How to create an urban spectacle that shows the engagement of citizens? Nikola Bojic from Split has the answer.
- Choose an urban landmark with a long history, e.g. Diocletian’s Palace in Split (a historic structure dating from the Roman times, with a square surrounded by Roman columns)
- Launch a provocative attack on the local government for catastrofic urban management. Design a non-existent commercial facility on the premises of the historic landmark, e.g. a 5-story high shopping mall. Bojic calls it “a very eleborate tumor in the urban fabric”.
- Get attention. Open a website showing visuals of the new commercial project. Show pictures of ‘before’ and ‘after’, where the old Roman staircases have been changed into electrical escalators. Send emails and visuals to 2,500 e-mailaddresses from media professionals, urbanists, sociologists and architects all over the country.
1) until 3) resulted in a fierce response. A day after Bojic presented his shopping mall design, no less than four internet forums on the topic were opened to protest against the plans. All important Croatian media covered the project in a period over 2 weeks. Bojic, who had not expected this, was surprised by the explosive tone of online reactions. “A person will have to be a real retard to build this!” Or: “For the mother of god, don’t fuck around with our palace!” Thousands of people apparently felt the need to participate in the discussion about this non-existing urban plan.
Bojic: “It seems that a simulation intending to uncover the manipulaton with public space was becoming a manipulation itself.”
With his anti-project in Split, he has shown the empowerment of the public on the field of urban design. In his anaysis he centers on the changing role of free time in modern society. “If we spend more of our free time on the network, this will have influence on structures in the city.”
Video below: talk by Nikola Bojic at ‘Designing the Hybrid City’