them to grow better spaces for city dwellers in the years to come.

Ramakers speaks to Casimir about this new approach from Hotel Droog in the centre of historical Amsterdam.

Design+Desires is initiated by Renny Ramakers (Droog Foundation) in collaboration with OSCity, VenhoevenCS architecture+urbanism, University of Amsterdam, Jan Konings and Jan Rothuizen.


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