06 February 2013
Architectural Association, London
The concept of value is central to any discussion of urbanism.
‘Good design’, we are often told, is all about ‘adding value’ to the built environment and this is typically assessed through the technical performance (in high quality construction, energy efficiency, flexibility etc.) or social performance (having a beneficial impact on health, comfort, transportation etc.) of a project. Similarly land, property and rental values are all indicators that have causal effects on the types of spaces, buildings and activities that are generated to constitute our city. The fate of our built environment is intrinsically linked to these ideas of value – whether real or perceived – because they can dictate what happens where in a city, and in what form.
During Diploma 10’s Constructed Situation workshop in Amsterdam, I decided to test this discrepancy between real and perceived value by playing a game of Monopoly with the residents and shopkeepers of the Nieuwmarkt – a popular, public square. My constructed situation consisted of two parts. First, locals were presented with a Monopoly board which mapped out the actual, geographic location of shops and buildings on the Nieuwmarkt according to the familiar colour spectrum of Monopoly properties. Despite this unbiased approach, all of the participants were reluctant to play the game until the value of their (and other) properties on the square had been negotiated. The discussion that followed formed the second part of the ‘situation’ in which the locals expressed their notions of what, in the context of an urban square, is of value to them and what they would compromise in order to re-draw the board and play the game. In this way, the format of a board game was used as a device to facilitate a wider conversation on the role of value over common ground.
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