BEL:EST ‘A laboratory for the City of Europe’

PART+ LASSA architects
Here and Elsewhere / Siin ja mujal / Ici et ailleurs

What could be the space for an administrative capital in the digital age?

We were triggered by the discrepancy between the outreaching digital infrastructure and the uneven territorial distribution of social, educational and administrative infrastructure. Looking at recent political and social developments there is a severe social divide between rural and urban areas. There is a strong discourse of us and them or here and there, looking for differences rather than commonalities. We are proposing an inclusive and open spatial structure that is uniform yet allows for endless variation.

Learning from Brussels
Monofunctional and over-concentrated (glass highrises in low-rise area) zone of European Parliament in Brussels opened the discussion for potential distribution of volume and architectural changes of administrative clusters. Already happening injections of public and private functions, have healed, not yet changed the streetscape. Brussels is the heart of the executional EU, that makes it even more vulnerable than divided.

Blockchain architecture
In Estonia a distributed database is used to maintain a continuously growing list of records / data. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to a previous block, managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively. The more digital Estonia becomes, the less we can allow centralized management (digital attacks target higher flow platforms). Yet all of this remains virtual. What if we could bring this idea to physical space?

Digital “truth”
We observe severe political divides between rural and urban areas and the discrepancy between the extensive outreaching digital infrastructure (Internet, television) and the uneven territorial distribution of social, educational and administrative infrastructure.
The Influence of social media has greatly diminished the use of social physical space and its role in political participation. Political debates often void between the abstract scripted political rhetoric and concrete real life. Image clearly overpowers content. With fake news whether deliberately or inadvertently spreading a soup of information, fed, propagated, shared and stored on the internet with a recipe of total disconnect between context, sources and actual reality.

Physical dissemination
The idea of substantial distribution could potentially work in the country where city-to-city connections are fast or growing faster (Rail Baltic, Hyperloop), internet reachable for 98% of the country and innovation in hardware and software a fastest growing entrepreneurial activity. Could we disseminate institutional body all over the country? Raising educational, social and administrative activities?

Actualising digital and physical infrastructures
We are proposing a modular element, that could be assembled in custom configurations based on contextual needs. The structure provides a communal space for the city, without hierarchy, growing by necessity and negotiation. The modular design consists of elements that have embedded characteristics for the assembled structure. It is a way of automating aesthetics – whatever one assembles out of these elements, it will always be recognisable, yet its purpose and function are undetermined.

Participatory installation
Our proposal for the exhibition consists of a participatory installation combined with digital media. It is a clearly defined framework based on, upfront strict common rules. It sets the stage to bring people together in a dialogue. An environment not only to see, attracted by the power of the screens and projections, but also an environment of experience, shifting alternatingly between passively watching and a tangible analogue contraposition. Engaging the awareness of one’s body in space, form becomes the medium and not its image.

The element
The wireframe of the space in created by the element, that creates clusters, that defines the space. Additional materials create screening, sitting, walking through and discussion space. The element provides clean solutions for assembly and disassembly as well as allows for reconfiguration by visitors as a participatory function.