Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura de Barcelona (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya): Eva Serrats
Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura del Vallès (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya): Pere Fuertes, Francesc Pla
Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura de Reus (Universitat Rovira i Virgili): Manuel Bailo, Roger Miralles
Scuola di Architectura, Urbanisitca e Ingegneria della Costruzioni (Politecnico di Milano): Martina Bovo, Paola Briata, Barbara Brollo, Davide Colaci, Lola Ottolini, Gennaro Postiglione, Pierluigi Salvadeo
School of Architecture (Lund University): Jesús Mateo, Rúni Weihe
Winchester School of Art (Universitiy of Southampton): Daniel Cid
Presentation of the project and the team
January 30 – February 3
In-person Workshop at ETSAV (Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona) Phase 1
March – May
Online workshops – Presentations and tutorials
In-person Workshop in Venice and presentation of the final results
FOLLOWING THE FISH
This project proposes generating a new social imaginary from an African consideration from where to project ourselves and raise the entire social adventure to another level. Today, Africa, the dawn of humanity, can provide a different perspective on social life, conceived from the idea of that which is shared and sense of balance. Our project, Following the Fish, wants to participate in this utopia and identify those places where these new practices and new discourses are articulated. And so this alliance with Top Manta. A Barcelona community from Senegal, an Africa built from afar, from the diaspora.
This Senegalese community, in the diaspora, are the bearers of values and knowledge, of shared struggles, and they are waiting for someone to give them shape. A community that, in its desire to overcome and fight, has been surrounded by the best graphic, fashion, social networks, and communication designers, as well as human rights activists and lawyers. But they have never worked closely with architects or designers of spaces. This is surprising, especially for those of us who admire their capacity to create community and a coexistence that is fair and egalitarian, despite the obvious impediments that our system forces them endure.
We want Following the Fish to be a space where ideas from a workshop with architecture students from around the world can be exhibited to fuel debate and transformation. A unique opportunity to plan with the ‘manteros’ community, with an Africa made from afar, to explore new spaces of coexistence for everyone, for the benefit of all.
We want it to be a project that calls the migrant community, the architectural community, but also the administration, who are the ones who will make these Rehearsals possible. It is an opportunity to put some pressure on them and demand new prototypes for coexistence.
Condition and commitment, which, in part, depends on the quality and accuracy of what we are all able to imagine together. We want to leave knowing more things, having learned more things and with a greater ability to influence on real life. This is what realpolitik is all about.
The Opportunity of Coming from Different Places
This international laboratory will take advantage of the different perspectives that emerge from different geographical realities to project replicable, transversal and innovative future scenarios. The workshop is a meeting place, as is a city. More diverse the origin, the more guaranteed a cultural confrontation will be, the more powerful the results.
The challenges, converted into concrete exercises in this workshop, share in common the following:
They are based on an immediate transformation of the city we have.
They capture 3 principles that are born from ‘manteros’ life. Requests of a sort resulting from their observations, needs and desires. What they call dreams.
Ceebu Jeen. Soup kitchen. Redefinition of soup kitchens based on making sovereignties visible, starting with food sovereignty. In the ‘manteros’ workshop in Can Batlló, when it’s time for lunch, everyone stops their activity and gathers to eat together. While they were working, someone cooked food for everyone. These meals, which are an expression of the collective, guarantee a healthy and nutritious meal that for some will be the only one of the day.
The street vendor community has long thought about moving this practice to an open establishment, one that is neighborhood-based and replicable. A place that everyone can access, enabling whatever exchange practices necessary, producing a rich cuisine, and using local products.
A practice that values, in a cultural, social and sustainable sense, a model of cuisine that not too long ago we carried out at our workplaces and that we have been slowly replacing in favor of a daily special. Restaurants that offer extensive menus, often out of season and from distant places. As if it were a right. The other predominant option is pre-cooked meals or our brown bag lunches, individualized meals that make evident how ineffective our habits are and how little they think about community.Starting here and with the ‘manteros’ experience, can we rethink the community aspect of food? Can we imagine collective kitchens managed by the communities themselves? Can we imagine soup kitchens that don’t stigmatize? Sharing could once again be appealing.
Taranga. Welcome shelter. Temporary residential collective housing for migrants.
A welcome shelter is fundamental. So as to not get lost, to be able to care for and accompany those who have just arrived. A quality place to spend the necessary amount of time in order to re-compose a life. But the residential configuration of these spaces does not require the residential configuration of our houses or homes, distributed in rooms, which reproduce a custom based on compartmentalization and, on occasion, individualism. Often, the ‘manteros’ community makes us realize the impossibility of a community life in our homes. Adequate dimensions to gather round the elderly and listen to their stories cannot be found; the devices to welcome them are not available; there is not always space. Instead, they defend the open house plan, a large home.
A passage from the book Baye Fall: Expressions of Senegalese Islam in Barcelona (page 62. Marta Contijoch, Marisol Bucar and Nuria Sanmartí. Pollen editions. 2021) gives us a clue when they describe the squatting of an old nightclub.
“This space was called AfrikaRoots, and at least fifty people lived there in rooms self-constructed from recycled materials. It was a dark space with little ventilation, as expected from an old nightclub. There was a large residential area where an array of migrants lived, the vast majority without residence visas or work permits. The rooms had been built by hand, using wood found on the street. There was also a large room that constituted a common social space. That warehouse had once been a nightclub called Dixi 724, famous for the airplane hanging from its ceiling. The whole structure – the bars, the bathrooms, the halls, and even the plane – was maintained. The electrical installation was precarious, and the City Hall had recently cut off the water. Nevertheless, the rooms were surprisingly functional and comfortable, and were built very solidly. There were constructions of up to two and three floors made with wooden pallets. These were scattered throughout the space, some were even on the roof of the building. At the entrance, there was a fairly large area surrounded by rooms where tables and chairs had been placed and which seemed to be the social center of the space. At one of those tables we met Camilo, a man about 35 years-old who had arrived in Catalonia from the Canary Islands more than a decade ago. He had been living in the industrial unit for a few weeks, and he told us what he knew about the history of the space and its inhabitants. He told to us that at the back part of the old nightclub, in the old dance area, with the bar and DJ podium, a completely soundproofed area, was where the Baye Fall organized reggae parties every weekend and where they met on Thursdays to pray.”
Are the cohabitation possibilities that have interested us architects so much to be found here? Can they help us to imagine community-based residential models? Should we capacitate spaces that are categorically distant from the home to adapt them for the benefit of a welcome shelter? Can we make the Senegalese rural model urban?
Sutura. Dispersed facilities. Conversion of ground floor premises as catalysts for transformative social uses.
The challenge has taken shape in the observation of the back room of the ‘manteros’ store in the Raval neighborhood. A space that solves the problem of a warehouse and logistics of the commercial space, but at the same time, has become a small social facility. It is the place where they meet, where struggles are fleshed out, posters are prepared; a place where they rest, where they pray, where they do their homework, charge their mobile phones; a place where they gather to eat… Activities that guarantee their presence at a street level, open to everyone, where they can all be together. This model – rare, undervalued, almost non-existent in generic commercial establishments – is part of an idea of community that improves our quality of coexistence.
A strategy that is based on equipping the neighborhood, not by adding objects to the street but by providing the neighborhood with premises. Taking advantage of the enormous opportunity the pandemic has offered, the endemic neglect of shopping locally, the streets can become green, but with back rooms. For the neighborhood, to store tables, games, lighting, a storage space, a space for recycling. But also to give coverage to a city conscientious about care and shelter, as well as the environment, where meals can be cooked, where homeless people can spend the night… Pocket-sized solutions, dispersed and hybrid facilities. Distributed throughout the streets, such as in London, where the tube stations are inside buildings.
If beyond the necessary commercial dynamics, the streets are also endowed with community back rooms, we will surely find ourselves in a new scenario of transformation that will inevitably result in the necessary social engagement. The streets must stop being seen only as capital U urban and buildings must take joint responsibility in redefining the scope of what is public.
Can we imagine the possibilities? Can we spread back rooms of this kind throughout our cities?
This proposal revolves around rehearsing in three formats, typologies or programs, to try to preview possible future scenarios.
And it wants to do so by provoking new ways of looking, new ways of mapping places and those who inhabit them; providing proposals to our system in order to change it through possible strategies, pocket-sized ones, based on concrete ideas, but potentially replicable, scalable or transferable.
A Rehearsal that reclaims the culture of the project as a form of knowledge, discussion and reflection, but also as an operational way of making things happen; they end up being rehearsed, so why not also built.
We want to do this by together asking ourselves questions, exploring new possibilities, and evaluating the results.
In this sense it would be good to think together, and in the process, what ways we have, or can create, to measure these new scenarios (the decarbonizing potential of living differently).
The first time this curatorial team implemented this type of evaluable methodology was with Dress Rehearsal: City and Food Sustainability, a project that explored with the Fostering Arts and Design how the city’s food sustainability could be improved. The aim was to explore how certain tactical, temporary, and participative urban planning actions permit, through the strategic capacity of design, to “rehearse” how a city could behave in coherence with the challenges posed by our current food production and consumption system.