An Evening of the Future at City in the Making

Tuesday 24th October City in the Making celebrated the future. A gathering of about 40 inner circle City in the Making inhabitants and fellow-workers plus friends attended three presentations of projects that were made as a contribution to the yearlong festival Pioniersmeent De Stokerij (which loosely translates as: Pioneer Commons The Stokerij or Boilerhouse).

Architect/cartographer/draughtswoman Carlijn Kingma, and futurologist Edwin Gardner and Christiaan Fruneaux (both from Monnik, Studio for Futures & Fictions) were asked to reflect upon the near and distant future, both of society in general as well as of City in the Making as a network and Rotterdam Noord as our place of action. Our secret hope was that they would sketch us a clearly defined roadmap to our future. As usual with such questions we got more than we asked for, but also in a way we got less.

Usually we start evenings like this with a hearty dinner, and this day was no exception. The wood workshop was transformed in a dining room and Giulia de Giovanelli made us a nice selection of about ten different bites, to be picked at our own choosing (this should have warned us for things to come). While changes to the set-up in the workshop and De Stokerij were being made, a surprise impromptu was delivered by local street band Maja Fietsclub (untranslatable local wordplay). The street in front was quickly turned into an improvised stand, new visitors arriving, and others enjoying a smoke or talk outside, while the band was playing inside.  It was a nice and unprepared acting out of one of our goals; to reclaim the street as a public space of meeting and partying.

Carlijn kicked off the evening with a presentation of her pen and ink drawing titled. ‘The Babylonian Tower of Modernity’.  With a handheld camera projecting details on a screen above her, she took us through the story/drawing/map. The drawing (130×95 cm) itself is meticulously (if not to say obsessively) detailed. Each of Carlijns drawings is the result of research (a lot of reading mostly and in this case a lot of discussion with both us and Monnik too) and although apparently figurative, it should also be read as a map.
Central in the drawing stands the Babylonian Tower of Modernity, both symbolising and depicting our current capitalist / neo-liberal predicament. A machine that sucks up the chosen (not everyone is allowed to enter) and crushes them along their way up the ladder of power and capital (orchestrated by bankers that pull the strings on top). But there are two ways out of the tower to two different kinds of alternative living. On the left field a chaotic and messy amalgam of squatter, street-rat, activist building and nature. In short, we recognised ourselves in this field.
But there is another way out. The right field is another romantic escape; this time in tradition, in old values, security and in walling off danger and the unexpected. This way – represented by Edmund Burke’s notion of the beautiful – may be less exciting, but it is also less dangerous than the sublime chaos on the left.

While Carlijn showed us our position in the present, Edgar went on in the second presentation by showing us a map of the future. A map of what lies behind the Tower of Modernity, you could say. This map shows us two roads into a future where many issues seem to be solved. It is a future, where the question no longer is how to distribute scarcity, but how to deal with abundance. One main road, the road of Enlightenment / Rationalism called the Road of Automatization of Work (crossed by the Street of Liberation of Work) leads to enormous CO2 capture towers (CO2 is the main basic carbon-based material source of the future) and fully automated production plants.
Another road however, the Search for Meaningful and Holistic Community Forms, leads towards a more Romantic future. In front lies the field of networks; centralised, decentralised and finally distributed. Both the street of Liberation from Work, and the street of The New Romantic Field leads towards another tower (lots of towers this evening, but then again this is Rotterdam). This time we recognize traces of the workshop and school of our Pieter de Raadtstraat location. It must be far into the (ecological) future because an enormous treelike ´thing’ seems to grow out of our rooftop. Behind our humble abode enormous Living Sequoias (the collective housing type of the future) rise to the heavens. Eat that, you present-day project developers; think bigger, think ecological and communal, it’s the way of the future.

In the middle of Edwin’s map the rooftop terrace of a smaller building is the starting point of the third part of this evenings trilogy. Christiaan wrote us a sci-fi novella of our distant future, titled De Wolf. Alas he was ill himself, so Edwin had to observe the honours by reading us the opening chapters of the book. One should not try to re-tell a piece of literature, so read it for yourselves (in Dutch, we’re afraid, maybe a translation is called for). Let it be said that the true identity of the main protagonist The Wolf has caused a lot of speculation and discussion among the City in the Making inner circle. And what this future ‘Upgrade’, which causes so much worrying for The Wolf, actually is, whether it is good or bad, was not revealed, neither in the book, nor after sharp interrogation by Edwin.

So there we were, after an evening of several futures, different routes and maps, with more questions to ask and choices to make than when we started, between the possibility to escape either to the sublime or to the beautiful, whether to take the path of Rationality or that of Romanticism, with an Upgrade on the horizon which nobody can tell what it will change. On our own again, it seems, unless one of you can show us the way?

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The evening was produced flawlessly by PhED Flip (see her website) with help from Erik, Guido and Luuk, Piet was moderator.

More info:
A larger, hires version of Carlijn Kingma’s drawing is on her website. There you can also find the explanatory text and more work by her. The real thing, a hires print of it that is, will be on show permanently at the City in the Making office boardroom. So be welcome to come and visit anytime.

The map Monnik made will be on their website, streetnames and clarifications / directions are in Dutch at the present, but maybe a translation will soon follow. Their website is mostly in English anyway and a treasure trove for sci-fi and future technology fans, so worth a visit always.

The full story ‘De Wolf’ is also available online, but only in Dutch. In this case we don’t think that Google translate will help, their language engine has not yet advanced towards many of the future words and phrases that Chris uses. So be it.

More on the notion of the Beautiful and the Sublime of Edmund Burke can be found at Wikipedia.

Much more was done in the series of events that together made up the Pioniersmeent De Stokerij project. We are preparing a special magazine in which all (and more) will be documented and explained. Like our Facebook page and you will be kept updated.