Urban/ACT : a handbook for alternative practice


This book is the outcome of a series of discussions and collaborations with a number of people, involved directly or
indirectly in a project within a European network. It shows a collective desire to create connections between different
practices and research on the city. Some of those involved in the initial stages of the network have, in turn, invited new
contributors from their own networks. The algorithm which made the body of the book grow was that of affinity and friendship.
From an initial small handbook we have arrived at quite a fat book. But we kept the ‘smallness’, as an important detail.

Twenty three groups from France, Belgium, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Holland, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia and Canada are now included in the book. Their assemblage allows parallels and the possibility of identifying similarities and differences across comparable contexts.

URBAN ACT condenses the idea of a certain type of activism, of a way of acting and organising actions, which is probably a
common thread for all the contributors. This ACT/ing can take different forms: from radical opposition and criticism to a more
constructive and propositional acting, embedded in everyday life. It challenges both academic, professional, artistic, and
political practice; it addresses the creativity and criticality of a new approach to the city. This approach is necessarily
differentiated and reflects a multiplicity of viewpoints and ways of doing.
The practices presented here include artist groups, media activists, cultural workers, software designers, architects, students,
researchers, neighbourhood organisations, city dwellers. Most of these groups are usually catalogued as ‘local’ and their
position is minimalised as such, but in fact they are highly specific and have the quality of reinventing uses and practices in
ways that traditional professional structures cannot afford (due to their generic functioning). Their ways of being local are
complex and multilayered, involving participation and ‘local expertise’ as well as extra-local collaborations. They reinvent
contemporary urban practice as ‘tactical’, ‘situational’ and ‘active’, based on soft professional and artistic skills and civic
informal structures, which can adapt themselves to changing urban situations that are critical, reactive and creative enough to
produce real change.

A series of texts accompany the groups’ self-presentation. They add a few more questions to those of the groups:
What is the relationship between urban struggles and urban actions? / What is the political role of counter-culture in urban
transformation? And that of youth and women, of the unemployed, retired, immigrants…? / What role could be given to urban
interstices? / How can urban tactics reconstruct spaces of proximity and collective desire? / How can one use media a s an urban
tactic? / What is changed when the ‘artist’ replaces the ‘planner’? / What are the dangers of alternative practice? / How to not
essentialise positive notions such as ‘participation’ and how to deal with the ambivalence of situational urbanism?

Atelier d'Architecture Autogeree

aaa-peprav, Paris 2007

PEPRAV-Plateforme de Pratiques et Recherches Alternatives sur la ville