This post is part of the Portraits of Place series.
In mid January 2011 I arrived in Barcelona to work with Raons Públiques, a local faction of Arquitectos Sin Fronteras. I am lucky enough to be part of this process for a short while through the support of MISTI (MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives), and greatly anticipate the experience. After finishing my graduate studies in architecture and urbanism at MIT, for which I prepared a thesis on Los Angeles’ Public Space as understood through the lens of farmers markets, I became irrevocably committed to the study of public space.
Me and El Carrito.
Public space (read: social, civic, democratic space) is not easy to grasp, create or sustain. It is eternally becoming in that it changes with social flows and physical interventions. Public space is a forum for the unexpected chance encounters that sometimes lead to serendipitous events. For instance, I met John Arroyo, another CoLab Radio contributor, in the soicopetal corridors of MIT. We both grew up in Los Angeles, wrote our master theses on an aspect of that great city’s public domain, and are now both in Barcelona trying to make sense of public space and documenting the whole process here.
Participation is a similarly slippery term, especially since it has become diluted and misused. In many ways, you cannot have public space without participation. As Richard Rogers notes, “The only way forward, if we are going to improve the quality of the environment, is to get everybody involved.” The group I’m working with, Raons Públiques, demonstrates an earnest, explorative practice in both Public Space and Participation.
Fort Pienc map.
Raons Públiques is an interdisciplinary group concerned with the urban environment in general, and public space and participation in particular. After winning an initial municipal competition, the group has embarked on a multifaceted exploration consisting of research, interviews and public activities. Their area of focus is Fort Pienc, a neighborhood in the Eixample of Barcelona. And so it is time to introduce El Carrito:
Transporting El Carrito.
A mobile participation cart on wheels, El Carrito is a mobile station for participation. El Carrito (The Cart) establishes a space for public participation in public space. It is constructed of found objects, such as a discarded tripod stand and translucent plastic panels allowing for nighttime illumination. On the go, it is discrete, but once in position in the public place du jour, El Carrito opens its wings to reveal a writing surface for adults and a writing surface for children, at mid-height.
For the three months I am in Barcelona, I will follow the progress of Raons Publiques’ endeavor to use participation as a catalyst for public space. My own participation will be two-fold: One, I will document the process of participation; and two, I will analyze the public spaces in the barrio (neighborhood). As my documentation reports upon the findings as they happen, I imagine it may take directions not yet anticipated, as well as require some corrections along the way.
My participation diagram.
The next posts will chronicle the process of participation with El Carrito in Fort Pienc.
Post and images by Claudia Paraschiv. For more information on her work in Barcelona, read her blog, http://learningfrombarcelona.wordpress.com/.