“Bairro Criativo” launched in Porto, Portugal on 24 May, the latest of my City As Platform projects which approach the urban landscape as a creative platform. I’m pleased to say that Porto has responded in style.
The agency ADDICT, lead by creative industries maestro Michael DaCosta Babb, asked me to create and direct a project exploring the question “how creative can Portugal be?”. The result is Bairro Criativo (Creative Quarter). Bairro Criativo combines the question they wanted to ask with one that I always like to ask:
We hear so much about ‘The Creative City’, but when do we get to see it?
For Porto, Bairro Criativo is that chance.
The framework for the project is quite simple. I put out the call through ADDICT’s communication channels to invite anyone in the city – designers, homemakers, business people, kids with crayons – anyone – to think of one thing they’d like to do to temporarily improve people’s daily lives in Porto. The only criteria was that the proposed ideas had to be simple, quick, and go in and come out with only a light touch on the city – nothing destroyed before they are installed, and no damage when they leave.
Of paramount importance to me was that this was an opportunity for a direct relationship between creative ideas and the physical city. No months of planning, no public workshops with post-it notes – let me know your ideas, let’s talk about how they’ll work within the framework of the project, and let’s make them happen. There are times when the long game is appropriate, and there are times when you just need to make the ideas happen.
It was interesting that a lot of people instinctively thought in what you could say were modular ideas – creating objects and opportunities to plug into the existing city to create new experiences, opportunities, and at times even temporary infrastructure. It was wonderful to see people think in modular, incremental terms – there was a pragmatic quality to the ideas at the same time as a fresh imagination which I enjoyed.
For a preview of a couple ideas I’m particularly excited about seeing happen…
Farmville for Real is a collection of modular structures made of two interlocking pieces. These small strucutres can exist on their own or in a group to enable pop-up community gardens anywhere, depending on the desire of the residents. The objectives of the project, say the creators are to:
- Provide people with an inexpensive opportunity to participate collectively in a project of common good.
- Promote shared responsibility in public spaces.
- Renew the urban landscape, making it more pleasant and healthy.
- Teach children and young people to start early to enhance the environment.
- Create an alternative way of spending free time.
- Create neighborly ties among the participants of the project.
Another piece, Estrutura Simbiotica by Dioga Aguiar and Teresa Otto is a modular construction that, as they say, “aims not only to increase the space of existing bus stops, but also to entertain those who are still waiting for their transportation.” I like it for both the visual qualities, but also for its symbiotic relationship with the bus stop (as the name would imply), and for its role in getting us to think of other areas and objects of the cities that could host a designed structure that plugs in to existing objects to increase both functionality and enjoyment.
More information on the project can be found on ADDICT’s website (in Portuguese).
For Portuguese readers, you can find an overview of the project in the current issue of Time Out Porto – scanned above.
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