by Erin Johnson and Paisaje Transversal
With bustling streets, plazas overflowing with café tables, and crowds filling pedestrian thoroughfares in city centers in Madrid and cities across the country, life in Spain seems good. But look a little closer into the neighborhoods where these cities’ low –and middle– income residents live and you’ll see a different story. In these communities lies the base of social unrest, where citizens cry out for municipal governance and infrastructure that serves their interests, for their right to the city.
In city after city, from smaller towns like Olot to metropolises like Valencia, from Basque Country to Catalonia, our collective of five architects, Paisaje Transversal, is working with stakeholders across the board remaking the field of urbanism and the reality in which citizens live. Abandoning the tools and strategies employed by the urban planning hegemony, we utilize innovative methodologies, a transdisciplinary approach, and participatory processes through all stages of our work.
Our strategies developed in response to prior urban regeneration efforts, characterized by high costs, drawn out development processes behind closed doors, and stalled progress. These efforts made citizen involvement difficult and left communities out of both the development and implementation of regeneration efforts. Our methodology, in contrast, builds citizen involvement and transparency into every step.
All of our work is rooted in a methodology we refer to as DCP – difusión (diffusion), ciudadanía (citizenry), participación (participation):
- Diffusion signifies transparency and visibility, both of the project locally and globally, and of the proposals. This ensures public pressure to meet community needs and maintains an open conversation about what is going on.
- The Citizenry component refers to strengthening community identity, providing channels for citizen participation, and incorporating opportunities for education and information sharing. It represents work that is for the people and by the people, projects that acknowledge the collective intelligence and character of communities.
- Lastly, Participation represents participatory processes, through which active and engaged stakeholders take part in both the evaluation and planning phases of the proposals and the carrying out and management of the proposals.
These three components are not distinct and separate, but rather overlapping and support one another. Together they serve to direct the work of our collective in leading workshops, sparking ideas for communities, disseminating information, and developing solutions and interventions to improve the urban landscape and citizen wellbeing. Furthermore, this methodology aligns with values of ecology, social justice, and sustainability through holistic, inclusive, responsible projects.
The DCP methodology both provides guiding principles and also categorizes types and phases of work. For example, the first phase of a project lays the groundwork with a community and focuses on Diffusion and Citizenry. Activities center on communicating and engaging with the community to make visible the neighborhood initiative and gather information from community members while simultaneously building relationships to understand the needs of the community and gain their trust. The second phase embarks on project planning and incorporates Participation alongside Diffusion and Citizenry. In this phase, we develop project strategies, hash out a program of activities, explore other municipal programs in the neighborhood with which to coordinate, and share the plan through an exposition and/or publication. A third phase develops the project more fully and again employs all three DCP channels through collaborative design workshops, development of documentation, and long-term activity planning to provide mechanisms to situate and prepare community members to manage the project.
As has grown more and more evident given urban social unrest across Spain, citizen participation is necessary for sustainable communities; the functioning of our collective and our methodology are a reflection that engaging community members in the process is both possible and effective. We emphasize that the DCP methodology exists in the public domain, to be disseminated under copyleft. Given our social aims, we aren´t trying to turn a profit and patent this methodology; rather, we want these ideas to spread, free to use for the benefit of communities everywhere.
The DCP methodology is a core component of our work and it functions in concert with a means of analysis and evaluation we have also developed: Indicadores participativos [InPar] (participatory indicators). In conjunction, DCP provides an approach and InPar a means of analysis demonstrating how we can put this new take on urbanism into a formalized practice to improve communities and enhance the well-being of residents.
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Image credits: Image 01: DCP Methodology (font: Paisaje Transversal)