Friction Atlas

The scripts of law are drafted into our public bodies. They define movements and gestures, unconscious reactions, behaviours and anticipations. What happens when the laws become a game? What happens when we redefine the rules as the visible surface of a playing field, blurring the distinction between unthinking movement and a conscious submission as participants?

Everyday, citizens perform, on public surfaces, synchronised routines of elaborate moves. Through the simple act of walking in the city, we log into a system of rules and constraints, codes that regulate the circulation of citizens within urban space. They are sets of instructions, conditional statements, ultimately incorporating power; a structural force that plays into everyday life. 

The act of assembling in public space is both an individual and a group activity, involving figures, interplay and synchronisation. The resulting patterns and choreographies extend beyond exceptional events, to the most mundane of activities. It is not uncommon in the media, for example, to spot demonstrators keeping their march to one line, standing on the sidewalk, in Washington DC. Any reading or picnic gathering over twenty persons in one of New York City’s parks requires a special event permit. In Sweden, you might need to apply for a permit to dance in publicIn Cairo one is allowed to spontaneously discuss public matters only if there are fewer than ten people. Some regulations surely sound sensible, some bizarre, many are contested and strongly conflictual. 

Friction Atlas — a project initiated in 2014 in Ljubljana and expanded in Athens and Melbourne — aims to make regulations — always implicitly present in any public space — explicit and legible through graphical devices. Through the engagement of the public, we attempt to make the dynamics of authority become not only visually but also physically discernible.

In each city, we drew full-scale diagrams onto the pavement of public spaces to illustrate the rules that control their uses in overlay with rules of other cities, such as Genoa, Cairo, Washington, Stockholm, Sydney. We sampled from different cities in order to show not specific conflicts, but the pervasivity of minor and daily frictions. We deliberately designed and arranged situations — collectively organising an environment and a play of events — that then resulted in actions, dérives, crossings of the city. We invited the public to assemble, to participate in staged choreographies, to discuss, and reread the urban space, highlighting some of its hidden aspects. 

 The way the urban is regulated still lacks tangible representation; law is often too murky, while ungraspable, to be discussed. Designed interventions can help in bringing to the foreground what is otherwise lost to view, neglected, otaken for granted as someone else’s problem — too thin, shadowy, banal, and invisible. When the structure and the activity of a system is exposed it becomes legible. The experience of the urban environment grants citizens a degree of agency when the resulting mental maps can be operationalised, to enable reprogramming, hacking, and deconstructing.

Understanding law as a human artefact, Friction Atlas highlights some of the regulations invisibly traced upon any urban surface, as in a playing field. Through graphical devices and performative practices, it reshapes local laws into fully visible agents, providing possible models for opening up to new forms of civic and aesthetic engagement with hidden or abstract layers of the city.

Friction Atlas was initiated by Paolo Patelli and Giuditta Vendrame of design and research collaborative La Jetée for BIO 50, the 24th Biennial of Design in Ljubljana (18.9—7.12.2014). It was further developed within the Adhocracy Athens programme (29.4—4.7.2015) and the Performing Mobilities festival (17.9—31.10.2015) and in Melbourne, Australia.

Realism, Fiction and the Machine

Experimental Machine-Vehicles (M-Vs) are effective intervention tools to draw out knowledge and stories from a participating public. This is because M-Vs can create a dynamic multiple interplay of realism and fiction within the everyday performance of the city- the triangulation of Realism, Fiction and the Machine. The experience of realism and fiction exists in all aspects of life.  Everyday we continuously engage with fiction and realism in deliberate and unconscious ways. Questions emerge regarding the nature and efficacy of the realism to fiction mix across a range of categories of experience. Although difficult to quantify at this point in time, it appears that different categories of activity are best facilitated by their own particular mix of realism and fiction.  Further, the productivity of this mix appears to be maximised when the fiction component is at its strongest and simultaneously the realism experienced is also at its most dependable best. It also appears that there are a number of integrating or facilitating factors that influence the take up of this reality/fiction mix. These range from the generality of the environment in which the experience is taking place, to the specifics of M-Vs that are employed to generate actions and reactions. M-Vs can be used to facilitate greater knowledge (realism/data) and stories (fiction/unconscious) from a place/location, exposing, amplifying, intervening with and energising this reciprocal relationship between realism and fiction in the city.


PROJECT_16 began at the beginning of 2015 with a simple question: ‘How would you like art to engage with your city in 2016?’. Comprised of three site-specific projects in the streets of Lahore, São Paulo and London, PROJECT_16 commissioned artists engaged with participatory practices to reflect on questions of public space and its audiences. Emerging artist Paula Nishijima (Brazil), Emma Smith (UK) and the recently created Awami Art Collective (Pakistan) propose A project for people I don’t know, Chora and Black Spring respectively, in which they directly engage audiences of their cities to discuss art, their locality and the state of the world.

PROJECT_16 Lahore

Black Spring by Awami Art Collective, 2015-2016

Consisting of an almost 2000m web of lights, Awami Art Collective’s Black Spring connects the rooftops of the haveli (townhouses) of the Taxali Gate — one of the entrance of the Walled City that hosts the historical ‘red light district’. The luminous orange web evokes the colour of the upcoming Metro Line and the urban development projects and government regulations, which are changing the character of this ancient city and affecting its inhabitants.

Officially banned in 2011, Basant, a popular kite flying festival, is one of the events prohibited for security reasons. During Basant the local residents of the Walled City used to gather on the rooftops of the townhouses to fly the kites or enjoy the spectacle. In addition to recall the Metro Line, Black Spring was conceived as an initiative to bring back the local community to the rooftops of the Walled City to remember the celebrative spirit of Basant. To gain access to the rooftops the members of the collective gradually built a direct relationship with the local residents who actively participated in the making of the work. As a result, the intervention became an opportunity to raise awareness and share concerns on the current urban development and government regulations. On 13 February this year, the date the kite festival used to happen, the orange web installation was light up.

An 11 mins. film documents this process and includes some of the conversations between the members of the collective and local residents. The memories of Basant together with the consequences of the urban developments of the area interweave throughout the conversations. Through this collection of oral history and hopes for the future of the city, the documentary bears witness to a community that thrives through collective efforts.

PROJECT_16 São Paulo

A project for people I don’t know by Paula Nishijima, 2015-2016

In Brazil, Paula Nishijima proposes A project for people I don’t know. Composed of a two-day happening in São Paulo and an 18 mins. film, this work is the outcome of a two-year research project initiated with the Goethe-Institute of Brazil and developed through the collaboration with PROJECT_16’s curators.

With almost 600,000 visitors, the exhibition Frida Kahlo — connections between surrealist women in Mexico at Instituto Tomie Ohtake, is the occasion chosen by the artist to engage new audiences of her city and address questions of the use of public space and the role of art. On 19 December 2015 and 10 January 2016, thirteen people queuing to get into the exhibition were selected to talk to thirteen people leaving the show. They didn’t know each other; they were connected online. Scripted at some points, these conversations between strangers created mirror-spaces to counter two different temporalities and spaces. Drawing on psychoanalysis, the action gave voice to the audience to reveal the common expectations and anxieties of the people who form the queue and their journey from the street to the space of the gallery. Through these interactions, the happenings highlighted the audience’s unique position as a community in the public space and the potential for them to share thoughts while they are waiting. In this process, the online became the starting site for socialisation.

Whereas in the happenings the artist passed the three questions posed by PROJECT_16 onto to the audiences; this 18 mins. film presents the artist’s direct response to them. Rather than a documentary of what happened at Instituto Tomie Ohtake, the film unfolds as an extended part of Nishijima’s work, as her personal account of the state of art and audiences in her city. ‘How are these people trying to be part of their city?’ — poses Nishijima — ‘What do we want to show to ourselves and others by going to these exhibitions?’. In so asking, the artist deconstructs and reassembles the conversations between strangers in a new narrative, one that amplifies the project’s scope from the art and anthropological spheres to the political one. ‘To me’ —says the artist— ‘the political dimension of São Paulo as a city matters to understand why the audience of blockbuster exhibitions keeps increasing’.

PROJECT_16 London

Chora by Emma Smith, 2015-2016

Taking the concept of ‘cosmopolitanism’ as a starting point, Emma Smith proposes Chora. Composed by a one-day happening in the streets of London, a workshop at the Royal College of Art and its online manifestation, Chora is an invitation to reflect on our shared humanity.

Related to a previous thought experiment in September 2015 at Kunstmuseum Luzern, the work was initiated on 9 February 2016 through a happening in Trafalgar Square, the historic epicentre of London from which all distances to other cities are measured. The point marked by a plaque on the floor at the southern edge of Trafalgar Square served as a site to test the public nature of the city space and the modes of contact and exchange it affords. From this symbolic location, the artist started the dissemination of ‘chora’, a term derived from Plato as pertaining to a third space beyond the city. Through her interpretation of the Platonic ‘chora’, Smith proposes to found a new state, ‘a state of mind’ solely dependent on the power of thought, as a way of enabling the possibility for a global citizenry, free from conditions of citizenship, definition or border.

Based on this notion, passers-by were invited to take part in the artwork by means of taking a minute to imagine what it means to them to be a citizen of the world. What does it mean to have a global citizenry based on difference? What is the role of the city space? Through this happening, manifested as a ‘state of mind’, Chora’s meaning and actuality became entirely dependent on each person thinking it and as numerous and various as its participants.

As a way to capture the traces of this thought experiment and spread further the notion of Chora, participants are invited to post their silent pictures online and follow Chora’s social media accounts (@GloablChora #GlobalChora); sites that don’t post anything but just collect followers. In so proposing, the artist expands the scope of the work to the extended public domain of the World Wide Web. So Chora’s existence is established, consolidated and circulated online.


Curated by Lavinia Filippi and Amanda Masha Caminals

Conceived as curatorial research to challenge the principle of the ‘contemporary’ exemplified by biennales, PROJECT_16 is the first initiative of a network of artists, designers, curators, audiences and professionals from different domains to discuss, share and plan for the future through art. Developed by Barcelona based designers Eva Domènech, Laura Quintana and Claudia Oliveira, the website acts as a public domain where to address the query ‘what do we want to add to the world and why?’ (Maria Lind, Art Forum, October 2009).

Short Cut Tarwewijk

On March 19, 2016, 200 people hiked along one straight long line directly through the open spaces and private yards of the Tarwewijk (Rotterdam). The group went through front doors and out backdoors into the neighbours yard on the following street. The continuous line included schools, churches, homes and gardens that were randomly selected. It crossed not only the picturesque places but also the architectural highlights, historical buildings, average homes, and forgotten corners. The line crossed seamlessly from one location into the next.

There were negotiations with each resident or owner of a location so that the line would flow without interruption. An important motive for the promenade was to create an experience of seeing a familiar urban environment from another perspective. Short Cut Tarwewijk is a poetic mechanism that sets the scene for equality and breaks apart hierarchies: equality because everyone is engaged in the same activity (in a line); power structures that fall apart because people see their surroundings in a different way.

As a result, the hike could create a reflection about the basic idea that a city is just a collection of properties and structures. ‘Maybe they will shed a new light on the lost, utopian idea of shared spaces or the communal.’

(Film/ Full HD: 30′:00”)

Vélo M² Open Space Capsules and Energy Modules for Cargo Bikes

The cargo bike is a great alternative to the car in congested cities; with our stackable modules we give sustainable initiatives endless possibilities. Vélo M2 (pronounced Vélo em carree) is a multi-modular capsule system fitting on cargo bikes. With our energy module supplied by solar and pedal power you can have the electricity on location to power an open-air cinema, a mobile fablab and much more on top. We bring all these plans to an open source platform and community where anybody can contribute. Cargo Bikes can be used for more than only transport, with Vélo M2 we give the tools to rethink how we interact in Public Space, move in the city and use energy.


Today, the urban development of cities frequently results in the presence of a temporary inaccessible space. In this category are left behind urban ruins, transitional areas and neglected or contaminated lands. Although wastelands have a negative connotation, an increasing number of groups started to throw into question the use of these non-hegemonic spaces. Transforming these spaces is a complex design process because of the inter-workings of social, ecological and economical challenges.

In-Situ is a series of participative projects initiated by Giacomo Piovan about transforming these wastelands. The first site was activated in the Gelatine Factory, one of the last open spaces in the town of Hasselt (BE). A series of activities were organised in collaboration with local inhabitants and organisations: communal picnics, football matches, open air movies and bio-markets.

On the last day of this community project, a debate on-site gathered a number of participants in the field of arts, design, architecture, planning and urban activism in order to share their experiences and generate a more open debate about the future developments of the Gelatine site. By inviting also visitors and local citizens in the debate we found a more shared point of view on the future of the site allowing the group to uncover some of the commonalities between other similar examples.

In-Situ offers also a modular structure that can be adapted together with the participants in order to co-design new functions depending on the occasion. Fundamentally these parts are based on a similar geometric grid called OpenStructures which allows the participants to add or interchange some of the components in relation to an ever-evolving database.

Even if this project came to an end, the open structure adapted to different contexts and has travelled around Europe engaging local art communities on their respective sites. In the Dutch city of Enschede some artists adopted the structure using wood gathered from previous art festivals. Leftovers were stocked, cut and finally assembled on a kind of production line build for the occasion. The result was not only a useful sitting place for the visitors of the area, but also an entity able to recall old memories.

In-Situ has been initiated by Giacomo Piovan (Socialmatter) and developed within the frame of DiverCity, an exhibition of CIAP Art Centre in the frame of DE UNIE Hasselt-Genk Festival in the public space.

More info:

RECUP’KITCHEN, co-design of temporary use for performative urbanism

The Josaphat site in Schaerbeek (Brussels) is an open space of 25ha. The planning process to transform this ‘vacant land into a ‘sustainable and mixed neighbourhood’ starts from a blank page. Though, today this wasteland hosts a rich biodiversity and is the subject of varying citizen initiatives that illustrate the need for more participation in making city.

Locals and diverse Brussels associations[1] highlight the use value of the Josaphat site. With their improvised constructions and creative appropriations, they (un)consciously load this public land with identity, (hi)story and relational values. A tangible and small-scale place-making takes place on-site.

In parallel, a both strongly related and yet often disconnected process of visioning is emerging. An autonomous citizen collective[2] critically reflects on the way our cities are being shaped and plea for more participation in the design, construction and governance of urban space. The Josaphat site is envisioned as a field of opportunity for a critical alternative.

Both processes aim to design and govern the city in a more inclusive and resilient manner. However, a more strongly intertwined civic driven process of place-making and visioning seems to be desired to unfold a performative urbanism. In this way an alternative pathway for city-making can be manifested –imagined, explored and constructed- in the urban realm.

In order to further bridge the explicitly articulated values of the collective vision with the more spontaneous and tangible actions on-site, a more considered collective design process has been taking off. The RECUP’KITCHEN concept has been serendipitously unfolding throughout the on-site temporary use –emerging from concrete needs- and overtly embraces the ideology, formulated in the visioning process.

At this moment a crowdfunding campaign has been set up, explicitly chosen to maintain autonomy and expand the participation of citizens, as well as to further enlarge the debate on the values citizens aim to inscribe in the socio-spatial development of the city. The idea for a mobile kitchen prioritises food recuperation, reuse of (waste)materials, auto construction, self-governance, transparency, social economy, connecting and sharing. Already the collective articulation of an applied vision in a concrete and local design -even still open and not realised- manifests the need for a more emancipated and ‘care-taking’ way of city making.

More info about RECUP’KITCHEN and support:

[1] Dewey asbl, Jardin Latinis, Commons Josaphat, collectif BAYA, Common Grounds, BXL.WildlifeFestival, naturalists, etcetera …

[2] Commons Josaphat



Some.where aims to develop communication means between people in the street and provide meeting places where people are enriched of the exchange of personal experiences. The project Some.where uses tools of Social and urban Design to explore in the field of human relations, underlining the value of the urban environment and the contribution of people who are socially excluded.

(Direct Link:!somewhere/c1rqi)


This project provides a social and urban analysis by means of ephemeral interventions in public spaces. Each intervention deals with global community topics, stories of people of specific environments, and the inner-self. The physical and graphical support of the intervention is implemented through a single, foldable, and portable device that fits to each environment. Depending on the way that the devise is installed, different visual messages are deployed. Once the intervention is completed, the device is folded and the interaction between people fades.

The Some.where project started in 2015, in the city of Barcelona, focusing on people living on the street. Since its inception, one of the main concerns of this social design project was referred to the way that our attention, our behaviour and environmental appreciation are modified by the mix of design tools and people’s experiences including those socially excluded). The implemented methodology is an interactive and ethnographic social analysis, which uses the technique of the “Participant observation”, interviews, surveys and planned interventions. Research topics are created in an ongoing process of action-research, allowing the experimentation with the people, in such a way that people’s reactions may feed a new intervention.

 Finally, the Some.where project intends to imply that the action of an ephemeral intervention in the street may be the preface to a longer lasting action, this time, in the inner privacy of people who observe or participate. This project may introduce people to an exercise of personal and emotional development, and (ultimately) to a transformation of the reality and to social changes.


Playful Monstration

A co-designed workshop with children for developing critical thinking on matters of public space.

This artistic workshop attempted to develop critical thinking by children on public space matters. The five-day workshop took place in October 2014 and was hosted by WIELS, Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels. It was organized by the Office for Public Play/Annelies Vaneycken (designer/researcher) and accompanied by Michael Kaethler (sociologist/design researcher). Eleven children, aged 6 to 11 years old participated.

What does a child think of public space? What are their opinions, what do they like or dislike, and do they have a voice to articulate this? The 5 day workshop aimed to explore some of these questions by working with children and experimenting with a variety of pedagogical and design techniques such as non-linear structures of adaptability, deconstructing the pedagogue, and radical play. A number of tools were experimented with, most notably a self documenting sculpture collectively christened Mr. Wiels. This sculpture fostered inward and outward reflection on the children’s experience of the public sphere through being constantly co-created vis-à-vis discussions on and experiences of public space. The sculpture was constructed, both physically and ontologically by the children, using common materials, stories, and dialogues, which resulted in a co-constructed character, complete with passport, life story and personal interests. As the children created and subsequently toured Mr. Wiels through the streets of Brussels, they relayed their narratives of city-life, objects, memories, moments, questions and so forth to him, exploring their own lives through the artifact and with each other. The shared artifact mediated the individual and communal experience, taking the attention away from the designer/pedagogue by allowing the artifact to guide the process. This provided a rich experience for the children as well as a repository of data to be used by design researchers looking at child-centred design.

KOWORK Constrói-te!

(“Constrói-te” means literally “build yourself”)

Kowork E5G is a social project created and promoted by GIP, the department for employment inclusion of NGO Moinho da Juventude, funded by Programa Escolhas, a national funding program promoting social and employment inclusion, to support young people living in Alto Cova da Moura neighbourhood (Amadora, Greater Lisbon, Portugal) to expand individual employment opportunities and/or build their own business ideas.

GIP partnered with a group of institutions and organizations to propose a wide and diverse curriculum of activities for the participants ranging from learning how to build résumés, preparing for interviews and working on the topics of citizenship and entrepreneurship, to practice wall painting techniques, build 3D printers, print objects and work in the newly furnished workshop with rapid-prototyping and laser-cut machines. The Faculty of Architecture, University of Lisbon, is part of the consortium, through the group studies GESTUAL, entrusted to foster the use of the workshop as well as harness carpentry, building and design interest and skills in participants.

In light of this, four designers and PhD researchers proposed to develop a co-design process with young participants in the view of materializing things that contribute to the community while aiming to enact future possibilities of using the workshop that can generate revenue and/or create opportunities for long-term occupation or employment, at least for some of them. In a series of twice a week sessions, our role is intended to foster the ‘designerly’ mind in the youngsters by exploring in a ludic approach how designers work, how youngsters see the neighbourhood, how they approach challenges, opportunities and change and what they think could be meaningful and viable contributions.

The co-design experiment is ongoing and predicted to end-up by middle of November 2015. Soon we expect new things coming out of the workshop, so stay tuned:

Koworkers: Azul (António), Carlos, Cátia, José, Maria João, Miro, Patrick (and designers, PhD researchers) António Pinto, Delano Rodrigues, Natália Plentz, Inês Veiga.
Kowork E5G coordinators: Joana Dias, Paulo Semedo, Ana Rita Domingos.
Kowork E5G partners’consortium: Nozomi-Criminal Investigation Solutions Lda; Tork Stunt – Marketing Estratégico, Lda;  GESTUAL – Faculdade de Arquitectura, Universidade de Lisboa; Oficinas do Convento; Mistakermaker.
Kowork E5G workshop technician: Sr. Luis
Image credits: © António Pinto