Reusing underused spaces turning them into public space

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“Just as important as physical structures, are the public spaces in between. In many cities these spaces have long been disregarded. Today, however, we are witnessing bold experimentation and innovation coming forth from cities across the globe: cities re-using and re-imagining previously underused spaces in order to uplift communities and transform lives.

Consider, for example, Medellin, Colombia. Through innovative efforts focused on placemaking and the creation of lively public space, Medellin has demonstrated how a greater understanding of the value of public spaces, and the power unleashed by bringing people together within those places, can turn the most violent blighted cities into thriving vibrant communities.

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The City of Medellin began by instituting policy solutions that focused on revitalizing the city’s poorest areas. New transit links were brought in to connect the slums on hillsides to the formal jobs below. Because the hills were too steep for bus rapid transit, gondolas and escalators were installed to provide creative mobility solutions for the residents.

This programs were created by local architecture firms, to create a strong sense of place.

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But city-wide transformation is not necessary, as even small scale projects can make a big difference. For example, Katherine Darnstadt, AIA, the founder of Chicago’s Latent Design, has worked with Alex Gilliam of Public Workshop to empower 11 teenage girls to improve a vacant lot on Chicago’s Far South Side. Through the application of design and science these young women were able to create a peaceful and imaginative play area for neighborhood children.

Over a two-week period the participants spent time on site collaborating with one another and gathering ideas from passersby to elicit greater community input. They measured, designed, tested, engineered, and built the “Climb, Jump, Leap, Imagine” playground, which included a rope course, decking, and a sandbox.

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Community members joined in and spent evenings helping out, providing donations, and even cleaning a nearby vacant lot. The outcome of this project was a community space built by the community for the community. Design was the key connector, but the people – both those who took part in the program and the neighborhood members who got involved – made it happen. The relationships people form with one another and the space around them are what make cities work.”

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(vía Plataforma Arquitectura)

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