We love public space. Do you?

May 12, 2010

Have you ever walked on a grass carpet just outside your subway station, or shouted inside a gig-sized megaphone in the middle of a chaotic street of your city? That’s what I did, together with thousands of inhabitants and visitors, workers and passers-by, during the Public Design Festival, which took place last month in Milano, along via Vigevano and all around Porta Genova Square. The event was organized by the group Esterni, whose aim was to investigate about how the common perception that people have of public spaces could change, if they turned some streets into places where to rest, where to meet people, where to think, just by putting some installations. Public Space, they say, is a personal affair: it belongs to everybody, but only a few people, in everyday life, gives the attention required to live it as something more than streets where to walk to go somewhere…but, in the end, isn’t it true that trip itself is just as important as the destination?

Esterni asked itself a question: how can we build up a Festival to celebrate public spaces? They answered by choosing a non-casual week: in fact, the project took place from the 13th until the 18th of April, 2010, during the Salone del Mobile week: while everybody was busy designing and selling indoor objects, they tried to transform one of the main crossings in town into a beautiful and functional place by installing projects. The choice of the scenery was not casual, either: in fact, the railway station (Porta Genova Square) is by definition a meeting and exchange point in every city, while via Vigevano is taken as a paradigm of a normal street you can find everywhere in the world.

The nine projects installed are the winners of an international competition called “duepercinque”. The name refers to the space, in metres, traditionally dedicated to car parks, which were left free for the exhibition. The artists who partecipated come from Portugal, Netherlands, Slovakia, Argentina, Italy, Poland and South Korea. There is a open-air fountain where humans, pets and birds can drink together, a big bed made of flowers, a structure where to breath pure air, an igloo made of hay… all of them have their own meanings, and offer the viewers the chance to think about some of the main issues of our Age: safeguard of the environment and Earth pollution, but also chaos and stress accumulated in our lives. Moreover, the organizers brought to the event also some out-of-competition works developed for public spaces all over the world during the last year.


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