Within the frame of the Habitat III Conference, which is scheduled for this week in Quito, it is important to mention all the activities, ideas and alternative proposals that are emerging in the city. Ambulant Tactical Urban Planning Labs (LIUTS – in Spanish), is a workshop put forward by two neighbourhoods in Quito, Santa Clara and Pisulí, over three days in August this year. Organized under the umbrella of the YoutHab Conference, which represents a platform for youth to exchange ideas and discuss their rights in relation to the city. These workshops are an example of the positive initiatives being brought forward by young Ecuadorians.
The workshops were designed as an urban experiment, which sought to involve different actors in the city, such as public institutions, the community and architecture students. Two locations were selected: Santa Clara neighbourhood, which represents an emblematic area of Quito and which faces the principles problems of a lack of urban furniture; poor urban aesthetics; and few pedestrian friendly spaces. In parallel, another location with different characteristics was selected: Pisulí neighbourhood. Here, insecurity, lack of public space and minimal support from public bodies, has generated strong social cohesion among inhabitants, who manage all changes in public spaces within the neighbourhood. To universities are involved in the urban experiment: the Central University of Ecuador -the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism-; and the University of the Americas -the Faculty of Architecture and Design- with the objective that students propose urban strategies at the neighbourhood scale. Some 120 proposals were presented for the two neighbourhoods, of which 57 proposals were selected, the students socialised and verified the viability of the projects.
During weeks prior to workshops, the students and professors conducted socialization and modifications to proposals based participatory processes with the community and the available materials. For example, in the case of Pisulí, the “Café de Barrio”, which aimed to encourage and share with residents the community participation within urban processes and sustainable mobility. In addition, during this period other entities were involved such as TECHO ECUADOR supported by volunteers for the workshop days in Pisulí.
During workshop proposals were developed. In the case of Pisulí, with the community improvements to the main street to public spaces and urban furniture with car tires collected by residents, were agreed. In the case of Santa Clara, students from the Central University represent the majority of the community that live in the neighbourhood. They made changes in urban aesthetics: messages against pedestrian harassment and the installation of urban furniture in the central square. During the workshops delegates from the United Nations attended the implementation of the proposals.
The workshops included the first urban experiment of this type by the organizers. Its main objective sought to generate the appropriation of public space by the community. To understand that we live in a community in our city and that small interventions can be the first step to great changes, has already been realised by participants. In addition, for students, this represented an opportunity to leave the academic framework and interact with the users of urban spaces, with a minimum budget and manage their projects, this represented their first professional experience. Beyond all acquired knowledge, the reality of sharing thoughts with people from different social strata, opens our consciousness to understand our duty to interaction in the city; which at the same time, can go hand in hand with the helping communities lacking essential urban infrastructure.
María Amanda Padilla R.