The popular 1990s’ computer game SimCity gave people the freedom to design and build their own metropolis. Today the ‘make your own city’ idea is transformed and applied into a collective process of ‘making decisions’ in the very real Cypriot city of Famagusta. A simulated urban planning tool is asking people to help plan its regeneration and new future through actions of ‘create’, ‘modify’, ‘support’ and ‘turn down’.
Formerly a popular European holiday destination, the coastal city of Famagusta has been a contested territory since conflict between Turkish and Greek Cypriots in the 1970s. With fenced off military zones and disused spaces, the city has suffered decades of deprivation and ethnic division. Now a collective of urban designers, planners and architects – both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot – have created Hands-on Famagusta to let people explore the city online. The web platform stimulates the imagination and fires up debate of the big questions.
Focusing on three main themes – shared infrastructure, the wide public waterfront and eco-culture as common ground the site uses an interactive game to navigate different proposals and urban actors’ agendas. Every player’s decisions and visualisations on things like integration, unused land, ecosystems and even whether to hold a digital Famagusta marathon is mapped and can be accessed by other users. Ultimately the data will be used to make more unified decisions for the city as a whole. The Famagusta team hopes to contribute to the “creation of new collectives across ethnic divides that can cope with the absence of any public debate regarding post-conflict urban reconstruction processes.”
Kindling participation, discussion and even dreams, Hands-on Famagusta is built upon the idea that debate ignites real change and unity. The country’s divisions will not be bridged overnight, but with the help of peaceful projects like this, people are slowly becoming more willing to see a different future and ask ‘What if?’
Socrates Stratis, Imaginary Famagusta Group
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