Cities as shared imaginary matrices
The case of an urban transformation project
In this research project we have used drawing as a research tool to investigate imaginary perspectives on city transformation in a context of Arts Based Research. We drew over photographs of a vast urban transformation site in the periphery of Vienna and analyzed the results. Thereby, we want to highlight visual structures of perception, unearth possible imaginaries that are bound to urban transformation and create creative input for future urban planning processes. Results have shown that images of newly built structures appear visually sealed, straight lined and somewhat antiseptic, with highly ordered, rectangular forms dominating the frame. In contrast, edited images with structures from the 20th century or a mix of old and new buildings exhibited organic, chaotic forms, less clear cut, straight-lined edges and an overall dominance of organic matter in the photographs. From this we infer that a balance of organic and inorganic matter develops over time and is not omitted or forgotten in the planning process. Also, the artificial, visually sealed design and the limitation of green spaces in images of new buildings are most striking. Plants simply need time to grow, engaging newly build structures in a dialogue that can be witnessed in the different images included in this article. Also, we show that imaginations of urban planning appear to be largely based on functional forms and straight-lined facades, with a balance of natural and artificial structures mostly neglected. Drawing, however, can highlight these aesthetic principles and constitute a tool to break up encrusted, traditional imaginaries of urban planning, serving as an inspiration for urban planners and architects alike. In this context, drawing can provide a welcome tool for collaboration and aesthetic experimentation that is accessible to all parties in the planning process.