Local Interaction

After years of insufficient funding, Supertanker’s Urban Task Force (UTF) was, in 2007, given the green light for a five year experimental and research-based social housing project in the suburbs of Copenhagen with approximately 2000 residents.

The area was built in the late 70’s where funding was low for social housing. On top of the rather low quality of the physical structure, the Charlotte Quarter has all the hallmarks of modern planning being mono functional and socially and culturally segregated from the surrounding small town.

This small town, Hedehusene, is dominated by a vanishing building material industry and a large presence of carpenters, bricklayers, etc., and in general a DIY spirit. One of the problems of the Charlotte Quarter is the pacifying mechanisms that are typical in such social housing projects. Main reasons for this are the self ruling local housing boards. These housing boards act as breeding ground for small and sometimes large conflicts that block many new initiatives and especially the inclusion of younger people from the community who could bring something new to an aging group.

The list of problems that these mono functional, segregated and rather passive/pacifying neighbourhoods have is long and well known. One example of how the compartmentalised thinking is reflected in the Charlotte Quarter is the way the social housing has been renovated over the last couple of years.

The buildings were in serious need of repair and a respectable architect office took care of the project. Stairways became lighter and larger and balconies were glazed, but the renovation was in no way connected to the social issues of the quarter: many young people have a hard time getting a job being stigmatised by their address, name or skin colour. We asked the electricians, entrepreneurs, etc. involved  in the renovation and they were in principle positive to engage a number of these young people, but this more holistic way of combining the physical and social needs of an area had never been considered.

The project of Supertanker’s UTF  was called ´The best of the Charlotte Quarter´. The focus was on social and preventive measures that could bring about a positive change to the area. As such we proposed to work with media, set up a local TV station and work with school children to discover their views on the green spaces in the neighbourhood. Our project was not supposed to fund any physical initiatives unless they had a social aspect, for example enabling citizens to build their own gardens. Yet we did have one building project in the scheme design – our own base where we could make a physical mark in order to be visible in the neighbourhood.

‘Local interaction’, as the project was called, set out to research the possibilities for ‘design as a positive catalyst in an everyday context’. We began by holding workshops with local children, the focus of our research, to find out what they wanted from the area. As we might have expected, they wanted more places to meet – small shops, markets, an outdoor cinema, more sports facilities, and not least of all, a place for girls to be on their own. These findings were then taken into a more international context in a workshop to which we invited architects and artists from Denmark and all over Europe. The wishes of the local children were then translated into three alternative design solutions for our base, each of which would allow it to be moved around the area to attend or spark events, and be easily accessible for people to drop by.

Read more here

Read a full report (in danish) here

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