CLEAR Village Lab, Barcelona

Posted by Carolyn on November 19, 2009 at 2:25 pm

It has taken me rather longer to write about the CLEAR Village Lab than it should, partly because the event was so mentally, emotionally and physically knackering, that I spent the following week comatose. Now that my body has returned to something close to functionality, I peer at the Lab through a kaleidoscopic lens and wonder if I can do it justice. CLEAR Village, I should explain, is a Foundation recently set up by Thomas Ermacora, whose aim it is to develop a collaborative method for creating small-scale sustainable communities. I am delighted to say that Thomas has asked me to be a Thought Leader on the project, and the Lab in Barcelona was my first encounter with what that might entail. Around sixty of us spent three days in a large warehouse building, in a series of exercises and workshops designed to tease out the principles and methodologies that CLEAR will follow.

My very first encounter set the tone: partnered by Nathaniel Corum, Architecture for Humanity’s Outreach Director, we spent 90 minutes discussing questions such as ‘what is your work/life balance’, and ‘what is the place of governance in your life?’, scribbling our thoughts on a round table, along with two other couples. We then, as a table, had to debate the issues, and come up with one answer to be taken forward to the whole group. The stuff that came up in that first session was already enough to keep several philosophers going for a lifetime, so you can imagine what three days of similarly intensive work (and a suitable amount of partying) did to our brains and bodies.

Whatever else CLEAR achieves (and I hope it will be a great deal) the network of people it has already pulled together is stunning. To list them all here would take too long, but I don’t think I can recall meeting so many extraordinary, passionate people in such a short time, many of whom I very much hope will turn out to be lifelong friends and colleagues. Not bad, for three days’ work…

Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving

Posted by Carolyn on November 19, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Last week I was the guest of the Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving (PBL), or Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency, where I was a keynote speaker at their annual conference. The English translation of PBL is actually rather misleading, since it is the result of the recent merger of two Dutch government agencies, for planning and the environment, and a closer translation would be something like the ‘Planning Bureau for the Living Environment’. Now that’s a refreshing title for a government agency: one that renders the environment, not as some remote thing we can either protect or destroy, but as something in which we already live. One that treats planning, not as some abstract chess-game, but as something inexorably bound to culture and the natural world. The PBL is headed up by Maarten Hajer, a lively and highly-respected Professor of Social Politics at the University of Amsterdam, and is staffed by a bevy of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed architect/anthropologist/philosopher polymaths. I like the Dutch. We could learn a lot from the way they do things. (As indeed, in the past, we always have…)


Posted by Carolyn on November 12, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Last week marked the start of a new collaboration between myself and Stroom Den Haag, a two-year programme entitled Foodprint-Sitopia. Part of my own work in developing sitopia as a collaborative, conceptual and practical design tool, this will unfold as part of Stroom’s ongoing Foodprint programme, through a series of workshops and events on the theme of sitopia, culminating in a conference, exhibition and publication in December 2011.

The inaugural meeting involved many of the people with whom we will be collaborating, including those from Winy Maas’ Why Factory, Wageningen University, Oxfam Novib and the Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving.

If you are interested in getting involved, please get in touch! I will be posting more information about my broader Sitopia Project in the next few weeks.