In 2018 Werkstatt Wien, Madame Architects and Stadtforum Wien initiated a collaborative concept for participatory urban development – the ARCH.SLAM. It was designed to bring together participants from different fields, such as architecture, urban development, management, entrepreneurship, journalism and social studies, to co-create solutions for a designated urban development area: the waterfront near Vienna’s Handelskai, which shows endless promise, while still counting as one of the remaining Non-Places alongside the Danube. In three workshops participants generated three distinct solutions in an 1:1000 model of the area in question, after intense discussion about the pros and cons of different constellations of buildings, transport options, businesses, or public spaces. The three solutions were developed with modelling foam that allowed everyone to engage directly with the model, to create and move elements in an instant and change their relative positions to each other.
After the model development process, a big event was held in cooperation with ÖVP Wien, where the different solutions were discussed and the audience could vote for their preferred outcome. In the presence of culture minster Gernot Blümel the heads of Madame Architects transformed the model live into the form most desired, resulting in a performative, open ended and participatory medium for urban development virtually open to all. By transforming city models directly and broadening the scope of materials in use, these models can be seen as a tool of multidisciplinary communication accessible to all parties in the urban development process. ARCH.SLAM, therefore, was an experiment to open new alleys for thinking and talking about cities. The development of public urban spaces should be a democratic process. By providing people with means and media to partake in the discussion about the outcomes of urban planning, we have created a platform for interdisciplinary exchange and social integration around a much-contested topic.