Making is a socio-material activity, it is about doing instead of just verbalizing things. Through making, things get real, they start to take space, they start to exist. Negotiating about different options is much easier if you have at least something visual to prove your points – negotiating about different options becomes much more effective, if you are even able to try things out with a prototype, if you are able to rehearse a possible version. Beside this maybe obvious features of things made, the activity of making is also a commoning activity, it is an activity which brings people together, acting together without necessarily even using words. Things get done differently if they are done together and they create a different perception of ownership. A place for example, which is build by the neighbors (instead of official contractors), will be a place owned by the community in a different sense, because everyone will be part of the story that made it happen. Being able to tell how something came into being, things and places being build through participation, also strengthens the responsibility of taking care for it.
We facilitated our first workshop in mid of July 2016 as part of the weekly program at the Bauwagen. Our mobile workshop lab was filled with materials to prototype and the goal of the two hour workshop was to think and make connections between the individual living space and the shared city space. In the beginning everyone was handed out a workshop kit: a visual questionnaire and a folded cardboard-box to start building the own living space. The questions were to be answered through writing or drawing and aimed at reflecting the differences and similarities between the individual available space and the urban space. The questions were a start into smaller group discussions, both for understanding and translating but also for comparing the different uses of space.
After that we introduced the cardboard building kit and all the materials we brought with us and started building on the individual dream space. Where and how would you like to live? Very fast the participants started creating, some of them on their own, some in smaller teams. During the prototyping people also started to discuss the different visions they had for their future living space and how it was different from their current situation and how different also the visions were.
While some participants build quite architectural models and got into the drive for perfection, others were more interested in bringing their future living vision across – one participant wanted to live next to the river with a caravan, being able to move to other places if he wished for, one was dreaming of a restaurant with a big terrace for people to sit along the street or also at the waterside like he knew it from his home country. Being a restaurant-owner who offers a nice place to sit outside, for chatting and having meals together was his dream – while he was quite critical about the model of a cozy shared flat room with a loft bed, which he found quite to messy for his taste.Some build their perfect living room with cats and sofas and lots of pillows and a garden outside, while one of the syrian participant build an almost perfect german one-family-house, with a fence around the garden. The back and forth between the different model-builders and their individual dreams was quite lively and sparked lots of talking and discussion about how to live in the city. When the individual models were finished we build a whole city from the models and also talked about public spaces and how the individual home and the urban environment are and should be connected.
In January 2017 we have been invited to facilitate a workshop in the project “Wir sind Nachbarn”, We are Neighbors. This project was founded by Sophie Gnest and Maren Precht in 2015 as a community project that aims to include neighbors in common making activities and to develop common visions for their own neighborhood. The project team got a small budget and a space through a call by the cultural bureau in collaboration with a local housing company. The two founders are sharing the space with an up-cycling initiative and since October 2016 they are running a seminar in cooperation with the Master program Heterotopia at the University of the Art Folkwang Essen. The group of students are collaborating with neighbors to develop practical projects for their neighborhood. Five mixed teams are developing projects reaching from cultural activities in a laundry to a give- and take box system to exchange things on the street.
We came in the process after the concept development and first practical trials of the five teams. The five teams first visualized their own position in relation to the neighborhood and their ideas through fast prototyping and then exchanged their ideas and build a common vision of how their ideas was going to change an existing situation in the neighborhood. Since they did not found the time and place yet to give more intense feedback to the other teams we focused our vision mapping workshop on exchange between the groups and a more intense feedback session. After the first session in the individual groups they switched between the groups and were asked to develop ideas how to enhance, intensify or change the project of the others in order to achieve their visualized goals. We also gave a short presentation about our own approach and were answering questions by the participants. We were quite impressed by the nice open space of the lab and how they managed to include neighbors in the project.