Welcome to the second issue of arki_news!
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As you saw last time, we’ve developed this quarterly newsletter to keep you in the loop about what’s happening at arki_lab, just in case you missed it. Building and nurturing the arki_lab community is important to us, and we want to keep you informed about all the exciting things we’ve been up to, and continue the conversation that is so dear to our hearts: the importance of designing cities with people. Be sure to follow us on facebook, instagram, twitter, and linkedin to stay up-to-date between arki_news issues!


In our last issue, we discussed the dangers of attempting to Copenhagenize the citizen involvement process by applying a cookie cutter approach to every project. This time, we're shifting our focus toward the importance of the crucial translation between citizen involvement and design.

You’ve probably seen some of the work we’ve done to involve local citizens in the early stages of our various urban projects. We often conduct workshops and community events with the intention of engaging people in a project in order to both uncover their localized knowledge and empower them to become more active members of their urban environment and society as a whole. But what happens with all of that invaluable information that we’ve gained from engaging citizens? Does it just get passed on to some other architects in charge of the next phase, only to be lost in translation when it comes to turning it into a design? Is citizen involvement seen as essentially separate from the rest of the design process? In our experience, the greatest success comes from just the opposite. We see projects thrive when we’re involved in many stages of a project—from observation and analysis through design and execution—being sure to involve citizens in every step.

arki_lab conducts a workshop to discover citizens' wishes for the future of Vestvolden, just outside of Copenhagen.

The Soul of Nørrebro
The importance uncovering local citizens' dreams and needs was illustrated perfectly last week when arki_lab was honoured with first prize at the Nordic Built Cities Challenge Awards along with our exceptional team lead by SLA which also included Rambøll, The National Platform for Urban Sports, Social Action, Saunders Architecture, and Aydin Soei. The winning proposal, The Soul of Nørrebro, is an urban design and climate adaption project for Hans Tavsens Park and Korsgade in the Nørrebro neighbourhood of central Copenhagen. The project proposes smart urban solutions in response to the increasing instances of cloudburst events in the city, while enhancing the area’s existing qualities and unique local character.

Not only was the project recognized for its innovative approach to climate adaptation, it was also praised for its ability to simultaneously address important social issues. According to the jury, the project “proposes a social process involving local stakeholders with the purpose of creating ownership, co-creativity and a sense of community. […] The proposal breaks new ground and has development and export potential though a smart application of technical, cultural and social values.” Morten Kabell, Copenhagen’s Mayor of Technical and Environmental Affairs, also highlighted the effect that citizen involvement would have on the project’s success:

“the team has in an exemplary way included the local residents’ input in their proposal for Hans Tavsens Park and Korsgade. With this, we can create solutions that not only solve the problems with cloudburst and rainwater management – it also has major benefits for the entire neighbourhood and community. These are the kind of solutions we can really use in Copenhagen – and the kind of solutions that the whole world will come to Copenhagen to experience.”

The Soul of Nørrebro - proposal for the future of Hans Tavsens Park. Visualization property of SLA.

The transition from involvement to design

But how do we ensure a seamless transition between citizen involvement and design, and why is it so important? In the first phase of a project, we see ourselves as facilitators of the collaborative process, often acting as the link between citizens and various professional groups connected to the field of architecture. In this phase, our job is to develop and apply the right set of tools for a project, in order to empower citizens to become a part of their city’s future, as we help uncover their local knowledge that is so essential to the success of a project.

But the key step to ensuring the project has a greater probability for success and truly integrates the citizens' ideas is the transition from involvement into the design phase. We use our professional expertise to translate the citizens’ needs and dreams into a design solution that is robust and well thought out, and can live in the real world. We consider materials, climate conditions, movement and circulation, and so on, to create a realistic design proposal in which citizens can see their thoughts and dreams.

Students from Johannes High School help construct a new outdoor lounge area after contributing to the design with their own ideas.

The proof is in the pudding (and the perspectives)

But don’t just take our word for it--see what our clients have to say! Starting this past Spring, arki_lab conducted a series of involvement workshops with the students of Johannes High School in Copenhagen. The purpose of the project was to facilitate the conceptualization, design, and construction of an outdoor lounge area for students to relax, socialize, and use as a learning space. The students were very pleased with the process as well as the end result:

“Our designs are totally represented. It’s cool. Having all our opinions in one place should have been hard, but we did it! And as our opinions change, so does the space. It’s flexible, and we like that.” 2.z student, Johannes High School

arki_lab facilitated the conception, design, and execution of this outdoor lounge area at Johannes High School in Copenhagen.

Johannes High School students aren't the only ones who've benefited from having arki_lab involved from concept to completion. We also recently completed a project at Vesterbro Ungdomsgård, a youth club in Copenhagen, where we facilitated the development of a new outdoor hangout space. One member of the club described how enjoyable it was for her to be part of the project from ideation to execution:

“I don’t think kids here have ever been part of choosing what this place should look like, or how it should be. So this was really inspiring and fun. And also to see others’ ideas. (…) It’s fun to see what other peoples’ dreams are. And I think the final product is really, really nice. It’s not what I chose myself, but that doesn’t matter. I feel like I was part of it because I was part of building it, even though it wasn’t my idea.”

arki_lab facilitated the creation of this new outdoor hangout at Vesterbro Youth Club in Copenhagen through a series of discovery, design, and development workshops.

From concept to completion

arki_lab specializes in activating people to contribute to their urban environment and empowering them to take ownership over the future of their neighbourhood. The essence of our work is involving citizens in the process of designing our cities, and a crucial component of this process is the translation of their ideas into a real design proposal. Rather than being an isolated part of the design process that occurs early in the project, involvement is best integrated as a circular process that continuously compliments the project, creating feedback at each stage of the design process. We see the greatest success when we take projects from observation and analysis through to design and execution, being sure to involve citizens in every step along the way. 

Need a hand with how to involve citizens in the design process? Have an urban project you want to collaborate on? arki_lab specializes in working as the mediator between citizens and professionals, taking projects from concept to completion. We have extensive experience in designing tailor-made workshops and activities for all ages, with a particular focus on working with youth. To find out more, get in touch!
Last week, arki_lab was honoured with first prize at the Nordic Built Cities Challenge Awards along with our exceptional team lead by SLA which also included Rambøll, Den nationale platform for gadeidræt, Social Action, Saunders Architecture, and Aydin Soei. Read more about the winning proposal, The Soul of Nørrebro, here!
In collaboration with teachers and students from Lykkebo School, arki_lab recently put the future of Kulbane on the agenda. The program focused on creating awareness about the future Kulbane Park among students, and giving them a voice in the development of this local public space.
In collaboration with the Municipality of Copenhagen, arki_lab set out to explore the opportunities for the future of Vestvolden. We hosted a workshop with students from Nørre Gymnasium and an open event in Tingbjerg, which brought together over 150 people!
We were recently invited to Madrid to meet with architects and city officials to discuss the challenges they are facing in their urban areas and the importance of designing cities with people.
Copyright © 2016 arki_lab. All rights reserved.

arki_lab ApS
Birkegade 4, 2200 Copenhagen, Denmark

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Visit us at arkilab.dk or drop us a line at mail@arkilab.dk

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