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Still City Project

The Still City Project investigates how we can move beyond the driving forces of our modern industrialized world; infinite economic growth, technologic progress and population growth. The project is a search for the 'Still City': an urban culture that is based on dynamics that are inclusive and sustainable. The ambition of the project is to find and make the images and stories we need to construct a post-growth urban society. — read more

The Still City Project

Power to the People

Still City Tokyo

Supported by


Retroactive Tokyo Diary

This is the lecture Edwin Gardner gave at the Academy of Architecture last year.
Shrink-Growth Regress-Progress Simple-Complex

An idea for a matrix that might help in asking the question: What is Stillness? Perhaps it exists some somewhere in the center of this matrix. A matrix with three axes: Growth-Shrink, Complex-Simple and Progress-Regress.

While making it, it struck me how hard it is to find the words for in the middle. We have have a tendency to think binary: good-bad, light-dark. We never talk much about the normal, the middle, but only about what deviates. We can only talk about the golden-rule, the third-way, the middle road, a virtuous life indirectly it seems, by say ‘not-too-much’ and ‘not-too-little’ and ‘all-in-good-measure’.

— Edwin Gardner

Power to the People*

The Still City Project is diving into the cooperative economy in collaboration with Amsterdam Energie, and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool van Amsterdam, HVA) and Monnik. Power to the People is a joint ‘action = analysis’ research project that investigates the cooperative business model that is showing to be more crisis-resilient and invested in the local community, and provides a viable alternative to corporation. The duration of the project is from March till July 2013. 


Five students (BA) Culturele Maatschappelijke Vorming (CMV) will participate. Their challenge is threefold: 

1. Increase our knowledge on the recent trend in cooperative enterpreneurship and community empowerment. What are the ideas, ideologies, incentives and motives of the initiators, what are their organizational challenges and opportunities, what are the community aspects of these often urban initiatives, and does this trend signal a bottom-up move towards more resilient, sustainable and small-scale ways of production and consumption?

2. Develop sustainable community building tools for Amsterdam Energy. Amsterdam Energie is a small and young energy company that was created in the spring of 2012. They have 103 members and 405 friends on Facebook, a slice of the social network from which Amsterdam Energie emerged. Amsterdam Energie formulated the goal to grow to 1200 members. Amsterdam Energie believes it will have enough momentum with 1200 members to deal with the municipality and buy a industrial windmill. On the other hand there are concerns about the maximum size of the cooperation, considering community feeling and the need for overhead costs. 

3. Lay the theoretical foundations for a new educational module for excellent students CMV in the fall semester that will investigate the cooperative trend and investigate its potential for urban renewal and more resilient urban communities.

Follow the Power to the People research on their website: powertothepeople.stillcity.org

The title is of course also a reference to the excellent TV reportage on VPRO Backlight by Still City Tokyo Workshop participant Sabine Lubbe Bakker that features the same title.

Still City Project Lecture / Workshop Centre for Urban Studies, Amsterdam

Invitation to participate

Friday 1 March 15:00 - 18:00, Universiteitstheater, UVA, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16-18, Amsterdam. Participation: free, registration required: urbanstudies@uva.nl

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 cultural parables stress personal and economic growth. These notions of growth are interlinked, simultaneous, and almost interchangeable phenomenon.

Still City Project investigates how we understand growth and how growth is defined by the institutions and households that govern our lives. The project also tries to develop scenario’s that speculate on the question of what will happen when economic 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)? Our first case study is Tokyo.   In Tokyo, the most populous city in the world, growth is a very tangible quantity. With Tokyo the modern metropolis seems to have reached its sprawl-size maximum. It is a young city, with an aging population. It is one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world. It is the city with the largest (self-declared) middle class in the world, relative to population. Its economy has been considered stagnant for decades. Its politics are considered by many to be gridlocked. And, recently, after the tragic 2011 Tohoku earthquake, Japanese society was forced to reconsider the relationship it has with nature, as well as its energy needs.  

Still City addresses the meaning of growth and stillness in the urban environment. Stillness can be understood as a different attitude towards growth – economic, demographic, political, personal, or otherwise.

In this workshop we will focus on three themes with short presentations and open-floor discussions: Growth and the FamilyGrowth and WorkGrowth and the Physical City.

You are welcome to join us, please sign up by sending an email to urbanstudies@uva.nl

The Cycle of Japan


Thursday 14 February, 20:00 - 21:30, Academy of Architecture, Waterlooplein 211-213, Amsterdam - entrance: free

Monnik will do the first lecture in the The Cycle of Japan lecture series organized by Jarrik Ouburg, head of the Architecture Master course. In times when expansion and growth has ended in the Netherlands, the lecture series intends to see what we can learn from Japan’s cyclical processes of the city.

Other lectures will be by Moriko Kira 21/2, Ton Kreukels 28/2, Yushi Uehara 7/3 and Hidetoshi Ohno 14/3.

Big Shoe (by Pink Pony Express)

Download the Glossary (version 1.0) PDF:
Glossary single pages light (sendable by email)
Glossary single pages normal
Glossary spreads 
Glossary booklet (printable on A3 duplex printer) 

This 36 page publication was made as an inspirational reader for the Still City Tokyo workshop, held 29 Oct — 8 Nov 2012 in Tokyo. It brings togheter Monnik’s thoughts and preliminary research on growth and non-growth, progress and tragedy as well as some introductions on Tokyo and Japan. The Glossary is a hyperlinked document that weaves together anecdotes, essays, definitions, biographies, images and charts, that can be navigated in a non-linear fashion. It was edited by Monnik, designed by Annemarie van den Berg and published by the Tokyo-based magazine Too Much, Magazine for Romantic Geography. 

An update of the Glossary is to be published with the next issue of Too Much magazine January 2013.

The Still Alternative

By Vincent Schipper, published in the New City Reader for the Istanbul Design Biennale, curated by Unfold.

In the midst of this recession we are bombarded with facts and figures of decreased growth and rapid declines. We are repeatedly reminded that growth is our only salvation. Anything else would mean financial meltdown, literally the end of all things good. But let us consider a possibility where this is not the case.

Still•ness (adjective) — a dynamic and innovative culture that is not based on growth. It can be understood as a sustainable and inclusive society. A still society is a society that has left behind the more negative connotations of the notion growth, and has established post-expansion, post-depletion and post-exploitation values and practices.These values and practices may already be present. 

Markets, finances, and economics make up the frame through which most of humankind looks at the world. Within this world of surplus exchange, growth is all that is holy. Even the Papal authority would bemoan a slowing in its flock’s growth. We have come this point of luxuries, dependencies and polarization through the pursuit of constant and ever accelerated growth. And, certainly no one would say that times have not been fat. Yet, can this same growth, this modern paradigm, continue, or even sustain itself? This frame has led to undeniably amoral activities in the past and now humankind has led the world to an uncertain future. So, the quick answer is no. The Club of Rome in 1972 stated, there is a limit to growth, and we seem to be inching ever closer to that limit. Though growth has been and continues to be the dominating paradigm of the modern condition, there needs to be an alternative paradigm. Since ’72, statements have been made, and thoughts visualized that hinted at an imagined world beyond the growth paradigm. None have been able to provide a truly alternative future – one that is no longer pinned to growths or shrinkages. This is why we propose ‘Still’ as an alternative paradigm, and when applied: the Still City.  

Any city is an agglomeration of contradictions, dynamics, and imaginations. The modern city has been developing thoroughly inspired and one could even say as a result of the emergence of the growth paradigm. Yet, when the giants of industrial capital began to tumble and rust away, the city itself started showing signs of an emerging alternative. In the case of Detroit, or the plethora of other mono-industrial cities, shrinkage was the term of the late 90’s and early 2000s. Yet, these frames do not cater to the economic and demographic realities we see today or of those predicted by the Club of Rome in 1972. The city has become the home for the majority of humankind, and those cities that continue to swell, or have swelled to immense size are far more complicated than the shrinking cities of coal production, or the auto industry. The Still City, represents in itself the complexity inherent in the mega cities of today and the future. Though the growing population continues to urbanize, there is a limit. Understanding this limit, and what that limit means for social transformations, and the forming of culture, brings us to the complexity inherent in understanding this alternative paradigm.

There are cities all around the world that exhibit tendencies of the Still City, whether it is New York and its signs of an aging economy, or Hong Kong and its physical limits to horizontal urban expansion. However, there is perhaps no better example at present than Tokyo. To a degree, the Still City’s muse, it exhibits the main signifiers of being in Stillness. Its economy has seen little to no growth over the last two decades, its population’s rate of increase is nearly coming to a halt, and its urban development seems to have reached its outer limits – what we call the sprawl size maximum, determined by the basic idea that no one wants to commute to work for more hours than they are able to work.

Imagine a greater metropolitan area of 13,555.56 square kilometers with a population of 35.6 million. Or more succinct, visualize the great grey blimp, as seen from space when looking at the eastern coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu. However, Tokyo is not only a muse for the Still City because it exhibits the basic elements when considering a city in a state of stillness. Rather, Tokyo inspires because it fundamentally complicates the idea of stillness. When one looks at Tokyo there are two images, two faces that vie for attention, the macro-state of stillness exemplified by post-growth and post-development and the micro-state of stillness that shows a unique vibrancy, dynamism and contradiction. What does it mean? Where can it take us? 

When one puts this Still City under the microscope, you see exactly what a city is, a bustling network of individuals and environment relating and at time working intimately together. It is far more organic that programmed, more Metabolist than data aggregated. The city is in fact not the spread sheets of statistics but the collection of each individual’s interaction with the other, the infrastructure, the air, and even with the self on a daily basis. So we can say that though Tokyo is huge and at times overwhelmingly so, it is also small, and at times even miniature. The foundation of its economy is the small to medium sized business. Political change erupts with collective social trauma, and individual imaginations dominate the streetscape – even if most houses are picked from catalogues. The Still City is thus not actually still, the stillness of the city is in its relation to growth. Stillness in effect demonstrates the very impotence of growth, which can only be seen playing out on a macro-scale.  

It is clear that there is no real need for continued explosive growth so demanded by today’s market and capital system. Considering what a city is, we have been programmed to think that a city is only the physical icons of mass production and technological innovation, the increased consumer luxuries of high-end fashion brands and fast cars, or even acquiring larger living spaces beyond what is needed. This is the city of growth, and its antecedent, and only alternative being the city of desperation best associated with urban scenes from hunger struck or war torn nations. In order to be able to even begin to imagine a viable future city, our first task is to disassociate the city from growth – even if it was begotten by it. Tokyo as an example, the Still City presents such an alternative, now we need to push forward and begin imagining, fantasizing, and creating for this new condition. It is no longer about, bigger, faster and cheaper. We must collectively weave new narratives that look at our Present, so that we may have a more individual, sustained and real future.

Photo’s of the Tokyo by Water tour by Jared Braiterman

Tanuki Goes for a Swim in the Netherlands embassy pool in Tokyo (by tokyogreenspace) - part of Chris Berthelsen and Jared Braiterman's S.C.R.O.T.U.M project.

SCT 2012 Arne Hendriks 3 Nov (by stichtingmonnik)

SCT2012 - Vincent Schipper - Excess (by stichtingmonnik)

SCT2012 Pink Pony Express 3 Nov (by stichtingmonnik)

SCT2012 Ueno Toshiya Tokyo Babylon (by stichtingmonnik)

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