Tøyen roofs

Urban Installations
Iron, paint and stainless steel, LED and polycarbonate
Produced by Merethe Bua

Partners
Municipality of Oslo
Bergensenstiftelsen
Vestre
NIL

As cities become more diverse, the challenge to shape public spaces that are alive, accessible to all and carries a unique local identity, is increasingly more complex. After belonging elsewhere, inhabitants need to find new sense of community. In the context of the first Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016, the Ideal Lab program, took on the theme of "Replanted identity", in the context of the Tøyen neighbourhood in Oslo. Curated by Ralston Bau, five artists and designers each created their propositions that where exhibited at the Deichmanske library. Ralston Bau created a family of urban installations, the Roofs of Tøyen.

Replanted identity

Identity is, literally, what makes us identical to others. It is essential for forming a community, be it religious, national, local, sexual, racial or artistic. What makes an identity interesting is that it is in fact, a combination of multiple identities that are unique to each one of us and resembles a tool box. Everyone searches in their own, to find the identity that is useful at a given moment. It allows us to find a similarity with other people and create a connection, an identified community, even if it is a superficial and momentary one. Some can use their identity to exclude, but the traveler know it is more useful to use the identity that includes. Socialising with unknown people is about finding the « identity zone » in which we can communicate.

Our investigative design program Ideal Lab have taken on the theme identity, “replanted identity”, in the particular context of the Micropolis. Since most places are inhabited by indigenous and migrant populations, destined to stay there, an inclusive local identity emerge as important to create a happy and prosperous local community. The identity issue has become very relevant as the traditional borders disappear. Having a certain nationality as once only identity does not suffice anymore. Humans are more and more connected to each other, above geographical and language borders, and choosing the right identity at the right moment is the best way to amplify these connexions. We stay less often where we were born or where our ancestors came from. Humanity is migrating to the cities, and its populations, better educated than ever before, can choose where and how they want to live. Helping humans to generate identities which allow them to connect easily to others is not a luxury anymore, but a common need.

Everyone is a mix of endogenous and exogenous identities. Our endogenous identity is a result of how our body is connected, how we perceive data from the world that surrounds us and how we deal with it. Everyone is, in this aspect, quite unique, more or less sensitive to certain stimuli. Our exogenous identities are the result of our environment: the culture we grew up in, the educations we received, but also the friends we have chosen, the positive and negative experiences that marked us, the travels we made and the influences we have had. This mix of identities is the way we define ourselves and a way to connect ourselves to others. We can feel European because we feel connected to the other inhabitants of the continent. We can feel we belong to a place where we were not born, our mere presence there making us feel linked to its other inhabitants.

A successful local identity is a meeting point of the best in us. Where of the physical peculiarities of its territory meets the history of the place and the people who live there, while still making space for those who haven’t moved there yet, those who are just passing by, and those who would like to settle for good. The success of a local identity is a daily collective practice, an object of desire, something unique and simple, open enough to include most people, but with enough restrictive definition not to lose its strength. The search for identity is the quest for what unites people, what bring them together, through what is identical to all. We have invited French and Norwegian creative Agents to immerse themselves in three unique places - Florø and Saint Nazaire, and Tøyen in Oslo. All are distinctive, gorgeous and in transformation, with similarities and differences. These Agents collectively and individually studied and observed these Micropolises to project a new version of the local identity in artworks and objects, all vectors of a “replanted identity”.

Tøyen citizens

After belonging elsewhere, inhabitants need to experience a new sense of community. We had an immersive process for weeks within Tøyen and its citizens and stake holders, to experience, observe and be part of their lives and rituals, identifying insights and emotional motivations for them to enhance a higher sense of belonging in Tøyen. Deep dive & scenarios was a workshop where designers and locals met, developed ideas and shaped scenarios together. In collaboration with Gabriele Ferri, PhD, UvA, urban gaming methods were used to connect to the local community at Tøyen and define the local identity. The scenarios created were shaped and visualised in the Making workshop that took form as a practical workshop, making mock ups and prototypes in the collective maker space Fellesverkstedet.

Common ground

Identity (having something identical) can only be created through the act of sharing. That said, sharing is not always easy when natives already have their habits and social networks, while the newcomers do not know all the rules. Successful sharing is preceded by a personal selection of what is really important, like a chef selecting ingredients or a DJ selecting songs. Sharing becomes a way to progress and improve when it goes both ways. Each person thinks about what is important to them, shares it, and enjoys the experience and the selections of others. In Tøyen, sharing seems to be natural and most people seem eager to contribute. The preparation of conducive conditions for sharing is what inspired us. The Tøyen public parks and squares are important in an neighbourhood where most inhabitants lives in apartment buildings. Due to the Nordic weather conditions, outdoor activities are hazardous to plan and spaces can feel unsafe outside the light summer months.
The three high rises on Tøyen Torg, with their floating roofs on the top, provides an iconic backdrop of any view of Tøyen. Their rough shape inspired the “Tøyen Roofs” that down at street level create shared and permanent outdoor spaces that enable social activities and give sunlight on an overcast day. The project aim to reclaim the public space and make it usable for common activities at any time.

Tøyen roofs

Tøyen roofs are offering to Tøyen citizens a common spaces currently missing in their surroundings: spaces to gather, have activities in public spaces such as gathering, selling, sharing. Vegetalised, built of strong steel, asymmetrical to visualise an urban landscape, enlightening the parks and squares during dark winter and protective during rainy days, rough as the creative community and brutalist architecture of this Oslo neighbourhood, Tøyen roofs is a family of installations, urban lighting and furniture, inspired by local roots; Tøyen Festival Roof, Tøyen Sunshine (urban lighting), Tøyen Market Roof and Tøyen Water

Context

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