Guest post by Marcos Colina
It has been two years from the first edition of the Spaces for peace program. I’ll try to make a retrospective look about how this program has been conceived, developed and what happened with the territories and spaces after their construction, with no aim to declare steps or urban recipes.
I have been part of the design and construction of two of them, at “El Chama” and “Valle del Pino”, two localities in the country not inside the capital city. They are completely different and my participation has been as well. In the first of them, I have been one of the “developers”, a figure named for one purpose: Not to design but to develop something that was already there at the beginning. Ideas, Site, Location, problems and possibilities revealed from the community. The architect in here is not a social figure, or a miraculous technician to solve the world; I personally think that this perspective has been harmful for the program and the proposal. We have been just auxiliary (with our tools and capacities: space, program, structure, aesthetics principles) on the modelling of ideas from the community. It’s not about language; it’s about space, territory, sense of place, and more important, organic process of the physical and social transformation of the territory, the way that how the public space is understood in the city and the proposal of revaluate the meaning of an urban amenity nowadays. At the second one I have been the one in charge of the management the construction process, materials, money and community relationships.
The case of “El Chama”
This was Mérida, a city with the most organized population of the country, very kind people and willing to work together. Of course the project had a lot of positive aspects before the beginning but let’s not forget that the site has been chosen for the presence of violence. The site: An Illegal garbage’s disposal. The people: A young population with drugs problems and delinquency. The possibilities: 500 square meters with amazing visuals to the mountains in the centre of the “Barrio”. The materials: Rocks from the river, wood from local production and useless steel for the main construction public company. The handcraft: The young people with drugs problems and delinquency. We have to work with what there is available.
The case of “Valle del Pino”
This was in La Guaira, one of the most touristic locations of the country and the city with the principal airport. This “Barrio” is far away from the sea and the principal avenue; being there you would probably forget that you’re next to the open sea. In any case, three popular organizations, an abandoned house and (in a very strange causality) a location being the centre of the “Barrio” in front of the principal sport field were the stage from the beginning. The site: an abandoned house. The people: Young and aged population with no stable job. The possibilities: An existing infrastructure and possibility to growing up. The materials: the stock of materials with Institutional alliances. The community’s idea: A communitarian centre. Again, work with there is available. The design group (alliance between Collectives CAPA from Argentina and ASYMETRIC from Venezuela) has revealed an interest in non-specialized construction technology to build the proposal. Between Chama and Valle del Pino this one has more formal impact or research but the same process were intended.
It can be argued that the great mediate success about these projects has been probably the fact that they seem to be aliens in the “Barrio”. Let’s say that actually they are (some of them at least), and maybe that’s one of the reasons that the world put their eyes on them, but just after that happened, the projects were analyzed all around the world and maybe, why not, this was exactly the aim of this image research.
When it’s told that this projects has been developed with the method of participatory design it’s refer to how to work in the territory and not about the territory. The architects, production team and community lives together, design together and build together. The aim is not to ask to the community (like asking to a collective client) what do they want, but to work and understand their process and to integrate them in the most positive way.
When the time of evaluation of the ideas, proposals and necessities comes, integrated spaces of collective discussions are opened. When the process of construction begins, architects and community share tools and tasks. When it’s midday, we have lunch all together. It’s not an easy task, for them and either for us, actually in Venezuela is a method with no too much history when we speak about public space and I particularly think that we’re still trying to figure it out how to do it better, knowing that these projects are a deeper research, and a lot needs to be evaluated.
It has been about two years from the first five incursions in some Venezuelan communities to work communally. Maybe now it’s a good time to analyze them in deep. So I propose you: let’s open the discussion.