from German Studies Center and Tongji DESIS Lab D&I, Tongji University, Shanghai

Cities After Cars is a research project composed of a programme of workshops by which citizens are called to participate in activity of envisioning, imagery producing of future cities based on subjective beauty.

Through the workshops, we engage participants in a visionary, hands-on experiment to re-visualize future city spaces without the presence of cars; yet, it is not concerned with services or mobility systems. We aim instead at advancing imaginary, by a creating together a gallery of vision of beauty using craft materials and visual toolkits, acting in an open canvas where unexplored communal aesthetic perspectives and landscapes will be built.

The research is currently in the phase of data gathering through the workshops and will be followed by data dissemination through public exhibitions, and data analysis through policy guidelines development. Regardless best practices and innovation in sustainable mobility that is getting introduced across urban settings, a car-free future is not yet on the global agenda, neither in the industry nor political trends. Instead, cars are still markers of industrial, economical, and personal wealth. That means, we believe there are so many cars around us because people want them; or, they are unable to think otherwise. Through the workshops, participants are on the front-line of city imagination: they are encouraged to consider beauty over functionality, to cherish meaningfulness versus convenience, as well as to reclaim individual wishes and collective inspirations over technical needs and necessities. Workshops represent a systematic exercise of the “what if” through which the city after cars can be imagined, unfolded, and – eventually – created by the inspiration of minor alternatives, and without the uniformity of the major technological systems. We believe this research can largely affect design implementation of urban planning: talking about beauty in cities can be considered as utopian; thus rather we express the interest of exploring the vision of how a city without cars might spring not from planning or management point of view, but in the choice and imaginary of its citizenry. Each workshop will produce a series of images that will be collected into a gallery of visions of future cities as seen through the eyes of their citizens and the workshop participants. By running the workshops in urban settlements of different scale, nature, and geography we will collect a variety of visual artefacts that are the seeds of a conversation about what the city we want might look like. Produced artifacts are being coded through grounded theory, and insights will be produced about the qualities that individuals and social network embed with the vision of the future, including needs, aspiration, and missing values. The dissemination of this material in the form of public exhibition will stimulate discussion and critique of the insights whereas they can be developed within a common ground of values and qualities that can be taken into account into future strategies of urban planning.

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