Designing Together

Summer Design Academy with:

Stefano Boeri Architetti
Baukuh
Cityförster
Grimshaw
51N4E
MVRDV
Archea Associati

Designing Together: Streets for Youth

The street is the public space we need!

“Designing Together” will propose transformations of public spaces by and for young people, in seven Tirana neighborhoods.

Project brief (Manifesto)

Streets make up more than 80% of the public space in European cities. But decade after decade, cities have enabled the enlargement of car space within the streetscape, and relegated the majority of the urban public—those who don’t drive—to the margins: the elderly and people with disabilities, people living in poverty who can’t afford to drive, women who care for the home during the day, youth without the means, and children under the age limit.

Toddlers don’t travel far from home, but neither do teenagers. Youth relate to their neighborhood in a kind of suspension of being independent enough to go everywhere, but with few obligations to be anywhere. Living with family, teenagers find privacy in the public space outside. And though privacy may be in parks and plazas, the street close to home is where they have the greatest sense of ownership. Youth are perhaps the demographic who rely the least on the car to move around, and most connected to the street as a space of belonging.

How realistic are ideas like car-free neighborhoods? It depends on who you ask. The professionals in charge of streets simply don’t ask young people what they would change, much less integrate their voices into the process of design. Albania ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. According to that document, children’s voices are to be integrated by the state into the decision making processes that will affect them. Designing streets for youth requires that not only will public space serve their needs, but the design process will directly incorporate them as well.

Over the last eight years, the city of Tirana has been rapidly diversifying the functions of its public right-of-way, swapping out driving space to re-partition the street section with bike lanes, bus lanes, and wider sidewalks. And Tirana streets are being re-designed for other uses altogether, like recreation and idleness, rather than being solely a space of movement.

The continued re-design of our streets is an opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of people in neighborhoods, but also to build a public in the process. “Designing Together” will propose transformations of public spaces, by and for young people, in seven neighborhoods across Tirana.

What else would these spaces support if they were to be designed by and for young people? How would they differ from our expectations as designers? Could those changes become standards—or to what extent are youth spaces in cities resistant to standardization, and indeed demanding of a different concept of codification? How do visions of public space for youth correspond with strategies to mitigate the effects of extreme weather?

Designing Together will address these questions and more, on the ground in seven Tirana neighborhoods, by facilitating an exchange of self-reflection between young residents and young architects. Teams will be mentored by offices that have executed ideas about Tirana’s urban landscape at many scales in recent years: 51N4E, Stefano Boeri Architetti, Baukuh, Cityförster, Archea Associati, Grimshaw Partners, and MVRDV. Designing Together will bring their experience to the neighborhood street to ricochet lessons learned between other European cities, and give shape to Tirana’s neighborhood urbanism as a model of healthy and equitable city-making led by the needs and voices of youth.

Objectives and sequence of the course

Designing Together is an eight-week dialogue to redesign streets as better everyday public spaces for youth. The academy will produce visual neighborhood action plans to be presented to city officials. Neighborhood action plans should be accessible documents that can be used by communities to highlight the challenges and opportunities of their streets, to communicate between stakeholders and build broader momentum for change.

The course will be structured in three sections. (1) The kick-off week will be five days of activities in Tirana and a group recreation weekend, (2) a work period of six weeks conducted remotely, and (3) a concluding week of three planned days of activities in Tirana with closing party.

Each team will consist of six students enrolled in Albanian Universities and six students enrolled in universities abroad. Teams will be led by one of seven architecture studios, and a Tirana-based team lead will facilitate the six week work period.

Program of the course

The course will be structured in three periods.

1

The kick-off week will be five days of activities in Tirana and a group recreation weekend.

2

A work period of six weeks conducted remotely.

3

A concluding week of three planned days of activities in Tirana, with a closing party.

Student participants in the academy will receive a 600 euro stipend. Travel and accommodations will be arranged by participants themselves.

Deadline for application: July 10, 2022
Date of notification of acceptance July 13, 2022

Application procedure

To participate in the academy, you should be a student or recent graduate of architecture, urban planning or design, or a field you believe to be relevant to the project objectives. Students should be confident in situations speaking and sharing with stakeholders, conducting interviews and informal conversation. Students should be curious, empathetic, and keen observers of social interaction in urban space.

Student participants in the academy will receive a 600 euro stipend. Travel and accommodations will be arranged by participants themselves.

Please send a short statement of motivation in English, mentioning relevant experiences and interests to: sb@qendra-m.org. Any questions should be sent to the same address.