Dear Test Unit, what’s the name of your neighbour? How do we create change in cites? According to Test Unit’s attitude, change comes from activism in public space – in doing, not just talking. Their actions, which started in 2016 in Bairds Brae in North Glasgow, have been continued this year with the “occupation” of Civic House; a space currently being developed to explore alternative approaches to city development. The intense summer school week allowed five groups to test context-specific actions with the aim to start a process of site activation in a city with multiple vacant buildings as a result of industrial decline. No need to point to the experience of the facilitators, all young and heavily experienced in this kind of initiative. They explored less capital intensive processes, and their workshops were boosted with the energy of around fifty summer school attendees. But this energy can be also its main obstacle. Because, what will happen when all those enthusiastic participants leave the venue? To create live-learning opportunities is a long walk race, and it seems that the Test Unit team is aware that this kind of challenge needs time and consistency. We understand that the intention is to create a process of neighbour inclusion into the development of the north canal area. In order to do so, it would be necessary to bring voices from the street into the offices of urban planners and private developers. This can be a possible way to demonstrate that other rights to the city are possible.
The city is not just an agglomeration of built spaces and heterogeneous group of people, it is first and foremost the relations between them. It’s within this social infrastructure that frictions, negotiations, and agreements occur. And here lies the energy which sustains the city as a living social system. The material is over here, the former industrial ground is fertile, and it seems that the energy to thrive in the process can be provided by a group of young creative agents. Here we have history, people, context, memories. Then we have the financial forces that shape the city in larger scale. It is in the relation within such neighbours, where the political dimension of Test Unit prototypes emerges. So, dear Test Unit, do you know the name of your neighbours?
dpr–barcelona, Glasgow June 2017