De Andere Markt (The Other Market)


Liesbeth Huybrechts






Unemployment is often being addressed by decision makers and unions via a top-down approach via e.g. implementing policies, programs and projects that aim to create jobs, (co-) working spaces and platforms or create better conditions for jobs. However, citizens are too little involved in the debate on these work-related aspects. The region of Limburg (BE) faces -especially since the closure of the Ford factory in Genk- a great need for enhancing the public debate on (local) work, workspaces, conditions and tools (to create, find, share or experience work) as well as their organisation in the city/regional space.

Therefore, the Other Market, has set up a Living Lab in Genk (BE, Limburg). Living Labs are ecosystems where the research is not carried out in closed design studios, but via a systematic participatory approach, integrating research and innovation processes. This particular lab is an explorative platform for researchers/teachers, students, policy makers and local community to collaboratively think and work together on the future of “work”, both oriented at the own neighbourhood as on the broader world. Via interventions, games, prototyping and coaching activities The Other Market supports designing or doing future work. We investigate two main questions How can we use design to engage (often marginalized groups of) citizens in (1) the public debate around work, work spaces, tools and their surrounding conditions? (2) How can we co-design proposals for future work, work spaces and tools?

By exploring these questions, we want to increase people’s capabilities of contributing to the public debate on work spaces, platforms and tools and their organisation in the city/regional space. Moreover, we want to enhance the (democratic) public debate on work with a wider range of actors (employed and unemployed, different cultures, gender groups, young and old, etc.). Via this public debate we want to come to new design proposals for work, work spaces and platforms. Finally, we want to connect these proposals to existing initiatives, institutions and organisations. To enhance the chance for citizens to be heard in the public debate around work, we will create supportive actions and tools.

Location: Hoefstadstraat, Winterslag, Genk

Team: Liesbeth Huybrechts, Teodora Constantinescu, Barbara Roosen, Oswald Devisch, Dirk Osinga (UHasselt), Pablo Calderon, Katrien Dreessen, Ben Hagenaars, Niek Kosten, Andrea Wilkinson (LUCA/KULeuven), Boumediene 'boemie' Belbachir (photographer), Sarah Rombouts (Studio Refugee), Thomas Billen (graphic designer)

Funding: PLAY!UC, JPI Urban Europe & TRADERS, Marie Curie, City of Genk

1. Project(s)

a. Traders

Partners: LUCA School of Arts campus C-mine, Design Academy Eindhoven, Chalmers/Department of Architecture, RCA/School of Architecture, HDK – Academy of Design and Crafts, University of Gothenburg, Prof. KU Leuven, Planning and Development and the Architecture and Culture Theory research units, Z33, KOMPAN, City Of Gothenburg, UHasselt, STBY, Studio E

Art and design researchers can contribute in interesting ways to engaging citizens, policy makers, private partners and other participants to participate in public space (issues). The methods of doing so are, however, underexplored. Therefore, the FP7, Marie Curie Multi-ITN project ‘TRADERS’ (short for ‘Training Art and Design Researchers in Participation for Public Space’) researches the ways in which art and design researchers can ‘trade’ or exchange with multiple participants and disciplines in public space projects and – at the same time – trains them in doing so.

Five early stage art and design researchers and one sociological researcher (link) will test and develop a specific method on which art and design researchers can rely when working on public space projects in participatory way, being interventionplaymultiple performative mappingdata-mining andmodelling in dialogue. These researchers will also investigate how these methods fit in a larger methodological framework that can guide future artists and designers (or researchers and practitioners in other disciplines) to work in participatory and public space contexts.

TRADERS brings together a wide range of disciplines such as visual arts, design, architecture and music. TRADERS allows to bundle the strength of the different disciplines to commonly approach other (non-A&D) disciplines and sectors.

TRADERS started the Living Lab De Andere Markt as a core  case study on how art and design researchers can give form to the public issue of work in participatory ways.

The project commenced on 1 September 2013 and will run over four years (until 31 August 2017).

b. Play!UC

Partners: University of Groningen, Hasselt University, Unversity of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Green City Lab Austria,
Ars Electronica Center

The research project “Playing with Urban Complexity - Using co-located serious games to reduce the urban carbon footprint among young adults” aims to foster the understanding of complex urban problems by combining participatory processes with serious games in a co-located setting. In particular, the project seeks to explore how game mechanics can be used to engage the actor group of young adults to make informed decisions that have an impact on their respective urban carbon footprints and – to support that – to engage in more sustainable socio-economic networks in a city context. Investigating both existing games and novel game-based approaches, the project partners endeavour to create a tested game mechanics toolbox that can serve as a resource for participatory, game-based urban development scenarios.

Play!UC uses the Living Lab Genk as a core case study to see how young adults can reduce their carbon footprint by giving for to alternative workforms and spaces in the city.

c. Multiproductief Kolenspoor

Partners: PlusOffice Architecten, Delva landschapsarchitecten en Living Lab De Andere Markt

The ‘Traces of Coal’ project aims for researching and designing an alternative space for the future of a - partially - obsolete railway track that was built to transport coal. To meet this challenge, many spatial, technological and social issues come together. Most parts of the track have not been used for years and became a ‘backstage’; a space that escapes the attention of the community and policy-makers. From a spatial perspective, it seems evident to turn this track back into a mobility-axis for trains, bicycling, alternative modes of transport or cars, although a number of reasons oppose this idea: the lack of bicycle culture, the cost of major investment projects in alternative forms of transport as well as the great length of the track. However, there is a great interest from local government and industry in alternative forms of transport and making use of alternative energy sources. On a technological level, this project wanted to support the creation of a culture around and a design of the coal track by making use of a variety of digital tools (including user-generated maps and demonstration maps) that make the potential of the track visible over time. On a societal level, the coal track can be designed as a fertile ground for employment as well as for the development of the landscape in the city, since the track crosses important official and informal nature parks that can be connected in interesting ways. Methodologically the project can be framed in a Participatory Design (PD) approach (Simonsen & Robinson, 2012). Within this discourse, there is growing interest in what is called "infrastructuring", or developing strategies for long-term involvement of users involved in the design of spaces, objects or systems (Björgvinsson et al, 2012).

2. Living Lab methods and tools:

Please describe here the LL methods and tools you use (in particular if you have developed them) Choose 1 or 2, and do a brief description. You can reference your toolkits with a link. We recommend you to contextualise the tool/method (maturity level of the innovation, the type of LL project, roles and stakeholders involved.

Via interventions we create inventories of (1) the capabilities of local people and (2) empty or underused spaces in the city of Genk that can be actively used as ingredients for developing the workstations. These interventions are initiated by a team of designers/researchers who enter public space with a cargo bike equipped with a mobile printing press. People can use the press to create a poster that expresses and visualizes their capabilities or skills. People are asked to hang the skill-poster in their work or living spaces, creating visual cues of their capabilities in the city of Genk. The interventions are targeted at bystanders of all ages, genders, cultures and communities. Also, to inventorise interesting spaces in the city with potential to develop workstations, we create a poster that envisions the qualities of the space.

Furthermore, we organize Game Labs, using both digital and physical play, in which people playfully and collaboratively translate ideas about work in the city to more concrete spatially embedded “enterprises”. These game labs have resulted in 3 game prototypes for serious games to give form to workspaces in the city in participatory ways: Floating City, City Makers and MyBizz. The games are used as tools in co-located settings and are part of the European PLAY!UC project ( that researches how serious games can engage citizens in spatial planning and policy.

These game labs are complemented with co-design labs in which we playfully and co-creatively come up with new ideas. The skills-posters and accompanying spaces that were collected during the interventions in the different neighbourhoods of Genk as well as interviews with local actors (organisations, entrepreneurs, companies, etc.) are used as input for these labs. In these labs, brainstorms between citizens, local organizations, companies, creatives and policy makers about the future of work are set up, to materialise them into actual spaces, tools or services. For instance, for the Kolenspoor project wherein the city and the national government aim to develop new plans for an old coal track, several workshops were organised to design alternative futures for the track in the form of - among others - locally embedded and sustainable food stations. In these workshops, people who are developing initiatives alongside the track, policy makers, local organisations and companies collaboratively rethought how the coal track as an axe of mobility and energy throughout the landscape could contribute to thinking about the potential of food workstations (to collect, process, distribute and consume locally grown food) in the city landscape.

3. Your living lab or project in a box

If you could choose, what would you like to do for a living? And how would your workplace look like? Where would your workplace be situated? And who would you like to work with? Do you have good ideas for new kinds of workspaces and tools? These are the questions addressed by the Living lab De Andere Markt (DAM). Via giving form to ‘workstations’ of the future, we think and work together on the future of work together with the citizens, public and private organisations of Genk and our international network of researchers, all passionate about design, participation, work and city-making.