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— urbantick

Book – Game Urbanism

The widening of the planning process is something we have only seen happening in the past 20 years. Public consultations are older, but not public participation. There was a strong practice of participation in the late eighties and early nineties ,which has sort of established some public involvement, but it has also died out to a great extend again. It is however an upcoming topic again also with the availability of new tools and technologies such as digital and mobile gadgets.

The tension between the ‘planners’ and the ‘to be planned’, has always posed obstacles and the understanding and the working together is complicated already because of the self image of the different parties. One of the few methods with a good success for a productive process involving multiple parties is the games oriented approach, where the immediate self and the preoccupation can be diverted and the engagement or possible temporally enacting of a different role seems acceptable and possible.

In a new Valiz publication Game Urbanism: Manual for Cultural Spatial Planning, Hans Verhuizen discusses his theories and his practice in this field of, what he terms ‘Cultural Planning’, of working with multiple stakeholders on planning processes.

The publication puts Spatial Planning as: “Reassuring End-Pictures Remove all Fear of Change, yet also Curiosity about an Uncertain Result” and crucially for the approach: “The Best Idea is Indeed the Idea you Think of Yourself”.

The book puts forward a specific term for the aspects it is concerned with as ‘Cultural Planning’. It is not a new term, but Charles Laundry traces its roots back to the 1980s. The terms aims to broaden the meaning of ‘planning’ as a mer infrastructure and definitely physically oriented process. With the addition of culture the aim is to include social and cultural aspects.

The publication is structured in three main chapters, Handbook, Workbook and Urbanism Game. To understand the ful index it is important to have a look at the first few pages which are in fact part of the index. It is a sort of index spread allowing for a note with each topic. The number at the bottom is not the actual page number, but the page number this topic is discussed.

The Handbook chapter is the theoretical part with a wide range of inputs and considerations. Especially the side notes are a playful set of very serious input. The whole book is full of playful elements with rotation and skips or directions, where the topic of the content has informed the presentation and the character of the publication.

Image taken from archined / Parquette, a project game employing the herringbone pattern as a principle of reorganisation. The games reveilles the positive side of conflicts in the urban planning processes.

“Game Urbanism deals with the culture of spatial planning. Hans Venhuizen advances a broad understanding of culture that encompasses cultural history, heritage, architecture and art, as well as the culture of the current residents of a region and the idiosyncrasy of a place. In his search for a more specific identity for cities and areas, Venhuizen links the worlds of culture and space to each other in different ways. In this, his focus is always on the culture of spatial planning itself, and the game is his most important instrument. The relation between playfulness and seriousness is a key feature in all of Venhuizen’s projects. The game is capable of involving participants in an assignment on an equal basis. Moreover, it simplifies complex situations, reveals the wishes and interests of those involved, and provides pleasure in uncertain processes of change.”

“The book offerscase studies, context, methods and reflection. It shows a fundamentally different way of looking at how we deal with space, one in which culture assumes a natural and decisive role.”

The three authors have very different backgrounds and this shapes a very distinct perspective, creating interesting view.
Hans Venhuizen is director of Bureau Venhuizen, a project management and research bureau in the field of planning processes and spatial planning, also referred to as culture-based planning.
Charles Landry is founder and director of Comedia (UK), an international agency advising on creativity as source and stimulator for urban development and change. Landry is author of The Creative City: a Toolkit for Urban Innovators (2000), The Art of City Making (2006) and with Phil Wood of The Intercultural City: Planning for Diversity Advantage (2007).
Francien van Westrenen is Programmer/Curator Architecture of Stroom in The Hague and was project manager at Bureau Venhuizen.

For a quick overview of the book pleaase have a look at this clip.

SubMap 1.0
Image taken from archined / Book cover.

Venhuizen, H., Landry, C. & Westrenen, F.V., 2010. Game Urbanism: Manual for Cultural Spatial Planning, Amsterdam: Valiz.