ANARCHITECTURE - collaborative project in the railway zone of Delft
realized with the support of Werkplaats Spoorzone Delft
documented by Emilio Moreno

The project took place during the month of August in 2010 at an abandoned factory site in the railway area of Delft. The starting point was the massive urban renewal processes that takes place around the construction of a railway tunnel through downtown Delft. In order to fund the construction of the tunnel, the vacant strips of land - once the railway track - were sold to project developers who will build office buildings and apartments. Next to that a piece of this new part of town will get a public function - there will be a new town hall and city park. The municipality asked the company Politics Online to design a trajectory for citizen participation in the design process of these public spaces. This resulted in a website where people could leave behind ideas for the park and a series of 'inspiration meetings' with citizens from various professions.

With ANARCHITECTURE we wanted to break with this format and to stimulate debate about citizen participation in urban planning processes and grass root alternatives. In the first week of the project we invited architects, artists and other interested parties to design and build a pavilion on the vacant land. This pavilion was to be a Public Outdoor Room, that could host meetings, workshops, lectures and discussions in the following weeks. As point of departure for the design we took the Pattern Language made by the architect Christopher Alexander. This is a design language for collective, grass root construction processes, developed in the 70s. This language suggests, through the combination of architectural patterns, people are able to construct successful buildings without training. The scale of these structures can vary from a house to an entire city. The underlying ideology of this language is firmly rooted in the '60s and '70s, a time when a lot of experiments with collective design processes took place. By re-introducing this method in the ANARCHITECTURE project, we tested its potential as an alternative model in our current time, where participation processes are utilized to create support for upcoming urban renewal projects.

The ANARCHITECTURE pavilion is built of pallets and other waste materials. The design is based on Alexander's patterns Public Outdoor Room and Stairs To Sit On. On the Saturdays after the completion of the pavilion we organized three theme days.

On the first Saturday we held a workshop for children aged 8 to 12 years. With cardboard and paper mache, they could design their own dream home. In this way we wanted to encourage children to approach architecture in an active way. By experiencing the design process themselves, they become aware of the underlying mechanisms of their urban environment.

Fertile City
The second Saturday we invited the artists collective FoAMlab to give a workshop. Using a new smart phone application they had developed, we went looking for edible weeds on the site. In cooperation with field biologists of the KNVV we where able to identify thirteen different edible plants. In the evening Lucia Babina gave a presentation on a collective garden project in a neighborhood uprooted by urban renewal. The whole day was aimed at exploring food production in the city.

Active City

On the third Saturday we organized a discussion on urban planning and citizen participation. As an expert on the participation project in Delft we invited Jasper Ludolph of Politics Online. His company is specialized in the design of citizen participation projects commissioned by municipalities and the government. In addition, we invited a number of people of Right To The City - a movement that seeks greater empowerment of citizens in city planning. And a representative of Rotterdammers in Action - a citizen intitiative that aims for equality of citizens, governments and businesses in the organization of the city. An interesting result of the discussion was that all parties were dealing with a shortage of active, involved citizens. Both the participants of the planned participation as the grass root action groups were unable to represent all strata of the society due to a lack of interest.

This case inspires us to continue to research what representation means in our current society and how active citizenship is related with the perception of the public.