10 ideas about estonoesunsolar _ 28 placemaking examples in the city of Zaragoza

estonoesunsolar_2009+2010_gravalosdimonte copia1_objetive. Contemporary cities present a wide variety of unresolved issues, as shown by the many different abandoned empty plots and empty buildings existing in the urban fabric. This situation has been taken advantage of by the inhabitants of Zaragoza as an opportunity to intervene directly in the city. The “Estonoesunsolar” programme of Zaragoza City Council, commits to the recovery of PUBLIC SPACE as the backbone of today’s city, through the occupation of empty plots for tremporary public use. “Estonoesunsolar” started off with temporary interventions in abandoned plots in the historical quarter of the city, of public and private ownership.  Later, given their great success, they spread to the rest of the city.The programme offers a quick answer to the needs of each neighbourhood, analysing the socio-economic conditions, amenities and green spaces that already exist, as well as the deficiencies of each area.  Social cohesion is favoured through citizen participation processes. At the same time, many different cultural and educational activities have been carried out that emphasise the value of the interventions, inviting citizens to experience these spaces. The program’s initial goal was to develop an Employment Plan, which should involve 50 workers for cleaning empty plots of the Historic Center of Zaragoza. On that premise, it raised the possibility of developing a set of proposals, that beyond strictly complying with the objectives, allowed the temporary occupation of the empty plots, offering a range of temporary uses for these frequently misunderstood places.. These proposals start from the program «everyday gaps (los vacíos cotidianos),» held in 2006 within the framework of  «en la frontera (on the edge)» of Zaragoza, in which the same authors were able to begin testing the ideas about the temporary occupation of sites, this time in an “artistic” context, with different constraints but holding the same concepts.

2_ the accident. The proposals arise from the observation of different and numerous existing sites in the context of Zaragoza historic city center, assumed as unexplained gaps in many cases (and surprising in most of them). In some of the sites, the demolition of a small wall has been enough for a sudden vacuum to appear, showing cold in their nakedness, out of context, and that surprisingly opens up new visuals, hidden until then, to create a new contemporary urban space. There is a reading of the city with the codes of an «non-written urbanism«, spontaneous in some cases, and consolidated in others. In this regard, and given that applications are developed following studies of needs demanded by associations and neighbours, it is a flexible tool to start responding to specific problems.

3_the  vacuum. Value has been put in the suggestion of emptiness, the void, the invisible and silence. These temporary loosening of the plot is a dynamic tool, changing (temporarily), allowing a flexible and alternative reading of the city and the public spaces. It aims for non-material and ethereal solutions , expressing the provisional nature of its presence and establish a dialectic with their in-built environments. Vacuum is hoped to be the creator of situations and events.

4_the name. From the outset it was considered essential to find a name for the interventions, which give meaning to a program without program, without a property owner, to a un built site, to a nameless space. The program was called «estonoesunsolar”(this-is-not-an-empty-site). It was desired to escape from the constraints imposed by words and their meanings, with the intention from the beginning, to propose a new look (this is not a site, this is not what it looks like, look at it with different eyes …). In short, it was an invitation to think again, to imagine possible contents, to propose new situations and create passionate places (to make a privileged place from every idea).

5_the exchange. a – Property gives the space  b“Estonoesunsolar” sounds out the needs of neighbours and gives expression to it. c- Citizens and estonoesunsolar team make it happen.     The site’s property is  both public and private. The proposed uses are public. This aspect is critical because it has involved a mix of different sensibilities that eventually have been headed in one direction, through complex and intricate arrangements. In addition, all interventions have been the result of citizen involvement, neighbourhood associations, etc.. as well as of the involvement of “Sociedad Municipal Zaragoza Vivienda” (Zaragoza Municipal Housing Society). All interventions are born from a previous both urban and socio-economic study, analysing the existing facilities, green spaces, etc.. as well as the shortcomings of each zone, the reclaimed areas and the population for whom they are intended. The identification of employees of the employment plan with their work in the solars tends to close this circle of interaction between work with citizens, since by they are easily identifiable in their uniforms with their work in progress, (those are the same that have been requested by them through their associations).

6_the communication. A blog has been created to encourage citizen participation, disseminate the information and create another field, this time being  of virtual communication. https://estonoesunsolar.wordpress.com/

7_the indeterminacy. The richness of the sites lies in the indeterminacy that is transmitted by these gaps, in the creation of an expectation (doubt it is a door that opens) and the ability of these spaces to generate desires.

 8_the proposals. All these ideas will eventually crystallise into concrete interventions. Playgrounds have been made, a giant Parcheesi, a tricycle race circuit, some urban gardens, a garden-green carpet, a forest, a basketball court, a volleyball court, a space for bowling, a space for ping pong, an indoor soccer field …. all in the historical centre, placing bicycle parking space on each site. Any proposal is later maintained by various associations (children, youth, sports), civic centres, senior centres and by any collective citizen group willing to use them. For example, in one of the  executed urban gardens, children through different collaborating schools, have been in charge of the plantation, being later visited as a botanical garden by various schools in the district. Also,  maintenance is the responsibility of a next door vegetarian restaurant, which is responsible for maintaining the life of the garden and use their products.

9_the game. It has been an attempt to give visibility to concepts such as fragmentation , disorder or randomness as values creating new meanings. In this sense a semantic game has been posed, as each worker is wearing a shirt with each of the words of the program: «esto», «no», «es», «un», «solar». In this manner, compound sentences are created randomly according to each worker placement at any time.( «This site is not,» «not this», «This is a site», «a site is not a site”,» this is not «…)

10_text and symbol. It has been mentioned earlier that all these sites, dotted without any particular order along the urban space, form a sort of «gap network» because through their intentions, activities and uses, establish subtle connections between they. It was raised to provide these measures with a common simbology, with some characters that were easily readable and recognisable. It was proceeded to name, number and identify each of the chosen sites. Each plot is labelled (in its medians), with an identification number, which corresponds to its sequential order of performance, and has the strange and abstract virtue of numbering the non-existent under the vacuum.

13 months, 28 plots, 42.000 m², more than 60 citizens associations, public schools, old care centers, city council districts…

©ignacio grávalos + patrizia di monte architects

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