Reprogramming The City – Opportunities For Urban Infrastructure

by | 25. Sep 2014

Exhibitions and Events
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The Cascade, Hong Kong. Edge Design Institute. Photo: Scott Burnham 

The exhibition Reprogramming the City investigates a new wave of urban creativity aiming to explore the city’s untapped resources and define the city and its structures anew.

Most of the structures and objects that surround us were created for one single purpose to best sustain the city’s daily operations. However, if you were to strip these objects of their original purpose, they might suddenly take on alternate functions or encourage unintended ways of human interaction. We could chose to view the city as the start of a new creative process, instead of the end of one.

In the past, people moved away from the town, when they had children and enough money to buy a house. But today it has become attractive to live in a town or city, and this places new demands on them.

Curated by urban strategist and writer Scott Burnham, Reprogramming The City explores a new paradigm of urban creativity and resourcefulness. Here, the hardware of the city is treated as a platform of opportunity, and infrastructure not as the end result of a previous creative process, but the beginning of a new one, creating better cities for people.

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Ljusterapi (Light Therapy), Umea, Sweden. Umea Energi. Photo: Ola Bergengren 

Light therapy at the bus stop

The exhibition includes examples of projects in 1:1, which rethink the town: e.g. get an injection of new energy at a bus stop, which provides light therapy instead of advertising; or enjoy a glass of water from a billboard that converts humidity into drinking water.

These two examples are taken from Sweden, but a number of Danish projects represented are also represented in the exhibition. For instance has a part of the so-called ‘City Fence’ – currently seen lining Copenhagen’s numerous Metro construction sites – been moved inside as a part of the exhibition at DAC. The fence is an excellent example of how to rethink construction sites so they take on a new, positive function in the urban space, if they for example, like in this case, are turned into exhibition spaces for art projects etc.

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Under the Bridge, Stockholm, Sweden. Vision Division. Photo: Vision Division    

What exactly does ‘reprogramming’ imply?

Scott Burnham has curated over 30 exhibitions around the world and this exhibition was previously shown in a slightly different form at the Boston Society of Architects (BSA). Burnham also has his own urban design firm, where he focuses specifically on ‘reprogramming’:

See interview with Scott Burnham

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Urban Air, Los Angeles, CA. Stephen Glassman. Image: Stephen Glassman 

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UTEC Potable Water Generator, Lima, Peru. Lima University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC). Image: UTEC/MAYO DRAFTFCB 

To reprogramme means modifying an existing object, structure, or system to serve a different purpose than its original intention; by realizing the potential stored within the city’s structures, systems and surfaces, we have the ability to solve some of the most pressing urban problems by using what we already have in new ways. The initiatives I’ve created over the years seek to develop a new relationship with urbanity by designing with the city, not for it.
/ Scott Burnham, curator of Reprogramming the City


CITY Copenhagen