2 Harvard Design Magazine 37

NETWORK DESIGN:
DREAM YOUR CITY
JOSE LUIS VALLEJO AND BELINDA TATO
ECOSISTEMA URBANO
Lighthamar urban action: flashmove+interactive light installation. Final public event of
Dreamhamar participatory process. All material courtesy, Ecosistema Urbano
3 Network Design: Dream Your City
“The right to the city is far more than the
individual liberty to access urban resources:
it is a right to change ourselves by changing
the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than
an individual right since this transformation
inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collec-
tive power to reshape the processes of urban-
ization. The freedom to make and remake our
cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of
the most precious yet most neglected of our
human rights.”
—The right to the city, David Harvey
Urbanism is the mirror, in which diferent aspects of
society and layers of information are reflected. Cities
first developed to support basic human activities, but
gradually transformed into a complex, constantly
changing live laboratoratories. This rapid evolution led
us to conceive and experience physical space diferently
than in the past. Additionally, real-time connectivity,
ubiquity, unlimited access to large flows of information
and knowledge, have also altered the way we relate to
and work with each other. Despite those rapid social and
technological changes, however, city planning processes
worldwide remain dull, bureaucratic and insensitive to
how humans experience the city.
There is a pressing need for a paradigm shift in city
management and city planning. In today’s connected
world, urban design can no longer be addressed from a
singular perspective, but should result from an open and
multilayered network of creative designers, technical
experts, citizens and stakeholders.
Network Design
Our success, either personal or societal, depends today
more than ever upon the ability to quickly deal with and
adapt to increasingly complex situations, which are
characteristic of our times. This is the framework in which
designers operate today. New contexts require new ways
of working. We have to rethink and redefine the tools we
use; shift from traditional closed and fixed structures
into open and flexible networked configurations. As
professional and disciplinary boundaries are blurring,
we need to explore the new role of the designer as an
activator, mediator and curator of social processes in a
networked reality. Above all, we must develop and test
design tools that allow the citizen to be an active parti-
cip ant of the process, instead of a passive consumer,
recipient of a finished product.
Contemporary public space projects should address
both the digital and the physical layer of a place. The two
are becoming increasingly interconnected and dependent
on each other. Designers should awaken to the opport-
unities emerging from their interaction and develop new
ways of working that challenge the existing professional
conventions.
Network design is an innovative methodology that
updates traditional public participation processes. It
enables network thinking by connecting the local com-
munity with the international digital community and by
facilitating a rich discussion about the future of a place.
The aim of the network design methodology is to raise
awareness and spark interest in urban issues, promote a
healthy debate and encourage public engagement within
the community. The atmosphere of urban awareness,
facilitated by a hyper-connected communication system,
results in the network efect—a spontaneous emergence
of fresh and creative ideas from the sea of information,
once a critical mass of connections/interactions is formed.
Dream Your City
Dream Your City is an application of the network design
methodology which transforms of an urban space and
activates a networked community that supports it and
cares for it at every stage of the design process and after
it’s materialization. Ecosistema Urbano recently used
Dream Your City in Norway to redesign Stortorget, the
main town square of Hamar.
Dreamhamar
To implement the network design philosophy in the
context of Stortorget, Ecosistema Urbano developed five
‘tools’ which together formed the Dreamhamar project.
These tools were used for grouping diferent stakeholders
around a common cause, either local–community related
or global–theme related, academic, etc.—using the web
as a free, open and reachable platform. Implementing
a varied and active set of networks allowed Dreamhamar
to widen the project’s input and output, laying the found-
ations for a great number of opportunities, but also
allowing exchange within the project and between its
activities.
Urban Actions Lightweight, ephemeral events and
installations on the public space, conceived to create
expectation and call citizens to action on Stortorget, and
as a way of experiencing possible uses and solutions for
the future square. They represented the most direct,
visible and local dimension of the project.
4 Harvard Design Magazine 37 5 Cities and Villages: Finding Common Ground through Architecture
6 Harvard Design Magazine 37 7 Cities and Villages: Finding Common Ground through Architecture
8 Harvard Design Magazine 37
Physical Lab The Bazaar Building, a small historical
building in the square, was reconverted into Ecosistema
Urbano’s pop up ofce and Dreamhamar’s ‘cultural
basecamp,’ a place where regular ofce work, on-site
workshops, lectures and exhibitions took place. It aimed
to maximize interaction within the local scope of the
project.
Digital Lab
An online platform containing blog-like entries, static
information pages, an internal social network and the
Dreamhamar mobile app. It was used to host the online
workshops, publish weekly broadcasts, and provide
regular updates about the project. This digital space or
‘lab,’ also conceived mainly for peer-to-peer interaction,
focused on the global reach of Dreamhamar.
Academic Network International universities, as well as
local schools were invited to participate in Dreamhamar
by drawing up, transmitting and modeling ideas for a new
square that would fulfill the expectations of the youngest
citizens. The Academic Network had both a local and
global dimension, and was mainly oriented at ideas and
design as an opportunity for learning by doing, allowing
over fifteen hundred students and faculty from various
local schools and international institutions to become
part of the design process.
Urban Design Dreamhamar was presented together with
a ‘preliminary design,’ a feasibility study which provided
participants with a variety of tools and references to use
in the workshops, and a base for discussion. After the
network design process, relevant ideas and issues were
merged back into a new urban project for Stortorget.
Above: Dreamhamar urban design. Summer / winter view. Previous two spreads: Dreamhamar
urban design process diagrams. From participatory inputs to design programs.