An exhibition in Madrid explores how people use and create the space outside the planned limits of cities.
For the first time in my life, I’m happy with Iberia services. They cancelled my flight from Gijón to Madrid and I was informed at the last minute that I was booked on a plane that departed before dawn. The new schedule meant that I’d have to wait eight hours for my connecting flight in Barajas airport (stunning architecture, crap-est over-priced food in the entire universe). I decided I would take the opportunity generously bestowed upon me by the dreadful airline and do something more interesting than spend hours in duty free shops. I left Barajas, took the metro to the center of Madrid, got a decent meal and visited an exhibition.
The lunch wasn’t memorable but the show was a joy. Post-it City. Occasional Urbanities – Ciudades Ocasionales at Centro Centro looks into temporary occupations of public space that appear on the fringe of urban-planning. Neither authorities nor architects have planned these informal uses of space. Whether they emerge for commercial, recreational, sexual or survival reasons, post-it practices answer needs that the city isn’t able to answer adequately.
Post-it City phenomena emphasize the reality of the urban territory as the place where distinctive uses and situations legitimately overlap, in opposition to the growing pressures to homogenize public space. In contrast to the ideals of the city as a place of consensus and consumption, temporary occupations of space reaffirm use value, reveal different needs and lacks that affect given collectives, and even promote creativity and the subjective imagination.
From another standpoint, the temporary activities that contaminate public space with numerous para-architectural artefacts enable reflection on urban experience to redirect its attention towards the minuscule, thus correcting the arrogance of traditional architecture.
The exhibition has been touring for a few years and I even got my hands on the catalogue a while ago. I can’t seem to be able to locate it right now but it’s available on Amazon USA and UK. The show is packed with fantastic information, photographs and stories. I wish I could talk about every single one of them but that won’t be necessary as all the projects have been listed on the Post-It City website. Here’s a small selection:
Every Autumn, the Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods in Brooklyn, New York, are sprinkled with temporary outdoor structures called sukkah. People live there for 7 days as a way to remember the fragile dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.
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Régine Debatty is the creator of the ‘We Make Money Not Art’ blog and an art show curator. She has also spoken at several conferences and festivals about the way artists, hackers and interaction designers (mis)use technology. Learn more about Régine Debatty.