Hacking the city safely

Hacking the city safely

Placemaking interventions emerge from prototypes (pop-ups and temporary interventions) that test design ideas in real time and space with end users. While the performativity of prototyping is often important to invite participation, doing this in a safe way is paramount. At the same time, public trust in public actors, and the robustness of upgrades to quality of place remain low – ever dependent it on dwindling resources of governments and communities. The future of urban transformation lies in cities providing citizens with tools to hack the city themselves, but how? 

This workshop will probe the legal aspects of prototyping citizen interventions in public space, and identify new pathways for open and regenerative placemaking in our cities. At the Urban Leisure and Tourism Labs (Amsterdam and Rotterdam) we work with learners and local communities on societal transitions through the lens of sustainable tourism. In our experience, iterative experimentation in the public realm can be met with many legal, bureaucratic and procedural challenges. These create barriers for community ownership over the prototyping process, and legacy interventions. 

In this participatory workshop, our we will share findings on the challenges to legal prototyping and public experimentation, and collectively use design thinking tools to come up with potential workarounds and solutions for safely hacking the city. Led by architect and social designer, Dr Donagh Horgan (Lab lead, ULT lab Rotterdam) this session is intended to foreground some of the inspiring activities of the NEB Festival. We expect that the workshop will collect a set of recommendations for relaxing the legal environment around temporal interventions, and serve as an exciting creative forum to troubleshoot the obstacles to citizen initiative in urban greening, activating play streets and pop-up spaces.   

We are excited to welcome tactical urban practitioners, agents of community change, architect, activists, academics and everything in between. We will bring along an interdisciplinary group of students looking at this problem over this semester, from a set of different perspectives. 

Venue details: 

Workshop format: The 90 min. workshop will be a mix of sharing, creative co-production and ideation and follow a high-level format of: 

SHOW: Students and practitioners will share the problem of legally creating tactical urban interventions using their experience from ENSUT, and the Urban Leisure and Tourism lab, Rotterdam (NL) (20 mins) 

Joint Problem Definition – interdisciplinary groups will be asked to spend some time describing the problem frame on behalf of a stakeholder group (practitioner, student, local authority, police etc.); or contextualizing it to their city (20 mins) 

SHARE: Recap discussion in groups 

IDEATION: Participants will be instructed on how to use a design thinking tool to generate ideas for legal/ policy innovation to support (insurgent-bottom up) prototyping (40 mins) 

SHARE: Share back ideas, sum up. Next steps. 


Get your free ticket via Eventbrite. 

Start: Arrive at 13.30h for a 14h start 

Adress: TRACK Brussels (former railway museum at Brussels-North railway station), Rue du progrès 76 / 76 Vooruitgangstraat 1030 BRUSSELS 

11 March 2024