This project aims to re-establish a long-neglected, former park in the neighborhood of Chercea. Situated visibly at one of the main pedestrian entrances to the neighborhood, the space has the beginnings of a local center, but remains largely unused apart from the occasional pedestrian crossing though. Studying material resources found in and around the park, along with observing the social activities in the neighborhood, has revealed latent potentials in the space. Observations have also revealed social and resource issues within the neighborhood that have been addressed through a design for the space. Work in the park has been carried out in multiple phases, initially transforming a vacant space into a testing ground and further on into a permanent recreational space. Each intervention in the park has an individual history of development, while remaining low-cost, site specific and programmatically open.
The project consists of 5 actions.
For more than a decade an L-shaped brick wall has stood at the entrance of the park collecting garbage and blocking the sidewalk. Originally a kiosk serving the local industrial workforce, it’s demise and ruin paralleled that of the local industry. An initial cleanup of the area together with the local youth helped to remove the waste and reveal the potential of this wall to serve as an entrance beacon. A portion of the wall was taken down to improve sidewalk access and deter future littering. Graffiti work present on the demolished wall, which we considered of value, was transcribed onto the remaining wall following a fresh coat of paint. Additional info text and drawings about the park were added to establish the wall as an entrance element signalling the gateway into the park.
In an effort to provide seating possibilities in the park, common solutions such as benches of wood and metal were avoided. This was due to the vulnerable nature of such furnishings which could be easily damaged or taken apart for fire wood or scrap metal – a common occurrence. As an alternative we considered recycled concrete boulders – pieces of industrial ruins – robust and maintenance free seating elements. Various searches throughout abandoned industrial areas in the city eventually led to 11 large concrete boulders of suitable dimensions and character. These were relocated within the park, arranged in a seemingly random yet carefully considered manner to define a new social resting zone. The top surfaces have been polished to a smooth terrazzo finish, adding value and comfort.
Newly planted trees, wildflowers and tall grasses intertwine with the concrete seating to create, over time, an idyllic landscape of ruins overgrown with vegetation. The resulting sheltered area affords the possibility to rest, socialize and observe activities taking place in the park. The planting was done in collaboration with the local school and a municipal forestry agency via a series educational workshops: tree planting and labelling workshop + coloured seed-bombing workshop. These collaborations serve to revive connections between the local residents, particularly the youth, and the new park and to nurture ownership and care of the newly formed social space.
As there are no visual records or photo documentation of the history of the space we sought this information through dialogue with various neighbours. During our conversations, sketching became a tool for sharing memories about the space as a park, as a construction site and eventually as the wasteland we found it to be. Anecdotes about scratches, skirmishes and playthings were shared on paper when words were not enough. These drawings were later reproduced in a larger format and transferred onto a the wall of a neighbouring house as graffiti. No attempt was made to clean, touch up or paint the wall prior to adding the drawings. Instead these seemingly chalk-like kid drawings were added as a new layer of time upon the already weathered surface.
The once private, singular relationships between local residents and the park space are /now gathered in a single place and publicly shared – a common ground for collective memory.
Football is a popular past time of the youth in Chercea with games often played on busy streets due to the short supply of open public spaces in the neighbourhood – particularly spaces with large, flat, hard surfaces. Recognizing that these qualities are present in the park and that in exchange a football field ensures the frequent use and activity of the park, it became relevant to establish such a space here. At first, a pair of wooden football goals were introduced onto the site as a preliminary way to test football playing. Their light and movable nature allowed the youth to experiment with different field sizes and positions before settling on a final one. New steel football goals were then custom fabricated at a local shop and installed on-site. Concrete railway ties
from the neighbouring railway yard were used to demarcate the perimeter of the field. And a compacted mixture of sand, gravel and earth established a level and firm play
A 5.5 meter tall concrete slide is all that remains from the original park. The metal staircase for reaching the top has been long gone, taken for scrap metal. Yet kids continue to use it from time to time, albeit unsafely, by climbing up the concrete slide. Ideas for demolishing the structure have floated by, particularly due to the safety risk it posed. But in the end it seemed unwise to eliminate the last remaining symbol and landmark of the old park – an anchoring element to which both the older and younger generations could relate to. Instead, an adaptation of earth retaining wall
construction is used to reinforce the concrete structure and provide safe access to use it. The resulting 4 sided earth pyramid encircles and celebrates the concrete slide. A new symbol and landmark built upon the old one. The slope opposite the concrete slide is peppered with concrete rail ties that serve as improvised climbing elements or steps – a replacement for the old staircase. The east slope serves as a seating area facing the football field, while in the winter it turns into a tobogganing hill. From the top, one can view over most rooftops in the neighbourhood and out towards the city center.
This project was initiated under the Braila Laboratory masters studio in the spring of 2015 at the Bergen School of Architecture in Bergen, Norway. Here the schematic design was formed by students Tiina Teräs and Frede Vik under the guidance of teachers Cristian Stefanescu, Catalina Ionita, Guillarme Eckly and Andrea Spreafico.
The final design was developed in 2016 by Irina Pața, Cristian Ștefănescu, Tiina Teräs and Frede Vik. It received first prize under the Urbaniada national public space competition, and was subsequently constructed with the support of Urbaniada, ING Bank and Braila Municipality.