The vicious circle of spatial fragmentation and social segregation in Costa Rica's Greater Metropolitan Area has led to a rejection of public spaces by citizens withdrawing into their own, privately controlled, urban life-worlds. In this context, the Popular School of Urbanism (PSU) offers participatory workshops for citizens to acquire the necessary analysis, planning and design skills regarding issues that affect their neighborhoods, so they can interact and develop the tools to solve these issues in a bottom-up manner. Each workshop module of the PSU will consist of four components: theory and best practices; local DNA analysis; solutions and design development; practical implementation to be co-financed by the community, municipality and private sector. All modules and implementations will be published in an open source manual for learning purposes and future applications. Through citizen empowerment and appropriation of the co-authored projects, the project aims at a long-term recovery of the urban public space in denial.
Topics of interventions will be co-defined by the participants throughout the workshops; those may range from transport-related issues to the improvement of existing parks and playgrounds, temporary to permanent installations, activities in public spaces as well as private lots or allocations on the borderline of public and private domain (such as de-fencing, green or productive walls, the inclusion of small-scale commercial activities, illumination etcetera). The interventions can work individually or as a systemic network of urban acupunctures that stimulate positive change by activating the spaces around and amongst them.
The PSU will produce a series of projects that can be summarized as Tactical Urbanism, an umbrella term used to describe low-cost, temporary changes to the built environment, which is also commonly referred to as Guerilla Urbanism, Pop-Up Urbanism, City Repair, or D.I.Y. Urbanism. For example, the Street Plans Collaborative defines Tactical Urbanism as an approach that features the following five characteristics: (1) a deliberate, phased approach to instigating change; (2) the offering of local solutions for local planning challenges; (3) short-term commitment and realistic expectations; (4) low-risks, with a possibly high reward; (5) the development of social capital between citizens and the building of organizational capacity between public-private institutions, non-profits, and their constituents. The City Lab simply refers to "quick, often temporary, cheap projects that aim to make a small part of a city more lively or enjoyable."
Location: Curridabat, Costa Rica