Thursday, July 9, 2009

Brave New World

A local architect and documentary filmmaker recently brought a segment of the upcoming AIA Design for Livability: Sustainable Cities conference, entitled Brave New World, to my attention.

In their call for proposals, the AIA writes that appropriate presentations will give "the opportunity to learn from radically different ways of thinking and problem-solving." This is, obviously, a wide-open topic that appeals us involve at People's Parking Lot. In case you missed the last post, our interests are myriad and, in all honesty, a bit overwhelming. An architect and active participant in all PPL endeavors summed up our mission today as to make empty/abandoned spaces into public-use/productive spaces (even if it is temporary).

The aforementioned gentleman's work meshes nicely with this mission statement. His current documentary project focuses on the Danish anarchist squatter group, Christiania. From the documentarian's website:

Christiania: Our Heart is in Your Hands tells the story of the “free state” of Christiania, a 36-year-old anarchist squatter community occupying an abandoned military base in the heart of Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen.

Christiania was born in 1971 when youthful idealism and a severe housing shortage incited hundreds of young people to “storm the gates” and claim 85 acres of deserted brick buildings, woods, ramparts and canals as their home. Finding it politically unpopular to evict the young settlers, the Danish government declared Christiania a short-term “social experiment.”

With the freedom to experiment, the Christianites built a distinct culture based on group consensus, and a thriving economy of restaurants, bars, cottage industries, and an open hashish trade. In every respect, Christiania became an alternative that challenged, inspired, and frightened the society outside.

36 years later, Christiania is still alive, despite increasingly uneasy relations with the Danish government, which plans to “normalize” Christiania. After years of struggle and compromise, many say that the end is near for this famous “social experiment”.

Christiania: Our Heart is in Your Hands explores this crisis from varied perspectives; longtime Christiania residents, government and police officials who argue the legality of Christiania’s occupation, and the Danish people, who view Christiania as a symbol of freedom that they both cherish and fear.

As of our last conversation, he is considering putting together a presentation and perhaps a panel for the AIA conference. Ideas for the panel have included assembling activists/writers/designers/etc. who have worked with squatter communities/tent cities/homeless and artists with an active interest in the occupation of disused spaces. If this sounds like you, please contact me and I will put you in touch with him.

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