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Walking the street! ¡Haciendo la Calle! kalea eginez! Citizen laboratory
Organisation : Bilbao/Bizkaia/Urbanbat , Spain

The context of “High neighborhoods of Bilbao” offers a very interesting moment to develop a project like this. The City Council was designing an agenda of actions for the period 2016-2020 and in a parallel way the Coordinator of Social Groups of the district realized their own participatory diagnosis of the area. Through a few citizen laboratories, neighbours, municipal technicians, socio-cultural agents and artists to collaborate, recognize each other, share experiences and work on the design strategies that contribute to improve the neighbourhood in a more sustainable and inclusive way.

 

Agendas addressed
Urban mobilityPublic spaceSocial inclusion and integration
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
Context

Commonly referred to Barrios Altos de Bilbao (“High neighborhoods of Bilbao”) is actually composed of three neighborhoods: Bilbao La Vieja, San Francisco and Zabala. Although the three neighborhoods are part of the same district, historically and geographically related, there is a morphological and social atomization which causes a lack of real connection.

Nowadays it is the most intercultural area of the city with a strong associative network that works to improve many social problems (inclusion, unemployment, prostitution, drug dealing…).On the other hand, it is a stigmatized zone, that many inhabitants of the city avoid to visit as they consider it dangerous and degraded.” At the same time, here, the walls are covered with street art, the bars are alternative, the people are arty and the old buildings are getting renovated. You’ll have understood that San Francisco and it´s neighborhood area, what we call ‘under gentrification’. 

 

In Action

The concept took place and was developed in the citizen laboratory directed by Urbanbat, an “office of urban innovation”, which offers support in regional planning groups, communities and local governments. Through it´s work (participatory processes, workshops, interventions in public space) it develops social innovation and urban creativity in order to promote a culture of citizen participation that contributes to the care and improvement of the environment. This citizen laboratories allowed an open experimentation, learning and collaborative creation space to impulse citizen innovation processes that neighborhoods, artists, socio-cultural agents, professionals from other fields and administration technicians have worked together on the design of solutions for specific urban needs. In this way, they have created a working environment that has facilitated participation and helped to reduce the distance between people and the institutions, making possible that citizens may be involved in the design of their surrounding areas. The process has become a project of research and improvement of some of the urban needs of these districts, opening the urban development discipline to other areas of knowledge, getting over the stereotypes of urban planning, art and architecture. 

By participating in several citizen laboratories, the neighbours have proposed some creative solutions meeting specific desires based on three needs identified by them;

The first was the need to connect, desingning pedestrian routes, the three distinguished areas, Bilbao La Vieja, San Francisco and Zabala, that are separated.

The second was to use art work against the gentrification process, showing and sharing the invisible heritage of people who worked actively constructing the identity of this old part of Bilbao.

The third was to visibilize the presence of women in public spaces, because of the lack of presence of women in the streets”. Indeed, at night, men are hanging in the streets of the area and women sometimes do not feel safe  walking in the streets. 

For the third need,  a group of people decided that it was a perfect moment to bring back the memory of women and also make the physical presence of women more welcomed here.

The project has been realized in the context of Human Cities, a network of European cities that aims to put people at the heart of the design of cities. The Institution who leadered the program in Bilbao was Bilbao Ekintza, a municipal company that aims to promote the generation of economic and social wealth for Bilbao.

Results

Fruit of this collective intelligence exercise and mixture of popular, scientific-technic and artistic knowledge, three works of improvement have being done on the public space:

  • 10 artistic interventions on store blinds that make visible and put in value the important contribution of women in the construction of the neighborhood. Most of the painters were also women and live in the area. A historical memory exercise which unfolds through the three high districts of Bilbao. Map-Women inhabiting the streets: https://issuu.com/urbanbat/docs/human_cities_mapa_a_y_b
  • 4 pedestrian routes are collected on a map that put in relation the three neighborhoods and propose a visit through interventions on store blinds. Each of the routes traced a positive word about these stigmatized neighborhoods.
  • A guide which collects 20 recommendations for future interventions in the public space of Barrios Altos. An open source document, editable and adaptable to other urban contexts. Each of the recommendations is accompanied by an example which has being applied in many cities arround the world. Examples which show that type of recommendations are possible. Build a more resilient territory; Use urban voids; cross the line between identities; introduce the gender perspective; do not forget about the neighborhood’s past… If the guide is partly based on the Bilbao experiment, each recommendation is illustrated with examples from around the world.https://issuu.com/urbanbat/docs/guia_20de_20recomendaciones_web_eng
  • Here the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tRzAXA8-nE
  • More information (Spanish): https://urbanbat.org/portfolio_page/haciendo-la-calle/
Impact

These citizen laboratories have allowed to open an experimentation, learning and  collaborative creation space for impulse citizen innovation processes that neighborhoods, artists, socio-cultural agents, professionals from other fields and administration technicians have worked together on the design of solutions for specific urban needs. In this way, we have created a working environment that has facilitated participation and helped to reduce the distance between people and the institutions, making possible that citizens may be  involved in the design of their surroundings area. The process has become a project of research and improvement of some of the urban needs of these districts, opening the urban development discipline to other areas of knowledge, getting over the stereotypes of urban planning, art and architecture. 

In addition to the results, we believe that the more rewarding has been the work of mediation and collective creation. In this way, it has been able to meet a very important part of the rich and diverse associative and creative network of our neighborhoods for design together actions to improve public space.

Supporting entities: Eusko Jaurlaritza - Gobierno Vasco, Bilbao Ekintza, Bizkaiko Foru Aldundía, EHU-UPV Kultura, Europa Creativa

Collaborating entities: Colaborabora,Civersity, Wikitoki, Human Cities, Coordinadora Barrios Altos de Bilbao, Xake espazioa, Asociación de vecinos Zabalaberri, SC Gallery, Asociación de comerciantes de Bilbao Histórico

 

Timeline: 2016-2017. Haciendo la calle! (I) 2016. Haciendo la calle! (II) 2017.

 

Participants: 162 people in the laboratory. 10 artists in the interventions + 1 curator

 

Challenges and lessons learned

We could co-create urban issues in a collaborative and innovative way wiht public institutions, neighbours and experts.

People were curious to see how many neighbors did not know this part of their history, which confirms the invisibility towards the heritage of women.

In March 2018, one piece of art was damaged. But a local association, named Xake, organized a citizen call to repaint the original. Neighbors and the artist worked hard together. We are proud because we can now say that the leadership of this collaborative urban design project has been transferred to the citizens. 

 

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