In our collaboration with osa and the Manchester School of Architecture, we were hoping for vision. And vision is what we’ve found. In their workshop with osa, the group of students has taken its first steps in enlivening the streets of Manchester, UK through architectural interventions. Their proposals knead theory with practice to ask the residents of England’s third largest metropolitan region to play with social norms and engage with public space. In a city notable for its architecture, their ideas have nudged the bounds even further.
The team has chosen a tiny street that has been fenced off, deserted, and is inaccessible to the public. Its walls are dusted with the 20 years of disuse, but Little David Street looks basically like any other lane which leads to an open area where a boxy structure is overlooking the adjacent canal. The single-story bungalow hovers on concrete stilts above a grainy parking lot. The combination of these elements creates a very quirky and surreal atmosphere, almost like being on a film set…
This place has much potential to provide answers to the workshop’s core question, provided by Robert Somol in Bettery Magazine: How do we mobilize the risk of failure in a world that demands security? The space, once public and now private, is a site of tension between the two. Once the gates are opened, will people begin to treat it again like a public space? Will they dare enter a location that has been off-limits for so long? Or will they fail to recognize its history, treating it as an obviously public space?
After visiting the site, the students formulated proposals in response to Somol’s question. Their approaches range from oblique to head-on, but each promises interesting results. In January 2013, osa will start phase two of the workshop and realize one or more of the ideas below.
Mariam Iqbal envisions a centralized mobile cooking space. It collects ingredients via a basket pulley system, and then uses these connections to transport the food back to those who provided the ingredients.
Alison Johnson wants to “test the perception of fear and risk” by luring people to an event in this unfamiliar location, and then streaming footage of the space via CCTV cameras.
Haroon Hayat Noon employs the conventions of street markings to prod pedestrians into questioning their surroundings.
Aida Rodriquez-Vega examines human reactions by promoting freedom in a restricted area, while alerting visitors that CCTV cameras will only be recording in explicitly demarcated zones.
Baljit Panesar intends to show with her project, “Canal Dive”, that spontaneity could help promote action and minimize a need for security—the kind of spontaneity required to use the diving board she plans to install on the roof of the bungalow. Did someone jump in already?
Lee Herrick plans an intervention that engrosses Little David Street and juxtaposes the perception of intrigue with the awareness of risk.
Curtis Martyn’s intervention seeks to argue that risk is an opportunity for new experience. Paper chain ladders are suspended from the adjacent elevations and suggest new opportunities for interaction between the internal and external environment.