Open-Source Urban Planning

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Raphaël Besson:

"Open-source urban planning is less a business than a process of establishing relational spaces required for building the commons. This is one of the objectives of collaborative digital platforms that can connect of socially different worlds. These platforms serve as a “middle ground”, connecting the “underground” of residents, users, hackers and artists, with the “upper world” of administrations, businesses and engineers." (



Raphaël Besson:

"Community groups such as Ecosistema Urbano, Basurama, Todo por la Praxis or Paisaje Transversal are also testing an urbanism based on collaborative management, experimentation, sustainable development, and the integration of artistic and cultural events. Inspired by the universe of open-source software, these groups advocate open-source urban planning. This translates into the development of design-thinking methods and digital tools that can help stimulate citizens’ ability to express themselves and their needs and turn projects into co-productions.

For example, the Basurama group organised an initiative called Autobarrios San Cristobal in which residents of a neglected Madrid neighbourhood developed a shared space using local knowledge and recovered materials. The Paisaje Tetuàn project encouraged residents of the Tetuàn neighbourhood to collaborate with urban architects, artists and designers to rehabilitate the central Leopoldo Luis square as well as its surrounding area.


Online social networks thus facilitate self-managed citizen laboratories and mobilise hundreds of people for events in record time – equipment and infrastructure for Campo de La Cebada were financed through crowdfunding. Platforms for citizen laboratory networking, like the program “Ciudadania 2.0” (“citizenship 2.0”) created by Media Lab Prado and the Secretaria General Iberoamericana (SEGIB), facilitate resource sharing and visibility. The collaborative map “Los Madriles” features real-time polls of social and citizen innovations, including social centres, shared gardens, artistic events and more.

The Media Lab Prado call-for-projects platform helps spread the word about workshops and experiments related to the city and shared spaces – urban agriculture, data visualisations, cultural events, urban economics, etc. The Media Lab Prado digital façade provides real-time information on research, workshops, and on-going experiments to residents of the Letras district are updated on programs, and also enables them to publish their own announcements for events as well as neighbourhood news." (


Making the Madrid Commons

Raphaël Besson:

"The movement around Madrid’s public spaces has roots that stretch back to the Situationist International of the 1960s. It asserts that experimentation and the mobilisation of a wide range of knowledge, be it expert or profane, are the basis for renewed vision of the urban fabric. By inciting citizens to act directly on the urban landscape and to freely create daily life, it differentiates itself from militant politics, to defend an intense daily activism.

In contrast to Madrid’s experiments, the Situationist movement remains largely confined at a literary and conceptual level. New digital manufacturing techniques and tools have changed this situation. They enabled Madrid activists and residents to demand the material realisation of the Situationist ideal and to defend a “right to the infrastructure of cities”. This right is not limited to demanding equal access to city resources, but also concerns the city’s infrastructure, the “urban hardware”.

It going beyond social, educational and cultural life to coproducing city public spaces, equipment and other urban infrastructures. Thus Madrid’s movements are part of the “maker age”. In citizen laboratories, physical and material aspects come before intellectual and political considerations. Residents go first to the garden, where they can exchange and create; only then do they debate broader political issues. In this “soft activism”, the shared space becomes the new “interstice where political reconstruction could begin”.

Exploring Madrid’s urban experiments permits us to better understand the conditions needed to making the urban commons. First is some vacant space and the possibility of using a portion of it to experiment and create. The space also need to be intermediate – neither private nor public – and inherently unstable and suitable for gathering. Then come the digital tools and acquisition of the technical capacity to produce shared space. Finally the “making” begins, and with it the continuous interaction between the materials and the intellectual end result.

How such urban commons experiments are to be developed and managed over the long-term remains to be answered. From this point of view, everything remains to be done." (