Recently it´s easy to recognize a preference in the treatment of the public space, tending to be aseptic. There is a recent tendency to treating public space with an ascetic approach. The most common spatial configurations nowadays are definded by stone plates accompanied by some loose blocks working as public benches. It is like the designers and public space authorities consider that in order to satisfy as many people as possible it is necessary to treat public space as a neutral, harmless one. But if we consider that the public space is intrinsically a friction area, perhaps it should operate far from an evasive position that avoids roughness. On the contrary, it should provoque different social contact conditions, even if this contact produces a graze. It is not possible to think of the construction of a sense of community without recognising heterogeneity, conciliation and compromise.
As part of the “Rehabilitation of a neighborhood” programme in housing units created by the National Institute for Housing Fund for Workers (INFONAVIT), Ludens, a workshop focused on the architectural development from the body using architecture as a social correlation tool, in collaboration with Briefcase, a company specialised in the exploration of complex geometries applied to the development of urban furniture and accessories for public space, generated a proposal for the recuperation of public spaces of the Polygon 108 area in the city of Merida. with the main focus on promoting social interaction. The public spaces inside Polygon 108 were conformed principally by walkways; concrete lineal plates showing unkempt gardening that not only connect the 2 plazas of the whole group but acted as the principal circulation of the community alongside basic services like schools, commercial stores and the church.
It became clear that the aim of the project should be to make the walking experience more pleasant. It would also generate contact spaces, small pauses in an otherwise continuous path that would promote interaction and aid in building a stronger sense of community. The strategy to achieve this was to create a public space full of obstacles, accessories which not only offered comfort but that provoke social contact. For that, Briefcase, developed a geometrical system that could be applied to the different architectural elements to obtain an integral system where every element challenges the users. In this way, the walkways stopped being linear trajectories to form a zigzagging floor, twisted into a discovery walking tour in which every turn generates a coexistence island. These islands are conformed by prefabricated concrete furniture which, depending on their configuration, detonate different social dynamics. The walkways were equipped with a porous shading roof. Its columns emphasise the zigzag, inciting a more casual walk. In places where the structure seeks for more coexistence, the shadow tries to blend with the partial shadow offered by the trees. it was important to blur the limits between the plaza and the walkways to promote a more fluent transition.
Once in the plaza, the roof expands to generate small playground pavilions. The walking tour keeps zigzagging, eliminating the programmatic boundaries that existed in the original plaza to produce a bigger exchange between one use and the other. The children´s playground now provides a safe, confined area where the concrete furniture acts both as a physical barrier and a place for parents to socialice with other parents while they look after their children. A soft floor differentiates the playground from the rest of the plaza.
The sports field was provided with bleachers protected from the sun with the same shading system as the rest of the project, providing a confortable viewing zone for those watching the game.
For both, Ludens and Briefcase, public space must not be conformed by a clean slate which defends its argument by offering flexibility in its minimalism, but it should be an arena equipped with appropriation tools, architectural systems which through its different configurations generate a machine of sociability.