City Stunts

City Stunts

(all photos: Michelle Litvin)

A new exhibition at the Graham Foundation’s Madlener House puts urban residents on notice: engage your community, become amateur planners, designers, and architects. Actions: What You Can Do with the City was organized and curated by the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal and seeks to challenge traditional planning’s organization of the built environment into work, residential, and leisure zones. The exhibition is composed of 99 actions, “common activities such as walking, playing, recycling, and gardening that are pushed beyond their usual definition by the international architects, artists, and collectives featured in the exhibition.” The actions range from cheeky solutions to lying down on hostile benches (Action #38) to sensible maps of how and where to forage for urban fruits and vegetables (Action #9).

City dwellers often come up against barriers – often by design (e.g. anti-sitting devices, Action #43) – to full enjoyment of their surroundings. The resulting friction is pervasive throughout the show. The actions not only propose alternatives or means around the impediments, but sometimes heighten the dialogue by suggesting new ones. On the same table sit decorative metal skateboarding-deterrent starfish (Action #42) and shoes modified with plastic cutting boards (Action #30) that allow pedestrians to slide on hard edges and railings. One item is designed to curb pedestrian damage, while the other encourages movement on unintended surfaces. These seemingly contradictory ideas and other actions challenge our thinking on urban environments and inspire greater engagement and participation.

Actions: What You Can Do with the City
Graham Foundation
4 W. Burton Place, Chicago
Through March 13, 2010