Art in Hovinbyen - Atlas

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This document was produced by Assemble for KORO — Public Art Norway and the Agency for Cultural Affairs, City of Oslo. It draws together contributions from the representatives of public agencies, developers, the cultural and business communities and local residents who we met during the course of the project and who added to our understanding of the area, alongside our thoughts on the current and future context.

This document is not an Art Plan or Cultural Strategy for Hovinbyen. We have set out what we see as the big issues and the local priorities, and put forward our thoughts on an approach to the commissioning and production of public art projects in Hovinbyen that could strengthen the civic, cultural and social life of this part of the city during and beyond the urban transformation that is now underway.

Art in Hovinbyen 5
Foreword What is Hovinbyen? Local Agenda Project Library The Good City The Role of Art in making the Good City Diary 2018–20 Introduction A Visual History 5 22 92 160 12 116 182 9 52 Good Practice 138 CONTENTS

This represents an extraordinary opportunity in the evolution and growth of the city, but recent examples of extensive redevelopment in Oslo and in other cities around the world make clear the difficulty of producing parts of the city that are lively, inclusive, socially rich and culturally productive through such extensive and trans formative processes of development.

This document sets out to sketch an idea for how a public art programme can utilise art practice as powerful tool with which to work strategically and directly to make Hovinbyen a part of the city that enables diverse communities to develop and sustain culturally rich and socially active lives.

Hovinbyen is contains a vast store of poten tial in its terrain, its history and in the variety of activity and use it currently contains. Many of the obstacles to realising this potential are struc tural and not within the capacity of this project to address, but significant limitations to what is possible are also cultural and imaginative. It is critical to look closely, working from the ground up to identify and amplify what is there, what is good and what we might value which is too often too easy to overlook in the process of making transformative and visionary plans.

Our work is understood as a chapter in a longterm project — it is not our role to define in detail an ‘Art Plan for Hovinbyen’, or to define a set of general curatorial principles that will establish

a framework within which all future public art practice in Hovinbyen must conform.

Our aim is more specific: identifying critical urban issues within a situation of extensive urban transformation, defining areas where open-ended cultural projects can contribute to the producing a richer urban and civic environment and describing the role of local artists, working with the varied toolkit of contemporary art practice, in bringing about these improvements.

Artists today possess an extraordinary depth of technical, social and creative capabilities. These equip artists, perhaps uniquely, to work across the edges and between the margins of the clearly delineated responsibilities that often structurally limit the ability of agencies and institutions to address the increasingly complex issues thrown up by changes in society, politics and the environment. Art practice is a powerful tool for improving situations, build ing on and building up imaginative capacity and collective energy.

Our aim is to prepare the ground for artists to begin work on projects in Hovinbyen that demonstrate this, evidencing the potential for cultural work and art practice to make our shared urban experience more generous and enlivening, sociable and rich.

Over the next 20 years, Hovinbyen will be transformed from a part of the city’s periphery into a new city district with several dense new urban centres. It is imagined as a dynamic community of 100,000 new residents, with an economy providing thousands of jobs and an environment providing access to culture, leisure and recreation on a par with other parts of the city.
Art in Hovinbyen

What makes good cities?


What are the challenges to producing these types of places today?

What makes good cities?

The famous painting by the Renaissance artist Ambrogio Lorenzetti, The Allegory of Good and Bad Government was one of the first major nonreligious commissions of the period and was created to remind governing officials of their re sponsibilities to the citizens of Siena and their role as custodians of the city and its fortunes. The ‘Good City’ depicts a harmonious and varied urban and rural environment, with a thriving symbiosis between the city and the surround ing region. Resources are carefully cultivated; the city appears varied, colourful and brimming with civic life, cultural activity and business. The ‘Bad City’, conversely, shows a dreary, monoto nous realm: the urban environment is empty, the surrounding landscape barren and the whole scene devoid of public life.

The planner, writer and sociologist Richard Sennett proposes that rather than have one word for the complex network of people and things that coalesce to produce a city, we should follow

a distinction made in early modern French, and use two – the ville, or the physical city – city as collocation of lots of different things, like buildings, parks, rivers and roads, something close to, but not quite equivalent to “the built environment” …and the cite, meaning the particularly urban mode of life, spirit, movement of body and thought that is collected by, held within and made possible by the ville.

Together they make up the thing that we think of when we think of a place – whether it’s down town Manhattan, the suburbs of Paris or the historic centre of Oslo.

Sennett argues that these two qualities never fit neatly nor seamlessly together, neither does one straightforwardly produce the other –rather they are in a dynamic, friction-filled push and pull, mutually giving form, order and rhythm whilst also and often accidentally cre ating sites of disorder, surprise and resistance. This on-going negotiability opens up spaces

of uncertainty, of ambiguity and of change that allows cities to contain and not destroy differ ence, to create anonymity and well as complicity, to be infinitely variable whilst remaining recog nisably the same, to ferment rupture and change and providing enough stability to make sustained endeavour possible.

Cities, Aristotle argues, are places where there are people that are different to one other. In the medieval imagination, cities were, for a moment in time, a site of contention: either understood as the image of God or as the oppo site, the place where, in daring to make the world after his own desire, humanity breaks with God and falls into sin.

Here Sennett offers us a third term to think through the productive intersection of the cite and the ville – the Open System. Quoting mathematician Melanie Mitchell, he argues that an open system is one “in which large networks of components with no central control and simple rules of operation give rise to complex collective behaviour, sophisticated information

But the power of contemporary finance capital, combined with contemporary building tech nologies and the commercial structures of the construction and design industries put this openness critically at risk. It has never before been possible to make so much so quickly and that is so deeply, deeply similar. Commercial developments register urban space as any other tradable commodity to be marketed and sold, with minimal concessions to the particularity of place. The urban space produced by finance capital is, like any other commodity, averse to risk and afraid of uncertainty, instead striving to be a more stable, reliable, consistent product – certain, unchanging, manageable, tradable. In its singularity of purpose, this space becomes a linear equation, not an open system, and any other possibility sneaked in or eked out is, in some very meaningful way, a mistake – albeit a welcome and enlivening one.

These processes do make good investments: adequate, clean and comfortable environments in which to live. But they are not the only way to

processing and adaptation via learning or evolu tion.’ By contrast, a closed system is one where the full range of possible outcomes, however large, is already known prior to the starting of any action – a system which can’t produce anything that was not some way already contained in its maker’s imagination.

Until relatively recently cities were, almost by definition, open rather than closed systems. The number of people it took to make and main tain a city produced extraordinary granularity and complexity. The wearing, bumping and clash ing of the contrasting lives and industries taking part in the civic and economic life of the city and the city itself, always in a state of uncertainty as something came down to be replaced by something else going up, fostered a rich an alchemical mix of interests all overlapping, contesting, misunderstanding, carelessly over laying and reverentially preserving, all adding up and multiplying over time.

achieve such ends, and a huge amount of that which is valuable, joyful and meaningful about a genuinely shared social and civic life is lost in the process.

To work constructively in this context we need to be clear about the city we want. We need to shout out that a good city is place where communities, activities and industry are intermingled, not hidden away from one another but embraced and in exchange. A good city can accommodate its messy as well as its neat. It can make space for uncertainty and for the unexpected synergies that are critical to enabling a properly urban condition to emerge. We want a city which is industrious, where cultural and community life is thriving and visible, where production in all its forms can be seen and experienced, appreciated and accepted as much as the schools and institutions, and the spaces of consumption around which the experience of life in the city is increasingly organised.

“Until recently cities were, by definition, open rather than closed systems. The number of people it took to make and maintain a city produced extraordinary granularity and complexity”
Art in HovinbyenThe Good City

Transient populations

Populations are increasingly mobile within nations and regions as well as globally. Inhab itants of rural areas and towns are increasingly moving to larger urban centres. While economic migration from developing economies to richer nations is slowing, climate related migration is expected to gather pace as environmental crises make densely populated regions around the equator less habitable. Within cities them selves populations are also more mobile and less settled as people move for work, to start families or because of the less secure tenancies.

This mobility is making cities more culturally and socially diverse, with widening distributions of income and economic opportunity. More lan guages are spoken and more varied social norms and cultural practices are sometimes in conflict.

Form follows finance

Today, urban space is primarily as a commodity. What gets built where is increasingly speculative rather than strategic or social, and the impera tive to make profit over relatively short periods of time to satisfy investors leads to shorter-term decision-making, more brittle and inflexible building shells and more tightly managed and regulated urban environments.

In the pursuit of a safe and stable product –investment-grade urban space – the city is treated as a form of commodity rather than a common cultural and political sphere. Public and slack space is constrained as developments are built at greater densities, putting pressure on public amenities. Public and civic space is increasingly likely to be under private management, with byelaws that prohibit and marginalise groups and activities with less economic agency. This is problematic on many levels, fundamentally con straining the city’s ability to function as a space of negotiation and difference, and as a place that is genuinely civic, shared and political as opposed to merely a place to consume.

What are the challenges to producing these types of places today?
The way we produce urban space and the kinds of public life that this space is capable of sustaining is shaped and influenced by local conditions, but also by global ones. Capital flows, material supply chains, standardisation of industrial and technological processes and environmental changes are all international, interconnected factors that make local and even national level initiatives to produce a vibrant, rich and shared urban environments a challenge.
Art in Hovinbyen 17 The Good City

Climate breakdown

We are at a moment in history when the environ ment will no longer be a background and neutral resource but an active unpredictable player, shifting climates, populations, and ecologies beyond recognition. To keep living together, and to redirect the mountainous forces set in motion by the ever-evolving modern project will mean concerted and profound change at every level of culture and society.

In a context of increasingly limited material resources, a rising global population and a compromised biosphere our ability to make environments that are more resilient, adapt able and embody less energy matters. We can no longer afford to have the attitude to today’s city production that we have had since the mid20th Century and which has accelerated in recent decades, where massive building projects are torn down within decades because needs have shifted, capacity wasn’t built in and construction quality wasn’t sufficient. What we build simply has to last, because we cannot afford to waste the energy and the resources embedded in them.

Thinking too short term

The pressure and mobility of contemporary finance, the relatively short and unstable tenures of political figures and the growing uncertainty about the future make responsible, ambitious and far-sighted investment and planning significantly more difficult than in previous eras.

Taking decisions that prioritise the short-term and the tactical over the long-term and the strate gic mean that the decisions that would have the greatest benefits to future generations are con sistently overlooked in favour of more immediate and tangible political results or economic gains.

Slowing economic growth and an increasingly fickle political culture make it almost impossible to look beyond the immediate opportunities and contingencies, consistently favouring quick wins rather than investing in long-term, sustainable and improving projects.

Private interests shape the narrative

Private developers own and shape the narrative about the future of the city to an extraordinary extent. Through high-quality, hyper-real imagery and extensive marketing, they are able to extensively shape the public imagination about the future of urban public space, what the city will be and perhaps most significantly, who the city is for.

The public sector today has limited tools with which to hold developers to account and to ensure good and equitable public outcomes and to ensure that the city remains a broadly open and accessible environment where participation does not always come at a cost.

Everywhere looks the same

Unlike in earlier times, buildings today are typically made in similar ways, using similar materials and following a similar spatial logic regardless of context. Materials are typically drawn from wherever they can be cheaply sourced. The high cost of skilled labour on sites reduces the frequency with which individual skill is inscribed in the detail of a building’s fabric.

Rigorously engineered layouts optimise the efficiency and prioritise private over shared and communal space. Standards prescribe minimum sizes that more often become maximums, with specific spatial arrangements that inhibit variety and more nuanced responses to context.

The product is a built environment that looks and feels increasingly similar in form and fabric and the way that private space takes precedence over public space. In contrast to the power ful Modernist promise of social and cultural enrichment through technological development, we are experiencing the production of a built environment that feels more homogenous and less generous.

“Taking decisions that prioritise the short-term and the tactical over the long-term and the strategic mean that the decisions that would have the greatest benefits to future generations are consistently overlooked in favour of more immediate and tangible political results or economic gains.”
“The public sector today has limited tools to ensure good public outcomes and ensure the city remains an environment where participation does not always come at a cost”
Art in Hovinbyen 19 The Good City
HOVINBYEN? 38 They don’t make it like they used to 29 A character defined by diversity 41 Change is the only constant 31 A natural and manufactured landscape 27 An area facing rapid change WHAT IS 25 Closer than you think 42 Strong growth is weakening communities 47 Heavily dependent on the developer’s goodwill 26 Many things, not one thing 45 Young and old are increasingly isolated 49 Public agencies lack agency 34 A city in miniature

Closer than you think

Hovinbyen is an area of North East Oslo. It shares many characteristics of its urban structure with the edges of other Northern European post-war cities. While positioned relatively close to the historic centre, it is peripheral within the spatial imagination of the city’s residents.

It has good public transport connections to the centre. Buses and two subway lines make the journey simple and cheap. But moving around the

area on foot is difficult, amplifying the sense of a place made up of distinct, isolated parts.

This infrastructure, a lack of public or cultural institutions, and few civic amenities outside of relatively isolated residential areas contributes to a sense that the area is on the margins of city when in reality it is equidistant to parts of Oslo like the North West of the city that in the public imagination are an extension of the centre.

Olso Norway Sweden Denmark United Kingdom Germany Poland Netherlands Art in Hovinbyen Finland Estonia
“A lack of public or cultural institutions and civic amenities outside of relatively isolated residential areas contributes to a sense that the area is on the margins of city when it is equidistant to parts of the city that are an extension of the centre”
Hovinbyen Historic centre HovinbyenOslo city centre Germany
What is

Many things, not one thing

Hovinbyen is made up of land that sits within four different Bydels, or Boroughs — Bjerke, Alna, Grünerløkka and Gamle Oslo. Each of these Bydels is different demographically, geographically, historically and in the character and form of their built fabric, public spaces and economic mix. Within each of these places there are both specific challenges and distinct opportunities.

As a whole, Hovinbyen contains varied examples of residential neighbourhoods from

different points in the development of the city and its surrounding landscape. It contains as rich an economic mix than any other part of the city, accommodating warehousing, distribution and freight; fabrication, manufacture and repair shops; wholesalers and car dealers mix in with a vast recycling plant, art studios and urban food production and places of education. It’s open spaces range from large, open recreation grounds and concentrated pockets of woodland to secluded cemeteries and valley paths.

What is Hovinbyen?

An area facing rapid change

Hovinbyen contains substantial areas that have been identified for extensive transformation over the next 25-30 years. The vision for a new centre North East of the centre will extensively reshape the current mix bringing much greater density around four new transport hubs to transform the area into an integrated and aspirational new district of the city district.

Development this extensive presents sig nificant challenges, as the large-scale urban transformation of similar sites in other European

cities clearly demonstrate. Simplification of a highly varied mix of incumbent uses, increasing costs of residential accommodation and com mercial rents and the production of a sterile, commercially driven urban realm are typical outcomes of such extensive and rapid processes of transformation.

Hovinbyen Green ring Gamle Oslo Bjerke AlnaGrünerløkka 25-30 year development zoneHovinbyen Green ring
Art in Hovinbyen 27

A character defined by diversity

The area comprises a complex mixture of indus trial, commercial, residential, cultural and religious uses. This complexity is precious, but is often described in negative terms – industrial uses are often characterised as a mess, robust infrastruc ture derided as out-of-scale and abrasive, areas of ‘natural’ beauty given a status and apprecia tion that more incidental aspects of the landscape shaped by decades of cultural activity are not.

Since the 1980’s many of the area’s indus trial buildings have been demolished or repur posed as commercial, educational or residential spaces. In common with similar areas in many European cities, messy uses are often labeled ‘wastelands’. The reality is far richer and more complex. Industrial areas typically offer employment to a wide variety of people from more diverse economic and educational back grounds than the city centre, which tends to offer more service work. These places contain a more diverse range of skilled and more secure work than is found following redevelopment, where

service-sector jobs predominate. This process produces tangible social and economic costs at the individual and societal level and reduces the capacity of areas like this to act as a supply lines to all kinds of economic and cultural life in other parts of the city that are sustained by such dense, diverse networks of businesses and industries.

Major roads and rail infrastructure connect Oslo to the wider region. In combination with the relatively low cost of land, diverse patchworks of low-density industrial and commercial activities have flourished.

Distributed amongst all of this are islands of residential, civic and spiritual fabric; old farm buildings from before the rapid expansion of the city that have since served many purposes; districts of worker housing built as the area industrialised and factories were built; more densely urban neighbourhoods built before and after the war interspersed with churches, parks and sports grounds; and most recently, higher density new development.

Hovinbyen Green
“In common with similar areas in many European cities, messy uses are often labeled ‘wastelands’
— the reality is far richer and more complex”
Art in Hovinbyen
ring Buildings
What is Hovinbyen? 29

A natural and manufactured landscape

Substantial arterial roads and rail routes that carve up the routes into and across the area possess an architecture and mass that creates genuine spatial drama. Their robustness distin guishes them from the sense of impermanence that accompanies much of what is built today.

The character of open spaces in the area is extraordinarily varied, often wilder and more unexpected than many of the more familiar and formal public green spaces that are found in the more established parts of the city.

The history of agricultural and industrial use has had a visible impact in the topography made by the way that the terrain been shaped

and altered – cut, excavated, retained and removed, contaminated and cleaned to create a new topography that extends across the area as strange landscapes, alluring and bleak. These spaces combine to produce an unusual environment that is robust, but also fragile, directly at odds with the robust and mechanical nature of the processes that pro duced them. They make Hovinbyen a rich context and a melancholic environment, with a combina tion of natural and industrial history producing a landscape that is strangely beautiful and vastly more complex than any intentional landscape is capable of producing.

Hovinbyen Green
Art in Hovinbyen 31
ring Green spaces What is Hovinbyen?
Art in Hovinbyen What is Hovinbyen?

A city in miniature

Each of Hovinbyen’s Bydels possess a distinct and specific identity, combining to produce a complex fabric that makes evident the need for more specific and detailed approaches to devel opment within the distinct areas that collectively constitute ‘Hovinbyen’.

Bjerke could be described as an ‘Oslo in miniature’, with a tangible difference between the character and demographics in the East and the more affluent West. The part of Bjerke that sits within Hovinbyen is generally more affluent, with more historic fabric and better quality outdoor public spaces.

On the East side of the Borough there are generally lower incomes, with higher numbers of people living in more dense and smaller flats,

relatively higher unemployment and a relatively high immigrant population.

Grünerløkka is the largest district in Hovin byen, and the site of substantial recent develop ment particularly in Hasle and Loren, where the process of urban renewal has dramatically altered the character and fabric of the area. These parts of the district now contain higher-value business es and a more rented residential accommodation than prior to the renewal. In stark contrast, nearby Sinsen has statistically one of the largest areas of children living within low-income families in the city, illustrating the stark and growing divide between areas which are being extensively and expensively redeveloped and areas which aren’t experiencing similar levels of investment.

Art in Hovinbyen
“The area’s complex fabric makes evident the need for more specific and detailed approaches to development within the distinct areas of Hovinbyen”
What is Hovinbyen?
Art in Hovinbyen What Hovinbyen?

Many areas that were built and have survived since the early 20th Century, such as Lille Toyen, contain well-used common outdoor spaces and small businesses and amenities that are inte grated within the residential neighbourhoods. These places feel animated and lively in contrast to newer areas, where substantial numbers of houses have been built quickly and similarly, where public space is less generous and carefully considered and where there is less variety in the businesses and amenities.

A recent survey found that residents living in different parts of the city ranked access to good public open space as a major contributor to their wellbeing an enjoyment of an area, but the form

of many of the new developments squeezes out the opportunity for unplanned or more informal activity by limiting this access. Outdoor green spaces are typically less permeable than the types of open space that are found in the older parts of the city and sustain less activity. In new develop ments the public and social spaces – the space between buildings that binds individual buildings into a collective fabric – are given relatively little consideration, resulting in spaces between build ings that are functional routes rather than informal spaces that can support a variety of activities and types of occupation. Activities are typically confined to specifically prescribed areas, such as sandboxes and fixed play areas for kids.

in Hovinbyen
They don’t make it like they used to
“Residents of Oslo rank access to good public open spaces as a major contributor to their wellbeing, but many of the new developments squeeze out the opportunity for unplanned or more informal activity by limiting this access”
What is Hovinbyen?

Change is the only constant

The extent and pace of change to the physical fabric precipitates an unprecedented level of social and economic change, too. New residents and businesses move in to the area in the wake of redevelopment, while many people with longstanding connections to the area are moving further out or elsewhere in the city.

This process will continue for the next 20 years, creating an unstable context in which the physical fabric is being regularly reshaped and communities are in constant flux. Against this backdrop it is difficult for a sense of local identity, stability and community to develop.

in Hovinbyen
“This process will continue for the next 20 years, creating an unstable context in which the physical fabric is being regularly reshaped and communities are in constant flux”
What is Hovinbyen?

Strong growth is weakening communities

Across Hovinbyen the rate of development and growth in local populations is significantly greater than other parts of the city. The developments that have been recently completed differ signifi cantly from more traditional forms of housing provision in a number of ways.

There is a tangible shift in the way in which property in the area is owned and inhabited, away from the more typical owner-occupier and co-

operative housing models and toward buy-to-let investment, which now represents a substantial share of the property within newly redeveloped area. In Bjerke, for example, it is estimated that approximately 50% of the flats in new develop ments are rented from private landlords, while in Grünerløkka, it is estimated that around 60% of the new flats under 60sqm in Loren are being rented out rather than lived in by the owners.

This is significant because it reduces individ ual security and reduces people’s capacity to invest in the area’s community and civic life. It increases costs of living, leading to more longer-term residents having to move to other parts of the city, leaving higher numbers of vacant apartments that again negatively impact community life. As property values continue to rise, there is little incentive to address this in spite of the tangible social cost.

Young families working in the professions are also becoming more mobile, moving out of the area to start families. Young parents are often among the most active and resourceful contribu tors to local organisations and community and the trend toward them moving out of the area has further erodes the social fabric.

Cumulatively, the result is a thinning out of local civic life, where buildings available for rent are partially occupied or, in some situations, not let and left empty.

Art in Hovinbyen
“Typically young parents are among the most active and resourceful contributors to local organisations and community initiatives, and the growing tendency for them to move away slowly impacts on the social fabric of these communities”
is Hovinbyen?

Young and old are increasingly isolated

Single-occupancy households are on the rise amongst both older and younger people. This is the case in Hovinbyen’s districts, but also in Oslo as a whole. The situation is particularly acute amongst students and the elderly, and in a recent study 1 in 5 young people reporting that they struggle with loneliness, while a significant minority saying that they had no close friends.

A lack of common, free-to-access social spaces for young people to gather is not the cause of this, but it does exacerbate the situa tion. Particularly in the winter months when the weather is typically harsh groups of young people gather at subways and in other sheltered public outdoor spaces, which is typically seen as a social nuisance.

Art in Hovinbyen
“In a recent study, one in five reported that they struggle with loneliness, while a significant minority said that they had no close friends”
What is Hovinbyen?

Dependent on the developer’s goodwill

The developers of Hovinbyen’s key sites talk of the role of culture and creative activity in fostering a metropolitan life for the area. Kabelgata provides subsidised production and performance space for artists, while spaces like the Vollebekk Fabrik in Bjerke provide interim space for a wonderful mixture of creative, social and entrepreneurial organisations.

But there are concerns that many of the more culturally ambitious, public and generous elements of the major development proposals are secured by little other than goodwill on the part of the developer. Lacking financial incentives

to make decisions that support culture, commu nity and social infrastructure in the longer term and which only a very long-term stake in the area’s future could make commercially worth while, there is a concern that beyond initial tenancies which offer artists reduced market rents there will be little that is genuinely afforda ble and enduring. Instead of creating a long-term infrastructure that will sustain and support these uses, there is a danger they simply become a means of bringing cultural capital to the area that can easily be converted into higher rents and property values down the line.

“Lacking financial incentives to make decisions that support culture, community and social infrastructure in the longer term … there is a concern that beyond initial tenancies which offer artists reduced market rents there will be little that is genuinely affordable and enduring”
Art in Hovinbyen
What is Hovinbyen?

Public agencies lack agency

The public agencies have limited tools and resources with which to tackle difficult urban and social issues today. Society is more varied and complex than ever before, while the agency of large developers in shaping the areas future is substantial. Even as large-scale, public organi sations the district agencies are not holding all the cards and are often on the back foot. They lack the ability to dictate local level policy that could effectively reduce the number of vacant flats in new developments, or guarantee greater investment in the public realm as part of redevel opment projects.

This is a complex issue, requiring political will and legislative and policy action at the city or national level to create the conditions in which more local initiatives can make meaning ful difference to conditions within communities, but there are also opportunities for the district agencies to build from the ground-up rather than the top-down.

Art in Hovinbyen
“Public agencies are limited in their ability to tackle difficult urban and social issues as society becomes more complex”
What is Hovinbyen?


[MAP] Petroclus von Hirsch’s map of Christiania and the city limits, c.1794/5

[A] Ulven farm, 1890

Art in HovinbyenA Visual History 55

[B] Aker’s church with priest and confirmations, 1863

[C] Bjerke farm, 1860

Art in Hovinbyen 57A Visual History

[D] Ulven farmers, 1890

[E] Helsfyr farm, 1890

A Visual History Art in Hovinbyen 59

[F] View of Ulven, 1899

[G] View of Økern and Ulven farmlands and Løren school, 1899

[MAP] Næser’s map of Christiana, 1860

Art in Hovinbyen 61 G F A Visual History
A Visual History Art in Hovinbyen 63 [MAP] Oslo municipal survey and detail, 1938

[H] Worker housing, Hasle, 1921

[I] Women removing potato germs, Økern, 1917

[J] Nietdals Match Factory at Gronwold, Helsfyr, with workers housing, 1935

I H Art in Hovinbyen 65A Visual History
A Visual History [MAP] Oslo municipal survey and detail, 1940 Art in Hovinbyen 67

[K] Workers in the telephone and cable factory, 1959

[L] Ostre Gravlund, 1958

[M] Interior of telephone and cable factory, 1958

Art in Hovinbyen 69 B A A Visual History

[N] Traders at the opening of Økern square, 1959

[O] Luma Norsk Glowing lamp factory, 1947

[P] Industrial sites in Ensjøveien with high-rise housing blocks built by Kampen construction after 1930, 1953

O N Art in Hovinbyen 71A Visual History

[MAP] Map of Sinsen Fjellhus, 1950

[MAP] Map of Sinsen Fjellhus, 1962

A Visual History Art in Hovinbyen 73

[Q] Trondheimsveien, 1963

[R] Ulven quarry, 1963

[S] Office building, Helsfyr, 1968

Art in Hovinbyen 75 R Q A Visual History

[T] View of Grorud line, Hasle station, 1963

[U] Electrical substation, 1965

[V] View of Bjerke, 1963

U T Art in Hovinbyen 77A Visual History

[W] Tram, 1965

[X] Roadside view of Rolf Mannerud’s business ‘Torghallen’, 1962

[Y] View of Bjerke track, 1968

Y X W Art in Hovinbyen 79A Visual History

[Z] Økernsenteret, 1970

[AA] View from Tiedemann’s tobacco factory, 1971

[AB] Bjerke housing, 1977

AB Art in Hovinbyen 81 AA Z A Visual History

[MAP] Map of Sinsen Fjellhus, 1974

[MAP] Map of Sinsen Fjellhus, 1981

A Visual History
Art in Hovinbyen 83

[AC] Bjerke track interior, 1975

[AD] Jøtul factories office building, 1972

A Visual History Art in Hovinbyen 85 AC AD

[AE] Walkway with view of Norsk Fina and Norse Hydro office buidlings, 1980

[AF] Årvoll school in Bjerke, 1981

AF Art in Hovinbyen 87 AE A Visual History

[AG] View of street and traffic Ensjø, 1992

[AH] View of bridge over Lunden on Grorud line towards Vollebekk station and Linderud high-rise housing, 2000

A Visual History
AHAG Art in Hovinbyen 89

Make the city an open system 100


Make a more shared public realm

98 Respect the strangeness of the terrain 104 Construct a more diverse built environment

106 Sustain the rich mix 102 Fostering variety and difference

107 Develop cultural infrastructure

Strengthen the social fabric 108 Make more voices heard 111 Enfranchise the young people, empower the experienced 112 Re-cast the role of public agencies



Make the city an open system

One of the major developers at the centre of Hovinbyen’s transformation describes their vision for the area as a ‘clean, green, smart and safe’ district of the city. It’s a sincere and seemingly positive ambition, but a closer look at the proposals suggests that it is actually very similar to other parts of the area that have been recently redeveloped which share these qualities and which are in principle Closed systems, consequently lacking in the kinds of variety and spontaneity of use that makes good pieces of city.

Cities are more plural, inclusive and creative places to live and use when they act as synergetic, open systems where the experience and potential of the city is greater than the simple sum of its parts. The challenge is to realise the area as a varied tapestry of urban fabric that is open, sustaining and enabling civic, cultural and social organisations to add up to a rich, holistic urban experience.

95 Art in HovinbyenLocal Agenda

Sustain the rich mix

The product of the extensive redevel opment proposals is not only a built environment where new neighbourhoods are visibly less varied and substantial, but also one in which housing is the overwhelming use. Lively, productive places rely on proximity of many differ ent types of commercial, industrial and public activity. They are places where different things and the different people that do them constantly overlap.

Diversity remains in Hovinbyen and should be protected and enhanced — retaining a rich mixture of businesses, industries and amenities is critical to creating pieces of city which offer nearby employment to a wide community of people, which offer access to the re sources and materials that many growing business thrive off and which are capable of sustaining a vibrant civic life.

Local Agenda

Respect the strangeness of the terrain

Any site is a product of a unique and specific variety of material and cultural characteristics that are dissolved in the site’s physical fabric. Hovinbyen possess es extraordinary juxtapositions; detached dwellings abutting large-scale industry; large areas of electrical and rail infra structure abutting an island church and cemetery; a 19th Century Garden City enveloped by recent commercial and industrial expansion. Hovinbyen is a place. When we talk of ‘place-making’ we should first respect and recognise what is there and what is of value, the multiple local identities and richly layered histories that resist simple classification.

This history is a gift. In situations where the context is so varied and so rich to simply preserve and retain a few monumental fragments as a nod to the area’s heritage would be to overlook

the area’s real cultural wealth, which exists in the opportunity to juxtapose new fabric with a terrain shaped by agricultural and industrial activity and robust infrastructure. Employing the ambiguity of geological and manmade features is an opportunity to sustain the enigmatic quality of parts of the area. Parts of the landscape marked by industry can be made visible, left open-ended and indeterminate.

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Make a more shared public realm

Many of the newly developed areas in Hovinbyen lack the kind of lively public realm that more established neighbor hoods sustain. A paucity of open and genuinely public spaces within new developments and a lack of active street fronts contribute to a poor public environment. A large proportion of the street level is taken up by ground floor access to residential accommodation

above rather than animated by every day amenities, common social spaces or public services. Car-lined streets

serving as through routes, open spaces addressed by closed balconies and fixed playgrounds that offer only prescriptive opportunities for children’s play inhibit

regular recreational, social or commu nal use of the shared environment that produces a lively public realm.

Bringing greater diversity to uses at street level and providing spaces that are accessible and useful to a wider community of people can strengthen local civic life. Increasing the quality and variety of play provision, and improving the capacity of streets and open spaces to support activity as well as enabling mobility is important in enabling the public realm to become more active, varied and accessible.

101 Art in HovinbyenLocal Agenda

Fostering variety and difference

Most of the new residential areas lack an identifiable centre, leaving small scale and everyday social activities without a locus. This means fewer chance, day-to-day encounters, exchanges and transactions and a weaker sense of neigh bourhood and local identity.

Residential areas become more dormitory-like, with people commut ing for services and shopping, in turn creating poor conditions for small and independent businesses to find a foothold, limiting variety, choice and basic utility. A narrower section of the local population find these spaces provide either goods or ameni ties for them, while few spaces to spend

time without spending money becomes a precondition of occupying public space, gradually eroding its civic function and plurality. Enabling the development of a more varied mixture of local businesses, shops and amenities is important for establishing successful local centres that offer a broader range of experience and utility to different communities in the city.

103 Art in HovinbyenLocal Agenda

Construct a more diverse built environment

Who is building housing, what type of housing is being built and how that housing is owned and managed is changing. More housing is being built by the private sector. A narrower variety of types that are typically smaller in size are generally being constructed. Increasingly, housing is more likely to be privately rented rather than provided through more traditional models, such as large-scale co-operatives.

Building a wider range of types and more varied forms of tenure in new housing is critical to creating places that have the capacity to accommodate more diverse communities. Designing buildings and environments that can negotiate a wider variety of everyday and economic uses is essential to creating the conditions in which a vibrant neighbourhood economy and civic life can emerge.

105 Art in HovinbyenLocal Agenda

Strengthen the social fabric

Co-operative housing models played an important social role, too, which is lost in the recent trending towards more private interactions between landlord and tenant. More co-operative models typically brought together residents with different backgrounds, employment and economic circumstance, connecting residents through common structures, responsibilities and shared concerns. As more housing is built by private developers and bought as buy to rent, this important social function is being lost. What is needed are more situations in which people with different experiences and circumstances are brought together to negotiate and advocate for the kind of shared environment they need and want, creating a common sphere in which more people are more active as citizens in shaping the make-up of their local areas.

Develop cultural infrastructure

Oslo’s historic centre is characterised by a series of grand public buildings celebrating and signifying the author ity of nationally important cultural and political institutions. These embody an increasingly antiquated idea about whom culture is produced by, whom it is for and how it should be experienced.

Instead of seeking to make a few substantial new cultural sites in Hovinbyen, a more progressive agenda should develop spaces of cultural production, learning and exchange, creating the potential for cultural resources to be widely accessible and artistic practice to become a part of the everyday life and experience of the city.

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Make more voices heard

Public discussion about the future of the city is highly mediated, with consultations and public input typically limited to a narrow set of choices that come too late in the process to enable meaningful dialogue.

This project is an opportunity to build sincere and meaningful partnerships with local organisations, groups and individuals and to give them a seat at the table and a voice in the dialogue about changes in the area, moving beyond the engagement an unspecified ‘public’ in participation or consultation as a fig leaf of demo cratic legitimacy.

Local Agenda

Both younger and elder members of society are increasingly isolated within contemporary economic life. As members of society that are not yet or are no longer contributing economically within a social system where community ties are weakening, the demands on individuals are perhaps greater than ever.

Young and old both have important and diverse roles to play in a functioning, inclusive and active civic society. This project is an opportunity to work with both groups to better understand their needs and difficulties and to develop spaces and opportunities that can enable both groups to fulfill a more social and active role in civic life.

Enfranchise the young people, empower the experienced
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Re-cast the role of public agencies

The establishment of near universal public services in the post-war period led to vastly improved access to educa tion, healthcare and a wide range of other forms of support that brought enormous benefits to society. But the challenges facing society today are more complex — social isolation, mental health, longer lives lived in retirement and the effects of internet-based commerce on physical commercial space are not issues that any single department has the responsibility or agency to address. There are challenges for modern public agencies in developing and im plementing effective programmes that

reach vulnerable communities. Society has become more complex, but public sector organisations are still bound by relatively traditional bureaucratic, top-down approaches and a culture where departments hold specific responsibility for only part of large and complex issues. Combined with the difficulty of negotiating risks and shrinking budgets, it is a challenge for agencies and their officers to use available resources to enable positive, genuine and lasting change.

113 Art in HovinbyenLocal Agenda
THE ROLE OF ART IN MAKING THE GOOD CITY124 126 128 The role of art in making the Good City Building cultural infrastructure Art as public practice 118 120 122 A culture of collaborative practice A mosaic, not a masterplan Next steps @ Open questions

The next stage of the project is an opportunity to ask a number of key questions.

Hovinbyen will be extensively transformed in the next decade, with urban redevelopment in tended to realise a vision for the area as new city district to the North East of the historic centre of Oslo. A significant cultural opportunity exists as a part of this development, with a small amount of the vast wealth flowing into regeneration pro jects in the area creating a pool of resources for funding art and cultural projects for the city.

KORO and the Oslo Agency for Cultural Affairs want this funding to support artists to develop non-traditional public work. The ambi tion is not only to develop ways to think within the privileged spaces of design and governance, but to build a distributed, collective process whereby people that live, work and use parts of Hovinbyen can think and act together, over time, and that these processes act back on the city.

Normally, this would mean “consultation”

– that is, the fractional spaces in which people outside of the decision-making spaces are asked what they think, or to contribute to that process already in motion. What we mean, however, is a process by which the day-to-day actions,

feelings and realities of a group of people, who share ground, space and infrastructure can be understood as city-making, where the balance can slowly, perhaps over decades, be tipped, and the practice of city-making rebuilt around these relationships.

We understand that it is increasingly hard to imagine how cities, and the way we build and occupy them, might be other than they are. The built environment has emerged, from the later half of the 20th Century forward, as a kind of second nature, which actively self-reinforces its own logics and assumptions as it grows. Against this, our intention has to be whether we can, with our feet on the ground, and our eyes focused on the actual mechanisms that are making and re making urban space, and the lives it is possible to live within it, start to create space for some thing else.

“A process by which the day-to-day actions, feelings and realities of a group of people, who share ground, space and infrastructure can be understood as city-making, and the practice of city-making rebuilt around these relationships”

Art in Hovinbyen The
The role of art in making the Good City
Role of Art in making the Good City

Building cultural infrastructure

This project is an opportunity to build up a network of projects – a cultural infrastructure – which incrementally and over the long-term support and enable a ground-up, strategic and informed conversation about possible futures for our shared second nature, the built environ ment, and the kind of life we might live within it; starting with opportunities, building to principles and moving to practice.

Our aim is to develop a shared understanding of how artists and communities might think and act within the process of change, cutting across the habits and structures of contemporary urban development to create an approach that is more embedded, more particular, and more likely to produce the kinds of places that we want to live.

And not only the kinds of places we think we want to live now, suitable for the kind of people we think we are now, but an active, living infra structure which can provide the basic conditions required to enable interconnected, mutating social systems and cultural resources to grow and thrive over time.

The form that this will take requires collec tive discussion and development, building a shared understanding for where, with whom

and with what agency local artists might work in Hovinbyen. This requires a dialogue to negotiate a shared sense for a way of working both indi vidually and as peers to develop a community of practice supporting a collection of projects which will allow local initiatives to add up, to build, and to grow over time in a way that opens up new possibilities, and the possibility of new futures, beyond what we can imagine now. We are not talking about making space outside the processes of city making, but actually working out how to enable those processes to become more open, more varied and more humane, to make the creation of our shared environment a collective project, with the well-being, variety and diversity of that collectivity held as its primary motive.

“Our aim is to develop a shared understanding of how artists and communities might think and act within the process of change, cutting across the habits and structures of contemporary urban development … to produce the kinds of places that we want to live”
Art in HovinbyenThe Role of Art in making the Good City

Art in Hovinbyen cannot be about making public work for people and in places one does not know well, where public money is a precious and scarce resource for many communities and where the context is complex. This is neither an efficient nor an equitable way of improving the urban condition, and it is not good practice. This is especially true when confronting economic, political and social climates that are always changing and in contexts where a vast number of vested interests are always in conflict. In Hovinbyen, intelligent and ambitious art practice builds on the collective wisdom of people and organisations on the ground – people that think locally and act locally – as the basis for devel oping sophisticated, self-sustaining networks of project that can improve the city.

Rather than commissioning concepts, the project should commission artists to work con

textually and with specific communities and situations. By building on local initiatives that already exist rather than focusing on autonomous works in which the public is invited to participate, artists are able to bring a rare combination of skills and resources to support local projects to move from valuable community initiatives into wide-reaching, resourceful and enduring resourc es which are shared, democratic and enrich local urban and civic life.

“By building on local initiatives, artists are able to bring a rare combination of skills and resources to … [create] a network of widereaching resources which are shared, democratic and enrich local urban and civic life”
Art in HovinbyenThe Role of Art in making the Good City Art as public practice

This approach will reshape the role of artists and cultural institutions at work in Hovinbyen, recasting the artist in a new role that places the precious combination of social, technical and creative skills that they possess in support of local initiatives, amplifying their potential to address the multiple and diverse challenges that a rapidly changing social, economic and urban fabric produces.

To do this will require co-operation from a broad community of artistic and cultural prac titioners, local groups and public agencies. It will require political support for something less immediately visual and tangible. It represents a change in way that public art institutions offer an alternative to patronage and support from the private sector. It suggests that the crea

tive potential of collaboration and co-operation between professional artists and communities is richer, more valuable and more important than creative autonomy and individual authorship. It asks us to reconsider what we think public art might look like, what we expect from it and how we measure and appraise its value.

Art in Hovinbyen
“The creative potential of collaboration and co-operation between professional artists and communities is richer, more valuable and more important than creative autonomy and individual authorship”
A culture of collaborative practice
125 The Role of Art in making the Good City

What role can art practice play in making the city a productive and fulfilling environment within a context of rapid and extensive change? And how can it enable improvement at the scale of the city, or an area of the city without repro ducing the simplified experience that large-scale development tends to produce?

Art in Hovinbyen is an opportunity to buildup a mosaic of small, complex projects across the area, beginning as a number of small-scale initiatives that can grow and be added to, building over time a densely interconnected system that recognises and works resourcefully with what is already there to create a rich picture of the city made of many fragments.

In order to do something big – to think glob ally, act locally, and make genuine and sustained improvements to the urban fabric and experi ence of communities in Hovinbyen – we need to start with small projects where they will count the most. Art in Hovinbyen is about making the ordinary special and the special more widely accessible, expanding on the boundaries of understanding and possibility with vision and common sense. It is about building densely interconnected networks, making connections

between unlikely partners and organisations and making plans without the usual preponderance of planning. It is about getting it right for now and at the same time being tactical and strategic about later. This is not about making visionary statements, nor about making deterministic plans for how future projects fit in …but it is about the long range, about being both politically connect ed, grounded in local situations and communities and disturbing the order and process of urban development in the pursuit of a richer, more plural and more responsive city.

Art in Hovinbyen The
A mosaic, not a masterplan
“Art in Hovinbyen is about being grounded in local situations and communities and disturbing the order and process of urban development in the pursuit of a richer, more plural and more responsive city”
Role of Art in making the Good City

Next steps

@ Open questions

The next stage of the project is an opportunity to ask a number of key questions from partners we want to work with to make this ambition a reality, identifying opportunities and working through the challenge of how we can begin to

develop and nurture a series of open-ended, community-driven projects that are enriched, enhanced and made more accessible and more extraordinary through work in conjunction with artists working in public practice today.

How are horizontal networks built across the areas that connect the people that live there?

How are these networks used, over time, to feed into and eventually shape discourse about the future?

Art in Hovinbyen The Role of Art in making the Good City

How can art practices help people cope with these radical changes?

How can the physical environment promote the idea of the city as a shared social, cultural and political site?

How can these practices reach into and support groups and individuals to live culturally rich lives?

How can the work accumulate, be reinforced and become deepened over time, rather than simply repeated?

Does the future of the city have to be defined by private development? What might we get by varying or even up ending this idea?

Art in HovinbyenThe Role of Art in making the Good City 131

How can we create a robust case for making longer-term decisions?

What kind of metrics do we want to test our city by?

How do we make this back into a civic, shared conversation about the real issues?

How can we sketch out what is really possible, once we sweep away the force of habit and learn from around the world?

If we can build a vision, how can we build a mandate and momentum around this vision? What narrative tools? Who will own the vision and champion it?

How do we deal with the vast complexity of the range of forces that act on cities, whilst still building an identifiable vision?

Art in HovinbyenThe Role of Art in making the Good City 133

Can we make a plan for Hovinbyen that will be an exemplar of positive, public minded urban development?

What means can we use to look at Hovinbyen more deeply, more emotively and more humanely and what evaluative tools can we develop to enable us to make better decisions and to test them?

How do we capture the value of things that are now and are likely to remain hard to measure, but that we have heart-and-guts intuition for?

How do we value art in an economic era, when the impact of design is usually long term and hard to measure?

Art in HovinbyenThe Role of Art in making the Good City

The city as a tool, not an artifact

Networks, not hierarchies

Sharing your privilege

Working in the margins


The role of practice

Context, not concept

Infrastructural, not institutional Permission to fail

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In our practice we’ve developed projects and proposals in situations that have a lot in common with the context and future plans for Hovinbyen.

Over time, some approaches, ideas or principles have been consistently important in making opportunities for developing and sustaining projects that improve the city.

It is difficult to define what improvement means or to be precise in its measurement. Relying on quantitative portraits can give some indication, but we also test projects against specific claims. If we can meet each of these ambitions or values then we think we can say with some confidence that our involvement will have made a positive contribution to a situation.

Our work aims to be resourceful, in that it uses available cultural, material and financial resources intelligently; improving, in that it improves the situation on the terms of people locally and that are involved; resilient, in that it isn’t dependent in the long-term on our involve ment, input or energy to be sustained; growing, in that it contains the capacity to develop and evolve to meet changing and more complex

ambitions; and shared, in that determining the project’s agenda, who it is for and who has access is a collective decision that no individual has the ability to decide.

Alongside these qualities are a number of ideas that are present in our work and which regularly inform the way we approach work on projects and which help us to think about how we approach working in the city at large.

Art in
Good Practice

The city as a tool, not an artefact

We think urban environments are at their most culturally rich and socially productive when they enable, rather than restrict, a wide variety of use. Contemporary urban space is tightly planned and closely managed, creating environments that are more predictable and often exclusive, prescribe how space can be used and who has the right to use it. This kind of city is restrictive and closed –it is an artifact.

We like the analogy of the successful city as a tool – an open system and enabling infrastruc ture with which diverse communities are able to

progressively shape and re-negotiate the cultural use and physical form of the urban environment, which is critical in producing a properly urban condition in which unexpected and unpredicted possibilities are able to emerge and a shared civic life can flourish.

Art in Hovinbyen
Good Practice

Networks, not hierarchies

We think it is important to recognise the dialectic between top-down planning, with its formal and designed laws, and more bottom-up forms of self-organising collectivity and activism. The city cannot be classified into discrete functions and zones, but planning at scale typically abstracts and simplifies complex reality into a simplified picture. At the same time, there is a growing mismatch between the ability of relatively few

large-scale, centralised organisations to deliver the kinds of cultural, health and educational services that an aging, more culturally diverse and socially complex population requires.

The 20th Century model of central organisa tion and planning in public services and cities brought tangible improvement, but these same structures are no longer resourceful, effective or equitable. There is a need to re-focus on creat ing the conditions for more locally rooted social and collaborative approaches to emerge that are capable of scale as a network of local-level, distributed partnerships or projects which can better enable good practice to navigate between global issues and the everyday concerns that underpin experience at the local level.

Art in Hovinbyen
Good Practice

The role of Practice

We see the role of practice as primarily about opening up the closed protocols of urban development and planning to promote a shared process and more plural dialogue about the future nature of the built environment. Practice can and does promote one set of truths, beliefs, values, ideas, power structures and protocols in place of others. It can impose habits, routines and technologies that may lead to new and un familiar ways of thinking, doing and organizing locally, nationally and globally. It is the skillful art of making things happen – of making informed choices and creating opportunities for change in a messy and unequal world – and it requires activism and demands entrepreneurship.

Practice has the potential to articulate and demonstrate the process by which small organisations, activities and ideas can be scaled and replicated. This can happen quantitively, where programmes get larger in size and in the resources available to them, and it can happen operationally, through combination with other programmes, initiatives and partners. It can

happen politically and culturally, where ideas gain currency, influence others and alter the status quo or it can happen organizationally, where capacity increases and enables new levels of sophistica tion and complexity.

Skillful and creative practice hinges on our capacity to handle the unexpected in controlled but resourceful ways, and on chance encounters and chance learning. It depends on the ability to improvise, be reflective, self-critical, optimistic and, fundamentally, open. The search for scien tific precision is displaced in favour of informed improvisations, practical wisdom, integrated thinking and good judgment based on a shared sense of justice and equity, and on common sense. Combined with pragmatism and ideal ism, these qualities are what enable practice to navigate between global issues and the everyday concerns that underpin experience at the local level in a place like Hovinbyen.

Art in Hovinbyen
Good Practice 147

Context, not concept

Often in encountering something unfamiliar, we are far more adept at identifying issues than we are at perceiving what is working well in a situation and why. In appraising parts of the city, it is striking how much more drawn we are to the things which need upgrading, replacing or addressing than we are by what is particular, sur prising or special about a situation. People that are very familiar with places or situations tend towards a similarly critical perception, where what is good can be difficult to separate out from other complicating and genuinely difficult factors.

A negative appraisal of a situation sows the seeds for solutions to local issues that are

not rooted in the specifics of local situations. A lack of confidence in the idea that many of the resources required to improve things are already available in any situation breeds an enthusiasm for novel concepts and solutionist ideas – new things that can solve current problems.

Frequently, these initiatives fail – often at the cost of opportunity, money, trust and emotional energy. In our practice, we have found it is really critical to approach positively, looking for what is working, what opportunities exist and what can be built up and supported to grow. This involves seeing a situation positively while acknowledg ing genuine issues, and helping people embed ded within a situation see the opportunities as well as what is difficult. Instead of privileg ing concepts and solutions, we work from the context to use the resource that commissions and projects bring to build on what is good and make what is good more special and unexpected and more widely shared and used.

Art in Hovinbyen
Good Practice

Sharing your privilege

In several of our projects, what we have proposed doing has already been attempted. What seems a practical and attainable next step has been the subject of discussion, invested with energy and optimism that enabled a conversation to get so far before money, or time, or community or political support for it dissipated.

Our role in these situations can be extraor dinarily simple, because sometimes it is enough simply to be an outsider, or an expert, or a profes sional to bring the enough credibility for others to recognise the value in what is already on the table. That isn’t to say that our role ends there, and our responsibility is to take it further and

contribute to it with the skills we bring. But it helpful to recognise that often what is needed is to find good local partners and use the voice and authority that we are given because of our professional status to lever in to place intelligent ideas of others, rather than prioritising our own in pursuit of something original.

Art in
151Good Practice

Working in the margins

Any patch of developable land within a growing city is subject to financial pressure and specula tion. For landowners, whether public or private, it is difficult to resist commercial develop ment offers, which in the short term offer a higher price up front, in rent or in commercial or residential rates. This makes finding good, secure space for initiatives that generate social value, but less direct financial value, returns a constant challenge.

Our projects have often depended on specific spatial opportunities that have low, or no, real isable commercial value. The leftover spaces around or beneath major infrastructure, unsuit able for typical commercial or residential uses is subsequently reimagined as an unusual, oneiric civic space. A site with an uncertain future where major development plans are on hold becomes a testing ground for an experimental hybrid of

professional workspace, education facility and a common social space for local communities. Spaces with uncertain futures or places formed in the void around infrastructure often possess the potential for a more socially active conception of what is possible within the city.

Art in HovinbyenGood Practice

Infrastructural, not institutional

A number of our projects have been produced as public art commissions, received art funding or been framed as demonstration of contemporary art practice, which we find interesting and useful in making the space for approaches to situations which are more varied and specific to the needs and opportunities in a particular context. Rather than working with the tools of a particular pro fession or discipline, art practice enables us to pick up a different, or multiple tools and to work relationally, spatially and materially at the same time to produce work that isn’t classifiable as tra ditional art, architecture or community develop ment project.

Public art has historically meant art objects – sculptures, murals and other concrete forms. This type of commissioning was rooted in a well-meaning but patronising idea that merely to experience artworks in public environments would inspire and improve contemporary society, and those that had little understanding or appre ciation for art – the working classes – in particular.

Today relational art practice and the potential for commissioning public works that involve com munities and the public at large in the production and realisation of work has growing currency, but this mode of practice is still rooted in the idea that the role of the public in these productions is as an audience, albeit an active one, their agency

well-defined within a framework set out by the artist who retains control over the means and, most significantly, the agenda of the work.

Our approach leverages the ambiguity and freedom that artists enjoy. What artists can do, how they should act, where they should work, how they communicate or what their background is are all less relevant than in the dynamic which often exists between professions or public services and communities. This ambiguity can be a powerful tool in enabling a more equitable and open dialogue between artists and communities to producing partnerships and projects in which the development agenda is shared, rather than situations in which a community are cast as par ticipants or we are seen as service providers.

The outcomes are typically open-ended, involvement is often with a broad community of different people at different times and own ership and responsibility for the project coming to fruition rests substantially on local energy, rather than being underwritten by our own. These factors are critical in creating we describe as infrastructural projects, capable of cultivating an environment of change from within rather, than imposing it from without.

Art in Hovinbyen
Good Practice

Permission to fail

When developing work in public situations and with public funds, money, time and confidence are often scarce. The risk of failure is real, and the consequences frequently material and the repercussions easily anticipated. As a result organisations and individuals have adopted in creasingly conservative approaches to managing risks by acting more procedurally. This presents a challenge for two reasons.

Firstly because to make work which is gen uinely experimental in a public context and to avoid going over old ground and falling back onto familiar patterns of thought and action, it is absolutely necessary to take risks, to be bold, to tolerate uncertainty and to work with untested tools and processes.

Secondly, for things to be genuinely collec tive processes, everyone involved has to have a real stake in the outcome, and to feel like what they do affects that outcome. This feeling must be based on reality – the decisions they make

and the things they do must actually affect what happens. This means, in practice, that every thing other than the collective processes must be allowed to fail – only the collective process is absolutely protected and an ‘outcome’ cannot be assured without precluding the possibility of a genuinely collective process.

Within this project we will need to develop new attitudes and means to manage risk and failure, understanding that in order to develop genuinely experimental, collective and ambi tious projects that open up the city we must also be open to taking risks and able to negotiate the possibility of the failure.

Art in
Good Practice
Ben Peter
LIBRARY 166 167 168 169 170 170 171 172
Long 48 Sheet Project
Buchanan · Reweaving Webs of Relationships Assemble · Baltic Street Adventure Playground Breakwell, Steveni, Tresilian, Latham, Davies · Artists Placement Group David Harvey Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference Michael Edwards A New Deal for Global Governance Bjerke public agencies w/OBOS Vollebekk Fabrikker Uagawa Hiroshige · 100 Views of Edo Florian Beigel & Philip Christou Specific indeterminacy – designing for uncertainty John Turner Three Laws, from Freedom to Build Danah Zohar Quantum Systems zURBS Walkshop John Hodgkinson · What is Improvising? Situations · New Rules of Public Art Claire Bishop Palace in Plunderland Alex Hartley Nowhereisland Futurefarmers Losæter Simon Nicholson · The Theory of Loose Parts Colin Ward · Anarchy or Order Wolfgang Tillmans Anti-Brexit Campaign Angelos Varvarousis and Penny Koutrolikou Degrowth and the City Meganom and MArchI The Moscow River-Age PROJECT 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 162 163 164 165 166

Peter Buchanan excerpt from Reweaving Webs of Relationships

Before modernity we lived in what could be referred to as the City of Being and Belonging, which amongst other things was also the crucible of culture, creativity, and consciousness. This is the compact, traditional city whose buildings line, define, and animate the public realm of streets, squares, and green spaces that are shaped in response to who we are so we feel that we belong and are at home. These elements of the public realm together form a coherent gestalt that is not mere residual space but is articulated to constitute the multiple stages of the theater of daily life. Within the contiguous fabric of spaces and framing buildings of such a city, we were the same persons wherever we were, known in all our aspects by all those around — an es sential condition for acquiring self-knowledge and maturity. Most importantly, such cities served all of who we then were as humans, their experiential and symbolic richness nurturing the subjective self.

The traditional City of Being started to frag ment with the impact of polluting and noisy indus try, and as mechanical public transport allowed the better off to move to the suburbs. This and the impact of modern planning — initially a set of defensive measures to protect against insalu brious industry and over-crowded housing condi tions — led to the dispersal and loosening of the tight contiguities of the traditional city. This has resulted in the fragmented modern City of Doing — and of Dispersal, Disconnect, and Denial. In this City, free-standing buildings are distributed in a conceptual void in which you play out dif

ferent roles in different parts of the city: parent at home, employee at the office, and passive consumer in many other parts. The emphasis on distributed specific functions (Doing) results in a machine for avoiding the chance encounters, complexi ties, and contradictions that lead to self-knowledge and psychological maturation. It also disrupts the continuities of the ever-present, ever-expe riencing self that is the subject of the City of Being.

To move beyond modernity, we need to recover the sense of community and belonging of the City of Being. Yet that such cities now seem so reassuringly right for humans is partly because they were shaped in eras of relative stability and not subject to destabilizing change. That change must be sweeping and urgent to belatedly deal with what confronts us suggests we need to retain some of the dynamism of the City of Doing while avoiding its downsides. This answer will be the City of Becoming, informed by an emerging and expanded sense of what it is to be fully human. This City will offer multiple ways to explore its richly diverse fabric and facilities and so discover ever more potentials in ourselves. The architecture of the City of Becoming will further expand and elaborate this role as it weaves a web of relation ships in a way that encourages one to be aware and engaged, stretching you to all one could become. Instead of modernity’s isolated objects in a conceptual void, un-treasured and tarted up with smears of landscaping, the result would be a richly woven tapestry of relationships.

Ben Long’s Billboard as part of EC Arts ‘48 Sheet’ project. An example of a large format image exhibited in a prominent public location to reach audiences beyond the typical traditional gallery context. Project Library Ben Sheet Art in Hovinbyen (originally published online by E-Flux)
Long 48

Assemble Baltic Street Adventure Playground

Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Glasgow was set up by Assemble in an area where many of the areas kids play facilities had been demolished as part of the wider transformation taking place in East Dalmarnock as part of the Commonwealth Games. A long-term project, the playground is registered as charity, regularly brings in artists as collaborators and educators and is recognised as a model for other play organisations locally and nationally.

Project Library The Artists Placement Group was a British project begun in 1966 by 5 contemporary artists, who negotiated approximately fifteen placements for artists within industries and later within UK government departments such as the Department of the Environment. Artists worked to an ‘open brief’ – their placements were not required to produce tangible results, with a conviction that engagement and dialogue would benefit both host organisations and the artists in the long-term. Artists Placement Group was a milestone in Conceptual Art in Britain, reinventing the means of making and disseminating art, and anticipating many of the issues facing cultural workers today. Breakwell, Steveni, Tresilian, Latham, Davies Artists Placement Group Art in Hovinbyen

David Harvey from Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference

The problem with the modernist thinkers was not that they had a totalizing vision or subscribed to master narratives or indulged in master planning. Their problem was not that they had conceptions of the city and of the social process as a whole. Their problem was that they took the notion of ‘thing’ and gave it power over process. Their second flaw was that they did much the same with community. Much of the ideology that came out of Geddes and Howard was precisely about the construction of communities that were fixed and had certain qualities with respect to class and gender relations. Once again the domination of things seemed to be the general flaw…

Michael Edwards from A New Deal for Global Governance

Shared ownership of the development agenda is seen as key to its sustainability. Public, private and civic roles are reconceptualised and reshaped in both economics and social policy: the best route to problem solving lies through partnership…

Bjerke public agencies w/OBOS Vollebekk Fabrikker

Vollebekk Fabrik is a project supported by the public agencies in Bjerke and the developer OBOS, with a shared ambition to create a place that feels mature and coherent in spite of substantial amounts of new construction. The project is part of a strategy to support businesses, social projects and environmental initiatives that can improve the local area and mitigate some of the problematic effects of local regeneration and development, bridging the often stark division between newly redeveloped sites and adjacent areas of the city where there is typically less investment. This process is proving a challenge, but there is generally a positive feeling about fostering a constructive and sustained partnership with the developers that are shaping the area’s regeneration agenda.

Art in Hovinbyen Project Library

Utagawa Hiroshige 100 Views of Edo

Florian Beigel and Philip Christou excerpt from Specific Indeterminacy and Designing for Uncertainty

An architectural space that makes room for the unfolding of human imagination is our objec tive. It would be characterised by a specificity of context, place and materials; would be indetermi nate with regard to a predetermined set of uses; and would tolerate unknown future uses.

Describing specific indeterminate space as “uncommitted or free space”, Cedric Price has written: ’The individual eater’s choice of particu lar parts of a meal placed before him, the speed at which he eats, the amount he eats and the change in his choice of particular items during eating are in no way controlled by the size of the plate or its position on the table. However, to enable these gastronomic choices to take place, both the plate and the stability of the table are required. He may of course move the plate from one table to another during his meal or indeed have his plate refilled … The plate as the architecture and its relationship to the supportive table as its siting enables the comparison of free-space to an oper ational matrix … the operational matrix becomes a tool for the users rather than for the designer. However, to achieve this modest intent, uncom mitted or free-space must be seen not merely as the canvas for a new piece of architecture but as a continuing resource able to be fertilised by the introduction of built structuring which does not in itself and through its very form imply a particular use from the start’.

Specific indeterminate space has an enig matic emptiness, it is a space that is waiting for something to happen, a space where one can be alone or in a crowd. It is a space that attracts tem porary proximity of different uses, densification of use and change of use. In its basic form it has similarities to a stage (Fig. 1), either in the house, in the city or a stage between cities. Many sce narios can be acted out on it. Stages are typically indeterminate with reference to programme and they are often empty, with no vertical structures

on them. To varying degrees they have service structures surrounding them, above or below them, and their theatrical potential increases with the size and capacity of these structures.

Specific indeterminate space is in the first in stance formed as architectural infrastructure. To be both specific and indeterminate seems to be a contradiction in terms. If use is not the main factor that determines the design of a space one usually assumes the design must be general, multi-purpose, and non-specific. Herein lies a pos sible danger. The exclusion of specificity has tended to create out-of-place, character less buildings or black boxes, like suitcases left standing on the platform and left uncollected, not belonging. This specificity of space comes from the place. A heightened awareness of a situation needs to be created. Specificity can also come from the materiality of the location or, to be more exact, from an authenticity of material. As the English writer and translator Fitzgerald expressed it: “that is called authentic, which is sufficient to itself, which commends, sustains, proves itself and hath credit and authority from itself”. Mate rial choices for architectural infrastructures can be further informed by the materiality of the site.

The concept of specific indeterminacy has also been well described by Rem Koolhaas: “If there is to be a ‘new urbanism’ it will not be based on the twin fantasies of order and omnipotence; it will be the staging of uncertainty; it will no longer be concerned with the arrange ment of more or less permanent objects but with the irrigation of territories with potential; it will no longer aim for stable configurations but for the creation of enabling fields that accommo date processes that refuse to be crystallised into definitive form …”

Project Library The Japanese artist Hiroshige’s series of ukiyo-e woodblock prints, 100 Views of Edo, which were a popular series of representations of Edo’s landscape, culture and traditions that were serialised and frequently reprinted as part of a popular guidebook as well as being exquisite works and examples of craftsmanship in their own right. Art in Hovinbyen

John Turner from Three Laws, from Freedom to Build

When dwellers control the major decision are free to make their own contribution to the design, construction or management of their environment, both the process and the environment produced stimulate the individual and social well-being.

Danah Zohar from Quantum Systems

All of nature’s complex systems are at their most creative when they are delicately poised between fixedness and unfixedness – poised at the edge of chaos

zURBS Walkshop

zURBS Walking Tour, where participants listened ‘to the future, who guided them through its current beginnings, as well as the hopes, fears and visions that people have for what is to come’. The artwork takes the form of an audio tour which is experienced directly in relation to a place.

Art in Hovinbyen Project Library

John Hodgkinson excerpt from What is Improvising?



1. 2.

Situations New Rules of Public Art


The word ‘improvisation’ is used in so many different contexts that we had better begin by attempting to clarify what it is that this book is exploring. For some people, ‘improvisation’ sug gests no more than making do – the need only to cope somehow with blocked drains or with mending motor cars with bootlaces on Blubber house Moor.

While, of course, most people are delighted by the ingenuity involved, the trouble with most of this kind of improvising is that it remains as sociated with the second-best and the make shift. We never ourselves meet the challenge of thinking our way through an unexpected situa tion; we side-step opportunity for discovery and are merely relieved to ‘get by’.

Another approach to improvising is, for instance, when we run up the latest fashion model from last years cut-offs, or produce a

Cordon Bleu meal from the weekend’s lefto vers. There is still a sense of making do, but this time we are drawing upon our imaginations in order to try and achieve an objective we have set ourselves.

There is a further aspect of improvising we meet in day-to-day living: we are continually having to adjust to whatever happens around us. The more unexpected the happening, the more spontaneous and frank the response is likely to be. Because people are less predictable than things, we are more often called upon to adjust to others in a way that we cannot easily plan. If we are open and receptive, we can make dis coveries both about ourselves and others from these moments. If we are less receptive, the ten dency will be to reproduce what we consider to be socially acceptable responses which become standardised and stereotyped.



It doesn’t have to look like public art. e days of bronze heroes and roundabout baubles are numbered. Public art can take any form or mode of encounter.

Be prepared to be surprised, delighted, even unnerved.

It’s not forever.

Artists are shaking up the life expectancy of public artworks. Places don’t remain still and unchanged, so why should public art?

Don’t make it for a community.

Create a community.

Be wary of prede ning an audience. As Brian Eno once said, “sometimes the strongest single importance of a work of art is the celebration of some kind of temporary community.”

Create space for the unplanned.

Commissioning public art is not a simple design-and-build process. Artworks arrive through a series of accidents, failures and experiments and open up the potential for unforeseen things to happen.

Withdraw from the cultural arms race.

Towns and cities across the world are locked into a one-size- ts-all style of public art. In a culture of globalised brands and clone towns, we hanker a er authentic, distinctive places. If we are place-making, then let’s make unusual places.

Demand more than fireworks.

Believe in the quiet, unexpected encounter as much as the magic of the mass spectacle. It’s o en in the silence of a solitary moment, rather than the exhilaration of whizzes and bangs, that transformation occurs.

7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

Don’t embellish. Interrupt. We need smart urban design, upli ing street lighting and landmark buildings, but public art can do so much more than decorate. Interruptions to our surroundings or everyday activities can open our eyes to new possibilities.

Share ownership freely, but authorship wisely.

Public art is of the people and made with the people, but not always by the people. Artists are skilled creative thinkers as well as makers, trust their judgment, follow their lead and invest in their process.

Welcome outsiders.

Outsiders challenge our assumptions about what we believe to be true of a place. Embrace the opportunity to see through an outsider’s eyes.

Don’t waste time on definitions.

Is it sculpture? Is it visual art? Is it performance? Who cares. ere are more important questions to ask. Does it move you? Does it shake up your perceptions of the world around you, or your backyard? Does it make you curious to see more?

Suspend your disbelief.

Art gives us the chance to imagine alternative ways of living, to disappear down rabbit holes, to live for moment in a di erent world. Local speci cs might have been the stepping o point – but public art is not history lesson. Be prepared that it might not always tell the truth.

Get lost.

Public art is neither destination nor way- nder. Artists encourage us to follow them down unexpected paths as a work unfolds. Surrender the guidebook, get o the art trail and step into unfamiliar territory.

‘Situations has been commissioning artworks since 2002. Our projects have taken many different forms including temporary interventions, permanently sited sculptural installations and curatorial programmes over long periods of time. ‘Situations’ mission is to unlock new opportunities and perspectives and to catalyse positive change for people and places through extraordinary art experiences that grow out of place.’

Art in Hovinbyen Project Library

“Prelude to The Shed” was exactly the kind of hybrid performance-space-as-exhibition that von Hantelmann takes as the starting point in her essay. Some elements of the program were con tinuous, some events were held at given times, with everything merging in a flux of different genres of dance, performance, contemporary art, and popular culture. On the afternoon I attended, the program scrolled smoothly through four or five elements within thirty minutes. While these transitions were well done, the total impression was less of a new ritual space than of quality decoration for an area where a cozy pied-à-terre will set you back $12 million. In this context, the Price trolleys offered the memory of participa tory architecture in the register of defanged ancient history, rather than as a way to put critical pressure on actual real estate. A Schema for a School is one thing; the more radical proposition would be a cultural institution that includes within its architecture crucial services like a public school, day care, or a branch of the New York Public Library.

The construction of yet another enormous venue for culture feels like the harbinger of a

horrible new world in which all public services are drained of resources but every High Net Worth Individual can evade taxes by pouring a fraction of their profits into a cultural project that enhances their social status. The überwealthy once gave a percentage of their riches to the church; today they give them to flexible and adaptable visual art/performance spaces. Before leaving office in 2013, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg earmarked $75 million for the Shed. But taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be used to bolster supersize spec tacle (underwritten by wealthy corporations seeking their own tax breaks) at a cultural in stitution that plans to gain revenue by renting out its space to New York Fashion Week. This structure—and its superstructure—isn’t going to yield the kind of social gathering described by von Hantelmann. (For that, we should look to more socially oriented projects, like the mag nificent SESC Pompéia in São Paulo, which offers leisure facilities for workers: theaters, an exhibition space, gymnasiums, a swimming pool, a library, cafés, and workshops all buzz with convivial activity.)

Project Library Claire Bishop excerpt from Palace in Plunderland Art in Hovinbyen Alex Hartley’s Nowhereisland Constitution was part of a public art project that drew together thousands of statements and ambitions into a multi-authored constitution a new, transient, island nation. Alex Hartley Nowhereisland

Futurefarmers Losæter

Simon Nicholson excerpt from The Theory of Loose Parts

Creativity is for the gifted few: the rest of us are compelled to live in environments con structed by the gifted few, listen to the gifted few’s music, use gifted few’s inventions and art, and read the poems, fantasies and plays by the gifted few. This is what our education and culture conditions us to believe, and this is a culturally induced and perpetuated lie.

Building upon this lie, the dominant cul tural elite tell us that the planning, design and

building of any part of the environment is so dif cult and so special that only the gifted few –those with degrees and certi cates in planning, engineering, architecture, art, education, be havioural psychology, and so on – can properly solve environmental problems …in any envi ronment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibilities of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kinds of variables within it.

Art in Hovinbyen Project Library Futurefarmers’ Losæter project, where the artists planted a grainfield – seen here set against the backdrop of Oslo harbour – and built an experimental bakery as well as allocating 100 allotments to local residents in the city is an example of a long-term, incremental project which involves artists working in a sustained way with a group of local people on a project with a strong social ambition.

Colin Ward excerpt from Anarchy or Order

How could we explain the vast gap between the planners and the planned? The explanation I used at the time, was derived from Richard Sennett’s book The Uses of Disorders in which he remarked that “Professional planners of highways, of redevelopment housing, of innercity renewal projects, have anticipated by some fifty years the idea that the average citizen has something positive to contribute towards the improvement of his environment. Geddes was convinced that each generation has the right to in-build their own aspirations into the fabric of their town. In order to achieve this a basis of civic understanding had to be created through education. Geddes canvassed schools, societies and associations and attempted to draw them into making surveys and plans of their local ity; creating play-spaces, planting trees, and painting buildings. He seized on any vehicle to expose people to situations in which they had to make judgements.

I draw sustenance from a chance remark made by Geddes in 1912: "For fulfilment there must be a reabsorption of government into the body of the community. How? By cultivating the habit of direct action instead of waiting upon representative agencies.”

Now here, leaving aside the rhetoric, Geddes is touching upon a key issue, as important in our day as in his. We are conditioned to look at local government and practically every other facet of society in this country from the top down.

Indeed, I have quoted Thomas Sharp’s dictum that planning "must begin at the top and work downwards”. Geddes, Ebenezer Howard, and all those totally unqualified planners who saw town planning as a popular movement, looked from the bottom up. The excuse for central govern ment and for central revenue-gathering is that it can equalise and redistribute the differences of income generated by different regions. But daily observation shows that, with the most sophis ticated system of revenue-gathering, it doesn’t happen. Poor regions, like poor people, stay poor. And the very last thing that central gov ernment will yield to the regions, the counties or the districts, is the right to revenue gathering and to making decisions locally as to how that revenue shall be spent.

Let’s look at this with a long-term perspec tive. The planners of the first generation sought a popular franchise The second generation of planners, like Sharp, sought a comprehensive legislative framework. The third generation of planners used these legislative powers without popular support. Chastened by the experience that we all should learn from, the planners of the fourth generation have to relearn their function as enablers and as advocates for the modest and humble hopes of ordinary citizens. Planning began as a movement, not as a library of legisla tion, and its future would be much more assured and much more hopeful if it could recover its popular and populist image.

Wolfgang Tillmans Anti-Brexit Campaign

Project Library Wolfgang Tillmans’ series of posters produced in the lead up to the Brexit vote in 2015 in the UK were a bold, compelling and politically charged artwork distributed cheaply and informally. Their visual clarity and wide distribution has made them an enduring reminder of what is at stake in the political tit-for-tat discussions that led up to the vote and which have dominated public discussion since. Art in Hovinbyen

Angelos Varvarousis and Penny Koutrolikou excerpt from Degrowth and the City

There are multiple lines to develop a degrowth framework relevant for the contemporary city.

Ecological economics, for instance, proposes that not every natural resource should be monetized or valorized in terms of exchange value, since there are resources that can be regarded indis pensable of the (re)production of human (and nonhuman) and social life. Although numerous activists and theorists have voiced similar views concerning the urban, this approach has remained mostly connected to natural assets. As a starting point, we could think of transferring and applying this approach to cities, which might prevent certain urban resources from being commodi fied or sold off. In this sense, public spaces would remain public, as do a number of other resources (such as water, energy, etc).

This logic could also be expanded to common resources; resources that could be produced and/or organized by residents, thus giving rise to a diverse landscape of institutions that could be molded and remolded in order to reflect the changing and plural needs of the multiple groups that use them. Although the terms “commons” and “public” are often used interchangeably, urban commons emerge and thrive in the inter stices of law and outside the binary dichotomy between public and private. It is exactly this cofertilization of the commons with the principles of degrowth that can give new meaning to the reorganization of urban space. Cities are not only where the culture of growth is materialized, but also privileged terrains for the flourishing of commoning practices that prioritize use values and collective creation over exchange values and commodification.

Project Library (originally published online by E-Flux) Meganom’s Installation for ‘Broken Nature’ at Milan Triennale. A series of vitrine’s containing fragments from Moscow’s past, present and future exhibited to provoke discussion about the future of Moscow’s waterways. Art in Hovinbyen Meganom and MArchI The Moscow River-Age



Visit #1 May 2018

The first visit to Oslo focussed on introducing the work of Assemble to various stakeholders in the Hovinbyen urban transformation project and a cycle tour of the area, enabling an understanding of the large site and varied fabric and activity.

[Left] View from the rooftop of Bymiljøetaten, Karvesvingen 3 – a short walk from Løren

[Below] Cycle tour of the Green Ring with Agencies

The second trip involved meetings with the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Agency for Urban Development, City of Oslo and KORO – Public Art Norway to more clearly define the brief.

The project, Art in Hovinbyen, is conceived as a collaboration between several City of Oslo Agencies and KORO for the planning and production of art projects in Hovinbyen. Art in Hovinbyen is intended to be a means for examining the role that art can play in the development of the area as it undergoes a massive transforma tion in the 20 years between 2015 and 2035. It is anticipated that the project will be made up of several different projects undertaken by different artists, and in different parts of Hovinbyen.

Assemble were invited to take on an initial stage of work, focussed on research, analysis and identification of opportunities and priorities that would inform a next stage where the City and KORO, working closely with local artists and cultural producers, would develop concrete projects across Hovinbyen.

‘The cultural agency is a discipline for culture in the municipality of Oslo. The cultural agency ensures quality, diversity and develop ment in the cultural offering in Oslo.

The cultural agency consists of the Oslo City Archives, the Vigeland Museum and the sculptures in the Vigeland National Park, the art collection of the City of Oslo, Cultural Properties, the Oslo Cultural School, the Oslo Cultural Night, the Arts and Culture Scholarship, the Popsenteret, the Exercise Hotel, the city-wide event, as well as grants for art and cultural measures, the city-wide event, as well as grants for art and cultural initiatives, holiday rentals, voluntary children’s activities. and youth organizations and music life for children and young people.’

The key points of contact for the project were Mari Fredriksen Sundet of the Agency for Cultural Affairs and Truls Ramberg of KORO.

The city’s Cultural Agency is responsible for culture in the municipality of Oslo, ensuring quality, diversity and development of the city’s ‘cultural offer’. It consists of the Oslo City Archives and a variety of significant cultural institutions, properties, programmes and events in the city.

KORO, Oslo’s National Agency for Public Art are involved in two parallel projects in Trondheim and Tromso working with art curator Katya Assmann and architects Raumlabor exploring the potential for art and architecture to improve the urban environment within and around existing planned development.

Other key stakeholders involved in the project were the City of Oslo’s Agency for Urban Design, for Planning and Building Services, and for Cultural Heritage Management.

[Top] Notes from meeting with Kulturetaten - Agency for Cultural Affairs

[Middle] A visualisation of project working group


Hovin & Central Okern Visit #2 August 2018 – Kulturetaten and Agency for Urban Environment
Art in
Diary 2018–20

The third visit to Oslo focussed on detailed introductions to the historic, ongoing and future development of the area as well as meetings with a number of the large developers that have significant plans to develop sites in strategic locations within Hovinbyen.

Several large ongoing or soon-to-commence projects were introduced, including developments incorporating a sports arena,housing, public space, retail centres and cultural space. A substantial strategic project to improve the connectivity across the area and improve access to green infrastructure - ‘The Green Ring” - is underway. This will provide a circular green recreational trail, around 6km long, that will link existing and new parks and function as an attractive, safe route for pedestrians and cyclists between urban areas within Hovinbyen.

‘The green ring is the concept of creating a circular green recrea tional trail of around 6 km that will link existing and new parks. The ring will also function as an attractive and safe route for pedestrians and cyclists between urban areas within Hovinbyen. We are using the Harbour Promenade in Oslo’s Fjord City as a model.’

‘Oslo is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. Hovinbyen has been identified as the capital’s largest urban redevelopment area up to 2030. The area comprises 11 km2, almost as large as the whole of Oslo’s existing inner city.

The proximity to Oslo city centre means that Hovinbyen will be an extension of the «urban nucleus», with a good mix of housing, business and city life.

Økern is intended to be the main centre in Hovinbyen.

The distance from Økern to Oslo Central Station is the same distance as from Majorstuen to the Central Station. However, in contrast to the corresponding area to the west of the city, larger parts of Hovinbyen are subject to heavy traffic, cut off residential areas and industrial and warehouse areas that are scarcely used.’

[Left] Summaries of meetings with (i) Agency for Planning and Building Services, (ii) Agency for Urban Design and (iii) Agency for Cultural Heritage Management

[Below] Walking tour map

[Top] Hovinbyen

[Left] Oslo historic centre


Red: National listed buildings

Orange: Regulations protected buildings

Yellow: City listed buildings

– no formal protection

Art in Hovinbyen 187 KAMPEN TVEITA ÅRVOLL VÅLERENGA VALLE HOVIN ENSJØ HELSFYR RISLØKKA VOLLEBEKK BRYNETTERSTAD BREIVOLL BJERKE REFSTAD ULVEN HARALDRUD LØREN HASLE ØKERN ØSTRE AKER Hovinbyen Tegnforklaring Den grønne ringen CARL BERNER TØYEN Visit #3 January 2019 – Meetings with Agencies Visit #3 January 2019 – Meetings with Agencies Diary 2018–20

Visit #3 January 2019 – Fragment and the Young Artists’ Society UKS

A meeting with Arild Eriksen, of Oslo-based architecture practice Fragment and with Ruben Steinum, of the Young Artists Society introduced their current plans for the provision of affordable artists space in Hovibyen.

The Young Artists’ Society, UKS, is an Oslo-based institution for contemporary art. Founded by artists, for artists in 1921, it has since established itself as one of Norway’s core experimental venues for the arts; convening, exhibiting, and supporting critical voices of contemporary artists with the objective of having both an artistic and political impact within and beyond its region.

UKS is situated in Oslo’s city centre, with an exhibition space and studios. It is a non-profit organization with the Arts Council Norway as the principal funder.

Together, Fragment and UKS have developed a pilot project for affordable artist housing, and at the time of meeting the focus was on finding a site within Hovinbyen for the more detailed development of the project.

[Bottom] Image of exhibition promoting the UKS Kunstnerbolig Project which ran from 18–26 August 2018, images by UKS

We met with Lars Pettersson of Oxer-Eiendom, who are developing the Kabelgata site into a mixed residential and cultural development.

Oxer Eiendom describe their vision of a centre for diverse cultural uses in the historic factory premises in Kabelgata. They have control over most of the historic factory buildings, and intend to repurpose most of this space for cultural, commercial and recreational uses while adding substantial volumes of new housing to the site.

Imagined by the developers as the new cultural centre in Hovinbyen, they described a desire to preserve the site’s history whilst looking to the future, a combination they are confident will create a ‘unique place’.

Lars described the hope that the site would become a “modern, vibrant urban community within the historical context, keeping that “authentic scent of sawdust”.

We met with Steen & Strom to discuss the proposals that they were developing at that time for the Økern Central site.

An established retail developer with other large commercial properties in the city centre, their plans were to demolish the existing Økern Central tower and plinth and instead build a new retail complex, ‘cultural centre’ and leisure facilities. The scheme would include retail spaces alongside a variety of restaurants, cafes and bars, a cinema and an aquarium combined with tall residential blocks proposed with complex geometries.

[Bottom] Image of proposed development of the old Kabelgata by Oxer-Eiendom

Lastly we met with Jon-Erik Lunøe of OBOS to discuss their plans for an extensive development in ‘Ulven’. Jon-Erik was candid about the challenges to building homes affordably in a context where the cost of labour as well as building code and energy efficiency requirements have been consistently increasing.

The plans communicated an interest in the ways in which spatial design, investment in the public realm and shared amenities could create developments that are of a substantial scale and density but which enable a level of shared, communal solidarity and sociability.

in Hovinbyen Visit #3 January 2019 – OAT 2019 Oslo Triennale
Diary 2018–20

The fourth trip took in meetings with representatives of each of the four Boroughs that form a part of Hovinbyen and visits to local groups, including the community project Vollebekk Factory in the North-East of the area.

Vollebekk Fabrikker is an old factory space that has been con verted into a neighbor incubator project, hosting more than 25 green businesses and social entrepreneurs, artists and local enthusiasts.

The space provides access to production facilities, workshops and workspaces to rent, fostering a community of practice that has aspirations to demonstrate the potential for local businesses to lead in shaping the development agenda into a socially and culturally productive plan for the area.

The project presents a model for the conversion of old, lowvalue industrial buildings into valuable, economically viable spaces that can sustain local business and community use. The project is supported by Paadriv, a local coalition of businesses aiming to ‘help create a paradigm shift within the current constructs of sustainable urban development in Norway and internationally’. More strategi cally, Paadriv are leading on the local Betaby, an initiative which aims to develop a sustainable urban exemplar as a ‘Beta City’ in Hovinbyen. The Beta City is a geographically defined urban area for the development, testing and demonstration of the potential for more ecological and socially sustainable approaches to city-making through interdisciplinary collaboration, creating a community of technological and knowledge exchange that they hope will lead to a better environment and greater social well-being.

We made two further trips to participate in conferences around the future development of Hovinbyen, one organised by Fragment and KORO, and the other by the Agency for Urban Design.

These conferences were opportunities for us to talk about a number of key themes and ideas in our projects that share simi larities with different aspects of the project in Hovinbyen – working in contexts of change, how to utilise cultural resources to effect sustained improvement and enrichment in the urban situation, how to work in a way which is effective, equitable and careful to respect the opinions and understanding possessed by people locally and which is a critical ingredient, alongside the skills and approaches that we bring, in making successful work.

This document is produced as a way of sharing our work to date, our observations on the local and broader context of the Hovinbyen project, and our thoughts on an agenda and a set of guiding ideas that might enable the project to move forward through by bringing together a broad community of local groups, artists, Agencies and spatial opportunities.

in Hovinbyen Visit #4 March 2019 – Local groups and the Vollebekk Factory Visit #5 Hovinbyen conferences [Left] Community event at Vollebekk Factory [Top] Mushroom grower at Vollebekk Factory [Left] Public event at Vollebekk Factory
191 Diary 2018–20
Art in HovinbyenNotes
Notes Art in Hovinbyen

Published by Assemble for KORO — Public Art Norway and the Agency for Cultural Affairs, City of Oslo, Norway.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means mechanical, photocopying or other-wise, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

Images: Archival imagery sourced through Arbeiderbevegelsens Arkiv og Bibliotek, Norse Teknisk Museum, Oslo Byarkiv and Oslo Museum. Aerial imagery courtesy of City of Oslo. All other imagery © Assemble unless otherwise credited.

Cover graphic: Plan of existing civic buildings, Hovinbyen, 2020

Assemble has made every effort to trace copyright holders, but if any have been overlooked, we will be pleased to make the necessary accreditations at the first opportunity.


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©2020 Assemble

Colophon Edited by Assemble: James Binning Holly Briggs Amica Dall Emily Wickham Giles Smith Designed by Polytechnic Printed by Pressision
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