Dressing up the square
Title: Dressing up the square
Location: Olot, Spain
Author: Eduard Callís Freixas, Guillem Moliner Milhau
Category: Collective Place
Video: Olot TV, unparelld’arquitectes, Imma Serra Maroto
Photos: Roger Serrat-Calvó
Sant Miquel is a working-class neighbourhood in Olot. The replacement of industrial zones with residential areas occurred in parallel to the arrival of a great number of newcomers in the past two decades, a fact which has transformed the neighbourhood into the most diverse area in terms of population.
Neither the habit of the newcomers of making an intense use of this space as an area for interaction nor the ability to summon people together for the neighbourhood’s traditional celebrations have managed to change the sense of deterioration of the square developed in the 1980s. Hence, the square has gradually lost its role as public space and has become a simple multi-sports court which is a focus of disputes. By applying a selective layer of paint, this intervention comprehends and enhances the spatial quality, geometry and construction systems of the square’s architecture. Tops, patterns and carpets provide the wall of concrete blocks with a sense of lightness, brightness and colour, following its own inflection and highlighting the textile nature of the support. The geometric patterns evoke domestic life and also the events which are characteristic of the neighbourhood, such as the paper-costumes parade, the traditional farandula dances and the outdoor concerts under the marquee. This action strengthens the uniqueness of every space but most importantly, it creates a backdrop which is easily capable of hosting a wide range of activities and users, including games.
The project defines and develops one of the key actions included in the Comprehensive Plan for Urban Rehabilitation - and agreed upon by the neighbours themselves - which aims to enhance comfort within this neighbourhood’s most representative public space. The plan is the result of a participative process launched by the Olot City Council and led by Paisaje Transversal.
The appropriation of public space by citizens is highly dependent on the space’s character. Showing off its new attire, the Sant Miquel Square in Olot takes on a domestic touch which leads one to perceive it as the neighbourhood’s communal space. With minimum costs, less than €20,000, the foundations have been laid for the square once again to become the centre of social life, a space where all of the neighbours can meet and feel at home.
The space’s character has been transformed at a very reasonable cost. The painted patterns become one more layer of the existent architecture, giving recognition to the substratum while also improving its attributes. The square is now kinder, more cheerful and refined but, above all, it is more welcoming and can take in more uses. It can easily and safely host a much wider range of activities and users, far beyond mere ball games in the court.
The intervention is the backdrop for an agenda of new activities organised by the neighbour’s association, favouring that the square can once again become the neighbourhood’s public space par excellence.