Beyond a Construction Site
Co-founders: Urša Jurman, Polonca Lovšin, Stefan Doepner – KUD Obrat (www.obrat.org)
In collaboration with the neighbours and gardening enthusiasts
Type of work: Self – initiated urban project
Location: Resljeva Street, Ljubljana
Year: 2010 – on going
Co-producers: KUD Obrat, Zavod Bunker
Plot owner: The Municipality of Ljubljana
Photo: Apolonija Šušteršič
Content: Deserted construction site transformed into a community garden, social place or workshop location.
Concept: In collaboration with neighbourhood residents and other interested people, we are transforming a long-fenced-off plot of land near Resljeva Street in Ljubljana into a community space intended for urban gardens, socializing, ecological projects, education and culture. In this way we are realizing the goal of the project Beyond a Construction Site, which is to examine and show the potential of degraded urban areas and the possibility of their receiving new value through temporary use and community-based interventions.
The site and the context
The fenced-off construction site, not far from the main railway station and the Ljubljana old town, is a place that had become overgrown with willows and birches and covered in rubbish over years of sitting idle.
After determining the ownership of the plot (the Municipality of Ljubljana), we invited (with the help of printed and spoken invitations) anyone who was interested and, in particular, the residents of the Tabor neighbourhood to be part of the planning, design and use of the site. Through informal conversations with people who lived and worked in area – especially at our first meeting with interested participants in front of the still-closed construction site – we tried to find out if our proposal to transform the site into a green space for the community made sense and to listen to the desires, needs and ideas of the people who were most directly affected by the site in their day-to-day lives.
After installing a door to allow access to the land, cleaning up the site, learning about and preserving the trees and wild plants that had taken root there and carting in the first cubic metres of soil, we faced the question of whether or not we needed a plan for organizing the space. Polonca Lovšin’s art action A Day with a Goat put a symbolic question mark over traditional spatial planning. She spent a day on the abandoned construction site with the goat Hana and charted her movements around the overgrown terrain. On the basis of her notes about the goat’s movements, she drew up a plan for organizing the plot. In contrast to the rationalistic approach of the rectangular grid, Lovšin’s plan was guided by Hana’s search for food and her investigation of her surroundings. We never, in fact, applied this plan to the space, but we went for a planning process based on active engagement of the public.
The concept of community which we try to follow is a community as a form of relations rather than as an unified, homogeneous entity (collectivity). Unified community erases differences and contradictions, as well as productive conflicts and negotiations which are necessarily connected with the prospect of sharing (space, tools, water …). This aspect of contest and negotiation is crucial as it has to do with managing relationships between differences rather than affirming commonalities based on similarities.
Learning from doing
Beyond a Construction Site has been a classroom for everyone involved, not only about urban gardening and ecology, but also about sharing the management of a space and its processual and participatory organization. In May 2011 we held a two-day workshop, “Participatory Design through Ad Hoc Construction”, conducted by the German architect Mathias Heyden. Together with architecture students, Beyond a Construction Site participants and others who had responded to the open invitation to the workshop, we looked for architectural solutions to meet the needs of the space and the wishes of the people who are using it. As a group, we developed a number of ideas and the next day also partly realized them: we recycled chairs, tables and benches that had been left for waste disposal and we built a construction that offers shelter from sun and rain and a pergola for shade near the entrance.