URBAN CHALLENGE STUDIO 1: Urban Palimpsest - Discovering Vantaa
SITE VISITS guided by seppo
The Urban Challenge Studio 1 starts with site visits to our course focus area in central and eastern Vantaa. The visits are divided in 8 different stories and assigned to students who then independently will explore certain tasks using the seppo gaming environment. Since we are part of a diverse academic community the site visits are highlighting a variety of theoretical approaches some of which you may have previous knowledge of. Each visit is built around a narrative that will hopefully trigger discussion, and the need for further search for information from literature, site specific data, and observations.
The theoretical frame of these visits is built loosely around the spatial triad of French philosopher and sociologist Henri Lefebvre. The triad is Lefebvre’s contribution in helping us understand the nature of physical space. In his text originating in 1974 Lefebvre points out that in fact space around us “is neither subject nor object” (Lefebvre 1974/1991, 92). This is due to the fact, that human beings simultaneously “have a space and […] are in this space” (ibid. 294). Thus, space is a “social reality” and “a set of relations and forms” (ibid. 116) and subsumes products and their interrelations (ibid. 73).
This profound relativity and complexity of spatial conceptualizations creates a specific characteristic of knowledge in urban planning/design. In Lefebvre’s attempt to understand the production of space “the aim is to construct a theoretical unity between ‘fields’, which are apprehended separately.” (ibid 11). Epistemologically, our knowledge of the planning act is socially constructed rather than a positivist truth to look for. Therefore, Lefebvre provides us with one possible way to access our multidisciplinary ground with a shared terminology.
Lefebvre’s triad influenced theories of geography and proved to be versatile despite its initial unifying theory. The triad shed light on several more abstract aspects regarding space, such as ownership and rights over space. In order to take your first steps with a shared understanding of the project area that we are approaching from our diverse backgrounds, we ought to make some clarifications. According to Lefebvre’s triad a complex space in capitalistic production is divided into perceived (1st), conceived (2nd) and lived (3rd). These three spaces build on each-other.
In a nutshell these categories can be explained as follows:
· A perceived space represents “the practical basis of the perception of the outside world”, or otherwise, it is the world of “spatial practices”.
· "A conceived space is a place for the practices of social and political power; in essence, it is these spaces that are designed to manipulate those who exist within them". Conceived space is therefore the space of social institutions and their conceptualizations.
· Lived space, in turn, is where social relations take place and where we actively experience space in our everyday life. It is the result of the dominance of perceived and conceived spaces. Lived space challenges the prevailing practical conceptions over space and is thus only a certain type of 'lived' space. It is a space of representations i.e. individual lived experiences build on top of our perception and conceived understandings.
It is important to recognize that all academic activity (just like professional planning practice) lies in the domain of conceived space, even though occasionally claims successful visits in the other two spaces. In this short introduction conceived space is considered as space of competing and overlapping institutions. Many of them are rooted in established disciplines and practices that create a socially understandable normative frame for our daily routines. Thus, even our “primary” perceptions don’t remain pure and innocent, but unintentionally become attached to multiple predominant frameworks of expectation.
Therefore, the target of these site visits is to encourage you to explore the surroundings of our project area and sensitize your perception beyond the traditional idea “what things are good for” – an idea that is heavily inbuilt on the modern, functionalist mindset. If you are lucky, you might even discover how people of different periods of time built they reasoning, and how uses and qualities develop in space that were never intended to in the first place.
Site visits using Seppo
The aim of these site visits is to introduce you to varying and sometimes competing ways of reading space and landscape. The eight narratives we created are neither coherent nor comprehensive explanations of the past and present of each site; our aim with these narratives is to expand your own disciplinary understanding by triggering further thoughts and discussions with your teammates. These site visits constitute the preliminary phase of the Studio 1 exercises that you will complete by December.
Each student is expected to complete two (2) seppo exercises we will assign to you, starting from Friday 11.09. at 08:00 (Finnish time) onward. You will receive the game access-codes, site locations and further information via email. Those of you unable to visit the site are given further instructions on how to find relevant information from your current locations.
The wrap-up of the seppo exercises will take place in
two phases. On Friday, 18.09 as part of the actual beginning of the course we will
reflect on and discuss your individual findings based on the seppo exercises. You
are expected to complete the exercises by Friday, 25.09, when we will have more
in-depth discussions about the group results. Those of you arriving to Finland later will have the opportunity to revisit the sites physically.