In 2014 we organised the largest participatory construction site ever - apart from Rajneeshpuram, the pyramids in Egypt and the Colosseum in Rome. But in our case, people came under their free will. With a total of 120 volunteers from 25 nations, we built the largest skate park in South America in three and a half weeks. With its location at 3800m above sea level, it is also the highest skate park in the world.
With the financial support of Levi's, we left for La Paz in 2014 to find a plot of land and support the local skateboard community by building a skatepark. Not that easy when you really don't know anybody in Bolivia. But the coincidence and our lack of evening clothes have played into our pockets, because we landed directly after our arrival at the German Embassy on the day of German reunification via detours, which are now no longer comprehensible. There we, as obvious label outsiders, quickly got into conversation and were able to inspire so many people with our idea that a week later we were provided with a huge plot of land in an inner-city location.
Only a short time later we spent the complete budget for flight tickets and material and organized the biggest Builder's Jam we and the world have ever seen. The principle of a Builder's Jam is to build without a prior plan. But because the building authorities in La Paz made it a condition that they want a final plan of the skatepark before the start of construction, we kept to this rule, but extended it a bit: We drew really big pro forma plans that said very big that the result would definitely be different. And because such a plan doesn't apply if it hasn't been stamped, we got the biggest stamp that there was in the city and stamped everything. All the bureaucrats were happy with that and we could start.
We organized a camp with sleeping places and communal kitchen and picked up our friends from the airport by bus.
+ Format: Buildersjam
What's the best way to plan a large construction site where between 20 and 200 people volunteer to build things in a very short time that would immediately crash any project management software and its project manager? Not at all. At Builder's Jam we provide all the framework conditions and infrastructure - materials, tools, catering - that enable the participants to work smoothly. There is a clear goal and a timeframe, but no ready-made implementation plans. This form of organization creates exceptional, empathetic forms of communication and ways within the group that turn a construction site into a collective mission. This creates a framework for intuitive planning in which everyone builds what they want, according to the common goal. The result is social interactions based on an emergent principle that create an unusual atmosphere and a collective hype that produces extraordinary results.
+ Method: Cooperative Resistance (to enboss sth./so.)
We sound out rules and identify grey areas with all those who are affected by the rules - not only those who have to follow them, but in case of doubt also those who have made them, in order to create the greatest possible spaces of possibility, of which all have the most.
+ Method: Co-Production
Even after the co-creation process, we do not see ourselves as a mere implementation agency, but see it as a core task to involve as many people as possible with different backgrounds and motivations in the implementation of our projects. In our drafts we therefore do not only work site-specifically, but also group-specifically..
Photos: Jonathan Mehring, Troy West, Arne Hillerns
In a megalomaniac, invisibly structured and highly productive chaos, we not only built the skate park in a very short time, but also a small house that is used as a skate school and homework help.
The special thing about this way of building - without a plan and without fixed responsibilities - is that it creates a certain kind of communication, social interaction and mutual support which is mainly based on empathy, which is completely unusual on construction sites. This does not mean that our construction site was not rough - on the contrary: we threw ourselves into the dust with open hearts, got our hands dirty and moved small mountains together with a growing mission. The result is not only an extraordinary architecture, but also many, many friendships all over the world.
+ Method: Do-ocracy
The responsible person is the one who acts - individuals or groups choose their tasks and work areas themselves and act on their own responsibility. In this way, they assume responsibility for the respective results and consequences. We use this approach primarily to (re-)activate social and political participation through immediate measures and as a democratic instrument for the use, promotion and institutionalisation of transitory/performative urbanism.
+ Method: Self-organisation
We investigate and test dynamic and flexible processes, and try to develop organizational systems in which form and function emanate from the organizing group itself and can adapt again and again, such as holocracy, effectuation, do-ocracy, emergent order or - if it suits - simply "classical" club meetings.
⟶ All Methods & Formats