El Carrito: Week Three, Thursday, February 3, 2011

Public Dialogues

We met Thursday afternoon just before the Fort Pienc school ends at five in the afternoon, and set up El Carrito:

 

Getting El Carrito ready for Participation

Getting El Carrito ready for Participation

 

Unlike most schools, this one opens onto the Fort Pienc Civic Center Plaza (hyperlink) allowing both parents and children to linger, play and talk much longer than if it were a simple sidewalk. Most adults are brought over to El Carrito by the enthusiasm of their children. I want to show the kid-height table once more, as viewed over the higher “adult” section of El Carrito:

Kid-Height Table

Indeed, the children have no fear and like to talk; the photo below shows children engaging three police officers:

 

Children engage the Police

Children engage the Police

One of the most interesting conversations this day was with a woman who moved to Fort Pienc from Nevada, USA in 2003. She currently live north of the Civic Center Plaza in one of the Eixample blocks that still includes a public space at its center. However, there is no public access to this public space; it is a relatively wild park because maintenance is scarce. In fact, the woman lived across the way for some time, and could see this wild park from her parking structure and lamented not being able to enter. According to some municipal officials, she believes that the park is underway to gaining public access. The use of most of the Eixample blocks’ cores can only be seen on an aerial, but it is intriguing to think that, even without a door, some of these are actually on publicly owned land.

 

The Mailbox

Raons Publiques Mail Box inside the Fort Pienc Library Lobby

Raons Publiques Mail Box inside the Fort Pienc Library Lobby

Many people like to take their form home with them, either due to lack of time, or in order to mull over the options. To that end, a Raons Publiques mailbox has been set up in the lobby of the Public Library.

The Role of Participation in Project-Making

Earlier that day I met with Andres to discuss the work before heading out with El Carrito in the afternoon. We spoke about the incredible difference in the time dedicated to site analysis versus design. In school we learned to analyze our site for the first two weeks, sometimes one, but rarely over three.

The project in Fort Pienc also includes site analysis followed by a design component. The intended project area is an underused space, formerly part of the rail systems that terminated at North Station. Once North Station was converted to a hub for busses and all the rail lines cleared away, a great deal of previously occupied open space became available for new projects. The linear space occurs at an interesting part of the city. However, the project site (hyperlink) although important, is not the focus yet.

Unlike traditional projects where design and construction occupy most of the time, budget and creative ambitions of the people involved, the process of site analysis (including physical and social relationships of the past and present) has developed critically in time, breadth of scope and productivity. Now, Raons Publiques has already spent over a year analyzing the context of Fort Pienc, and I join them for a short three months!

It is also important to note that, especially in the United States, projects of participation are often seen as a good method to stop in whole or part of a development from happening; the development is usually of a nature that would be detrimental to a place or society.  And so, the idea is that, it is not important to simply decide on a project, say an Auditorium, and then come to a neighborhood and ask people to help personalize the Auditorium. Rather, the Raons Publiques approach to participation begins with the initial recognition of underused space or lacking facilities, and then, through a process of getting to know the spaces and people of the neighborhood over time, a clearer idea of a project emerges. Project follows Participation.

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