Human Cities is a concept created in 2006 by the Belgian association Pro Materia and now co-funded from 2014-2018 by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Commission. In May, Human Cities ran an experimentation week, starting with a symposium. The national and international experts explored the experimentation labs questions:

First panel: What happened so far?

Pia Paierl, official of the City of Graz and former coordinator of the pilot project „Jakomini“:

Up to 2009 the aim was to bring fresh spirit in the streets through creative offices, labs and shops. In order to make this more attractive, we offered financial support during the first three years and also a showroom concept, so that people could try if their idea or concept was working in real life. The second step was to create a visual clip, so we started a competition of ideas, which was then won by the two architects, Sandra Janser and Elisabeth Koller, who had the streets painted red like a race track.

Andreas Morianz, public official in the section of economy and tourism is „happy about the new creative office „fuffzk“ and the „17 Blicke aufs Jakominiviertel“ exhibition, both realised by students of the Master’s programme Exhibition Design.

Erika Thümmel, chairwoman of the association Jakomini, came to Jakomini in 2009 and was enthusiastic because she met and got to know her neighbourhood immediately. „I think it is really important to have continuous activities and meetings for interaction like celebrations in the courtyards, the annual garage sale, the open studios once a month and now also the creative office „fuffzk“ which acts as permanent platform. It is not necessary to have any more shops – the sales area per person is among the highest in Europe already, so it is much more important to use the space for creative companies.“

Second panel: How does it work in other cities?

Camille Vilain, manager for international projects of Cité du Design in Saint-Etienne: “Our aim was to find out how we can transform transition spaces into common spaces. Saint-Etienne is an industrial city with 500.000 inhabitants and passed through a transition after an industrial crisis in the 70’s. This led UNESCO to name Saint-Etienne a „City of Design“. We tried to set up gardens, to work with schools, and to organize public gatherings. We tried to bring life to the city with projects like „C.H.O.S.E“ or „le B.E.A.U“, which was a transition project that tried to use an event for activating the streets while involving the shopkeepers. The aim was to stimulate the urgency of those activities.“ The second example was „Rues du developpement durable“, a collective of inhabitants for animating the districts with school projects, language courses and networking with other associations.

Matej Niksic, architect and urban designer at the Urban Planning Institute, which is the central Slovenian research organisation in the field of spatial planning and related disciplines:
„The goals and expected outcomes of projects like p.ex. „ProstoRož“ were to engage local communities, to make children aware that the environment should be taken care of, to promote street work with youngsters, to invite people to enjoy yoga in public spaces like parks, to make elderly an active part of the local community or to make people realize that there are forgotten places around the city that might be put in a good use instead of being neglected.”

Frank van Hasselt, philosopher and CEO of Clear Village, a charity that works in the field of creative urban regeneration in London: „Through our projects like „Tump 53“ we found out that while investigating, what an area actually needs, it is essential to have fact finding missions and to create partnerships and to anchor them.“

Third panel: What happens next?
Anke Strittmatter, architect, city planner and Austrian project leader of the Human Cities project: “Our aim is to reach an independence within the movements in the area of Jakomini so that there does not always have to be a person who pushes the projects.“

Daniela Jakob, photographer, works in her atelier in Jakomini since 2012. „I think it is important that people like neighbours, shop owners and visitors know that there is a district in which they can participate. To support this I am currently working on business portraits together with graphic designer Isabella Schlagintweit. We also want to create a sign-board where people can see what they can expect and explore in Jakomini and where the different services are available.“

Raimund Gamerith, carpenter in the „Atelier Gamerith Licht und Möbel“, invites his clients in Jakoministraße to participate in the design of their furniture and is very active in the association Jakomini. He came to Jakomini through the showroom project and also appreciates „the not so beautiful looking corners in Jakomini“. He is in Graz twice a week only so the opening hours are not typical but the clients appreciate visiting his atelier even more so. He uses unoccupied spaces in Jakomini for photographing his products and also thinks about installing foldable seats across Jakoministraße so that people are more invited to stay.

Karl-Heinz Posch, executive manager at „Forschungsgesellschaft Mobilität“ (Research Institute for Mobility) appreciates different uses of streets, for example during „lendwirbel“ when the district Lend celebrates on the streets, people use the spaces where usually cars are parking and „Lend“ gets completely transformed for one week each year. He would also like to build some monitored bicycle storage area to prevent bikes from being stolen. Furthermore, he thinks the Grazbachgasse is oversized and proposes a rescheduling, which offers new living zones and reduces the noise pollution.

Andreas Bretter, architect and carpenter, hopes that people will have more interest in interacting and wonders why „during the lasts years cities were more and more built for cars and not for the humans living in it“. He plans to initiate a notice board, which should link shops, companies, offices and neighbours, and improve the communication in the neighborhood.

Janine Hugsam & Particia Wess just established the creative office „Fuffzk“ which is now the new platform of exchange in Jakomini and also offers working spaces for 14 young architects, designers and artists who share 9 desks.

Doris Pucher, assistant city manager in Graz, gave insights into the challenges while organising and realising big events like „Ö3 Weihnachtswunder“ or „Red Bull Racing“. Nevertheless, she said that „the best events develop when the idea and the demand comes from the inside of the specific district, locals know a lot about their district’s characteristics and needs“.

The discussed topics were helpful stimulations for the ensuing workshops of the Experimentation Labs.