What might the future of city making look like? One answer may come from an unexpected place: the advertising agency 72andSunny Amsterdam. During this series of interviews we will explore the ‘hybrid city maker’ talking to the makers, artist, and thinkers that are involved in the creative residency 72U that lives within 72andSunny Amsterdam.
Hanneke Metselaar is, together with Nico Stumpo, programme director of the creative residency of 72U. As a duo they are responsible for the “moulding and steering of the group into complexity” in order for them to “create magic”. We met up with her to talk about her personal motivations and visions for 72U and the city.
Can you explain what the 72U programme contains?
72U Amsterdam is a creative residency born within the advertising agency 72andSunny in which a group of makers and creative hybrids from different backgrounds are brought together. During the residency the participants are given the opportunity to develop their own talents and to simultaneously make a positive impact on the city of Amsterdam. It’s a 3-month trajectory, during which the team collaborates with different partners that all have a connection with the Amsterdam city community: De Ceuvel, The Favela Painting Foundation, Makerversity and Pakhuis de Zwijger. Some of these partners have presented the team with a case for which the group has to come up with a creative answer or solution.
How can an advertising agency contribute to city making?
72andSunny is an agency focused in creating a positive impact in culture. Meanwhile, the agency is working on a large and international scale. Therefore agency employees tend to lose the connection with the locality. They create their own little bubble within the agency and are less connected with the physical environment of the city. To burst this bubble, the creative residency 72U aims to build a bridge between 72andSunny and the local city culture – in this case Amsterdam. In practice this means that each of the six participants is teaming up with three mentors from the team of 72andSunny Amsterdam. This fosters the exchange and the mutual learning process. 72U gives us the means to increase social responsibility, inclusivity, exchange of ideas and creativity.
What was it that you and Nico looked for in selecting the participants for 72U?
All team members were selected on their connection to the public space and an interdisciplinary feel. We call that ‘creative hybrids’. By asking for ‘creative hybrids’ we attracted different kinds of talents and put together a highly multifaceted, diverse and international team. The current group consists of, among others, an architect, a coder, visual artists, and a team builder who all bring six fresh pairs of eyes to Amsterdam based projects.
What does ‘making an impact on the city’ mean to you in the context of this programme?
It is important to connect people. One of the biggest issues in the cities of today is prejudgement. My very personal motivation is to stimulate to overcome prejudgement and presumptions. Questions like “Why don’t we go there?” or “Why don’t we like this or that?” must be challenged. City Making allows to address and change these shortcuts in our minds. Assumptions can be turned into a positive direction by fostering connections. When facilitating the right encounters it can work wonders.
Can you give an example?
On a personal level, being involved in the 72U project also meant being confronted with my own presumptions on Amsterdam city culture. We asked the team to conduct interviews with the residents who live close to ‘De Ceuvel’, which is in the north of Amsterdam. This area is often considered to be a bit difficult to approach, as the residents have a reputation for being a bit stern and distrusting towards outsiders. Despite not even speaking their language, the international group actually managed to get in rich and beautiful conversations with them! By being free of the local prejudices they could playfully blow off these boundaries. For me this illustrated how my own cultural background can restrict me in making accurate assumptions, but it also underlines why the international approach of 72U should be considered as a valuable asset in contributing to a positive impact on the city.