#1 Participation is like love.*
If it doesn’t touch your needs, you’re not really involved.
At the beginning, it was like teenagers. Love at the first sight, destiny, nothing else to live for. But instead of love it was participation.
I had discovered a precious thing and I saw it everywhere, and I tryed to fit it in every project. In March 2009, I made a call for picture among friends and colleagues to collect a huge number of pics of cities street views. I wanted to make a booklet with an imaginary European city made up by little pieces of existing ones.
To my surprise, no more than 5 people answered to my task.
Time went by, I didn’t go on with my project but I realised that it was not a participatory project. It was me asking for a favor. Then I started to study the truthful meaning of the word “participation” and collecting realised project that really explored this practise.
This year I had the opportunity to interview Pierre Bernard and Alex Jordan, members of the Grapus collective, the most known design collective in public graphic design active from the 70s to 90s. When asked about co-creation and co-design, Mr Bernard seems to be sceptic about a generically creative democracy. He admits that when he was younger he didn’t have the same idea but today he strongly believes that a formal democracy is something we have to avoid, that it only serves the established order and it does not have sense. He leads us to a point whose critical importance I’m starting to know: collective projects find their sense and success only if every member is personally involved on the subject. In other ways we can call it formal democracy and it’s no longer useful to research. Pierre Bernard as wekk as Mr Jordan feel that today’s esprit is no more the same of the ’60 or ’70 when they believed everything was possible.
Maybe today we, young designers, architects, planners and first of all citizens, are the one who have to say it.
My love has matured, I don’t love because I can’t do otherwise, I love because I believe in it and I know how to mange it. I’ve learned the first prerequisite for any participation process is that people has to be involved in an issue to be claiming to be able to participate.
* Thanks to andres walliser considerations during Public space and people design session, I took them as an input!
#2 Comfort and public space
During our last Tactical Urbanism design session, we asked Dreamhamar team to know something more about citizens’ participation in Hamar. Francesco tried to explain us that Hamariens don’t need to re-affirm their public space ownership, because they feel they have it. I was impressed by the description of Francesco about the Norwegian comfort in living public space, I never thought of it before. But in a few moments everything appears clear. People feel comfortable in public space and I think that maybe it’s the same with all public issues like services for example. As we can see for Stortorget square, the city municipality is doing a great participative project to the square redesign and at the same time a big investment with the City Cultural Centre that it’s planned for 2012. So in a way, it seems that things are going in the right way in Norway and people aren’t afraid of public issues. This normality, seems to me, as Italian, a singularity, given that in my country benches begin to be removed from public space to avoid citizen socialisation. It seems to me that we are living two different realities in the north and south of Europe, but I wonder if this is also reflected in a different approach to the participatory processes. If citizens have confidence in public authorities, should not be less stimulated in opening the decision-making process?