Project MAPEA in Child in the City seminar in Antwerp

As a visual artist it was something of a novelty to be attending an academic seminar broadly designed for architects, urban planners and other professionals from this area. But since our mapping project began in Caracas from involvement with youth and children in shantytown communities, when I saw the call for the Children in the Sustainable City Seminar it seemed the right place for our proposal.

This trip to Antwerp turned out be a stimulating and fruitful experience over the two-day meeting. Above all, it was so reassuring to find oneself talking the same language when it came to sharing experiences, it can get very frustrating trying to explain this multi-disciplinary workshop model even in the art world.

MAPEA has reached four editions in the last four years so it continues to grow and prove its validity. At this moment it seems more urgent than ever to bring this activity to children amid such violence, encouraging a conversation about the environment and developing tools with which to do so. My participation in the seminar was a way of continuing our work when the crisis in Venezuela frustrated this year’s plans. By the end of March, when I should have been travelling to Caracas, flights were cancelled and the possibility of achieving the results we hoped for seemed pretty remote. It was a heart-breaking decision to cancel the trip, and we continue to wait for a change in tide to resume our plans.

 

Antwerp centre 4

Antwerp’s medieval city centre is fascinating in itself, ideal for pedestrian exploration. Arriving early on Sunday the afternoon was enough to see something of it. I found the fantastic commemorative Mayer Van Den Bergh museum with an important collection of Breugels work. As sometimes happens when you have seen a particularly gripping film, the streets of Antwerp seemed to emanate the same atmosphere of opulence and perversion after seeing the famous Mad Meg painting.

 

The following two days were intensive from morning till evening, beginning early on Monday. After putting up the poster the presenters began to meet up, next to me was Gao Wenxiu from Shenzhen University in China, further over a project from Germany, another from Veracruz, Mexico. Session talks had participants from Iran, Quatar, Palestine, Hungary, Slovenia and Chile as well as from Europe. So the mix was amazing.

The seminar began with walks through the city – which resonated with our own practice in MAPEA workshops- before the discussions started.

The talks were hard to choose between, but I had signed up for the Placemaking and co-creation parallel session since this was an area that always generated much debate among our own group. Alberto Nanclares de Veiga from Basurama’s presentation on their projects in Africa, Spain and Latin America was fascinating and hugely helpful. It was a relief to find they had encountered similar issues when it comes to proposing recycling or reutilisation of materials in shantytown communities in Brazil. I had found that people were often suspicious of these ideas and insisted on new infrastructure, as if we were trying to give them something that we would not want to have ourselves. In many ways the discussions that happened were as important as the concrete results.

I also really enjoyed the Octopusplan Pedestrian Movement presentation about a flying goat and a llama, local mythical figures used in their sustainable mobility and placemaking campaign, while Irene Quintans was a great moderator.

green spaceurban walkaboutopen spaces

The second day also started with a walk through an area of the city where activists and city council members have long worked to improve spaces for residents through various measures. An apparently very simple and effective means of improving mobility for pedestrians is the elimination of pavements, so the separation between it and the road is removed, making it much more practical for those with physical impairments of all kinds. When eventually cars can be limited in their movement through the city centre, the whole space is opened up much more easily. The addition of plant beds, parks and allotments made the whole area so pleasant to be in, and the use of rainwater catchment for watering was great to see. The youth centre was beyond inspiring.

pleasant spacesopen spaces 2

Cheo cuenta MAPEA

 

 

Talleres MAPEA en el Calvario y casco del Hatillo, Caracas 2018

Video de Andres Catalano

MAPEA: Natalya Critchley, Cheo Carvajal, Monica Santander, Yoandy Medina con el apoyo del Sr Jose Gonzalez y Carlos Barreto de la Co-operativa en el Calvario

Talleres con los estudiantes de 4to, 5to y 6to grado de las escuelas Maria May (el Calvario) y Juan Manuel Cajigal (en el casco del Hatillo)

Walking, mapping, opening doors

Versión en español

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Connection Calvario-Hatillo town centre

An essential condition for a sustainable city is that it can be walked around comfortably and safely.  That it should be accesible to all.  Another is that it should be mixed, not only in it’s uses -residential, offices, public spaces and features-, but socially as well.  Another condition? To achieve a balance with whatever natural features still exist: water courses, green spaces, trees, biological diversity. Even though it sounds obvious the air must be clean to be able to breath properly! But also in a metaphorical sense, what is on offer should be so diverse that you just want to be there, day or night. That ‘habitability’ leads us to an additional wish: it must be enjoyable.

Continue reading “Walking, mapping, opening doors”

Andar, mapear, abrir puertas

English version

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Andar, mapear, abrir puertas

Conexión El Calvario-Casco

Una condición indispensable para que la ciudad sea sustentable es que se pueda caminar de manera cómoda, segura. Que sea accesible para todos. Otra es que sea mezclada, no sólo en sus usos –residencias, comercios, oficinas, espacios y equipamientos públicos–, sino también socialmente. ¿Otra condición?, que logre un equilibrio con lo que ella todavía tiene de natural: cursos de agua, espacios verdes, arbolado, diversidad biológica. Aunque suene obvio hay que decirlo: ¡que se pueda respirar, que tenga aire limpio! Pero también en sentido metafórico: que la oferta sea tan diversa que den ganas de vivir en ella, de día y de noche. Esas “ganas de vivir en ella” nos lleva a un deseo adicional: que sea lúdica.


Continue reading “Andar, mapear, abrir puertas”

Papermill DNA

This pop-up exhibition is the result of my participation in the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency series here in Vicksburg, MI. The programme was established as part of the Papermill renovation project.  The drawings were carried out both onsite at the mill, and in the Hills Pharmacy as the idea for the show was developed.

expo complete view

It was fascinating to finally visit a papermill building, I had already seen many in the area. In Parchment, Kalamazoo there is a huge abandoned factory that I was very curious about when I first saw it, but was warned it was difficult to get into and dangerous. Having been such an important industry in the region I was sure there must be an opportunity somewhere. So, on reading about this residency programme I could hardly contain my enthusiasm, and it was very rewarding to be admitted.

My initial reaction on visiting the mill was admiration for the early industrial architecture, as in the specialised designs for the work spaces required at the beginning of the last century, with so many windows to make the most of natural light.  The beautiful wooden beam structure of the top floor of the East wing, which allows overhead light in through the roof with north facing windows, would make the perfect studio for any artist.  And it goes to show the attention to detail for producing a high quality product, since it was here that the cotton rags were first sorted before washing and beating into pulp. Continue reading “Papermill DNA”

Prairie Ronde residency

This week I was so happy to begin drawing at an old paper mill in Vicksburg, a thirty minute drive from Kalamazoo. This is part of the Prairie Ronde residency programme which has been ongoing while the renovation of the mill is in the planning stages. Paper mills are dotted along the rivers all around these towns, it was a big part of Michigan history at the beginning of the last century. Getting to find out more about that history through the buildings themselves and the communities that grew up around them has been fascinating.

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