Urban Hacks and Re-Use for 2010: The Urban Guide for Alternate Use

UPDATE: The Urban Guide for Alternate Use is now live! http://www.altuseguide.com

I was recently asked by Die Fabrikanten in Linz, Austria for ideas for their upcoming Exchange Radical Moments Europe-Wide Festival. The result is The Urban Guide for Alternate Use – an open source city-specific ‘field guide’ for alternate uses for existing urban infrastructure.
It was a wide brief, but as I’m far more interested in exploring hacks and re-use of the existing urban infrastructure than air-lifting new creations into a space, I wanted to create a platform for exchange of ideas for alternate urban solutions based on existing structures and systems. The Urban Guide for Alternate Use is meant to be a platform for urban hacks, interventions, innovation and play with and in the city’s objects and areas. Projects such as Nina Mrsnik’s Open Chairs (pictured below) perfectly capture what the Guide is about – most people see a drab cement corner. Nina sees a chair.

Open Chairs by Nina Mrsnik

As the folks at the Exchange Radical Moments Festival explain in the festival catalogue:

Resourcefulness has become one of the most important skills for people to develop today. What resources do you see being treated as waste in your city that could be used to benefit others? The Urban Guide for Alternate Use is a catalogue of city-specific opportunities for resourcefulness  within existing urban environments, compiled simply by asking the city’s residents to devise alternate uses for things already present in the city. It is a guide that acts as a catalyst for a new form of resourcefulness in the city, and as a communicative vehicle for exchange among residents.

For the festival Exchange Radical Moments, a guide will be created for one of the participating cities, filled with the ideas submitted by the city’s residents, as gestures of donation to their fellow citizens. The city guide will be written by the imagination and resourceful thinking of its residents,  and can serve as an alternate guide to the city.  Together the different submissions will form a powerful collection of insights into how people mentally and physically play with the urban landscape  as a conglomeration of readymade objects ripe for intervention.

From hacks such as using traffic bollards as ladders to gain a better view of a football training session (top image), to re-imagining Amsterdam street sweepers as bird baths between shifts (as seen below), the Urban Guide for Alternate Use is an open platform for people to explore and re-imagine the uses of their existing city’s objects and areas. It’s early days, so release date, call for contributions, etc., still to come, but thought I’d share one of many things to come in 2010. Stay tuned.

Improvised Amsterdam Bird Bath


  1. Hi Scott,
    Greetings from sunny San Diego! I’m very familiar with Dutch weather… lived there for a bit in the late 1980s.

    I love your blog! I follow anything related to sustainability, grassroots innovation, poverty alleviation and ecotourism.

    With your permission I’ll repost some of your blog posts. Let’s stay connected.

    ciao, dian

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