Public Space as a tool for Social Cohesion and Diversity: a Multiple Reading of the Raval Neighbourhood, Barcelona, Spain.
The Workshop "Streetscape Territories: Spaces of Inclusion", organised at the end of January 2014 as part of an EU Intensive Programme, put in contact 24 students and 11 teachers/researchers of different Higher Education Institutes that each provided a specific expertise and working method to approach the rethinking and design of contemporary public space in a European context. It sought to "re-connect" international students of Architecture, Urban Design and Planning of six European countries (north and south, east and west) with different approaches of how to deal with public space, seen as a tool for social cohesion and needed cultural diversity, both concepts increasingly under threat during the last few decades.
The intensive workshop linked traditional design approaches with anthropological or sociological ones and introduced the students with the work and experience of some specialised institutions and organisations in dealing with social networks and cultural diversity at a local as well as at an international scale. The "life" and "common" but at the same time "mutliple" and "broad" experience of public space was an important issue dealt with during the 10day programme and was part of the daily discussions and presentations. This way, the learning programmes of the local curricula (of each participating institution) did not only get an intensification by participating in this workshop but also obtained a more plural and more trans-disciplinary dimension to a design approach. During the lectures and the following discussions, as well as during the design process and their common evaluation, philosophical, anthropological, social, economical dimensions were explored, apart from morphological, programmatic and urban aspects.
The multiple approach was achieved by the combination of the different expertises and design traditions of the participating institutions:
Belgium: KU Lenven, Faculty of Architecture, LUCA School of Arts, campus Sint-Lucas (organising and coordinating partner, resp. Kris Scheerlinck, Gideon Boie, Ferran Massip, Pedro Dachs): the Intensive Programme was linked to the Design Studios of the International Master of Science in Architecture Programmes in Brussels and Ghent.
Netherlands: Delft University of Technology/OTB (partner, resp. Leeke Reinders, Hans Teerds): the Intensive Programme was linked to a course about methods and analysis at Architectural Faculty of Delft University of Technology.
Sweden: Chalmers University of Technology (partner, resp. Carl-Johan Versterlund, Ana Betancour): the Intensive Program was part of the studio Urban & Architectural Design Laboratory as part of the International Master of Science in Architecture Program at the department of Architecture at Chalmers University.
Spain: Polytechnical University of Catalunya, ETSAB Barcelona (partner, resp. Carles Crosas, Jorge Perea and Josep-Maria Solé): the Intensive Programme was part of a design studio, called "Urbanística 6" (DUOT).
Slovak Republic: Technical University of Bratislava (partner, resp. Maria Topolcanska) the Intensive Programme was organised as a kick-off workshop for the main design studio of the 5th year (master degree, post bachelor level).
France: ENSAM Montpellier (partner, resp. David Hamerman, Guillaume Girod): the Intensive Programme was part of the Design Studio 'S8 - Métropoles du Sud', 1st year of Masters.
The workshop participants were stimulated to "inhabit" the neighbourhood during the entire Workshop: we used a design studio in the proper neighbourhood, called Sala Conservas, a local civic/cultural centre used by many local organisations and NGO's. This collective space was used as a base point from which the students and teachers could have site visits, interviews, observation sessions and presentations. The final presentation happened at the Filmoteca, a local cultural municipal facility that we visited before and used as the place to engage with the neighbourhood by communicating visually the outcomes to the surroundings. The teachers and students were accommodated close to the neighbourhood, they daily did grocery shopping in the local shops or markets, shared lunch with other participants or people working in the area, like the CCCB, FAD, bar or restaurant owners, etc. This way, all participants experienced the daily rhythms and routines in the neighbourhood, which was important to grasp the social life of the Raval area.
The aim of the Intensive Programme was to improve research and design skills of master students in architecture and urban design in addressign social and anthropological issues in a multicultural way. This was achieved by making mixed teams of students: there were four teams of each 6 students from different partner institutions, and thus with a different cultural background. There were no teachers permanently assigned to a team: instead, the "butterfly" desk crit principle was used to guarantee maximum contact with the multiple approaches (teachers talked daily to all 4 teams and gave input from their proper expertise: this lead to some interesting discussions among teachers and students).
The participants of the different international institutions contributed to the ongoing discussion about cultural gentrification in European cities as a result of increasing immigration processes and their implications for the use of public space, that is often segregated, divided and not accessible for all. This was dealt with the input sessions and following discussions and was part of the final proposals the students presented to the local stakeholders and teachers.
The workshop helped to develop knowledge and expertise on an international level about Streetscape Territories: the accessibility and permeability of public space as a guarantee for social inclusion.