Archive for January, 2011

January 27, 2011

El Carrito: Week Two, Saturday, January 29, 2011

You Need Good Public Space to Get Good Public Space

Today I joined the group at the Plaza Fort Pienc once more; although they began close to the soccer game across the c/ Marina, the lack of people convinced them to return to the most successful public place in the barrio. (A post on the reason Plaza Fort Pienc is so successful is forthcoming) It is ironic that often, in order to gain the necessary participation that will help launch the creation of successful public space, such a space needs to already exist to some degree.

However, even in a populated public space, participation from the public is not always easy. As such I am anxious to see how the methods of engagement develop over time. Although I arrived at half past eleven, we did not see the first participants until a quarter to one. Soon after the first couple, an older gentleman began speaking with Eva; and before long everyone was engaged with at least one participant.

The Importance of Story Exchange: Forms versus Conversations

The presence of some participants draws more. The same, however, is not true for the amount of volunteers at any given time. Too many volunteers, all who work together so well actually creates an insular atmosphere, rather than an open one, around El Carrito. It is also a fine balance of how many volunteers to have working at El Carrito at any given time. Too few and a strain is placed on the volunteers present. In addition, it is increasingly evident that the qualitative aspects of space often require the exchanges gained from conversations that go beyond simply filling out forms; talk about space transforms into stories and narratives, not easily communicated through simple surveys.  The passionate demeanor of neighborhood people in conversation creates an atmosphere of possibilities.  And so, although one volunteer might be able to manage the intake of forms filled out by the residents, they would lose out on the spontaneous exchange that results from dialogue.

Raons at work on the Civic Center Terrace

The Importance of Showing Up

One of the surprising aspects of today’s activity actually came during the lulls in public participation. It was at this time that all of us in the group started brainstorming about how to improve the process. Being present in the middle of the plaza creates the ideal venue to consider how to engage people in that very space. And so, even though we did not collect as many documents from the public today, the entire endeavor continues to evolve in intriguing ways.

January 27, 2011

El Forat de la Vergonya / Hole of Shame

In beginning to study some of the participation processes that have happened in Barcelona, I will begin with some information on one of the most famous / infamous cases, El Forat de la Vergonya / Hole of Shame, and direct the reader to a recent post on the subject. Also, see this from 2007. More will be revealed as research commences.

January 22, 2011

El Carrito: Week One, Saturday, January 22, 2011

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As the people of the neighborhood continue to see El Carrito in their most populated public room, they will slowly get used to its presence; perhaps its symbol will prompt people to think about the space of their barrio at other times as well. In a sense, because not every participant’s input can be objectively documented, a lot is also accomplished by simply instilling a new curiosity about the quality of the surrounding environment.

January 19, 2011

El Carrito: Week One, Wednesday, January 19, 2011

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Participation in Fort Pienc

On Wednesday at three thirty in the afternoon, we gathered at the Central Plaza in the neighborhood of Fort Pienc. I helped Martin with El Carrito in the Civic Center Plaza of Fort Pienc. The Plaza is a node of expansion along c/Ribes (Carrer de Ribes), a small street running diagonally across Cerdá’s famous chamfered blocks in Barcelona’s Eixample. This street, in fact, was here long before the expansion of the city, when the area of study was a Fort, but more on the history of the zone later.

On Wednesday afternoon, I only knew what I saw with my eyes. The first thing that struck me was the many places to sit in the plaza, in a variety of orientations. On the north-west side at least two bars added their own seating to the mix; the opposite side included a grocery market, the public library and an elementary school. It was clear, even with few people in the plaza, that this was a central area in the barrio (neighborhood).

Purpose of Participation

The analytical purpose of the activity was two-fold: to engage people in participation and to gather potentially pertinent information. In the case of the former, the simple presence of El Carrito, a simple scale-model of Fort Pienc on display for orientation, and three members of the group were enough to entice a surprising number of people to stop and inquire as to what “this was all about.” As I am learning, people in Barcelona are quite curious; the same is not true for the growing Chinese population in the area. Although their participation is vital for an integrated approach, their engagement is more difficult to obtain.  Once school got out that day, we moved El Carrito closer to the entrance and were literally enveloped by scores of children and parents incredibly excited to participate.

What is Participation?

So how do they participate? As of now, it is a three-part process. A pin represents our current location on the model and the participant finds where he or she lives; from there the participant fills out a form as to their general feelings regarding the Barrio, and then traces on a map the general path and mode of transport from home to school to work within the Barrio. Another important aspect, also drawn on the map, is the perceived boundary of the Barrio. For reasons I will continue to research, there is an issue of neighborhood identity.

January 19, 2011

El Carrito


Transporting El Carrito


A mobile participation cart on wheels, El Carrito, establishes the programmatic and spatial focus of the activity. Constructed of found objects, such as a discarded tripod stand, and found materials including translucent plastic panels allowing night-time illumination (which may be incorporated soon), El Carrito is a mobile station of participation. 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.