March 29, 2009

Take Back the City

The current main exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal is "Actions: What You Can Do with the City". Showcasing projects from all over the world, the exhibit is made up of 99 examples of human actions that show how seemingly rigid urban environments can be subverted.

"Actions" highlights how humans don't have to be a slave to their environment; even the most unforgiving urban space can be injected with nature and humanity. For example, the above photo is a project initiated in Los Angeles detailing the type and location of fruit trees planted alongside roads. Since the trees are deemed public property under the law, the maps allow foragers to freely find and pick the fruit.

Another interesting action was about Cambridge students who scaled pillars and climbed fences of the ancient colleges at night, either out of mischief or necessity (i.e., being locked out of the university at night). Chronicled in the 1937 book, Night Climbers of Cambridge, the students were parkours decades before the word entered the lexicon.

Of particular interest were the ecologically-minded projects. They may not necessarily have been 100% practical, but the playful, artistic elements apparent in them reminded me that innovation isn't nearly as inspiring without those two qualities. This is particularly true when placed within the context of Japan, where innovation goes hand in hand with efficiency and sleekness but rarely truly engages the imagination. In that sense, it was not surprising that only one or two of the projects were from Japan.

Some more examples can be seen on the museum's website:

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