Building a Proposition for Future Activities


The project Community Building Poppenbüttel is comprised of a liminal practice around the question ’How can we realize a community building when the people who produce future modes of urbanity do not have a seat at the table?‘ Although commissioned by the Fachamt Sozialraumraummanagement Bezirk Wandsbek (Department for Social Space Management) in August 2017 the projection of the above stated question organizes this project’s patterns of association between a variety of actors. The urban programme ‘accommodation with perspective dwelling’ that aims to deal with the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ materialises the city’s understanding of ‘integration’: a new residential area is inserted into an existing neighbourhood with single-family homes, townhouses and a golf course. The flats provide three small bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen, but no living room. They will accommodate either one family or six single refugees. Apart from raising the question whose perspective includes ‘dwelling’ (the refugees’ or the buildings’), the floorplans represent the traditional form ‘nuclear family life style’ (habitat) that is outdated and does not pay justice to current practices of dwelling (habiter).
A civil society initiative from the area lobbies for the insertion of a community building into the plan. Due to their colloquial understanding of architecture, they approach the university to ask for a rendering. While the urban programme builds ‘integration’, the initiative seeks to materialise ‘community’. Convinced by the initiative’s claim of planning with not for refugees, the research and teaching programme Urban Design produces process drawings (the speaking base plate) of performed encounters that inform a self-building process. Because neither the city’s accommodation agency planning and building the new blocks of flats nor the initiative understand the drawings, we produce a shiny brochure with references to projects by Aravena, Lacaton&Vassal and Assemble and introduce the idea of the live project: our proposition seeks to integrate research on encounter into the planning, building and programming process. »Building a Proposition for Future Activities« turns into a Summer School engaging international architecture students, refugees new neighbours, trade school students, current neighbours and city representatives with developing a 1:1 model of actual encounters. Shifting the aim of the initiative from the object ‘community building’ to the verb ‘encounter’ and engaging with the existing understanding of ‘integration’, ‘dwelling’ and ‘encounter’, the summer school generates a diagrammatic agency or performative plan. This approach takes issue with the image that projects, represents and communicates a necessarily abstract version of an action-network without questioning the paradigms or even contexts of the kind of activity or usage that refuses representation. The performative plan inscribes action and actual encounter into an epistemological form(at) that makes knowledge performative and thus negotiable.
The second summer school kick started a cooperative review process with five interdisciplinary, intercultural project offices each consisting of representatives of an architecture office, old and new neighbours with various backgrounds, trade school students and architecture students. Working on site in a tent on the actual footprint of the envisioned community building, the five teams explored ways of translating agency into a form(at) that could inform a building that is capable of serving as community building. The crossing of ethnographic, diagrammatic and performative approaches enabled the teams to develop research-driven ways of designing and design-informed ways of research.
The liminal practice offers a profound insight into the modes of organizing what it means to live today and what to do about it. However, this first phase of the project is proof for Gernot Grabher’s (2004) key finding in researching project ecologies in advertising, ‘Projects, viewed as singular ventures, combine diverse knowledges effectively; apparently, however, they also tend to forget quickly’ (p. 1492). The UD developed methods, tools and theories for a project archaeology to not only circumvent this common pitfall in projects, but to transpose this structural weakness into an epistemological advantage.
Following the well-established process of realising a building, UD proposed to interconnect future uses with the current requirements of the project. The brief commissioned by the Fachamt Sozialraummanagement lists four projects for UD: 1. Investigate the future uses of the Community Building in the Project Days, 2. Investigate the future architecture of the Community Building in the Cooperative Review Process, 3. Investigate open-build activities in the planning and realisation of the Community Building and 4. the project’s evaluation.



Project duration: August 2017 - April 2018

Basics: Project Management in Urban Design [online], 2017. Hamburg Open Online University. Available from:
Dell, C., 2017. Recht auf den Gebrauch der Stadt. Zur Normativität des Städtischen. In: U. Frank, V. Lindenmayer, P. Loewenberg, and C. Rocneanu, eds. Hiatus: Architekturen für die gebrauchte Stadt. Basel, Boston: Birkhäuser, 223–238.
Dell, C., Kniess, B., Peck, D., and Richter, A., 2017a. Stadtproduktion. Zwischen Regierungstechnik und Selbstbau. Freihaus. Info für gemeinschaftliches und selbstbestimmtes Wohnen, 22, 9–10.
Dell, C., Kniess, B., Peck, D., and Richter, A., 2017b. Disciplined Disturbance. In: W. Pelka and F. Kasting, eds. Science and the City: Hamburg’s Path into an Academic Built Environment Education. Berlin: Jovis, 140–159.
Dell, C., Kniess, B., Peck, D., and Richter, A., 2018a. Performing the Plan und the Problem of Urban Design. Charrette Journal, 5 (2).
Dell, C., Kniess, B., Peck, D., and Richter, A., 2018b. Porosity and Open Form. The Cooperative Review Process Building a Proposition for Future Activities Suggests How Urban Design Will Eventually Enable Modes of Play in Research as Practice on the City. In: S. Wolfrum, ed. Porous City: From Metaphor to Urban Agenda. S.l.: Birkhäuser, 122–125.
Dell, C., Kniess, B., Peck, D., and Richter, A., 2018c. Spatial Agency: From the University of the Neighbourhoods to Building a Proposition for Future Activities or How Urban Design Mobilizes the Performative Plan. In: M. Koch, R. Tribble, Y. Siegmund, A. Rost, and Y. Werner, eds. New Urban Professions: A Journey through Practice and Theory. Berlin: Jovis, 193–201.
Kniess, B., Richter, A., Peck, D., Dell, C., and Schröder, F., eds., 2017. Questions and Debate in Project Management. Reassembling a Proposition for Future Activities. Circular, 2, 5–14.

Urban Design HCU Hamburg. 2017a. Summer School. Building a Proposition for Future Activities. September 2016.
———. 2017b. Cooperative Review Process. Building a Proposition for Future Activities. September 2017.
———. 2017c. The Wall in Research, Teaching and Practice in Urban Design.
———. 2017d. Public Presentation Begegnungshaus Poppenbüttel 43 by Atelier Bow-Wow + Tamotsu Ito.