Amidst the cacophony of modern life, I am always so grateful when I discover a haven of silence, a place of deliberate stillness for contemplation and awareness of being. What a pleasure to discover a fascinating new research project called Still City being pursued by Monnik, a Dutch “collective and laboratory for investigation, imagination and storytelling.” Based in Amsterdam, Monnik’s work “concentrates on how persons and society need to reconfigure or reassess their relationship with their self-constructed modern world.”
The Still City project is explained this way on its website:
This is a project about stillness. We are living in an increasingly urban world, in which growth is the central tenet. Growth, in all its cultural translations and incarnations, has been the cornerstone of modernity. Most of our parables stress the virtues of personal growth, economic growth, demographic growth and technological innovation. Forms of growth that are considered deeply intertwined, simultaneous, and interchangeable. But what happens when growth is no longer feasible, or when it becomes undesirable? What happens to a city when growth based on ‘Bigger, Better and More of it’, becomes unsustainable? What happens when a city stops growing but doesn’t shrink either? What kind of values and narratives will emerge when the notions of economic growth and personal growth disconnect? How will people relate to labor, love, family, individuality, community, history and the future? Is there such a thing as a mature city?
Still City Project is a search for a dynamic urban culture that is not based on growth. The Still City can be understood as a sustainable and inclusive society. A society that wants to leave the more negative connotations of the notion ‘growth’ behind to find post-expansion, post-depletion and post-exploitation value-systems. The ambition of the project is to construct urban scenarios that will help us understand how a post-growth society could function.
Monnik is currently engaged in a series of interviews with international thinkers in various disciplines, and “people-on-the-ground” who are trying to deal with “the everyday reality of growth, and non-growth, in our society.” The group hopes to develop some scenarios on how post-growth circumstances would change the urban environment, and publish the results in The Still City Scenario Machine.