El Carrito: Week Seven, Monday, February 28, 2011

Putting down Roots (however temporary)

The first thing that charmed me about El Carrito was its mobility; and all the real and imagined possibilities of activating public space that comes with this mobility. When Raons members and I went out into public space to engage residents of Fort Pienc to participate in sharing their insights and experiences regarding the urban domain, I was eager to take El Carrito “out for a spin” throughout the entire neighborhood under study.  However, things are not quite that simple. The main reason that Raons Publiques is in the neighborhood of Fort Pienc is because it lacks many robust public spaces; as we tried to engage people at different locations, we keep returning to the most active public space in the area – the Fort Pienc Civic Center Plaza.

I was at first disappointed by what seemed as a missed opportunity to spread all this participation around. But then, today, I had a wonderful realization; El Carrito is mobile to allow it to be not just a constantly moving urban element, but rather to become a presence in the neighborhood. And this is best achieved by its recurring presence in the Civic Center Plaza; same place, same time, so to speak. And so, because of its mobility, El Carrito can take root in this successful public space, and from here, from this very spot, new things can grow.

Neighborhood Detectives

And grow they do! Although I have no idea what direction this new aspect of the project will take, I want to share the beginnings of the unfolding story of Fort Pienc Neighborhood Detectives!

Carlos explains the duties of neighborhood detectives

Carlos explains the duties of neighborhood detectives

It all started as a reaction. Raons members reacted to the fact that, while children were happy to participate, they quickly finished all tasks on hand, and it became clear that they could do more. Some responses have been recorded in these posts: drawings, draw-offs, random origami and marking space with personalized flags. And so, in order to broaden the horizons of participation, Raons members introduced the game of Neighborhood Detective to the children. We encouraged children to work individually or in teams; they preferred teams and quickly came up with names such as Corazones (Hearts). Next, each team received the following mission:


Ask 5 people what activity brings them to the plaza.

Ask 5 people what they think that children play in the street.

Ask an elderly person to play a game.

How many trees are there in the plaza? How many benches?

Ask a person if they have participated with El Carrito. If so, ask them why El Carrito is in the plaza.


Children gather info from people in plaza


The children were incredibly enthusiastic to delve into these questions. They in fact demanded more questions, once they completed the initial five prompts; a couple of them even came up with questions of their own to use:

“Do you like the neighborhood?”

“Do you think there is contamination in the neighborhood?”

In fact, the children can even explain our project and the methods by which to fill out the survey forms to other people. This little girl took over in explaining how to trace a path from home to the plaza to this lady:


she explains the form to an inquiring lady



And once they completed the questions we improvised prizes and let them choose one of the postcards depicting other urban actions taken by Arquitectos Sin Fronteras.


improvised prizes that day include ASF postcards of past projects



But, more than getting a postcard, they were happy to pose with their yellow cardboard detective badges with El Carrito in the background.


team "Corazones" with badges

team "Corazones" with badges



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