At Neighborland, we believe in experiential learning. Often, the best way to determine whether an idea is good or not is to go ahead and test it. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be looking at a selection of projects that take precisely this approach to community development. The projects are among the 124 tactical works featured in the exhibit Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good.
The showcase, which will be on view in the US Pavilion this year’s Venice Biennale of Architecture from August 27th through November 25th, is organized around six broad themes: economy, information, accessibility, community, pleasure, and sustainability. Today, we delve into three very different projects that aim to increase accessibility in neighborhoods from San Juan to San Francisco.
Iluminacción, San Juan
Sometimes a place is technically accessible, but safety concerns make it difficult to actually use. Such was the case with one formerly-busy street in the Puerto Rican capital city, where broken street lights created a no-go zone after dark. In response, design collective Urbano Activo organized Iluminacción, inviting residents to bring home-made lanterns and lights out into the street for a dazzling one-night event. The team then used the momentum generated by this popular public happening to successfully petition the city to restore lights on the street, allowing it to once again serve as an important thoroughfare for the neighborhood, 24/7.
Parkmobiles, San Francisco
If a neighborhood lacks adequate access to lush green parkland, what’s the fastest way to remedy the situation? For CMG Landscape Architecture, the answer was simple: roll some new parkland into the neighborhood and cycle it around. CMG created the Parkmobiles as part of the Yerba Buena Street Life Plan, a community-based plan for improving streetscapes and public spaces in a densely-built part of the City by the Bay. Now these six mobile units, each with its own unique landscape, rotate through the neighborhood bringing much-needed respite and relaxation to urban dwellers.
#whOWNSpace, New York City
Created by a team of design activists during (and in reaction to) the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations one year ago, #whOWNSpace is an effort to examine, document, and test the boundaries of the hundreds of Privately-Owned Public Spaces–aka POPS–around New York City. #whOWNSpace uses social media tools and in-person workshops to delve deeper into what the proliferation of POPS, which are built and maintained by skyscraper developers in exchange for height bonuses, means for New Yorkers. When “public” space is privately owned, is that space truly accessible for full public use? Or do POPS fall short of providing a true civic benefit to offset the benefits that they grant their owners? These questions are at the heart of #whOWNSpace’s work.