Car-free cities may seem like a far-off dream, but a new series of videos from digital artist Jan Kamensky is showing just how powerful visualization and imagination can be in bringing about real-world transformation. Jan’s videos, called “Visual Utopias,” use animation to re-imagine our car-dominated streets as greener, more people-friendly spaces.
Jan’s “Visual Utopias” remove cars and traffic furniture to create cycling and walking spaces. He believes that by using the “language of images,” we can change the way we think about and use our public spaces.
A Possibility to See Things Differently
In the words of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, “once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what’s the use of seeing?” Jan’s goal is to offer a possibility for people to see things differently and inspire action toward creating more sustainable and livable cities.
Jan sees himself as a “digital gardener,” planting “cyber seeds” in the minds of viewers to inspire change. He explains,
“I came to the conclusion that I really want to find somehow a contribution in the whole transformation where I can be the change by myself and not only wait for it.”
Lockdown’s Impact on Cities
The lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic provided a glimpse of what our cities could look like with fewer cars on the streets. Jan observed that “the streets of every city in the world. Fewer cars, some. Some streets were already empty. And this was the pre-level of my utopias. I had the space to put plants and trees and a space for people.”
According to a study by the University of Amsterdam’s Cycling Professor Marco te Brömmelstroet, 60% of adults in Amsterdam fear going out in public spaces. Jan’s work aims to change that by creating visually appealing and accessible public spaces. He concludes,
“This is, for me, a major motivation and inspiration at the same time to work for those people. So they don’t have to be feared anymore to go into public space.”
If you’re looking for inspiration, check out our article on Paris investing 250 million euros to become a 100% cycling city.
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