STATISTA

Statecraft - Pioneer Usage - Representation

In conversation with Zuloark

Campo de la Cebada started in 2011, as the temporary occupation of a public space in a dense, central spot of Madrid, while awaiting its remodelling into a sport court. After 8 years of intense activity, a few months ago la Cebada closed its doors to give way to the construction of the long-awaited public equipment, in which now all these years of learning and formats as a self-organised realty are trying to be incorporated.

Campo de la Cebada takes its name from its use in the 16th century as a public square (campo) where the barley (cebada) was sorted. In 1875 the square was replaced by an indoor market, with reformation in the 60s that included a sports center and a public pool. In 2009, right before the economical crisis exploded in Spain, a pretentious plan to convert the market into a shopping mall led to its demolition. Unfortunately, due to financial difficulties, the construction of the new project, designed by Estudio Alvarez-Sala, got indefinitly postponed and the demolished area became an empty space.

In 2009 the architecture collective Basurama, directors of La Noche En Blanco Festival, reopened the space to locate a public installation by French collective Exyt. The positive experience of its temporary reactivation became a huge success. That's why a team consisting of neighbors, local associations, stallholders of the nearby market, along with the Zuloark collective, started to work on a longer-term occupation. Whereas the city council provided light and electricity, the association built up the basic equipments, such as a sun shelter, a multi-sport game court, some bleachers, an urban gardens. Weekly assemblies took place to decide and organize the different projects and Campo de la Cebada quickly became a self-managed place of encounter and experimentation. Since the beginning, the core of the occupation was to protest and ask for the construction of the awaited sports center but meanwhile el Campo became a place of any kind of event: local festivities, meetings, music festivals, fairs, open-air screenings, sport competitions… But, most of all, Campo de la Cebada became a collective learning space of self-organization. Its central location made the square a point of reference for the civic life of the city, achieving international visibility (winner of Ars Electronica Award 2013) as a successfull example of tactical urbanism.

In 2015 Ahora Madrid, a more open government team, enters the municipality of Madrid, and a new project is proposed for the sport center. The necessity to include the experiences of this last 8 years as self-managed space inside the new public equipment comes up quickly and both parts, government and citizenship start to work on it. Zuloark, the architecture collective behind the association Campo de la Cebada, answers some questions about the consolidation of the square inside and outside the new building which will occupy its place.

P
How is the consolidation of the Campo de la Cebada being approached by the association itself?

Z
La Cebada was was born with the purpose of dying when the sports centre would be built. It has had to pass 8 years to retrieve this project, and after 8 years of cultural activity, it is logical to take into account everything that happened there when designing the new project. After years of testing hybrid methods of public space management and debates with the city administration, when the opportunity arose to replicate it in other places, they went to La Cebada to ask for our help. Having experimented and experienced a series of concrete situations allow you to think that it is possible for them to happen. After all, what remains from these processes are all those things that are developed around them, the knowledge that is attained, the expertise. When the project for rebuilding the sports centre was reactivated, the debate revolved around two aspects: how to translate all the knowledge gathered during this time into the new spatial design and how to manage a public sports centre that functions simultaneously as a neighbourhood centre. Management is definitely the most difficult aspect, as it depends entirely on the council team running it. To make the institutions feel safer about our ideas, we presented our proposals referring not only to our past experience, but also to already existing references, like the Civic Centres of Vitoria (Basque Country).

P
How did this process of transmitting learning to the new project take place?

Z
Zuloark made the transition between municipality and citizenship by organizing several co-design open sessions gathering expectations, opinions and more technical comments. There was definitely a lot of collective intelligence about the space that should be included in the new design and they listened to it. Although the new government of Ahora Madrid had not collaborated at all in the daily life of La Cebada, it built the possibility to do things and was always available to speak and receive comments. At the end, there has been a tacit agreement between the municipal technicians and the inhabitants of La Cebada, but we can not tell what will happen from now. Processes of this kind are continuously self-destroyed and self-regenerated and what used to be el Campo de la Cebada, will become something else tomorrow, it cannot be repeated. When, in a few years' time, a series of neighbours will demand the new Government to comply with the agreements we have now reached, a new project will be generated with other synergies. 

P
The struggle to incorporate the learnings acquired in the square is struggled over two fronts: the spatial configuration of the sports centre, but also, and more importantly, its management - how do you deal with this issue?
Z
Someone said in one of the meetings: "If you want to have a square with a citizen management, the square has to have brooms permanently so that it can be cleaned." Above its design or use, people have understood that maintenance and care is what most engages you with the space, is what makes you feel the plaza is yours. One of our biggest struggles was to convince people that we didn't need a neighborhood multipurpose room, we wanted an equipped plaza managed by the neighbors. The administration does not have this type of model, and despite having demonstrated its efficiency during all this time, it is difficult to introduce it into the institutional structures. We have discussed an architecture of the sports center that could fulfil the requirements made by citizens, but many of these issues depend on its management. In the co-design roundtables it was sought that there could be an access managed by neighbours in the closing hours of the centre, but whether this is possible also depends on rules that have yet to be formulated and that future management will have to apply. In 2015 a new government born from citizen movements came to take over the municipality. One of its aims was to include these movements within the institution as an attempt to somehow consolidate all those initiatives that made that government possible.

P
How did the change of the municipality towards a more participative policy influence the institutionalization of  la Cebada?
Z
Conversations which were carried out in the offices and in a more informal way in the previous government, began to be managed through a program of citizen participation of local forums in each district. At that time, this was the channel of communication between the city council and non-organized citizens: Neighborhood forums. It was the municipality's way of taking witness of the work of the communities but none of those who had originally been interested in the square, were interested in a participatory format of spending hours debating and talking. The local forums were tables full of gentlemen who had a lot of free time, did not know the problems that come from experience and did not fit in with the forms that had been practiced there before.

P
Have the institutions been capable of unlearning?
Z
Yes, we are aware that the way the municipality operates, after facing projects such as the barley field, has changed. After the success and visibility of projects such as the barley field, it is very difficult to refuse projects of this kind. There was a case of a civil employee who donated a tree to the square from the municipality. As there was no protocol with which she could do so, she was accused of prevarication. The lack of spaces of possibility damaged even the officials of the institution, which made visible the need for both sides to alter the rules to allow other ways of performing. When the municipality of carmena argues that much of the learning of Cebada is necessary in many other places, they decide to create a municipal school of urban mediators so that people learn everything they need to in order to handle a square. How can a town council resolve recruitments and convoke vacancies of a knowledge that comes from a non-regulated, non-legitimized learning? Discussions took place, space and financing were sought, or even possible names: “School of producers of spaces of possibilities". But in the end it did not come to fruition. There was another initiative within El Campo, it was called City Kitchen. They organised roundtables between technicians and citizens, in which experiences were gathered to reflect on a possible methodology applicable and replicable it in other urban initiatives. As a result, a mapping of citizen-based processes of public space management was produced.

P
Is the consolidation of La Cebada the consolidation of all its learnings?
Z
A great intangible heritage has been generated with youths coming from many spots of Madrid. People who came to meet friends, do sport, smoke marijuana, drink ... also went to help us with the square and co-managed the space. These learnings are going to be very powerful when these peers will face new environments of community. We don´t know how much past experience the new sport court assimilate from us, but it is pretty possible that many of the people involved in La Cebada will replicate it in other contexts. La Cebadais dead. Long live to La Cebada!

 

Continue reading: 

http://www.eas.es/portfolio/mercado-de-la-cebada/

https://zuloark.com