The political rationality of our times, namely neoliberalism triggered a plethora of social, political, financial and ecological crises. As experienced via the global protests and partly triggered by the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 there is a demand for alternative approaches to the ways in which our cities are made. In this context, this research group aims to explore the agency of altering (Petrescu, 2008) the ways of practice in the real-world. Altering practices are those which seek to question and transform the socio-political conditions of the spaces into which they intervene, as well as to test the boundaries and procedures of their disciplines (Rendell, 2003). Altering practices aim to go beyond the world-as-it-is and extend towards the-world-as-it-can-be, from somehow to otherhow, imagining how our cities and spaces can be made and become otherwise.
The research group aims at the extension of the concept of practice towards critical spatial research, beyond the limitations of isolated top-down and neo-liberal practices. Integrating social and political domains, the group reframes spatial practice as diverse forms of civic-situated knowledge creation in-and-through design. Employing a multitude of inclusive methods and actions for facilitating design empowerment, these frequently involve co-creation with citizens, other practitioners, NGOs, social and technological developers, as well as governmental organizations.
A majority of the world’s population living in cities implies that significant systemic issues are rooted in urban spaces; so are their alternative solutions. Understanding and acting in the urban beyond the limited managerial or technocratic perspectives and boundaries, and considering the city as a human-ecological settlement providing shared living spaces for the multitude opens up new horizons for thought and action. The research group focuses on urban altering practices which are situated at different frontiers, including the spatial, the social, the virtual, the natural, the ephemeral and transitionary, the political, the networks, the “knowledge(s)”, the transdisciplinary… The research group acts in the situated urban contexts and agglomerations of Brussels, Istanbul, Antwerp, New York, Cambodia, …
Traditional spatial practices often fail to recognize the complex and unequal relations between people living in cities. Ideas and lived experiences of people at the margins of society provide important insights into institutional failure and social exclusion in urban projects. By setting up academic research in the context of collaborative learning processes, combining outreach-based community and interdisciplinary network practice, the research group generates new knowledge and innovative socio-spatial design approaches to address these challenges. Alt_Shift applies unique participatory design and co-creation methods and tools to learn from underrepresented and overlooked communities and empower them to get involved in design, through design.