Living Localities, Designing in the desert of post-Ideology Daniel Lythgoe

The way we build our cities reflects what we think of those we build them for. It shows the rights and dignity we accord them. The same belief systems, the same notions of right and wrong, style and vulgarity, progress and decline, determine not just what goes on in a neighbourhood, but also what it looks like. Crucially, these ideas are living things. To be alive is to be mutable, constantly shifting and evolving in step with the wider socio-political discourse. If this is true of the process, then why not of the form?

“Living Localities” explores conceptual configurations with which to tackle this dilemma, redefining the ambiguity of the post-modern condition as a bedrock of mutability in line with the dynamic nature of the city as social assemblage – a call to designers to think in terms of processes rather than forms, to seek alternative models of development that extend agency to citizens through heterarchical practices of co-authorship, co-production and interpretation of space.

Transposing these considerations into a design context led the work to Plagwitz, a former industrial suburb of Leipzig in which the seeds of community-driven development are unfolding. The project seeks to identify & amplify these processes, imagining a future in which regulatory bodies provide infrastructural and executive support to autonomous communities that „constitute themselves, collectively make their own rules or principles of operation, and continually re-examine them”.

In a post-pandemic world, a reconsideration of the values underpinning the development of the built environment is vital. This approach sacrifices clarity by rejecting categorisation and embracing ambiguity. It is disorderly, but it is a good kind of disorder – one that engenders a sense of ownership of and identification with the outcome – a triumph rather than a tragedy of the commons.

Daniel Lythgoe