About Actions

Focus your attention on the city. Take a close look at things you think you’re already familiar with. All of us can define new ways of thinking “urban.”

We can no longer rely on the canonical tools of “Modern” planning when designing and managing our urban space. Modern urban reform sought to control land use and zoning, compartmentalizing human activity into three spheres of action: dwelling, work, and leisure, reconnected through transportation.

During the ’60s and ’70s, architects and urban planners worked to establish connections between the ideals of theory and the realities of daily life, offering residents the possibility of taking part in these processes. Practices that made brief appearances at that time are now resurfacing in new forms and unexpected places.

Actions: What You Can Do with the City gathers actions that reinvent our daily lives and reoccupy urban space with new uses. We concentrate on walking, playing, recycling, and gardening. Walking means re-establishing social relationships. Gardening, as a new form of production, means caring for the urban ground. Recycling means thinking about our society’s waste. Redefining these actions provides a springboard for imagining our cities along different lines. Playing means taking possession of the physical and social city in creative ways. The goal is finding within these actions the tools for introducing new priorities into society.

These tools come with no instructions. They are born of necessity and are imbued with the ethics and motivation of all those who reinvent and reapply them. These people take a completely different look at the problems of contemporary urban life; they share a certain discomfort in the predefined system. They undermine conventional wisdom but don’t necessarily confront it.

These ideas make no claim to represent a world that could replace the current one. They do not constitute a unified response but offer everybody possible alternatives. If, as Aldo van Eyck observed, “imagination is the prime detector of change,” we cannot help but notice how great a change is in the works.

Actions: What You Can Do With the City is a research project initiated by the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in 2007. It has taken the form of an exhibition – presented at the CCA (Montreal, 2008), the Graham Foundation (Chicago, 2009) and the X Bienal de Arquitetura (São Paulo, 2013) – a publication and a website.

Actions: What You Can Do With the City is curated by Giovanna Borasi, CCA Curator for Contemporary Architecture, and Mirko Zardini, CCA Director and Chief Curator, with Lev Bratishenko, Meredith Carruthers, Daria Der Kaloustian, and Peter Sealy.

The design concept for the exhibition in Montreal and Chicago was by Andrea Sala, Milan, and the graphic design for all the venues including typography and display brochures is by Project Projects, New York City.

The Actions website was created by Bluesponge, Montréal, with creative direction by Marian Kolev and concept by Mouna Andraos.

The book Actions: What You Can Do With the City was published by SUN, Amsterdam and is distributed by Idea Books.