Urban Voids

The sustainable performance of a city can be strengthened by activating its unused spaces; all in terms of economic, environmental and social potential. In this research program, we investigate to what extent urban voids can be made accessible to different groups of society and how temporary uses would be able to identify future activities, thus functioning as an urban catalyst and testing ground in anticipation of a future permanent development.

How can cities and their respective governments organize empty spaces with initially low financial investments in times of a global economic crisis and how can the urban community participate and benefit in the best way possible? The goal of this work is to develop a toolbox for the temporary filling of vacant areas with informal and temporary scenarios; situations that can be formalized and become permanent once the initial -or modified if necessary- use has created a successful dynamic and bonding with the existing urban fabric and functions.

The participation of all actors of society is key in this strategic methodology: an exclusively top-down approach is no longer appropriate, while bottom-up approaches are typically not officially recognized as tool for urban renewal but remain in a legal grey zone owed to their informal character. How can we establish new, more efficient and democratic relationships between citizens, urban planners, developers and the governmental planning authority? How can this process lead to a higher degree of identification with and appropriation of the urban surrounding by and through the citizens? How can we optimize the relationship of private and public property? How can we combine the formal and the informal way while developing cities and optimizing its resources?

The Urban Voids project is informed by some of our previous research programs that take an in-depth look at the informal urban development in Latin America, such as Occupy All Street (O.A.S.) and Temporary Permanent. It contributes to some of our Infrastructure and Public Space projects, such as the Intermanzana and Trama Verde. Case studies in the traditionally more formal urban development of the European cities have been formulated for Mannheim, Germany, Amsterdam, Netherlands and Budapest, Hungary, distinct urban areas that are currently facing great changes.


A Foundation (Oliver Schütte, Marije van Lidth de Jeude and Machiel Crielaard) in collaboration with XCOOP (Cristina Murphy and Andrea Bertassi) from the Netherlands and Oficio Colectivo (Erick Mazariegos) from Guatemala

Location: Worldwide

Status: Ongoing

Year: 2012-present