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For the first time seven institutions within the field of Danish architecture and urbanism research join forces to launch a new experiment: Re-imagining and democratizing the future of our cities.

The Danish network for Architecture and Urbanism Research (DARE) has been underway for a little under a year taking its point of departure in a deep motivation to foster connections across different institutions and disciplines on the Danish scene for architecture and urban research. Many of the key players in the network feel that it has been disintegrated and missing a common horizon for too long.

According to one of the driving forces behind DARE, Ole B. Jensen, Professor of Urban Theory and Urban Design, Aalborg University, uniting the resources of the research community in a collaborative effort is one of the main goals of the initiative. But at the heart of it lies a desire to break with tradition-based habitual thinking when it comes to tackling global challenges, such as migration, climate adaptation and pandemics. Difficulties, which have clearly challenged the urban design qualities created by architecture and urban planning over the last centuries.

Ellen Braae, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Copenhagen, and co-initiator of DARE, agrees with the idea that making our cities sustainable is a complex challenge that calls for a collaborative effort: “Our cities and landscapes are at the heart of the ecological crisis. They are at once the problem and where solutions need to be found. However, in order for us to get serious about finding new paths it is absolutely crucial to think in a holistic manner and not only in terms of technical solutions, which relate to one corner of reality. Spatial, social and technical issues must be on equal footing. Cities and landscapes are not machines, but where we live, and our behavior is an extremely significant parameter. This is where architecture and the interplay between related areas of knowledge really come into play”, she explains.

On Friday, August 28 2020, BLOXHUB hosted DARE’s first symposium ‘Common Horizon’ gathering researchers from seven different institutions covering disciplines such as architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, urban planning, art history, anthropology, geography, sociology and design.

Moderator and chair of the day, Pernille Berg, fil.dr. and Science Manager in BLOXHUB guided the packed room through a day of inspiring speeches revealing a lively research community deeply committed to the engagement of the public in the exploration and co-creation of the future prospects of our cities.

Pernille Berg was delighted that BLOXHUB’s Science Forum has been chosen to host the symposium and play an active role in the facilitation of the network’s activities. She said: “Science Forum’s mission is to cultivate collaboration, interdisciplinarity and knowledge exchange among researchers and practitioners working with sustainable urban development. Research institutions enrich us with their knowledge and insights into complex societal topics and by working together across disciplines, programs and research institutions, the position of research and its contribution to society is strengthened. We look forward to the joint collaborations that DARE will launch later this year.”

In his opening speech Ole B. Jensen pointed to some of the sources of inspiration that inform the spirit of the network, referencing Ruth Levitas, Professor of Sociology at the University of Bristol, and the idea of using utopia as a method for stretching your mind and thinking about alternative future possibilities. The idea of ’Democratizing Futures’ is a reference to the English sociologist and mobility researcher, John Urry who argues that the future is too important to let futurists, researchers, and economists patent it. The future has to be ‘democratized’ through participation and co-creating processes, where citizens’ insights influence future scenarios.

Ole B. Jensen further argued that the extensive knowledge production and innovative power, which blossoms within research too often gets stuck behind institutional walls and stays invisible as an accumulative reservoir of critical, creative, and pioneering ideas and solutions. The ambition of DARE is to bring this potential forward and into the public debate and consciousness.

Later in the day Masashi Kajita, Assistant Professor at Institute of Building and Design, KADK, discussed his project ‘Everybodies home’, asking the question: What would ‘Søholm I’ – a series of 1950’ies terraced houses by Arne Jacobsen – look like if the houses were redesigned as inclusive architecture using a people centered approach?

Anne Tietjen, Associate Professor at the Section for Landscape, Architecture and Planning, University of Copenhagen, spoke of collaborative architecture exhibitions as a visual approach to collective knowledge sharing and knowledge production, which can give voice to local actors and help identify political and ethical matters of concern.

Mette Ramsgaard Thomsen, Professor and Head of CITA, KADK, discussed new ways of material production, which have the potential to democratize the production of architecture bringing up the question: What happens if we start building our own buildings instead of building for the masses?

The DARE network intends to launch new collaborations such as joint research applications, Ph.D. courses and classes, additional conferences and symposiums as well as exhibitions with the objective of involving and reaching out to the broader public. The first exhibition is planned to take place in BLOXHUB in August 2021.

Ole B. Jensen recently gave an interview to ‘Arkitekten’ touching upon the background and vision of DARE. The article will appear in Arkitekten 08/2020, which will be published on October 19 2020.

DARE represents the following group of institutions: Aalborg University, University of Copenhagen, The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation, Aarhus University, Roskilde University, Aarhus School of Architecture, and University of Southern Denmark