Originally appeared in Antinational Situationist No.1 (1974)

Is this Metaville?
A Project For Creative Play

By Jens Jorgen Thorsen in collaboration with Hoff and Ussing. Comments upon Carsten Hoff's and Susanne Ussing's new project for a collective city.

Is this METAVILLE what the Situationists dreamed of for ages? The realisation of the of the Situtionist's thesis of 1961 that the city and people's surroundings must be receptive to playful creative activity. Is it the decisive crystallisation of the Situationist desire for for the people themselves to control their surroundings and experiment with them? Is this the collective city we have wished for?

City planners are unable to identify with the real needs of the local environment. They cannot because it is not a question of their own needs.

This is why they must base their theses on a simulated standard family and by this pretence have created the "standard family". This typical family doesn't exist and never has existed, neither the Jensens, the Svenssons nor the Joneses. The major reason for the meagre potentials of surroundings and of life in modern residential areas is that the individual has no influence upon his own residence or upon the communal surroundings. Man is cut off from his surroundings, even the local ones, and is isolated from his fellow-man even in crowded cities. People are made helpless by unshakeable schemes in property rights.

If we restore to people the right to plan and control their local surroundings and the larger environs, we will provide the basis for a great, new birth of cooperation, liberation through teamwork, a perpetual CO-RITUS. We will shape a constant party out of what was called everyday life.

If we wish to provide an escalation of all this, we should at the same time cause a decline in its contraries. We need to diminish in order to create an escalation.

Planning from above, e.g. planning on behalf of others.

The possibility of everyone's participation in the planning, the occupants takeover of the planning.

The responsibilities and authority of owners and housing boards.

The responsibilities and authority of the occupants, the responsibilities and authority of the occupants' district.

The monotony of high standards of materialism and the reign of mass products.

Materials and building techniques which provide for flexibility and a wide range of choice in the areas of utility and planning.

In order to reach these goals, we have created a basic procedure which has two aspects: the one purely technical and the other concerned with developing and evolving various forms of governing.

On the technical level, our plan is to provide a basic construction which the occupants themselves can continue and complete as they see fit. The main idea is to erect a skeleton, a main structure, a sort of landscape on which various sorts of construction can take place.

The skeleton is two- and three-story platforms of concrete assembled from modular units, fully or partially manufactured, depending on which method is cheaper at the moment. On these platforms one can create apartments, institutions, shops, playgrounds, workshops at liberty. Flexibility has been ushered in by completely avoiding stable walls and by horizontal modular conduction lines in the installation's centre with variable connections.

The high degree of repetition, combined with well-established building methods, permits cheap construction and in stages, so that financing will not vary greatly between larger- and smaller-scale units in the building process.

Housing will fall into three categories:
Category A: a complete house. The occupant designs the house, which is delivered fully constructed. Here there is little real chance of additional development other than joining and dividing, and creating life, and creating sheds and greenhouses on the terrace.

Category B: a partially built house. What is delivered is a rough construction, with facade and bathroom. The occupant completes the house himself.

Category C: is made by the occupant. He installs everything himself in the rough house.

The other basic point is occupant takeover of the control of the housing project at all levels.

Governing has two aspects; private and communal.

On the level of private control the occupants decide how their houses should look and how they should be built and equipped, what sort of construction materials should be used, etc.

On the communal level, occupant democracy will grown in the most simple and natural way is it is allowed to echo the growth of the city. The occupants will create their surrounding together and they will themselves organise the services to be provided.

It appears like the structure of government we suggest will be enable a form of organisation which is built from the bottom up. We conceive of an initial phase with the following groups:

Group A: Street groups, approximately a 100 of them.
The street groups consist of about 15 to 20 housing units on both sides of a street. They are in charge of the common areas in the constructions around stairs, landings and indoors for active purposes.

Group B: Cell groups, approximately 25 of them.
The cell groups consist of from 40 to 70 housing units in a joint building unit. They are in charge of vegetation within their unit, a total of about 5,000 square metres which can be used for anything from swimming pools to animal quarters, open-air theatres or roller coasters.

Group C: Neighbourhood groups, approximately 5 of them.
The neighbourhood groups consist of about 300 housing units in the same geographical unit of construction. They are in charge of the streets, squares, and the common ground of about 5% of the housing area which contains nursery schools, kindergartens, meeting rooms, playgrounds, workshops, etc. and decide how streets and squares should be designed and utilised.

Group D: Landscape Government.There will only be one.
The landscape government consists of representatives from all the neighbourhoods. It is in charge of nature, sports, and entertainment. It controls the entire housing area regarding the sale and rental of apartments, hotel operation, rental of the larger stores and the operation of the institutions of a more permanent and communal nature like, for example, schools.

By these means the project permits the occupants themselves to participate in the planning, construction and day-to-day direction of their areas to the greatest degree.

But into the project is also built the possibility of providing a laboratory where specific housing experiments can be made. In this lab it will be possible to analyze the experiments, as well as the whole building process as it proceeds, so that the direction and development of the process can be changed if the occupants see fit and in accordance with the results. These analyses will contribute to keeping the small stages in the black and the risks connected with popular ownership to a minimum. Investments in construction need only depend upon market demand, and one can eliminate faulty investment and the pressures on small investors' budgets which arise as a result of rental losses and empty apartments.

The analyses from this lab, combined with the experiences and decisions of the occupants, will provide the best foundation for change and improvement during the process of building this project.