The Hackable City is a research-through-design project that explores new forms of collaborative citymaking. The team’s primary case study is Buiksloterham, a brownfield regeneration project in Northern Amsterdam. Goal is to understand the opportunities as well as challenges of new media technologies for an open, democratic process of collaborative citymaking.

How can citizens, design professionals, local government institutions and others employ digital media platforms in collaborative processes of urban planning, management and social organization, to contribute to a liveable and resilient city, with a strong social fabric? These questions were addressed through the design of a number of probes as well as by being immersed in the development of the area. Most of the probes were designed by embedded researchers working at the office of One Architecture, an office for architecture that is one of the stakeholders in the development of Buiksloterham. In addition, many interviews and expert sessions were held with future residents, stakeholders and outside experts.


One of the main outcomes of the project is the Hackable City-model, that can be used to analyze citymaking processes as well as in the management of projects or the design of policy. The model shows how in a hackable city, individuals are organized into collectives around particular themes (such as water management, self-building, collaborative area development). Often professionals play an important role in the organization of these collectives. In turn, these collectives operate in (legal) frameworks set by institutions of local government that can create policies to either stimulate or prohibit particular forms of collective action.

Product: 5 design probes

A total of five probes were developed in this research project, each very different in scope and methodology applied. These probes included The City Innovation Game – a game for collaborative agenda building around urban development; The Neighborhood – a game that allows players to start building scenarios for collaborative resource management around water issues; The International Building Exhibition-app; a platform for knowledge sharing for self-builders and a round of discussions and workshops on the mapping of public and private gains in collaborative area development.

Product: The Water Game

In the research project the hackable city, this workshop game was developed with the purpose to let participants creatively connect in a short time. Karel Millenaar designed this game to allow participants to apply their knowledge relevant to the process of water management in the city in a playful creative way. Using drawing and storytelling, participants play out the actions of the role they have chosen to deal with a particular dilemma in the city. The result is a creative illustrated map of the solutions the participants actions.

Event: International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, 23 april – 10 juli 2016.

The Hackable City research team has teamed up with Delva Landscape Architects, Studio Ninedots and Stadslab Buiksloterham to contribute an exhibit to the IABR 2016 titled Hackable Cityplot. In this installation, the story of the collaborative development of Buiksloterham was told through a series of animations projects on a scale model of the area. During the exhibition, four expert meetings were organized in which strategies for collaborative citymaking in Buiksloterham were discussed further.

Event: The Hackable City International

In 2016 the Hackable City organized an exchange programme with citymaking communities in Shenzhen (China), Athens (Greece) and Sao Paulo (Brazil). In each city, a mini-symposium was organized to discuss strategies and tactics of ‘hackable citymaking’ with local stakeholders, that was followed or preceded by site visits to local projects. A concluding event was organized in Rotterdam, as part of the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam.

Event: Hackable City Workshops & Debates

In 2016, The Hackable City team organized four events aimed at students and professionals.

  • Hackable City Workshop, Buiksloterham 19-22 January. Students of the Utrecht School of Arts visited the Hackable City project and developed prototypes in a week long workshop
  • The Cultural Commons, Pakhuis de Zwijger 14 March. The Hackable City Research Manifesto was officially launched at this themed discussion night organized by Pakhuis de Zwijger
  • Recoded City: Co-creating, Urban Futures, Pakhuis de Zwijger 14 June. Lucy Bullivant and Thomas Ermacora presented their book Recoded City and discussed ‘hackable city making; strategies
  • Hackable City Workshop, Pittsburgh. Matthijs Bouw of One Architecture (research partner in the project) organized a workshop on hackable citymaking at Carnegie Mellon University.