Deploy the Devoider! is our entry to the Van Alen Institute? ?rban Voids Grounds for Change International Ideas Competition. The entry received honorable mention.
Our response to the competition, which asked entrants to come up with new visions for vacant land in Philadelphia, was to stress that there are already a lot of visions for vacant land in Philadelphia, and that instead of envisioning a vision, maybe we? do better to ?ease-out and advocate for a vision that already exists, but that has fewer resources available to it than some of the others (i.e., less money, fewer advocates, less legitimacy).
The vision we chose to advocate for is that of the self-interested tactician, the sole purpose of which is to improve an individual? ?ot. These are visions that don? add up to a strategy so much as result in an arsenal of tactics (for example, the wheelchair ramp on the vacant lot next to 2702 W. Susquehanna, the numerous ad-hoc residential additions, and the ?ending Mall at Ridge Ave and 23rd Street).
Our strategy is: let? advocate for them by building them a line of cheap, modular components (the Devoider) that offer them a quick, efficient, and attractive way to colonize and repurpose vacant lots. Let? give these self-interested tacticians a place at the table. Let? deploy the devoider!
There are a lot of visions for vacant land in Philadelphia. Some of them are pretty good. Many have budgets. A few are being built right now.
These visions are very different. In some instances, they represent radically opposing ideas of what Philadelphia should look and feel like. Sometimes, this creates conflict. But then sometimes it engenders symbiosis. Elsewhere, there is peaceful coexistence: Philadelphians agree to disagree.
This isn’t to say that the playing field is level. It is not. While most visions have some sort of institutional support, there is one vision—or rather, one type of vision— for which there is little or none.
These are the visions of the self-interested tacticians, the sole purpose of which is to improve the individual’s “lot.” These visions don’t add up to a strategy so much as result in an arsenal of tactics. They have produced, for example, the wheelchair ramp on the vacant lot next to 2702 W. Susquehanna, the numerous ad-hoc residential additions, and the “Vending Mall” at Ridge Ave and 23rd Street.
Instead of envisioning a vision, we think we’d do better to “tease-out” and advocate for this vision that already exists, but that has fewer resources available to it than some of the other visions. The point isn’t that the other visions are bad; it’s that they don’t really need our help. Our idea is: let’s use this competition as an opportunity to take on clients who no one would otherwise have any incentive to take on. Our strategy is: let’s advocate for them by building them a line of cheap, modular components that offer them a quick, efficient, and attractive way to “improve their lot.” The visions of the self-interested tacticians are as valid as any other. Let’s give them a fighting chance!
Project Team: Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca, Georgeen Theodore