A Visit to Concéntrico_05
Let’s be realistic: it’s impossible to even try to keep up with what’s happening on the Spanish architecture scene. But I don’t think that’s any excuse for my not having had the faintest idea that Concéntrico even existed until I was invited, as a member of the Escala Humana team together with Núria Moliner and Jaume Clèries, to close its fifth edition. We can’t thank the organization enough. Or get over the excitement we experienced there. Thank you, Concéntrico, from the bottom of our hearts.
But let me give the festival its due.
Logroño is a pleasant city with a pedestrianised, strollable city centre well connected to the River Ebro. And it has heritage, a lot of heritage. The Concéntrico festival celebrates public space by means of urban interventions chosen by competition from among the proposals presented in each edition. When they work (and they usually do), these interventions galvanise the city’s public domain, allowing its inhabitants to perceive aspects of it that they’ve often never noticed in their day to day lives. Concéntrico enjoins awareness of what the city is through actions which may potentially lead to a process of reflection. The interventions are complemented by debates and performances that reinforce and expand their basic concepts.
It’s impossible to talk about Concéntrico without mentioning its organization. The festival’s alma mater is architect Javier Peña. He’s managed to put together a team of enthusiastic volunteers who truly deserve medals. Peña’s vision has endowed the festival with twofold significance. For an outsider like myself, the local dimension, with its emphasis on public space in Logroño itself, is key to an understanding of the event’s success in that it encompasses the whole of the historic city centre, inviting reflection on the whole city and thus somehow visualising its true magnitude. The other significance (and the one architects find the more appealing) stems from what Logroño has to offer as a generic metropolis which, taken as a case study, stimulates debate about public space: a debate perfectly extrapolatable to many other urban contexts in many other countries.
The result: people. Lots of people. People taking guided tours of the festival (the last one had 250 participants, but the one before that had at least 150 more, most of whom were locals). People – mainly children, lots of children – playing with the installations, and thereby enjoying public space while at the same time acquiring a critical outlook that we – or at least the children in my day – never experienced. Cóncentrico has taken on a personality of its own. My impression is that now, with five successful editions under its belt already, it still has much to offer. Very much indeed. Talking to some volunteers after the closing ceremony, I told them that next year they’re going to do even better. They looked at me apprehensively and said they didn’t know how they could that. Neither do I. But they’ll do it. I know they will. And I’ll be back to see it.