Last month, we published the winners of the international ideas competition POST+CAPITALIST CITY, #1Shop. Today we are presenting the two winning projects of the competition's second edition, POST+CAPITALIST CITY, 2#Work, which called for proposals that re-imagine the concept of work, the way we produce, and a city with another system of working culture.
If you are interested in participating in the most current competition cycle of POST+CAPITALIST CITY, #3Live which launched last month, click here for more details. Submissions for #3Live are due by January 15, 2013 (early birds registration: December 1, 2012), and the results will be announced in mid-February here on Bustler.
From the competition brief: "Does our urban future lie in each becoming self-entrepreneurs, or to all share collective knowledge in forms of Open Source projects? Can we find new ways of producing and working? How will the global enterprise be able to produce sustainable levels of work through motivated workers, when nowadays humans are seen as resources and not workforces? How will the work of the future be measured, when the production of perceived, speculated value has no theoretical limits? Can work finally be released through technology? And finally: What are the possibilities for our cities? Apart from “job-sharing” and co-working spaces, what could be transformed spatially to change towards a sustainable working culture?"
These are the two winning proposals:
1st Prize: From Corporate to Cooperate
by Aumele Dace, Gurecka Dace (Latvia)
Neoliberal doctrine and its developed possibilities of ‘debt’ capital have created an urban fabric where not only many are excluded but also its alimentation cost more than nature can regenerate. Dubai – as one of the most radical cases of social disparity and unrestricted transactional capital has an urban fabric which demands 4.5 of our planets to regenerate it.
Since 90’ the economy of Dubai has seemingly grown because of ‘debt’ capital’s propelled construction and real estate industries. Dubai alone produces biggest CO2 emissions per capita on earth and is comparable with total carbon usage of whole North America. We are at a paradigm shift where skyline of skyscrapers stops being an icon of progress and becomes a symbol of our global destruction. We see this skyline as a capsulated energy of means of production which should be released by social power currently unemployed.
We propose a scenario for Dubai which facilitates an alternative for unlimited growth and would function for the production of social and nature capital. We propose to use capital capsulated in Dubai skyscrapers and release it by recycling it. In that way we would not only employ more than 56 000 people that are currently jobless (and much other – young entrepreneurialism which would join the scenario) but also by recycling the city in the desert we could possibly multiple our earth ecological footprint three times.
Dubai cooperation is bottom-up generated cooperation which unites everyone willing not only to own its surplus previously taken by the capital but also to do a global ecological impact. By subscribing oneself in the cooperation one is asked to recycle its own house appliances as buy-in cost for the cooperation. Further he joins the de-growth movement in Dubai where he earns not only a recycled house at the end of his two years work but is also fully engaged into the Dubai community, therefore once again finding the good into the common.
Equity of Dubai’ co-operation is based in the point system where everybody works towards the set goal and have the same responsibilities, rights and earnings regardless the buy-in capital.
A Roadmap for recycling
Deconstruction of the whole fabrics that were built in the city of Dubai would reduce its CO2 emissions by half, and recycling of its materials and production of new nature capital would be able not only to make Dubai carbon neutral, but also give back extra nature capital to the planet. Only dismantling of a single Burj Khlafa building would save the planet a need for 220 620 ha of forests and reusing its construction materials could be recycled into 123 2-MW wind turbines, ecological housing for almost 6000 people and 20 000 solar panels bringing additional capital for nature.
Everything in Dubai would be dismantled, recycled and reused in three main steps. Firstly, parks of the city would stop being watered. At the same time, all of the fabrics that were built, except industrial facilities, would be deconstructed. The recycling of the ex-building materials would be done in local industrial facilities, from where the created nature products - solar panels, wind turbines and eco housing parts - could be transported around the world. In the following step the remaining industrial facilities would be also dismantled and shifted. The remains of Dubai would consist of parts of derelict infrastructure slowly taken over by Dubai desert.
The concluding nature capital that would be produced will create a new model - if everything in the planet would use resources like recycled Dubai we could produce 3 additional planets.
2nd Prize: Fossilized Supra-Capitalism
by Marshall Ford (USA)
Success is no longer measured relative to life, but instead in terms of death. The amount of hours we put in before we die is now a dimension of our success instead of just a factor in the equation of efficiency and productivity. The meaning behind our existence, which each one of us determined at some point, is lost in a sea of deadly overtime and forgotten passion. We strive to retire, and we strive for vacation. Our addiction to hours eventually kills us, and is incurable, untreatable, and untouchable. How do you intervene when the addiction is invisible and by definition “productive?”
Recent studies claim that hours do not lead to production and, in fact, produce services and goods that are subpar to those created by the hands and minds of those with a balance of time and talent. Working through lunch and into the night has reached extremes where the least efficient part of the day in many offices is the middle of the afternoon. Hours are a status symbol, hand in hand with the Porsche parked in the garage, and the miniature poodle under your arm.
We replace hope of success with the unmitigated fate of overtime death. The original meaning we established for our personal investment in our careers has dissipated and been replaced by an addiction. We have created SUPRA-CAPITALISM: a society supported, guided, and defined by uncontrolled work habits, misguided productivity-to-time-spent ratios, and eventually our only relief lies in mandatory death. The dire and empty future that lies ahead for the increasing number of SUPRA-CAPITALISM victims must evolve (or devolve) into something reminiscent of the greatest times in world history, when passion led to success, and success was measured in happiness, time, and economic wealth.
This project fossilizes SURPA-CAPITALISM and creates a self-built monument to those lost in the struggle of purpose and time. Specifically, this new system of work in the post-capitalist, supra-capitalist economic era begins with fertile slabs prepared to accept expansion and renovation as necessary. Structure allows the system to move upward and offices begin to form and mature, creating an efficiency zone that continues vertically, and includes ultra-efficient office space where hundreds of thousands of hours can easily be logged in private cubicles. As time passes, so do many employees who hit their magic number of hours. When this happens, each personal cubicle prepares for burial and transforms into a casket constructed with concrete. These caskets are placed nearby the employee’s place of work (and death) and eventually stack upon each other once deaths begin to outweigh current employees.
As offices fade into sublime concrete forests of those who passed, the system begins to solidify. As ultra-efficient workplaces continue upward, usually containing 10-20 floors of the tower at any one time, the base begins to solidify, and eventually fossilizes those lost alongside the ideology of supra-capitalism.
Fossilization provides an eerily natural landscape of lush flora rooted in the lives of those who achieved their hours. Here the living explore the past, just as we do with ruins of ancient cultures and the remnants of those not so forgotten. The greatest existing graveyard of past ideologies and wealth in production is Pittsburgh, United States. As wars pass and the necessity for materials like steel dwindles, so do the hopes and passions of an entire city. Rusted foundries and desolate factories dot the landscape of urban Pittsburgh and beg for nothing more than attention. Today Pittsburgh is a relatively successful, mid-sized city with a strong commercial foundation. This base, however, is rooted in unavoidable supra-capitalist ideals. The fossilization of these ideals is perfectly situated between the rusted steel plants of greater Pittsburgh and the glassy new towers in the city center. The system will immediately mesh with the nearby urban fabric as it purposefully decays and monumentalizes alongside the great remnants of the wartime boom.
Witnessing these monuments to optimistic and forward-moving times reveals we very often work for nothing. The substance of our efforts is so diluted in the sea of time put-in, titles, and trepidation that our purpose is unclear. The seemingly abysmal and mandatory lifetime career creates a culture incomparable to those based on skills and labor. Time is the most valuable asset we will ever have, and we lose more every moment. We cannot save time to use as currency and we can no longer expect relief only in death. This project seeks to fossilize the core ideologies of supra-capitalism in a structure defined by our own loss. It is a hopelessly optimistic system which seeks to achieve an end to a self-destructive, self-obsessed, selfish era of meaninglessness and lost purpose.
This is what the jurors had to say. First, Joseph Redwood Martinez:
"Remarkably enough, what become most clear while reviewing the submitted proposals were the limitations of our capacity to imagine what a post-capitalist work might entail, and most especially, how a scenario for post-capitalist work could be in any way adjacent to a significant spatial transformation. This was evident both from the proposals but also from the deliberations of the jury. In and of itself, this is not a bad thing. And by no means do I want to suggest that the ideas generated within this context were at all insignificant. It is actually quite interesting to trace this out–the incapacities, the limitations–between the numerous proposals submitted to this round of the competition. Ultimately, it was the two proposals that most directly engaged with this dilemma–that of imagining a post-capitalist scenario with the tools of the capitalist imaginary–which came out as the strongest.
The proposals selected for first and second place in this cycle of the post capitalist city competition were, however, indicative another tendency: the conviction that under no circumstance would a positively post-capitalist vision of work be brought to bear through anything produced by an architect. Rather, the function of the post-capitalist architect would be one of dismantling buildings and developments.
Fossilized Supra-Capitalism, by Marshall W Ford, suggested a distopian vision whereby “supra-capitalism” biomorphically fossilizes itself so that we can bear witness to the office spaces of high rise buildings deteriorating as the employees inhabiting them do as well. Instead of making a proposal for new ways of working, Ford appears to indicate our incapacity to imagine any alternative or post-anything scenario unless we allow the present to run its course–and to ultimately fossilize itself.
Selected for the first prize in the competition, Dace Amele and Dace Gurecka’s proposal From Corporate to Cooperate might share a similar degree of unfeasibility, but it does suggest a function for architects, spatial planners, and the unemployed as well as a creative reworking of the horizon or what we have come to expect from “adaptive reuse.” This proposal suggests that a post-capitalist notion of work could develop in dismantling man-made structures that are detrimental in terms of negative environmental impact and negligible social gains, recycling the materials gathered, and then “employing” thousands of people to adaptively reuse the raw material in order to build ecologically-sensitive housing. While limited in scope, the strength of the proposal laid in its identification of the way in which symbols of progress have more recently turned into symbols of unbridled global destruction–but it is quite possible that from these very spaces might emerge a vision of post-capitalist work and the (de)construction of the post-capitalist city."
Jury member Ioana Mihailescu remarked:
"Although the projects we received for the second part of Post+capitalist City competition come from 12 different countries in different economic contexts, a number of common concerns about the current global system can be traced. These worrying issues are addressed in different ways, some contestants proposing optimistic solutions and dreams of a better future, others maintaining skeptical and even fatalistic attitudes.
All in all, the critique takes a coherent form, whilst the solutions are partial and even contradictory. The critique of the contemporary global economic system includes issues present in more than one project such as:
- problematic distribution of work and income in the global system;
- constant displacement of industrial and corporate activities;
- far superior bidding-power of corporate actors over well-situated land (especially in cities) for work spaces and the resulting speculation over city-centers and well equipped locations;
- scarcity of world resources contradicting the competition for productivity.
The proactive approaches envision solutions and alternative economies including a call for a more diverse set of activities, community-based and informal economies, valorization of non-productive activities and people, collaboration instead of competition or slowdown and creativity as alternative values to efficiency and standardization. Other projects suggest a dim future, insisting on the irreversible damage that has already been made to the environment and the current trends of reinforcing the neo-liberal economy, in spite of the economical crisis.
The winning proposals both focus on the critique of capitalist excesses. Symbols of luxury and success, Dubai city in Dace Amele’s and Dace Gurecka’s proposal, “From Corporate to Cooperate” and the office tower in Marshall Ford’s “Fossilized Supra-Capitalism”, have become synonymous with wastage and decadence. Both projects dismantle these symbols, but in different ways: “From Corporate to Cooperate” simulates a possible process of dealing with unnecessary structures, while “Fossilized Supra-Capitalism” creates a metaphor of a future where the current issues are not being addressed.
Both cases exclude simplistic answers and straightforward solutions. If any, recovery from the crisis and passage to another paradigm can only be long and difficult. Turning a city like Dubai to its original state, while creating something new from the enormous quantity of valuable material that has been put into it is no simple task. It seems that it is far easier for human society to gather the energy for constructing and sustaining a utopia of luxury, using cheap south-Asian labor, than to deconstruct it using fair labor.
If not to act may seem a viable possibility, Marshall Ford’s project creates arguments against this. An office tower, symbol of work efficiency and success, turns into a monumental grave for those who invested their lives in it. In a world where sky-scrapers are built in order to assert status instead of hosting work, some of them sitting empty in the expensive centers of world-cities, this seems to be already a reality.
Reading carefully all of the proposals, one can see that although the shortcomings of the global system are obvious, the solutions are not at hand. The multitude of contexts around the world in which neo-liberalism manifests itself to various ends (exploitation of resources, industrial production, financial services or even simply for the absorption of capital through real-estate development), creates a large variety of difficult situations that cannot be addressed in a simple way. Hopefully, the multitude of ideas and reflections that have emerged during this crisis will add up to some improvements in the future."
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