Waiting Land

Class: Waiting Land
Professor: Mona El Khafif
Dates: Fall 2011

Definition: Waiting Land
Former ports, railway stations and industrial areas that – for various reasons – have not immediately been earmarked for development form potential reservoirs for urban redevelopment. The total surface area of this “waiting land” often equals the surface area of sub-urban and ex-urban expansion areas, an indication of the massive waste of space that occurs within cities. To stimulate development in areas like this, it is not permanent designs that are needed, but transformation mythologies in which urban management and stakeholder management are aligned with the design process.1

Definition: Flexibility of Space
I think it’s a false dilemma to say there’s flexibility on the one hand and specificity and determinacy on the other hand. You need a degree of fixity in order to trigger diversity of uses. You actually don’t get flexibility with an empty field; you need very specific design conditions in order to trigger the potential of that flexibility and the openness of the public domain. What I have called “directed indeterminacy” implies something very different from the open-ended flexible non-design of 1960´s. It is my proposition that you need to give something a very specific form in order to cultivate the richest possible dynamic.2

In contrast to long term planning processes and technocratic top down strategies, there exists a set of tactical design strategies that can operate on a temporary basis. In his publication Drosscape, Alan Berger identified six categories of wasteland that operate as an undiscovered urban resource for the city and as new territories for designers. Among those categories, Berger seeks out Waste Landscapes of Transition (LOTs) that, due to the economic constraints of the real estate market, are waiting to be developed, thus transitioning from former industrial uses into new urban programs. Waiting Lands, as coined by Kees Christiansen, require the designer to shift their thinking from explicit knowledge that feeds into form to complex interactive and responsive processing that identifies the role of the designer as a curator, negotiator and collaborator.
Influenced by the strategies of the Situationists, this form of temporary urbanism is a space for tacticians, those devising temporal, ecological and interim uses – seeking voids, niches, and loopholes in the socio-spatial fabric. These processes are made evident in circular, hybridized, and overlapping patterns of resource consumption and tend to foster a diverse, resilient social ecology. Designers, artists, and more recently City Planners, are exploring temporary tactics to fulfill a variety of social, political and spatial objectives.
The design of the interim places can be understood as an urban script that consists of multiple layers. Temporary hardware such as architectural installations and mobile furniture support the spatial definition of a place; they have the potential to generate an unforeseen set of urban software that function as events and anchor programs or bottom-up, user generated programs. Orgware strategies can activate local networks and neighborhood participation, while place-branding strategies can communicate activities and the initiation of urban narratives. These urban layers can give form to urban life, the result of material and immaterial components such as activities, temporal events, and other movements that support the qualitative effects of a site.
1 Waiting Land, Kees Christiaanse, in Situation KCAP, NAI Publisher, Amsterdam 2005, p. 152
2 Discussion Stan Allen Kenneth Frampton Hashim Sarkins, in Landform Building, Stan Allen, Marc McQuade, Lars Müller Publishers, Princeton
University School of Architecture, p. 257, 2011