Week 9: Engaging outward
Andrea Cook, Studio Leader
Week nine in Studio D (Inclusive Public Spaces in Diverse Communities) was an outward looking week, with a guest lecture on Tuesday and then the student-organised pop up consultations and place activation on Thursday.
On Tuesday, Blake Farmar-Bowers (Senior Landscape & Urban Designer at the City of Yarra) was asked to speak to the studio about spatial analysis (or how to turn data into a plan for a place…). For social planners, this can be new and daunting terrain, especially in space as ‘territorialised’ as the Lennox Street corridor. The presentation focused on the case study of the Lennox and Victoria Street corner, currently undergoing upgrade works, and discussed the ways in which very varied activities can be accommodated in a tight space. The session really highlighted the critical need for social and spatial planning to work more closely to embed social justice principles in urban design work and to spatialise the observations of disadvantage we make about our cities and neighbourhoods.
Thursday 20 September represented the culmination of a lot of student planning when they hosted a half day pop up consultation/activation on site, directly outside the North Richmond Community Health Centre (NRCH) and the new Medically Supervised Injecting Room (MSIR). Using a convivial and informal atmosphere and interactive and ‘gamey’ type consultation activities, the students were able to create a space where very different people mingled together. Children and their parents from the neighbouring school took part in community mapping, storytelling, visioning … and sharing a snag! … together with tenants from the public housing, residents visiting the NRCH, drug users visiting the MSIR, homeless people using the Orange Skywasher van and staff from the NRCH and other agencies.
The most interesting part of the pop up was, in many respects, the way in which it actually embodied activation. While the consultation topic was ‘inclusive public space’ (e.g. how to achieve it) and the whole session was built around several ‘stations’ where facilitated conversations could be held about that topic, the answer was in the staging of the pop up itself as much as in the questions posed to people participating… In other words, the people attending were very diverse and they shared this pop up space in a very inclusive manner. This has important lessons for the group about the power of a gathering in building inclusive public spaces. The pop up illustrated that it also need not involve extensive programming for the benefits of a gathering to be felt. Modest events, like our pop up, can effect a real change on the feel of space.