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How can public space be appropriated to reduce inequality?

By 15 abril, 2014 No Comments


In this course, we discussed how interventions into urban public spaces can create multiple benefits for cities, their inhabitants and the relationship between the two: they create the appropriation of public space (causing feelings of belonging, caring relations, community, etc.) and are a way of improving the habitability of public space. We studied examples of urban interventions in Bogotá, Medellín, London and New York to identify in these concrete cases the needs, proposed solutions, actors involved and factors to keep in mind in carrying out a successful urban intervention.


Zebras for life: In 2012, a group of young people decided to do something for the city and its people and proposed painting a multicolored zebra crossing, using their own resources. This group of young people, now known as the Combo 2600, got together with the goal of thinking and reflecting about Bogotá, proposing citizen empowerment and shared responsibility as the main pillars of urban and social transformation in the city.


Bike Lanes on San Juan Avenue: citizen participation and the implementation and adaptation of a bike lane on March 30th.

New York

– Play Streets: “Play streets” (car-free, residential streets designed for recreation) have been implemented in London and New York. The process was officially established in 1914, allowing residents to request the temporary closure of a neighborhood street by filling out a form with 51% of residents’ signatures.

– From Pavement to Plaza: These types of interventions decry the excessive amount of space given to vehicles in cities and propose the use of this space for pedestrians and cyclists. Normally such efforts do not require a lot of money or time (one could close and transform a space overnight).

-Bankside Urban Forest:  (In Bankside, a London neighborhood that had been forgotten and left to deteriorate until 2000, when the farmers market and the Tate Modern gallery opened.)  Bankside Urban Forest attempts to be a great neighborhood to live, work and visit. It is a strategy to improve public space, including streets, plazas, parks and the area of Bankside generally.

– Urban Orchard:  Within the framework of the 2010 London Architecture Festival and the Bankside Urban Forest Plan (urban renewal). The organizers of the intervention were Wayward Plants, The Architecture Foundation, Bankside Open Spaces Trust and ProjectARKs. The goal was to make an abandoned area into a community space that would be a site of interaction and exchange among neighborhood residents and festival attendees.

Finally, we provided some general guidelines for developing an urban intervention in cities (community inclusion, negotiation with main actors, reach and primary purpose of intervention, logistical questions).  To develop this project, we relied on the participation of Professors Andrea Burbano and Pablo Páramo (Universidad Piloto of Colombia and Pedagógica Nacional) who presented the topic of habitability of public space and delivered a survey with 60 of the more than 100 attendees. At the end, they gave the floor to the attendees to help identify additional elements to remember when thinking about public space, about how to intervene and make it more habitable and enjoyable for all.

See the event presentation here (in Spanish).