Ativa Pedaço

Artist: Estúdio Guanabara
Location: Praça dos Estivadores, Gamboa, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
Year: 2016
Researcher: Amanda Abi Khalil

Ativa Pedaco is a 2016 project made by Estudio Guanabara in response to the very specific context of the Gamboa neighborhood which was under renovation after the government had let the area degenerate over a long period of time. The specific focus within the Gamboa neighborhood was on a square named Praca dos Etivadores which was in the process of a number of upgrades by the local government which involved re-pouring concrete ground and adding concrete seating. Estudio Guanabara felt that this was insufficient in bringing the square back to life. They tried to appeal for additional changes to be made but when this wasn’t possible they took things in their own hands and began studies for installing shades on the square.

This was met with a response from the local authorities who stressed to Estudio Guanabara that the urgent needs of the area were a memory of the history of the area. In order to conserve this Estudio Guanabara began to meet weekly with a group of local leaders, artistic workers, and cultural associations. Together, in these meetings, they devised a series of interventions. They felt that the square was lacking the most fundamental of things: pedestrian footfall. Its location near a very busy road with intense traffic discouraged people from walking to the square.

In the end Ativa Pedaco took the form of three branches within a single project all aimed at activating the public space where people from a neighborhood could gather. The first branch of the intervention was what they called the “local articulations” which were the weekly meetings with the local community. These local articulations are what produced the other two branches which were a set of physical interventions into the square and a guide to activating public space based off the discussions of the meetings.

The physical interventions took many forms including modular benches, temporary music events by local bands, signage, an exhibition of provocative sentences and questions installed on lampposts, and the design of a set of shades that can be installed and de-installed modularly for events held in the square.

The guide which succeeded the project was originally intended to be instructions on how to install the shades, upon reflection it was decided that this would be too simple and repetitive of information that could be gleaned online. Instead the guide became a pedagogical tool which documented the experience and process of development of the project through the many local meetings.

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The excellency of this work can be seen in its impact on the square. Bringing a deserted square to life was important for the local community to feel like they owned a space that wasn’t their private home in which they could congregate, share, and remember their history. Very importantly, Estudio Guanabara challenged their traditional working methods by reaching out to locals of a variety of disciplines and committing time and energy to meetings in which they heard directly from the people about what was needed and what was desired. Additionally, Ativa Pedaco goes against the common belief that a project or installation should be large in scale and primarily aesthetic in order to be successful or meaningful. What is striking about Ativa Pedaco is its considered intervention which was co-constituted with local input and designed to land with the locals rather than be photogenic.

The impact of the project is especially strong because of its consideration of a variety of durations. First is the duration of the weekly meetings which brought together a community in conversation about local history, local life, local challenges, and local needs. This gave birth to physical interventions which produced a further larger sense of community through the live events which invited local bands to feel at home and activate the space and through the exhibition of interesting phrases and questions which prompted reflection. Finally, the enduring presence of the shades which bring color and protection from the elements to encourage people to congregate. This is coupled by the archival, pedagogical document in the form of the guide. The guide is to this day used as an example of how it is possible to organize public activity, specifically in Brazil which has very specific laws governing these spaces.

This project continues to be an important reference point for architecture curricula as it illustrates how architects can be mediators and derive their solutions directly from the people rather than imposing upon them. It is impossible to make a place just with architecture, it requires a conversation with the people who belong to it.

Progress Agency