28 Oct 2015

How to simultaneosly celebrate and question the significant affect of private initiative on collective city space

Author: Guillaume Eckly, Andrea Spreafico, Cristian Stefanescu, Catalina Ionita, Anton Huhn, Goda Luksaite, Tiina Johanna Teräs, Patricia Miho Tsunoushi , Frede Vik

Recontextualizing an mundane object

Urban intervention

Private initiative

Collective space

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A pavilion or a monument? A beacon or a roof? A garage on a table?

The exhibition entitled “This place is pretty good” celebrates the way in which the people of Braila create social centers around private or privatized spaces such as garages and the courtyards of apartment blocks.

By reusing and repositioning this everyday object, the authors sought to create an urban intervention that taps into and makes operational a latent urban potential present in Braila, as well as in other Romanian cities, the controversial phenomena of individuals physically appropriating collective space through the ad-hoc placement of privately-owned prefabricated concrete garages in public space.

In doing so, the garage is elevated, both physically and symbolically – physically by outlining a new and open space that is able to accomodate diverse and spontaneous activities on the Danube riverfront and symbolically by transforming a simple and mundane object into a monument to the private initiatives prevalent in peripheral urban areas and implicitly its social impact on the city.

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The garage numbered 11 sits on the Danube riverfront halfway between the civic and social center (City Hall) and the historic center (Trajan market). In its precise location, the lifted garage might be the host of a spontaneous stand selling food or at as a reststop and place of shade, it may arise curiosity as an unique structure or merge with the other roofscapes along the riverfront and become invisible.

Raised above the ground, the individual space of the garage is transformed into a collective one, a space of the city, an infrastructure able to accomodate a variety of activities.

By the end of the inauguration evening, the reconfigurated garage had already hosted an exhibition about the city, a film projection, a cooling zone spraying mist, a bbq grill and cold beer tap, a watermelon stand and many discussions.

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Since its appearance in the early 90’s, the prefabricated concrete garage has become a place for the expression of private initiative by establishing an individual approach to structuring public space, thus highlighting not only the need for organizing such spaces but also the creative potential and beneficial diversity offered by such individual actions.

The raised garage becomes an artifact – an item of cultural, social, and historical significance – which tells the story of how peripheral spaces can act as social centers for everydaylife, a story valid for cities in Romania and elsewhere that articulates a global discussion about initiating and sustaining participatory processes as a way of working in architecture and urbanism.