RAONS PÚBLIQUES (2018). << ¡Sí se puede!; Construyendo el “Así se hace”>>, in LACOL (2018). Construir en Colectivo. Participación en Arquitectura y Urbanismo, Pol·len Edicions, Barcelona, pp. 22-27.


Public Space: From Public Opinion to Citizens’ Commitment

When important decision-making processes are based on public opinion and dependent on majority support, they lose their capacity to incorporate new actors into collective transformation initiatives and to create new forms of human interaction.  

Scene from the film “Amanece, que no es poco” (1989). Ngé goes to vote at a polling table supervised by the mayor, the parish priest and a corporal of the Civil Guard . After voting, the results are announced.

Transfixed by the recent crisis in the notion of representativity, numerous institutional mediums have found that new tools are required in order to include more voices in decision-making processes. In city planning and development, people are already talking about institutionalised participative planning, a form of public planning and urban design which seeks to take into account the opinions of as many people as possible. It’s an idea that goes beyond the notion of technical-public representativity and serves to legitimise urban initiatives.

This approach to decision-making has been described as a top-down paradigm, as opposed to a bottom-up paradigm.

Principales rasgos en los procesos de toma de decisión Top-Down y Bottom-Up. Tabla comparativa. Elaboración propia

Assuming both these paradigms evolve to their full potential, the question arises of how we can establish urban development instruments capable of connecting the two and bringing them into agreement.

At fasebase, we believe part of the solution lies in the inevitable transformation of public institutions from developers and executors of actions for the public good into providers of time frames and human and material resources for the building of communities. We’ve also seen how some of the actions taken on by institutions in this new role as “facilitating” entities consist simply of backing the generation of spaces where people can meet in the city. Spaces which, thanks to communal management, encourage the inclusion of new actors, the creation of new links between residents and the forging of greater collective commitment, while at the same time visualising the need for local level planning.  Spaces which, in the words of Raons Públiques, are capable of “going beyond the participation by invasion/participation by invitation dichotomy”1.

Different examples exist: in community culture, with the ideas of civic space and citizens’ laboratories, in the creation of cohousing models, and in the field of urban planning itself, with the development of new mechanisms for intervention in public spaces.

The principal features of top-down and bottom-up decision-making. Comparison chart. Drawn up by the author.In relation to this last point, last year we did a project to produce a Guide for Activating Public Spaces in Puerto del Rosario (Fuerteventura). The recently published document explores the connections between tactical and experimental urban development with strategic urban planning  tools. Its aim is to endow the city with a framework for joint action in urban development. That way, emerging possibilities in tactical urban development and urban prototyping would no longer seek to establish a constrictive microscale discourse which would anchor them to barren scenarios with (usually) no projection on a larger scale. Instead they’d form part of a broader process marked by a strategic view of city development, creating tools for more direct urban intervention which would in turn serve to counter the immobilism of grandiose urban development plans.

Methodological overview of civic design for activating public space. Guía de Activación de Espacios Públicos, p.32.

Essentially, the idea is to work towards building urban public spaces which, without relinquishing their public purpose, are open to communal action and communal management, and to extend their present role as aggregators of opinion to accommodate the concepts of autonomy and collective commitment in the ways they are used and transformed.

Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Notas de página

RAONS PÚBLIQUES (2018). << ¡Sí se puede!; Construyendo el “Así se hace”>>, in LACOL (2018). Construir en Colectivo. Participación en Arquitectura y Urbanismo, Pol·len Edicions, Barcelona, pp. 22-27.

(Águilas, 1987) Socio cooperativista y cofundador de la Oficina de Innovación Cívica S. Coop. Miembro de la red internacional CivicWise.

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