Manila Improstructure

The project investigates and documents the social and creative practices around the electricity grid and the street lighting system of Manila, Philippines.

Dietmar Offenhuber, Katja Schechtner, Julia Nebrija

In cooperation with TU Vienna, Urban Design Institute
Students: Anna Giffinger, Antonella Amesberger, Julius Alexander Fink, Konstantin Jagsch, Lisa Jindra, Matthias Dorfstetter, Michael Egger, Michael Wallinger, Sophie Wuerzer; Faculty advisors: Markus Tomaselli, Michael Surböck

Video: Antonia Amesberger, Michael Egger, Konstantin Jagsch, Dietmar Offenhuber

Manila Improstructure is part of the the third instance of the sensing place / placing sense series, investigating the pockets of informality inside the formal urban infrastructures that structure our daily lives. Not only in the megacities of the global south, life is characterized by a constant struggle with infrastructure. The electricity grid, logistics and supply chains, telecommunication networks — every system that is centrally planned and managed from above always requires some level of improvisation and tinkering from below in order to make the system work. These creative appropriations are, however, never part of the official representations of infrastructure; they are marginalized and difficult to observe. There is a misbalance between what we know about formal structures and what we can only infer about its informal practices. Infrastructure governance is a process of call-and-response, in which the physical aspects of infrastructure become a improvisational medium.

In a panel session at Ars Electronica 2015, we brought together experts who deal with questions of infrastructure and its role in everyday life.