Crowdfunding is a term applied to a collective cooperation through a network of people to get funding or other resources, often using the Internet as the mean to achieve it.
It’s been applied to different cases: new artists starting their careers, product design, private projects that contribute to a community… and even to urban planning and design.
Much has been written lately about Kickstarter Urban Projects such as the famous case of the Lowline in New York City, The + Pool in the same city or the recent project “De Luchtsingel” in Rotterdam, the bridge chosen by popular vote to be as part of the activities of the 5th IABR.
I consider it a very interesting concept; though, like everything in Urbanism (and as can be seen in the other topics covered in this blog) is a matter of scale.
If we apply the idea literally it would mean to oversimplify the different nature of urban projects, which is why I agree with what Alexandra Lange exposed in his article Aganist Kickstarter Urbanism when she speaks about the Lowline project in NYC.
A project of its kind, explained through some attrractive render to get the attention of the people who is actually funding the study and fabrication of the prototype of a skylight to be (if it is successful and pass then all the obstacles of the bureaucratic process) applied in an underground park, should not use the crowdfunding model. Just because the relationship between funder and product should be much more direct.
Like the case of “De Luchtsingel” in Rotterdam. A project with a brilliant publicity campaign, appealing images and able to attract enough people to win the vote that took place in the city between various projects. An urban project (that solves the connection between different parts of the city separated by barriers) following the concept of crowdfunding.
In this case the funding is to purchase one or more of the wood elements used to build the bridge, engraving your name on it. It may seem anecdotic, but to establish this link between the person and the physical object, and the fact of engraving the names of the project funders in the project itself enables the same strategy to become much more compelling and well applied in the previous project. And it does it through the simplicity and direct linking between citizen and city.
If we start to explore other ways of applying the concept then appear models that can become really applicable to larger projects, which, as well as individuals, institutions must be involved.
For example, the city of Bristol (USA) is carrying out the project Bristolrising!, which sets out a number of different scale urban ideas and ask the citizens; social network style, to vote. Vote that determines their preferences and could lead to collaboration in the decisions to take in terms of budgets and the spending of public money.
As I said before, I consider essential the coexistence and mutual involvement between institutions and citizens to produce an evolution of the city. And such platforms can be very useful as communication tool and vehicle for expressing ideas and preferences.
Again, we have the resources even enough to cover the complexity of urban projects and urban processes, we must now find ways to use them and apply to every case we face in making decisions about the city.