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City & Dialogue
Promoting Dialogue through Creation, Reservation & Regeneration of Place

DATE:
December 13-15, 2008

LOCATION:
Naghshe Jahan Center for Arts Research
Tehran, Iran

BACKGROUND

What is the contemporary meaning of Dialogue in a city for architects, artists and other professionals? Is it the old formal pre-occupation of styles and forms? Is it about different architecture talking to one another in terms of its formal language? Is it about referencing architectural or urban theories?  

Or is it about forms and spaces having a dialogue with its citizens/ users or I sit about creating conditions for dialogue between citizens. May be it is about forms and spaces offering forms of dialogue in the way that they are constructed or how they identify with the scale of citizens? May be it is all? Could our role as architects, artists be seen as enablers rather than commentators? 

London’s Mayor is trying to get children back to street playing. Mayors and planners are pedestrianising parts of the city centers in order to give it back to pedestrians. In some towns and villages chairs are still left outside doors for people to sit and chat in the afternoons and evenings. In some areas people hang around street outside shops chatting and or just looking. In some places facades of buildings have benches and recess that older and younger people can sit, have a rest or even play. On the other hand however many cities with their town planning, their architecture and their property

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law and transportation roles discourages and forcefully take away the opportunity of any such cultural engagements. In many cities where neighborhood and communities are blown apart by fly-overs and highways. 

There are still some cities that kids do occupy the streets and play, but they are fast disappearing. In some cities street corners are still occupied by older members of the community chatting and passing their stories, ( some cities in Egypt, Greece, Iran, Cyprus etc)  How many of these places are left? We know why they have disappeared but are it possible to revive them or do we need new forms of places to chat and have a dialogue?

Over the years many spatial designers, architects and artists have tried, through small and sometime fragmented and unsustainable interventions. What is the role of architects and urban and spatial designers to encourage a dialogue between the physical fabric and the moving citizen?

Cities are going through contradictory developments. Many are loosing their formal centre, public square and places of engagement due to the changing nature of current economical demands and the massive reliance on cars. In some cities these public spaces have become places for tourists and detached from the day-to-day needs of its citizens. 

What is the nature of a public place, streets and generally the external space today? Where, of public nature, do we meet a friend, where do we hang around and where do we go for a walk a part from a Park? Is there a place to contemplate or just be in a place that is not privately owned? Or cluttered with cars and people running around and passing fast? Car traffic/ or people traffic.

At what point and how can strangers in the street talk to each other?  Is it when they feel at home with the street? Is it when the place talks to them?

THE AIM OF THE PROJECT 
Aim is to regenerate social interaction and conversations using art /architecture and physical forms to create conditions for people to take control of the street and use it as their home. We like to explore new definitions of dialogue in city that goes beyond the old formal and traditional view. A new definition that does not confine itself to architecture that just talks to another professional. 

Many cities today, from New York to London to Stockholm, to Bali, Madrid… to name a few are experiencing conflicts and riots between communities.

In the spirit of this project and event we like to use architecture, urban planning, music, photography, art installation, street events, street theatre, suggest strategies for a STREET  or a PLACE creating discourse and cultural engagements between cultures, different age groups and various communities living in the contemporary city.

This is a case for recognition and encouragement of multi cultural Responses within the contemporary modern

SPEAKERS 
1 - "At the Ground Level of the City"
Doina Mariana Petrescu

projects of atelier d’architecture autogérée (aaa) in Paris, which are concerned with micro-urban tactics for the reconstruction of spaces of proximity from the margins, boundaries and interstices.  These  interventions permit the creation of a collective subjectivity that is capable of porous territorial appropriation and political transformation out of the everyday. They initiate a process of  democratisation of spaces of proximity in the city through “agencements jardiniers” (gardening agencies) and actions that involve ordinary places and their inhabitants. In our projects, the spatial production is explicitly described as political, social and cultural.

architect, academic and activist -  atelier d'architecture autogérée, Paris / University of Sheffield

2- "Alternative modernities" 
Torange Khonsari

In the 20th century, Iran has gone through major physical changes influenced mainly by two phenomena: Natural disasters and rapid urbanisation of the cities. Both these situations destroyed places, and what remained were the memories of them, kept alive through oral stories.

In the city of Qazvin, which for a period was the capital of Iran, earthquakes demolished historical buildings and artefacts. These historical buildings were symbols of pride. Their legacy was kept alive by their stories being told by generations of residents who experience them to the ones who did not. The power of these stories are more vibrant and influencial than the buildings themselves. Torange Khonsari will present this project which is in the making

Architect and academic, Public Works and London Metropolitan University, UK

3- "Questioning identity through public intervention: two sample projects"
Samah Hijawi

The presentation will take the public interventions " Disorientation" and " Ya Reit" as examples of visual arts projects through which issues of identity and belonging are investigated, in turn bringing forth questions of how, metaphorically, these play a part in shaping the social dynamics and consequently the identity of the 'public space'

Artist  / Amman, Jordan

4- "Walks and dreams in my cities"
Jean Pierre Brigaudiot

I will participate as an artist and poet in a fieldwhich I do not have competency. But perhaps the poet and artist could, by their freedom to dream, bring a modest lighting and raise questions in this debate to be held in Tehran.
I will first of all talk about my thoughts which are derived from my stays in some major cities in the world but also in the countryside; they are at the same time observations and questions to life in the cities, perhaps to imagine a different kind of life.

The second part of my intervention would show you some art works inindirect and open relation with architecture, so with the city. These works have no function, nor purpose, they are like floating dreams in space without an horizon.

Artist / Paris, France

5- "The sounds of Nicosia. A duologue"
Laoura Englezou

A presentation of a journey through Nicosia in Cyprus.  The journey which started in 2003 when the city was still physically divided, is an investigation into the space in between the border, focusing on the Dead Zone, the space in the capital’s city centre.  It questions the future of such a space and the possibility of a unified city centre by creating a methodology based on narrative. The intention is to set up conditions that trigger events to take place and encourage dialogue between the two parts of the city.

Today the city is still politicaly, ethnically and geographically divided, yet a walk through the city and across the now opened borders allows one to listen to the city’s voices.  As an artist, spatial and urban designer I am searching for ways to envision the city and its built fabric in the absence of unity and question if political arrangements are enough in bringing back social stability, unity and ecourage dialogue in the city.

Spatial Designer and Urbanist , Central Saint Martin College of Art & Design London, UK

6- "Healing Fractures through the Dialogue of everyday Behaviour"
Yara Sharif

Architecture cannot be dissociated from political power, however when it becomes a technique of executing politics, it becomes a very dangerous tool, especially if the politics is aimed to fragment and control. Architecture in such circumstances can lose all its meaning of creating habitable spaces, and become instead a weapon to destroy.
In my design based research, I am taking Palestine and London as my testing grounds, looking between people, lines, documents and maps for the meaning of architecture of resistance; searching for potential spaces of possibilities that can empower the fragmented society and bridge the gap between their divided spaces.
The presentation will show few observations and site testingtools in both London and Palestine with responsive design strategies.

Architect and Researcher, University of Westminster, London

7- "From monuments to occupants - the urban warrior"
Nasser Golzari

Changing role of architect in 20 century with the shift of emphasis from the design of monuments and mansions to social housing and collective living has changed the relationship between buildings and cities, on one hand, and the powerful forces of modernization has, and still is, changing  the nature of urban places.  I like to start the debate on what is the role of architects and architecture today in relationship to places that people collectively use? can architecture  and art have a direct or indirect  dialogue with the urban warriors? Should art, architecture and other forms of creation create conditions for discussions and engagements or should it stay as monuments and have conversations with other art/architectural pieces of other civilizations?

Golzari Architects & University of Westminster London & University of Arts London

8- "Architecture as the science of urban space"
With research on the promotion of urban space quality for the city of Zarand
Reza Pourvaziry

Various disciplines and sciences usually provide services based on the needs of the people. One of the most important topics that affects human beings is "space", and architecture as the science of "space" can help promote and define space within a city.

Based on old conventional definitions, architecture was simply defined as the space wanted by a proprietor, but today architecture can be applied as a social phenomenon to promote urban life quality.

This report discusses the process of creating urban space in the arid city of Zarand.
This process starts with field research, and then analyzes the urban space needs of the people by speaking to them, and finally examines the role of the local government and the urban management organization.

The goal is to create a "people-desired model", and I believe this project can become a model for further programs for the promotion of urban life quality with the participation of local people.
This research has been conducted by the following team members: Lena Mahr, Dwan Kaoukji and Clare Melhuish.

President of the International Art & Architecture Research Association (IAARA)