UrbanDig Project Omonia – Artistic Practices for Sustainable Urban Communities

UrbanDig Project is the meeting point of performance art and urban space within a "dig" of a cultural capital in the contemporary city. in Athens Greece, The project supports bottom-up activities and intends to build trust inside the communities by integrating innovative practices in ways that are outside traditional norms but expect to share a common interest in the neighborhood leading to its’ sustainable development.

Benefits and Problems Addressed

Documenting cultural capital in a public place: Urban Dig Project is a non-for- profit platform of workshops, tools and partners to collect, map and publicly present local cultural capital in stories, facts and audiovisual material about the past, present, their aspirations and challenges. UrbanDig partners, after discussion with the neighborhood, customized local workshops, processes and tools.

Field trips within their own city: Residents and local stake-holders then create a program of public space activities and cross-field groups focusing on oral history collection, history mapping, sensory mapping, digital bottom-up destination branding, interest/skill mapping etc.

A twist on usual mapping: The space of action is the neighborhood; its residents and communities. Artists, scholars, researchers, students and pupils interact with the community; revealing its social and cultural capital, creating a rich archive and active cross-sectoral networks. The newborn city-map is socially constructed by the skills, the actions, the inscriptions and erasures, the memory and oblivion of the local actors. The map’s spots, nodes and paths can be both real and imaginary, producing a new “geography”. This new “geography” is actually a “reading” from high up that lets art, urbanism, technology and other aspects go beyond their defined limits and enter the realm of collective space and action.

Continuous lab: The project “UrbanDig Omonia” is a web of a number of actions that turn Omonia square into a continuous “lab”. The aim is to re-connect with public space as a place of co-existence, collaboration, development, resilience. Through collective activities, people of all ages and origin build a common archive of the local cultural capital, knowledge and skills for its management. They co-create applications in culture (66 days – 12 products), research and learning (publication, papers, tool-kits), tourism (App, activities), business-commerce-design (consultation) and network. Cause and final destination of the 11 month program is a site-specific performance based on the collected archive. The project lasts until September of 2017.

Tips & Techniques

Build local mapping groups: 5-6 interdisciplinary groups of interested partners: people, cultural/educational institutions (from local schools to international universities and from local community centers to foundations), NGOs, municipality/state, solidarity networks, commercial stakeholders (from local shop-owners to tour firms).

Build UrbanDig Digital Mapping Tool: Based heavily on the local groups’ needs, UrbanDig builds an App to work both as a tool for the mapping and a touring app (output). The App is given to the groups after the necessary training.

Support mapping activities: The mapping groups with UrbanDig’s support and skill training, build a program of fun, participatory, public mapping activities according to each group’s thematic e.g. historical, sensory, aspirations, challenges, interests, skills).

 Create a liaison: Be a liaison for the groups to provide mapping outputs and new narratives to interested stakeholders in education, art, municipality, tourism.

Produce the performance based on the mappings. In improbable spots, in invisible corners, in closed and open spaces, the site specific performance re-introduce the city to its inhabitants. In this way, private and public spaces become, even for a while, collective, while a collective identity is being built through memories, desires, senses and finally the “magic of the archive”

Takeaway for other communitiesHaving already tested our methodology during our previous project “Dourgouti Island Hotel Project” (Dourgouti neighborhood, Athens, Greece), we think that UrbanDig Omonia could function as a point of reference as well as a tool for identity building; as a case study for other central nodes in the world, with similar characteristics. Omonia can open the way for a developmental map for contemporary cities that will be composed by collective knowledge, skills, collaborations, inscriptions and erasures, memory and “lethe.”


UrbanDig Project

Image: UrbanDig