Urban hacks: A study on urban elements and their contribution to the open city

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master’s Programme in Contemporary Design
Landscapes naturally reflect the social circumstances of the cultures that inhabit them. As social situations change, public spaces must change as well to fulfil the necessities of the new realities. However, the deterministic method in which cities are built has assigned a specific purpose to each space. The possibility of spontaneous activities and enhancement of innovation that a city offers is examined in the theory of the open city (Sennett, 2006). In parallel, urban elements have been proven to influence the behaviour and perception of the citizens towards the urban landscape (Hillier, 1989). The construction of the urban context has traditionally been studied from the field of urban planning; however, in this case, this context is examined from the designer’s point of view. The thesis hypothesizes that even if the urban elements can be seen as isolated entities that form part of a broader context, they can influence the urban landscapes, thus enhance the generation of open cities. Following a research into design approach, the study examines the way in which a city could be open up through the intervention of its urban elements. The objective is to inspire new narratives of the spaces by encouraging new possibilities of use. The possibility of opening the city up is theoretically studied in the first part of the thesis. Secondly, it is enacted through experimentation with urban elements. The experimentation consists of the modification and intervention of the given infrastructure of the city. For that matter, site-specific research of the city of Helsinki is carried out. The contribution of the thesis consists of the examination of the role that designers can hold in the construction of the spaces of the city. Thereby, the urban planning theory of the open city is extended to the field of design. Finally, a call for researchers to study the city from the inside is proposed as a conclusion of the research.
Lohmann, Julia
Thesis advisor
Galanakis, Michail
open city, design hacking, urban elements, interventions, urban planning, furniture design
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