The City Experiment at FutureEverything
- How should we understand the contemporary city and its role in shaping the future?
- How do the scale, density, heterogeneity and connectedness of cities accelerate social and technical experimentation and the production of new hybrid forms?
- How are cities used as experimental spaces by public and private institutions?
- How are cities likely to evolve under the demographic, economic, technological and environmental pressures of the 21st century?
- How can experimental interventions in the arts and social sciences help to make visible the hidden patterns of city life, and possible future trajectories?
- How might a greater appreciation of the intrinsic experimentality of urban culture enable new and more open-ended possibilities for social life?
The City Experiment explored the contemporary city as a distinctive social and material form which accelerates cultural and technical experimentation and hybridisation. In conference sessions, public debates, workshops and art events during the 2010 FutureEverything festival, we explored the ways which the city itself can be made more experimental, how art can be used to intervene in urban spaces, altering the implicit rules governing social interactions and provoking reflection and new creative possibilities for social life. Manchester was used as an example, but we also drew upon other city experiences globally.
Lancaster University’s Experimentality programme joined with FutureEverything to create The City Experiment, in which these and other questions about the contemporary city were pursued in conference sessions, public debates, workshops and art events. The City Experiment considered Manchester, the first industrial city, as its primary experimental subject, but also looked at the extraordinary range of urban experience worldwide
The City Experiment was part of the FutureEverything 2010 festival (12-15 May) – four days of astonishing artworks, an explosive city-wide music programme, visionary thinkers from around the world, and awards for outstanding innovations. During the central two days of the festival, The City Experiment formed a path by which participants could take part in a number of festival events at the Contact Theatre and other venues across the city.
- GloNet – a day of networked group-to-group interaction on the future of the city with participants in cities around the world including Sendai (Japan), Istanbul (Turkey), São Paulo (Brazil) and Vancouver (Canada)
- conference sessions with academics and practitioners exploring different issues raised by looking at the contemporary city as a site of experimentation
- The City Debate – a high-profile debate on the future of Manchester in which in which key figures working to build Manchester's future gave their visions in response to a proposition about the future of the city region commissioned from leading urban thinkers
- premieres and discussion of short films experimenting with narrative approaches to urban architecture, made by students from the College of Continuity in Architecture at the Manchester School of Architecture
Speakers in The City Experiment included Ash Amin, Adam Greenfield, Maarten Hajer, Vikram Kaushal, Stephanie Koerner, Raymond Lucas, Simon Marvin, Francis McKee, Shawn Micallef, Saul Newman, Amanda Ravetz, Steven Smith, Sally Stone, Atreyee Sen, Erik Swyngedouw, Michelle Teran, John Worthington, Albena Yaneva.
City Experiment participants with a Full Festival Pass were also able to attend other festival events. Particularly relevant to The City Experiment were:
- Screenings of films about architecture, including work by John Smith, Guy Sherwin and a rare 16 mm print of Gordon Matta-Clark’s Conical Intersect
- Walking tours of Manchester led by Manchester Modernists
- Art events by Anders Weberg and Robert Willim, Agents of Change, Manchester Modernists
- Serendipity City – a collection of iPhone and Android apps which support surprise, drift and the encountering of difference in the city, curated by Adam Greenfield
Experimentality was the 2009-10 Annual Research Programme of the Institute for Advanced Studies, Lancaster University, and was directed by Bronislaw Szerszynski and co-directed by Stephanie Koerner (University of Manchester) and Brian Wynne (Lancaster University). The City Experiment was a collaboration between Experimentality and FutureEverything, in collaboration with easa2010, the College of Continuity in Architecture, Manchester School of Architecture, Manchester Architecture and Design Festival, Urban Narrative and CUBE. GloNet is developed by FutureEverything, Distance Lab and British Council, supported by British Council and NorthernNet. FutureEverything is an award-winning, world-class organisation using mass participation in creativity and social innovation to bring the future into the present. It has a strong global network and international profile, and is recognised around the world for leading pioneering projects and important international debates.