Hands-On Urbanism Symposium

Housing settlements constructed in the night from reclaimed building materials. “Green Guerillas” establishing community gardens in New York City’s vacant lots. Services provided to struggling immigrant communities by settlement houses. In times of urban crises throughout history, citizens have taken it upon themselves to remake their cities to serve community needs.

This bottom-up city building was the subject of “Hands-On Urbanism. How to Make a Difference,” an exhibition on display at Urbanspace Gallery in Spring 2014 and complimented by a keynote lecture and day-long symposium. Curated by Elke Kransy, a cultural theorist, writer, and lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienne, Hands-On Urbanism explored the history of appropriating land in urban space and revealed potential for initiatives by citizens willing to take action in crisis situations.

HoU montage

The exhibition opened with a keynote lecture by its curator, Elke Krasny, providing a historiographic overview on Hands-On Urbanism since the mid 19th century to an audience of over 75 attendees. On March 1, 2014, a day-long symposium bringing together over 50 activists, architects, artists and landscape planners was organized by the Centre for City Ecology and the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design to accompany the exhibition. The symposium was both an exchange of ideas and case studies and a collaborative working towards the production of knowledge. Presentations and panel discussions explored the self-organization and communal landscapes, and the role of the architect and planner in times of urban transformation. Practitioners, architects, curators and community organizers shared their work from a practical standpoint and spoke about challenges they are face which require them to think outside the box and to enter into new, and at times unexpected, alignments and collaborations.

Participants included Adrian Blackwell [Waterloo], Anan Lololi [Afri-can FoodBasket, Toronto], Lucia Babina [Milan and Ibiza] and the community of Brant, Brigitte Shim [Toronto], Arturo Ortiz Struck [Mexico City], Elke Krasny [Vienna], Mark Poddubiuk [Montreal], Aziza Chaouni [Toronto], and students.