Slow motion – Mobile design studios on Europe’s rivers to promote the regeneration of the riverbanks
Motto: Still waters run deep
#NEB.Budapest – Design-barge cross Europe
Just like the Bauhaus provided radical solutions 100 years ago to the problems of its time, the New European Bauhaus proposal is a response to the present: it is conceived in a critical vein and is envisioned as an impactful gesture of reshaping. Amidst the joint implications of the circular sustainability, quality- and aesthetics-driven practices as well as the culture of value-centred reception, the ecological balance and social organisational power of water management deserve special attention in the European urban and rural dimensions alike.
Combining the approach of Green Deal and the design thinking methodology of the Bauhaus legacy
We propose launching design-barges on Europe’s rivers, which, coupled with a resident artist project, will research, design and intervene in the interests of the river and local culture on the water and riverbanks. Our objective is the in-depth and competent observation of the world of rivers and riverbanks and, as a main area of intervention, the installation of small-scale elements designed for riverbank sections and the recultivation of the riverbanks through demolishing existing damaging elements to facilitate its optimalised use.
With this project we wish to address the following contemporary issues: the disruption of ecological balance, the threat to the attributes of local cultures and values, growing stress and lack of exercise resulting from an increasingly urbanised lifestyle, and hyperactivity caused by constantly high impulse-intensive activities (computer games, film consumption, tourism and other cultural product and services). We wish to create experiences of local natural and man-made treasures through slow processes, for which we will provide a background through our highly proficient skills coupled with minimal material and spatial intervention.
The proposal coordinated by the Hungarian Design Council envisions an international design platform with global and local aspects which can be seen as an open-source design, an algorithm, while it has unique, specifically local elements too.
Three pillars were chosen for the project’s themes that are integrally linked to the conceptual dimensions of the basic idea, carrying a strong design content and kindling social interaction.
The map of the European inland waterway network is an ‘anatomy atlas’ of geographical, environmental, cultural, economic and social history initiating us into the history of progress from the past into the future as well as that of obstacles, incentives and achievements. It equally comprises social and individual myths, as it is so expressively conveyed by the works written by the chroniclers of the Central European experience, Claudio Magris and Péter Esterházy linked to the Danube. This environment uniting the elements of ecological responsibility, agricultural innovation, sustainable energy, sports and recreation and tourism can well become a focus – vibrantly contemporary but with a rich aura of connotations – of the New European Bauhaus (NEB).
The physical and logistical importance of the NEB bridges will penetrate with exceptional intensity into the metaphoric and often iconographic realms of cultural and social reality. Serving as a means for reaching the opposite bank of the river, others lands and regions or even connecting continents, the role of bridges can even be understood as an imprint of an era thanks to the engineering solutions and the prevailing design thinking they represent. The Pont-Neuf in Paris and the Charles Bridge in Prague are excellent examples of the ‘crossing’ building ethos and effort, contemporary peak achievements of which include the fascinating Oresund Bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark and the first Bosphorus Suspension Bridge in Istanbul. The meeting of local needs in the 21st century as well as the potential technological and architectural value for communities are worth designing and pursuing in the spirit of NEB…
Equitable exchange can be one of the key concepts of inclusivity. Since the marketplaces of the ancient Greece city states the locations for such exchanges have enjoyed great popularity and appreciation; from medieval times onwards these places were often located near the town-halls. A similar role is played by abutments on riverbanks, which forms the basis of the third pillar of our project proposal both in the context of urban development and in a conceptual sense: the construction and operation of contemporary places of display and sharing. In this way we can get from the Grand Place, which grew out of the Grote Markt, in Brussels or the Campo del Fiori in Rome through the world of modern commodity exchanges to the now classic slogan of digital TED Talks: ideas worth spreading…
This approach facilitates the organisation of a series of events proposed for NEB, which can foster the realisation of the sharing of the creative design ideas dedicated to the theme of Rivers-Bridges-Marketplaces and the development of their utilisation network. These ideas should be categorised by the NEB coordination team according to the Rivers-Bridges-Marketplaces concept already in the stage of collecting and processing recommendations and proposals in the Design-barge cross Europe project, initiated by HDC.
Process model for the project proposal
The model is based on the fact that our era is defined by an increased need for mobility. Therefore, the project is built on movement and interaction between cultures and knowledge areas. We propose installing one or more studio and/or workshop barges on Europe’s rivers, along waterways across the continent that will accommodate the relevant findings and personal interactions of architects, product designers, visual communication experts and scientists (cultural anthropologists, environmental psychologists as well as river biologists and limnologists) in a seasonal and alternating fashion. Living waters are crucially important both ecologically and culturally and are now in danger because of overregulation, pollution and excessive construction on riverbanks. Thus, the Danube, for example, is listed by WHO among the ten most endangered rivers in the world.
In the past decade, small-scale proposals have been made and research has been carried out on the rehabilitation of the riverbanks (e.g. RESTORE, Rivers by design) but these did not produce all-encompassing knowledge that can be shared and linked with local design, education on the built environment and participatory design processes.
In order to improve the ecology of rivers, it is crucial to preserve and where possible to rehabilitate the natural flow of water, the floodplains, the sediment deposit areas as well as the riverbed flora and fauna.
The project’s key element is the barge – which also stands for knowledge transfer – which ‘goes to the doorstep’ of a wide range of open communities and diverse cultures. The designers and scientists on the barge have a general knowledge on what facilitates the quality of life of rivers, while those in the anchoring points know about the local cultures and the local needs arising in connection with the use of rivers and their environs. The two teams can engage with each other on online platforms: the project is financed by the tender. The ’mobile’ general knowledge and the local inhabitants jointly create the spatial reshaping, some design elements of which will be realised: bird watching spots, jetties, benches, places for making fire, smart installation of riverside urban agoras, which can be acupuncture-like solutions supporting local slow tourism.
The participants of the project are the local art and design universities as well as clubs, NGOs and cultural institutions linked with aquatic activities. They will supply the hardware for the project, while the software will come via the water and be created through the fresh interactions.
The implemented locations will be compiled into a ‘best practice’ collection, which will build a knowledge network through isolated interventions enabling us to reshape our approach to rivers over time and during the process of growth. Rivers have always been defining and life-giving sources in the formation of the towns and the history of Europe; the long-term goal is to lead humankind, which has been estranged from nature and the use of water, back to the valuable relationship and symbiosis with local waters. It is our contention that only in this way can a healthy and fertile relationship with organic change, the circular order of the world and the values of ecological systems be established.
Budapest, May 2021
Hungarian Design Council
Collaborating partner organisations in the concept development:
Budapest Metropolitan University
Design Campus Győr
Studio of Young Designers’ Association
Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre – KÉK
Ludvig International Artists’ Colony
Hungarian Design Cultural Foundation
Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design
#NEB.Budapest – Design-barge cross Europe