A Space for Activism: Creative Interventions for a Democratic Public Space in Seville Lucia Pells Extracts from introduction Public space is a topic that can often be used to demonstrate the state’s interest in generating profit rather than social prosperity. The pleasures we find in public spaces are constantly being re-appropriated and exploited by governments and investors as instruments to their ends of power and profit.3 This is not a recent, nor original observation. The primary purpose of city development of most Western European cities is to increase private investment, as the government aims to attract more tourists, increase property value, and improve city marketing.4 More often than not, the decisions made over public space fail to consider the current or future social implications, inevitably leading to inequities within the city. In transferring civic amenities such as public space and cultural facilities in to the hands of the private sector, the state often cites the creation of jobs and boosts to local economy as benefiting the majority of city users.5 However these investments rarely provide any real benefit to peripheral or poorer communities, augmenting the urban, social injustice within the city. What urban planners fail to acknowledge is that designing the public realm requires a calibration and examination of the required and diverse needs of all individuals. David Harvey insists that the city’s shaping of the urban commons allocates public space only to a select few that will generate the most capital, instead of being collective, non-commodified and open to all.6 The proposed commercial plaza to surround Seville’s newly constructed Cajasol Tower, endorses Harvey’s principle that the city’s public spaces solely serve as economic assets to the state and its investors.
In the present bleak climate surrounding the public spaces within the city, the prerequisite to think creatively in terms of building and materials, as well as ‘reading between the lines’ of planning laws, has become an essential tool for some individuals and collectives in Seville, who want to secure that public spaces serve the needs and desires of the community. The context of the capitalist city has commanded that more imaginative, unconventional and unexpected solutions to appropriating obsolete spaces for the public are found,7 seeing the emergence of ‘guerrilla architects’, such as Santiago Cirugeda, as these new forms of insurgent architecture take place. Their intention is to create and maintain an engagement between themselves, neighbourhood residents, and the rest of the city, to materialise a more democratic public space. The result sees an increase in participation as communities and professionals become actively involved in social change through these spaces. Vacant and obsolete spaces are emerging more frequently within the city as a direct result of the country’s economic crisis, however these spaces can provide ample opportunity to the public. 04 The subject of creatively appropriating obsolete spaces for the public’s benefit, and the ambitions, maintenance and outcomes of these activities needs to be critically analysed for the success of future practice. An interview with experts in the field, as well as investigating various case studies in Seville, will scrutinise how creative inventiveness, divergent thinking, a reactive imagination, and positive urban intervention can offer the possibility of change on how the public can use obsolete spaces within the city. The dissertation intends to make the mechanisms of community-based initiatives and participatory models legible through the analysis of case studies, which will then be applied to a chosen obsolete space that is underutilised by the surrounding community, or the rest of the city. The proposed micro actions initiated by the community will also anticipate the involvement of the rest of the city. In order to formulate a realistic creative plan for the park, an analysis of the socio-spatial constraints of the space must be made, and not isolate the process from the context or outcome,8 by asking the following questions throughout the study; what will be the relationship between the urban context and the creative activities? How will the plan affect all city users, which include residents, commuters, and visitors? What principles will guide the plan formulation, context, and implementation? It would be imprudent to propose a full plan for the park, as this would be contradicting the participatory and democratic approaches of community-led public space projects, therefore the proposal will aim to give people reasons to come together in a space and interact with each other, through creative engagement and discussions, creating a public forum where further decisions can then be made over the functionality of the space.
By employing an imaginative and unconventional scheme for the park through theory and case study and research, the study aims to provide an example of how collective participation and appropriation of an abandoned space like the park could benefit the community, as well as on a macro scale with the rest of Seville.
FAINSTEIN, S. S. (2010) The Just City. London: Cornell University Press pp. 2-5.
FAINSTEIN, S. S. (2010) The Just City. London: Cornell University Press pp.2-5.
FAINSTEIN, S. S. (2010) The Just City. London: Cornell University Press p. 3.
HARVEY, D. (2012) Rebel Cities: from the right to the city to the urban evolution. New York:Verso. 6
VÁZQUEZ, C. G. et al. (2011) Forum on Urban Creativity. Seville : E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Sevilla. 7
FAINSTEIN, S. S. (2010) The Just City. London: Cornell University Press p. 57.
Full catalogue of student work from the School of Architecture Summer Exhibition 2015.