Urban Activators

IMG_7423 IMG_8303 scallops_antjeUrban Activators – Puente de Colores, Madrid (Spain) 2015

California College of the Arts

This course was designed around the immersion into an ongoing process of formation of a neighborhood public space in Madrid. As a travel studio, it exposed students to the contemporary discourse about entrepreneurial approaches to urban social space in two cities in order to build background knowledge and a broader perspective
on the work. The course framework posited that a combination of entrepreneurial thinking, organizational skills, and nimble design decision-making are needed for the successful activation of urban space. San Cristóbal, on the outskirts of Madrid and home to different immigrant groups, has been lacking in public spaces, employment opportunities and social/youth infrastructure. Basurama, a local collective concerned with issues of urban consumption and waste at multiple scales and one of our main collaborators, has been working with this community in the framework of their Autobarrios (Self-Made Neighborhoods) project.
Autobarrios reflects a way of space-making that is based on a collaboration between different professionals and local citizens. It is reliant on building a network between a range of urban ‘agents’ that contribute their expertise towards a specific goal. In the case of San Cristóbal, this has led to the transformation of an abandoned
space under an overpass, reinventing its use, and converting it to an evocative urban space by and for neighborhood youth and residents. In collaboration with Teamlabs Madrid, Basurama, and the neighborhood of San Cristóbal, this summer studio contributed mobile, deployable structures for the 2015 TEDx Madrid Salon that took place in this location with the goal of providing structures that can be used for a variety of future activities.

Client: Residents of San Cristóbal, Madrid

Tutors: Antje Steinmuller, Mauricio Soto

Students: Whitney Bush, Ryan Montgomery, Joy Fu, Anh Vu, Cole Shiflett, Lujac Desautel, Sara Haag, Pixie Kaminski, Fernanda Bernardes, Ernesto Preciado-Canez, Leticia Murray, Jonathan Woong, Jessica Zamora, Emily Robin, Anne Steeves, Gloria Asaba
Kiiza, Jessica Ayran, Brett Petty

Other Facilitators: Juan Lopez-Aranguren (Basurama), Berta Lazaro (Teamlabs, Madrid)

Research Question: Urban public space is tasked with offering a space that caters to a broad spectrum of users. At the same time, it reflects community identity while often taking a role in the image a city presents towards the outside. Today’s increasing orientation towards event and spectacle as devices for space activation poses additional challenges. Architect and Planner Andreas Feldtkeller described a public space that combined different types of activation as a theater for directed and informal social

1 . The disciplines of both urban design and sociology have put forth a range of theories on the components needed to create successful urban social spaces: It can be seen as resulting from the interdependence of the physical form of a space and the social interactions taking place within it.

2. Others have argued that an organizational framework for the regulation of what takes place in the space is also necessary

3. Urbanist Kevin Lynch has written about the critical role of the perception of a space in the context of the city. Its use and activation imprint themselves onto the narrative experience of the inhabitants, forming associations and mental images that open up the collective imagination of what might happen there in the future. In her book “Staged Urbanism”, Mona El Khafif has termed these four components of successful contemporary public space activation “hardware”, “software”, “orgware”, and “brandware”

4 . The studio think tank used these terms as devices to unfold the complexity of the San Cristóbal site into different, yet interconnected topics: “Hardware” denoted both the space under the overpass and its existing interventions from earlier phases of the Autobarrios project. “Software” considered how the space has been used in the past (both scheduled events, and informal daily use), and what future activities might need to be supported (e.g. through the studio intervention). Providing “orgware” for future activities under the overpass meant researching actual and potential networks between local stakeholders and other organizations (for material donations, organization of events/activities, or financial support). Lastly, “brandware” involved understanding and potentially changing the perception of the space by local residents, and creating a public ‘face’ that brings its history, evolution and future events to both residents, the Madrid metropolitan area, and beyond. We also projected the four terms onto the organization of our work for San Cristóbal: our internal think tank operated in three teams that each took on the intersection between two of these areas.
team 1: hardware/software
team 2: software / orgware
team 3: orgware / brandware

Link: instagram.com/urbanactivators

11-50, Architecture, Art & Design, California College of the Arts, Collaboration, Curricular, Days, Propositional, Sculpture, Self-funded, Spain, Students with tutor, Temporary