Think Public Space
Work title: Holiday Carpet
The sidewalk is the site of a perpetual territorial dispute between building and street, both seeking to extend their domain into the thin space that separates them. This ambiguous territory plays host to numerous informal events that are manifestations of commercial interests and the personal needs of residents. As socioeconomic forces threaten to shrink the sidewalk into nonexistence, these narrow public realms are at risk of extinction. Portions of the public sidewalk are actively being quartered off and occupied by parking, cafes, and food carts that produce an awkward tension in spaces supposedly dictated by the pedestrian right of way.
As old European capitals struggle to accommodate vehicle traffic on their narrow streets, roads are cut through the old city fabric, displacing parks and sidewalks with the addition of extra lanes and parking spaces. Formerly walkable city centers are disrupted by the demands of the automobile alienate public space from both residents and tourists.
But the sidewalk makes a comeback - the street is a potentially neutral platform reprogrammed by weekly fairs, parades and farmers markets that close off roads to make way for scheduled public events. Public need has hybridized new architectural prototypes from the ad hoc to the government sponsored.
Like a doormat that welcomes guests into a home, the carpet removes the threshold separating pedestrian and motorist, defining a space which resolves their mutual occupation. By temporarily erasing the boundaries of the curb, we extend the sidewalk into the street to reclaim the public space of the city.
A flying carpet moves from one European capitol to the next: it reconfigures its tiles to address different urban contexts, events and social issues. Events last longer than a single day - sometimes a week or more, all without needing to remove the carpet underlay. In the meantime, cars drive over and life in the city continues on as usual.
The carpet is a plan blueprint on which all possible uses may occur. The actions and attitudes of the public fill the gaps between architecture and empty, neutral space in which possible social situations may unfold – a suggestion, rather than a physical imposition, it anticipates a response from the public with elements and furniture sourced locally. The carpet sets the stage for an event of arbitrary significance. Its presence is an excuse to congregate - the subject of a continental holiday.
Coming soon to your home town - by bus, boat and train. In each city the carpet sponsors events that are locationally specific and politically relevant.
We nominate four unique circumstances in several European capitals to serve as the test subjects for our intervention. This is by no means an exclusive list as each city throughout Europe is eligible to participate.
Zagreb, Croatia: site of endangered city squares
With government plans threatening to turn public spaces into parking lots. The carpet acts as a bridge connecting a thriving market and a retail street to the desolate space of the “new” Kvaternik square. Street shops and cafes on the edges extend onto the carpet. Independent events like the unconference.
Athens, Greece: site of protest
Students, refugees and activists take to the streets, broadcasting their discontent en masse in the public square in front of the Parliament. Post financial crisis, in the absence of a solid currency, bartering has become a new medium of exchange - trading traditional goods spread out across a carpet.
The carpet pushes the boundaries of the isolated square on all four sides stranded by the six lane roads - becomes the end of main pedestrian axis terminating at the Parliament.
Madrid, Spain: site of tourism + conflicting interests
Following the real estate crisis in Spain, during which developers created a housing bubble through numerous large construction projects that now remain empty, the presence of the carpet questions whether it is necessary to produce a static architecture in order to facilitate social exchange. The carpet connects the Plaza De Cascorro flea market, to the Plaza de Cebada, a sunken courtyard near a former grain market saved from destruction and repurposed as a community space by residents.
Berlin, Germany: site of Berlin Wall crossing
Adjacent lots remain fairly empty of buildings and programmed use. Without a clearly defined city center, the carpet marks an ‘X’ at what was once its edge, proposing a new downtown and social center to host concerts and informal events.
An infill of the streets connecting four blocks, reroutes traffic around the newly created super block.