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Europan 14: Productive Cities

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City: Narvik
Title: The social power plant

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Productivity is an elusive term, open for interpretation and getting more complex when dissected. How do we understand the city as productive, and how can productivity contribute to Narvik’s attractiveness? The conventional understanding of the term is strongly related to industrialism and capitalism and depends on measurable matters such as economic growth, rates of construction, and the number of new inhabitants. All these measurements can be addressed by the question “how much..?” and have been utilized to assess and compare cities the past centuries. Simultaneously, the contemporary urban discourse suggests that we should redirect our focus from growth and wealth, towards the individual being, and its emotional and social health.

This project seeks to investigate how productivity can be reinterpreted and implemented in the urban fabric to serve as a catalyst for future development. In our perspective, the term needs to be readdressed to fit the contemporary understanding of a city. A city is not merely an assemblage of built structures and capital, it is an assemblage of people living together.

Our proposal suggests that Narvik should celebrate and enhance the potentials that already exist in the city, namely its inhabitants. The Narvikings are unreservedly proud of their city, and express a strong sense of community and social cohesion. Yet, many newcomers have trouble finding a sense of belonging. We argue that a utilization of the premises in Narvik’s city center can be an essential part of turning the inhabitant’s affiliation to the city, providing identity and creating new relations in the urban context. The Social Power Plant is a suggestion of how to transform the structures, to create socially productive platforms that mediate the meeting between Narvik’s inhabitants. Ultimately, the project aims to decrease the physical and mental threshold for social participation, to facilitate a sense of belonging, and to create meeting places that benefit the social fabrics of the city.

We believe that Narvik and other communities experiencing a lack of ability to attract and keep new residents should put the inhabitants’ social and emotional well being high on the agenda. For a city to be productive, it needs to pay attention to its social infrastructure and facilitate encounters and interactions between the city’s dwellers. It is our belief that a socially connected city is a productive city.