On the second day of the Urban Futures festival (Thursday March 17th), an excursion to Overvecht offered an opportunity to experience first-hand the 'evolutionary potential of the present’: concrete projects which exemplify the future potential of this neighbourhood.
A select transdisciplinary group of practitioners, scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders visited Overvecht to witness new stories about the future of this neighbourhood as they are unfolding in the present, with the idea that in present innovation you can see glimpses of the future. In three groups, the participants visited three projects in which they could experience different visions of the future for Overvecht, and their methods to get there.
The idea of the excursion was to provide an applied mission statement of the Urban Futures Studio: to take the abstract ideas discussed during the conference the day before, and make them concrete and tangible by showing what they mean in real practice. Overvecht offered an ideal place to do so. It is a typical modernist neighbourhood developed in the mid-1900’s that now faces many challenges: health, unemployment, safety, social cohesion, unsustainability. At the same time, many projects and initiatives in Overvecht deal with these challenges and by that help to create a new future for Overvecht. By visiting some of these projects, the group was able to see, touch, hear and feel the opportunities and tensions of working towards a new future.
Read also this personal account of the excursion (in Dutch) by Ingrid van Gaalen, one of the participants of the excursion.
RESEARCH BY DESIGN: Atelier Utrecht & HIK Ontwerpers
Two designers presented their different visions for the future of a particular place in Overvecht: the shopping centre. Their perspectives, approaches and visions differed greatly: one, a local designer, started from the bottom-up with the neighbourhood and the people in it; the other, a designer from Belgium, was commissioned to do a research project on the development of the shopping centre. In the discussion between them and the participants, frictions came up about the challenges of developing this kind of space, which echoed the questions posed during the conference: Who’s future is being created? Who is involved? Who decides?
URBAN EXPERIMENTS: Flat met Toekomst (Mitros)
A visit to one of the eight apartments of the ‘Apartment Building of the Future’ (‘Flat met Toekomst’) of the Utrecht housing association Mitros. In this apartment building, Mitros is experimenting with ‘zero on the meter’ or: carbon-neutral living. The visit showed participants a microcosm of the challenge of experimentation: how can a small experiment like this contribute to the major challenge to make the whole neighbourhood of Overvecht sustainable? An experiment such highlights the evolutionary potential of the present, but also shows the tension between ‘incremental’ and ‘radical’ change, as discussed in the conference keynotes.
CITY GAMING: Discover Overvecht Game (Play the City)
The opportunity to experience the evolutionary potential of the present was offered through a game, 'Discover Overvecht'. This board game was developed to have newcomers and existing inhabitants as well as other stakeholders of the neighbourhood experience what’s already happening in the neighbourhood. The game focuses on social cohesion and on re-framing Overvecht in a positive way. The visit involved playing a part the game, introducing participants to the neighbourhood through engaging with it rather than hearing or reading about it.
Below are some more photos of the event. Find more photos on our Flickr page.