Public Lab Research note

civil architecture and open hardware

by hagitkeysar | June 12, 2014 13:33 12 Jun 13:33 | #10554 | #10554

I was really happy to receive a confirmation that the proposal I wrote with Liat Brix was accepted to the Open Hardware Summit. It will be, I hope, an opportunity to dive into the ideas and experiments we've been developing together and separately for a few years, discuss the techniques, the politics, the passion, and learn, learn a lot...! So I am copying our proposal here, for the record and for the unexpected.

Civil Architecture | open-sourcing the architect's model

Proposal for the OHS 2014 by Liat Brix and Hagit Keysar

A central component in the architect's toolbox is the model. The model enables the architect to grasp the space, to make sense of it, imagine concrete possible world and intervene in urban space. The question we bring forth in this talk is how we can open source the use of the model, thus the imagination and production of urban space. We intend to share our research and activities in Jerusalem's contested urban space experimenting with collaborative planning practices and applying the Public Lab's open-source tools and methods for mapping and imaging. Through these examples we wish to weave the relations between practices of open making and the modern project of urban planning, and specifically between open hardware and practices of civil architecture. We find that these connections are relevant and critical ways for addressing the summit's current theme, through investigating the possibility to develop open infrastructures and civil capacities for the making and remaking of our cities.

Civil architecture is a developing field which brings forth an alternative to top-down mechanisms of urban planning which are led by the capitalist logic of economic growth, professional knowledge and structural power relations. Rather than accepting the need for hierarchical structures in knowledge and space formation, the ideas of civil architecture open up possibilities to develop dynamic and collaborative processes based on networks of knowledge and action. It adopts programmatic flexibility, tactical and temporal actions while adapting to constantly changing spatial and social needs. Needless to say, the greatest challenge in bringing together and leveraging local and professional knowledges is developing the tools and methods for collaborative and sustainable praxis.

The city of Jerusalem is a hub for political, civil and spatial inequality and ground for diverse and ongoing civil struggles and instabilities within which top-down urban planning policies and practices play a major role. In this urban environment we find it crucial to develop collaborative, open and deeply inclusive civil infrastructures and capacities that would push towards democratizing planning practices. Open sourcing the architectural model as we would like to present it in this talk is a working title for developing tools, skills, collaborations and documentation for inhabitants in the city that seek to effectively act on urban issues that affect them. Some examples of our ongoing work include collection and visualization of civil, local knowledge through the development of place-based digital archives in collaboration with inhabitants, and interactive tours for smart-phones, linked on-site with QR codes. Yet the power of open hardware methods in context of civil inequality is that it opens up possibilities for a more tangible forms of participation, face to face encounter and collaborations between citizens, experts, decision makers and their “others”. Our use of the Public Lab's Aerial Photography toolkit is a powerful example for such material, device-based processes of participation and engagement.

We will present our work from 2011-2014 producing low altitude photographic maps with residents in Arab as well as Jewish Jerusalem, around various issues that concern them. The vertical, annotated images and maps we created were powerful tools for storytelling and advocacy. Moreover, the processes of design, engaging with technological process, were also a powerful stimulation to residents' imagination of their relations with the urban environment, its ownership and authorship. DIY aerial photography opens up the possibility to take significant part in shaping the geographical imaginary. In contested cities such as Jerusalem, and many other big cities around the world, as urban space is increasingly being fragmented and segregated by economic and political processes, such critical ways of seeing and making are ever more crucial for reclaiming inhabitants' rights to the city.

Alongside our hope to contribute to the summit by sharing the nuances of our theoretical and practical praxis, participating in the OHS2014 is for us a great opportunity to further develop our interpretations of the role of open hardware in urban planning, expand our technological toolbox and network with the Open Hardware movement's peoples and projects.

Links: Digital Archives -

Kiryat Hayoval


Lifta -

Interactive tour Hebrew

Interactive Tour Arabic

Balloon and Kite Mapping in Jerusalem

Jerusalem: one piece at a time

Where do the maps go


congratulations Hagit! so glad you'll be there!

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thank you Mathew :-)

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