Creative placemaking

  • commissioning and public space

"RAUM is the place we make together. On the Berlin Square in Leidsche Rijn (Utrecht) you can experience how much fun it is when we arrange public space just a little differently and more creatively," reads the RAUM website. Esther Didden visited RAUM and spoke with Theo Tegelaers.

RAUM is located in the heart of Leidsche Rijn, the largest Vinex neighborhood in the Netherlands and the second city center of Utrecht. Nowhere in the Netherlands is there an urban district where so many new people came to live in such a short period of time. In 2016, Berlin Square was still a barren expanse of sand. The site already had a cultural destination but a plan was lacking. RAUM was conceived in co-creation by residents and (cultural) organizations, a way of working that the RAUM team still uses.

They develop all their installations and events together with local residents and organizations in the city. They call this way of working creative placemaking. RAUM wants to involve residents and visitors closely in shaping the city life of the future.

RAUM was conceived in co-creation by residents and (cultural) organizations

Theo Tegelaers has been Head of Program there for several months. RAUM is unique, he says, because for six years there have beenëxperimentation could be done, it became successful in a short period of time and because next year a multipurpose building will be built at the current location of which RAUM will be one of the main occupants. In addition to RAUM, the building will also house other organizations. The question RAUM is asking itself in the coming years is how it will give substance and meaning to what public space is and can be in the new situation and how ownership of it can be shared with residents and organizations in the area.

RAUM is unique because six years have been spent hereëxperimentation could be

In the upcoming transition year, visual art will play an important role. From RAUM, the theme in 2023 is "adaptive space, how to fill space according to your own needs. But can you also learn to be adaptive yourself to changes around you? That is the question Tegelaers adds.

Where previously residents were involved from social design practice, he wants to shift the approach to visual art with socio-artistic practices. Next summer, he is programming the city campground. It will be possible to stay there during ONEn or two weekends to spend the night but it is primarily intended as a making place that functions as a campsite during the day.

© Ossip van Duivenvoorde

© Ossip van Duivenvoorde

He invited local and (inter)national artists to contribute to the program of the urban camping: the collective Travelling Farm Museum, Yasser Ballemans, MOHA, Suat .güt, Jakup Ferri, Maider Lopez and pKp (para-institute for art and precarity). These artists deploy imagination within a social practice, this is called research by making. With this method, they will work with residents, visitors and participants to unlock new layers of the living environment and add new perspectives on their own living environment. During three months of preliminary research, design anthropologist Tina Lenz will identify questions, needs and suggestions from residents within Leidsche Rijn and provide links to City Camp RAUM and the participating artists.

Shifting the approach to visual art with socio-artistic practices

Tegelaers - with the insights gained by the artists, their methods used, their research and the creative process itself - wants to use the city camp to create a plan with which he can move forward, towards the new situation. Tegelaers draws inspiration from the book Where Am I by French philosopher Bruno Latour, who died last year. He observed that during the corona period we were constantly occupied with the political question "How do we get out of this?" but that after a few months during the crisis another question had become relevant, namely "Where am I? After all, society had undergone a transformation. Latour sought answers to this latter question, about how to live together and what role reciprocity plays.

It is about working with visual artists, residents and visitors to learn how to shape our own living environment

Tegelaers adds the question, "What do I want to do here? It is about learning by doing, together with visual artists, residents and visitors, how to design our own living environment in a good way. He hopes to discover the themes involved through the city camping this summer, and then program further from there. His ideal situation is RAUM itself as a public space; an organization that is accessible, where people can participate and of which they can truly be a part. That requires a new way of thinking about how to fill public space. How do you createëIs RAUM creating the necessary conditions for this? More and more public spaces have become less public due to regulation, market forces and (partial) privatization. RAUM wants to be the counterpart to such developments and show that involving residents in shaping public space is possible with participatory action research aimed at changing and improving the living environment.

City Camp RAUM takes place from July 8 through Aug. 21

More Articles