Reprogramming the City DOGA Oslo, Norway

Repurposing a car free city’s redundant parking infrastructure and more.

As Oslo prepares to be the wold’s first car free city, a lot of redundant car infrastructure will become available for new use. To explore the potential of reuse this and other infrastructure for new use, Reprogramming the City opened in May 2018 at DOGA, Design and Architecture Norway, Oslo.

Below is the Introductory text from the exhibition:

“Reprogramming” is a methodology that creates new opportunities for existing assets. As populations and citizen needs increase, the space, finances and natural resources available to meet these needs are decreasing. Reprogramming the City represents a way of seeing — a mindset with which to meet the challenges that tomorrow will bring, using the assets already in place today. 

Reprogramming the City began with a simple question asked of a stairway. While working in Hong Kong, Urban Strategist Scott Burnham observed that the extreme density of the city was inspiring residents to use the city’s infrastructure in new ways to satisfy needs unable to be met by the limitations of the city. In the central business district, business people and shoppers were using a public stairway as a multifunctional space for rest and socializing. “Why”, asked Burnham “does an urban stairway have to function as only a stairway? What if it did more than one function?”

The question has taken Burnham around the world to discover and research the most exceptional an innovative examples of existing urban structures being reimagined and reprogrammed for additional use. Four exhibitions and a book have been created showing showing dozens of projects from around the world that expand the functionality of existing urban assets for new and additional use to benefit city city and its citizens. 

reused and repurposed parking infrastructure in a car free city

Invited by DOGA to create a Nordic-specific version of his ongoing Reprogramming the City initiative, Burnham has worked with DOGA staff and cities and citizens to select the most innovative and imaginative examples of reuse, repurposing and reprogramming existing assets to improve life in the Nordic Region. A vast and inspiring pool of imaginative reused and repurposed structures were discovered throughout the region, particularly in the context of Oslo aiming to be a car free city.

During the curatorial process, projects that created new types of functions or met unmet needs of local residents were highlighted for inclusion in the exhibition. Also highlighted were unexpected, abandoned or under-appreciated structures that were given new life through innovative repurposing. Factories and warehouses turned into housing, legacy banks and buildings turned into cultural and co-working spaces – a vast number of projects were put forward as model repurposing projects, but the commonality and frequency of their end function fell outside of the final exhibition narrative. 

The end result of the curatorial process is exhibited here. Projects that transform the Nordic region’s built landscapes into platforms of opportunity, and the innovative reuse of existing structures reveal that the built environment should not be seen as the end result of a previous creative process, but the beginning of a new one.

Reprogramming the City provides a framework for societal engagement and development within the urban landscape. Regardless of income, identity, origin or demographic, everyone shares the physical components of the city. By revealing the untapped potential and innovative additional uses contained in the common elements of the city, barriers for engagement in the future of the city are lowered. People become empowered to share their ideas and apply their own desires and imaginations to their surrounding environment. 

The final section of the exhibition provides an open arena for ideas. How could cities and communities use the assets already in place in new ways? How can Norway, its cities, towns and communities be more resourceful with the assets already in place?

Written by Matti Lucie Arentz, DOGA