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.

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