Greenhouse

2019
with Jesper Sylvest
for Brobygning Middelfart


A platform to give the youth a role to play in
Middelfart’s green transition.


In collaboration with Brobygning Middelfart, whose aim is to invigorate the cultural and entrepreneurial offer of this middle-sized Danish city, we investigated alternative uses for the city-center. Linking this problematic to other ongoing debates in Middelfart, we conceptualized Greenhouse, a physical space for the youth to gather and join local sustainability-minded actions.







Case



Despite its attractivity - central position in Denmark, high quality of life, dynamic labour market, access to natural havens -, Middelfart faces the same issues as other similarly-sized cities in Denmark and Europe: online business, the easy access to more dynamic cities (Odense, Aarhus), the lack of higher education institutions… have conjointly weakened the city-center which is now showing signs of desertification.


Brobygning Middelfart is an initiative launched by the municipality and local professional associations with the aim to reinvigorate the city’s cultural and commercial offer. It is with this same brief that they reached out to us, enhancing at the same time the overall direction that the city wishes to follow towards more social and environmental sustainability.






We kickstarted this project with several visits to Middelfart in order to become more familiar with the city and to observe first-hand the symptoms we had been described. We could notice the numerous vacant commercial premises in the city-center, as well as perceive a relatively high age average - corroborating statistics from the municipality. We also took advantage of being in the field to meet and interview local actors: staff and users of the library, the train station’s café owner, a cooperatively owned kids cloth store, staff and students of the local highschool…

Approach







These interactions as well as our position of young designers amongst a team of older managers/workers led us to focus on the voice of young people in Middelfart. Extending our collaboration with Stationen, the café interviewed earlier, we developed, tested and set up an interactive prop aiming at getting a better sense of the youth’s perception and use of the city center. We also interviewed some of the participants to mix qualitative and quantitative insights.



The first intervention showed us that a significant amount of youngsters were pointing at the lack of a gathering place close to the city center. If some of these requests involved alcohol and nightclubs, most of them simply mentioned the will to hang out together.



Consequently, we looked at the problematics we had observed from a systemic point of view, trying to identify potential connections that could lead to mutually beneficial solutions.

why not, for instance, use the empty commercial premises as an organic network of “stages” where workshops, lectures and youth-targeted events could be regularly organized ?

Alternative uses would be introduced in the city center, targeted at young people while, at the same time, casting a new light on these unused spaces.




While we were investigating the feasibility of this idea by getting in touch Brobygning Middelfart, the municipality and landlords, we visited Middelfart again in the light of places usually frequented by young people and of the insights we had collected during the first intervention: a music studio placed outside the city, the library as a study place, an event organised at the local school about the place of young people in the city...








Then, we started developing a second intervention: we wanted to present students with our concept while actively involving them in enriching it: what activities would they like to be offered ? What would be the overall atmosphere of that place ? Taking advantage of the aforementioned event taking place at the school, we created and used two props that allowed us to generate short but insightful interactions with the students.



While it proved difficult to rent-out the vacant premises for one-off events, we adapted the concept by proposing Greenhouse, a fixed youth house that would act as a landmark for Middelfart’s youth. Primarily offering them a place to get together, it would also propose them to interact with local initiatives promoting sustainability in the broad sense: crafts, skill-learning, charity, socially valuable actions… It would also give them a space to express their entrepreneurial or artistic vibe, to present school projects or to experiment activities.



Process video





State of affairs



We handed out Greenhouse as a concept built from field studies and other forms of research. However, we still wanted to somehow prototype the format scale 1 to benefit from people’s feedback and witness how the youth would welcome the concept. We were planning to do so at the occasion of the Klimafolkemødet, a yearly festival tackling sustainability-related issues in Middelfart.

Unfortunately, the global outbreak of Covid-19 disrupted both our individual plannings and the festival’s programmation, and it proved impossible to attend… We hope to be given another chance soon!


Louis Rose 2020
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Design of sustainable solutions