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72 Hour Urban Action in Stuttgart (and Imagining Kowloon Skyfavelas)

You have just about a week to put a team together and vie for one of the spots in the next edition of the 72 Hour Urban Action competition, which the organizers bill as “the world's first real-time architecture competition.” If you can find only a couple of interested colleagues or no one at all, you can still apply as an individual participant or a small team, and if selected, you will then be joined into a larger team.

There will be ten teams in all. On take-off day on July 11, 2012, those teams will be tasked to “realize projects in response to the spatial and social challenges the sites and missions offer.” That is, in just 72 hours, they will actually have to build something that will “leave a lasting impact on the city's urban fabric.” And for all their efforts, the winning team will receive $4,000.

The members of the jury is worth mentioning. They include Joseph Grima, the editor-in-chief of Domus, and Eva Franch i Gilabert, director of Storefront for Art and Architecture. Also a member is Benjamin Foerster Bladenius of Raumlabor, the urban collective who designed a bubble pavilion, called the Spacebuster, which can be inflated almost anywhere and anytime into “a billowing urban room.”

Kowloon Walled City

Meanwhile, you will have to excuse me for prolonging this post by again fantasizing about urban sites of social and economic disturbances that have seen countless urban actions. So many urban hackers have passed through over the years and decades that on these sites — delineated perhaps by an autocratic master planner from another century — now stand towering, Kowloon-like skyfavelas made of the accreted remains of past installations.

Say, for instance, on the topmost layer are pavilions that provide cooling shades to people, who sit on benches designed and built during a delirious 72-hour period. Not particularly following any traditional garden layout are feral groupings of planters. During peacetime, the vegetation rustles a delightful chime. During times of protest, when the state has jammed the electromagnetic spectrum, they are converted into antennas to broadcast images of the burning city to the rest of the world. Inscribed on the pavers are hieroglyphs that simultaneously set the rules for an urban recreation and mark the game space. Atop solar-powered lampposts are aviaries and apiaries.

Below all that is a catacomb of old pavilions, and below that is another catacomb of pavilions above another catacomb, and so on all the way down to the street. This network of interior bosquets are structurally prevented from collapse by the root system of guerrilla gardens and an internal buttress system made up of the bones of chickens and goats reared and butchered at the urban farmsteads. Somewhere within this sedimentary maze of fossilized and repurposed DIYs are the Holy Grails of urban adventurers: dumpster pools fed by water from rainwater harvesters attached to the vertiginous fa├žades of these rubbish heaps.

If you get lost inside, you might as well stay awhile, as other drifters have done, making your squatter camp out of the detritus embedded in the superstructure — in 72 hours, of course.

Benjamin Verdonck

Be sure to check out the installations from the Bat-Yam competition in 2010, and also the installations from an affiliated (until it sort of wasn't) competition in Melbourne last year.

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