[reflections after eme3] by Agata
In the last days of June @gruby_punkt participated in the 8th International Architecture Festival eme3 in Barcelona / Spain. Our Gdansk Metropolian Area based project Threewaver has been selected for SHARE-IT part of this festival.
First of all, the site of the event is worth mentioning. The building of Fabra i Coats, being huge old vacant factory, seems to be a perfect place for such an event. Opinions about adequacy of choosing that site were divided, mainly because of the fact that Sant Andreu district is not in central part of Barcelona and a trip to see the event of eme3 had to be definitely planned. We can venture to do an opinion that there were almost no accidental visitors just passing by.
We draw this location’s image, as one of the main question often returning during formal and informal talks was about participation of people from different backgrounds, not only professionals, in the events like eme3. We wonder where were citizens, politics, stake holders during these days? And why they were not taking part in the event which focuses on the relation between citizen and the transforming city?
Many questions of this kind were asked during debates. Lorenzo Barno gave the example that 90% of visitors of their blog (www.stepienybarno.es/blog), which is one of the most popular of architecture blogs in Spain, are architects, and when he organized an event dealing with topic of relations between the architecture and the society, 180 from 200 participants were architects… There was also one politician… So, are citizens not interested in talks about city? Being a moderator of Laboratorio de Ideas organized by COAG (http://laboratoriodeideasdelcoag.com/), I can point out the same problem. The debates, organized last year in Vigo, were about architects and society, but for me there was a lack of voice of society in these discussions. Maybe a simple change, like going out into the middle of a street, could give better results? Maybe at least some of the talks should be in more informal space or even in picnic ambient like meetings proposed by Esthel Planas during her Escuela de Calor (http://www.estherplanas.com/index.php?/project/escuela-de-calor/) workshops?
On the other hand, doing our research projects in GrubyPunkt, which are mainly based on hours of conversations with people met on the streets, we also see that people are not convinced that their opinion is important. Maybe this is why they do not participate in such events? Maybe for most of them the topic of common participation in ‘making city’ is still an utopia? Discovering the points of views of different people seems for us to be the first important step. Without this step, probably we will still see a growing number of projects which are not meeting the real needs of citizens, like investments that are not based on multidisciplinary research phase leading to various, already known situations, like vacant sites, dead living areas and a lot of unused land. The sad fact is that people are used to the fact that nobody listens to them or they have no idea how to establish the dialogue and with whom.
We are enchanted by the documentary about the self-constructed allotment gardens by retired citizens on the periphery of Barcelona called ‘Retired city’ and made by Pau Faus (http://www.laciudadjubilada.blogspot.com/). This kind of work is really promising starting point for bottom up mode of understanding the city as a vivid multilayered structure. Hearing voices of citizens is crucial in order to understand whole city’s complexity. Also children should be involved into this process, their voice should be taken into account. As said Lemur (http://lemur.cat/), children, giving opinions about his own neighborhood, learn that the city problems are also their problems. This way children get used to participation. What we know for sure, participation of people is a challenge, whether we are talking about discussions or in physical constructions.
Projects which generate new design methods involving various groups of people into building processes and giving a birth to new democratic and participatory methods to urban planning like Ciudad Roca Negra by CAPA and Ariel Jacubovich (http://www.eme3.org/?p=2953), projects touching basic problems of hard human living conditions like Community Kitchen in one of the growing slums in the suburbs of Lisbon in Costa da Caparica by Ateliermob (http://ateliermob.com/377319.html)…
We had a chance to find out more about many interesting projects. The diversity of them shows us that collaboration and participation can be seen from so many angles. It also shows us that it is crucial to learn from good practices, but not repeating them without local research and understanding. As the different countries are on the various level of Arstein’s ladder, the most important thing seems to be linking the real state of situation in country with real needs of its citizens. Step by step, answering many questions before acting. What is the role of the architect? What she/he can do for us and how? Is a daily dialogue between architects and society possible? How can citizens be involved into participatory processes in the city? Who else should be involved in participation? Is the collaborative city a need, an obligation or an utopia?
We put many questions cause we think that wider discussion should be started, not only among professionals. Not being architects, we feel that there is a kind of gap in this dialogue. We really like the statement by Reyes Gallegos (http://www.laciudadviva.org/blogs/?author=78) that architects should not be afraid to be educators, managers, mediators.
Developing our Threewaver project and talking about collaborations, we think that there is also a need of making clear what the collaboration means in each situation and how / why we want to establish new connections. The statement of Domenico di Siena (http://urbanohumano.org/) about making temporal connections for concrete actions is very in our taste. It seems to be the most appropriate way of networking. Do not link for forever, do interesting projects with people with specific skills. And then search for another people, start new connections. This is what we are developing in Threewaver, in our local metropolitan context.
Summing up, most of actions presented during eme3 take place in Southern Europe and around South America. There were presented examples from other european countries, but it seems that they are still treated as unconventional and unique. In comparison with them, we have so different context here in Poland and it seems that the classical realization of architectural projects are still in main stream. We are really curious about how things will develop.
We believe that the above-mentioned education and communication topic is one of the key points that need to be developed here, in our country. Spatial / architecture education about the city should not to be limited to buildings and constructions but should have a wider social dimension. Not about getting to know the architectural styles but about understanding the context where we live. This kind of education is strictly linked with the awareness about our surroundings and the knowledge of our possible power as daily users of the city. We talk about the power of acting and doing things as a citizen, not as a professional architect. We are also really curious if the collaborative city will become also reality in Poland, or we will choose another way to go a step ahead in living city issue.
Thank you eme3 for creating such powerful space of interchanging ideas with its special ambient for formal and informal talks which really gives a lot of positive energy!
Topic of 8th eme3: http://www.eme3.org/?page_id=2144
Description of Threewaver in English: http://www.eme3.org/?p=2757
Description of Threewaver in Spanish: http://www.eme3.org/?p=2757&lang=es
Threewaver video impression: https://vimeo.com/66660780