It isn’t every day that you come across a new kind of activism, but I would like to suggest model activism as a new term. Wouter Osterhold and Elke Uitentuis, the artists in residence at Cairo’s Townhouse Gallery, used architectural modeling to spur their neighbours into action and spur discourse on the plans for this city neighbourhood.
The Artists have recreated the urban area they live in in Downtown Cairo into a miniature model (1:35 scale as the title suggests) in an effort to stimulate the individual ideas of its inhabitants. The goal is to enable residents and workers in the neighbourhood to understand the urban fabric in its complexity and reflect on their surroundings. The city of Cairo has targeted this area for redevelopment and gentrification and wishes to ‘clean up’ the central city;
The government has the wish to ‘clean up’ the Downtown area. They want to remove the improvised extensions and commercial signs, they want to clean the roofs, renovate the monumental colonial architecture and relocate and accommodate the small businesses on the outskirts of Cairo. In addition to this a group of architects and urban planners developed a plan to transform the abandoned ‘Said Halim Pasha palace’ into a museum of Cairo. The ‘Townhouse neighbourhood 1:35′ project focuses on the development of an alternative vision on the future urban renewal developments.S
The Artists are hoping that by bringing the scale of the neighbourhood down to a level that is easily understood by its inhabitants it will empower them to become involved and try to influence the government’s current top down approach to development in the area.
We try to create a participatory exhibition in which the inhabitants will be challenged to think about their own ideas with regard to the future developments of their direct surrounding.S
The First Gallery Show was from January to March of the past year. The models are not just of the buildings but of everything from the broken windows to abandoned furniture, posters, laundry lines, and even the garbage. The level of detail gives residents a whole new perspective on their properties and this has caused some residents to see their homes and buisnesses in a new light. “When he noticed the trash on his roof in the model, one man decided he finally had to do something to clean it up,” S
The artists plan to take the results of the first gallery show, workshops and other feedback gathered from residents and compile them into a publication that they plan to present back to the residents and more importantly to the architects, urban planners, and politicians who are deciding what to do with the neighbourhood.
The second Gallery Show is from January 1st 2009 to March 8th 2009 at the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo Egypt.
If you are a planning nerd, or would just like to see even more pictures and write ups on the residents of this Cairo Neighbourhood check out the blog, it has a wealth of information, and it is all just so darn interesting…