Post-it City. Occasional urbanities

For the first time in my life, i’m happy with Iberia services. They cancelled my flight from Gijón to Madrid and i was informed at the last minute that i was booked on a plane that departed before dawn. The new schedule meant that i’d have to wait 8 hours for my connecting flight in Barajas airport (stunning architecture, crap-est over-priced food in the entire universe.) I decided i would take the opportunity generously bestowed upon me by the dreadful airline and do something more interesting than spend hours in duty free shops. I left Barajas, took the metro to the center of Madrid, got a decent meal and visited an exhibition.


Daniele Pario Perra, Economic Borders, Sicily, 2005


Daniele Pario Perra, Economic Borders, Sicily, 2005


Veronika Zapletalová, Chartarství (Summerhouses), 2005

The lunch wasn’t memorable but the show was a joy. Post-it City. Occasional urbanities – Ciudades ocasionales at Centro Centro looks into temporary occupations of public space that appear on the fringe of urban-planning. Neither authorities nor architects have planned these informal uses of space. Whether they emerge for commercial, recreational, sexual or survival reasons, post-it practices answer needs that the city isn’t able to answer adequately.

Post-it City phenomena emphasise the reality of the urban territory as the place where distinctive uses and situations legitimately overlap, in opposition to the growing pressures to homogenise public space. In contrast to the ideals of the city as a place of consensus and consumption, temporary occupations of space reaffirm use value, reveal different needs and lacks that affect given collectives, and even promote creativity and the subjective imagination.

From another standpoint, the temporary activities that contaminate public space with numerous para-architectural artefacts enable reflection on urban experience to redirect its attention towards the minuscule, thus correcting the arrogance of traditional architecture.

The exhibition has been touring for a few years and i even got my hands on the catalogue a while ago. I can’t seem to be able to locate it right now but it’s available on Amazon USA and UK. The show is packed with fantastic information, photographs and stories. I wish i could talk about every single one of them but that won’t be necessary as all the projects have been listed on the Post-it City website. Here’s a small selection:

Every Autumn, the Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods in Brooklyn, New York, are sprinkled with temporary outdoor structures called sukkah. People live there for 7 days as a way to remember the fragile dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.


Francisca Benitez, Prótesis del Nuevo Exodo


Francisca Benitez, Prótesis del Nuevo Exodo


Francisca Benitez, Prótesis del Nuevo Exodo

Francisca Benitez, Sukkah, 2001

Another of Francisca Benítez’s photo series is part of Post-It City. The images show bundles nesting in Parisian trees. They are the personal belongings of Afghani immigrants. In July 2005, two months before the Paris riots, Benítez recorded every tree next to the Gare de l’Est. (Illegal) immigrants stack there their possessions while waiting for another odd job, for continuing their journey.


Francisca Benítez, Gare de l’Est, 2005


Francisca Benítez, Gare de l’Est, 2005

The photo documentation that most shocked me is Old Wreck City. Federica Verona and Cecilia Pirovano investigated what they call ‘the city of abandoned cars’ in Milan. Abandoned and stolen cars become a refuge where homeless Italians or foreigners sleep, eat, drink and take shelter from the rain and people’s gazes. The images are accompanied by the story of some of the people who sleep in cars. Some of them have slept there for years, continuously or between jobs, some are couple waiting to be allocated social housing.


Federica Verona and Cecilia Pirovano, Old wreck city


Federica Verona and Cecilia Pirovano, Old wreck city

OLD WRECK CITY 09, the city of abandoned cars

Unlike European cemeteries, Cairo’s historic cemeteries are not walled, they open onto the city, even merging with it. Driven by the difficulty of finding a home in the overcrowded city, some people have established their living space inside Cairo’s cemeteries. Authorities do not officially recognise these informal settlements even though they supply them with water and light.


Charlie Koolhaas, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, City of the Dead, 2005


Charlie Koolhaas, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, City of the Dead, 2005


Charlie Koolhaas, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, City of the Dead, 2005

The Cora Garrido Boxe Centre in Ṣo Paulo is a social institution as well as a gymnasium established below the motorway. The non-profit and free center seeks to attract marginalised people Рthe homeless, former addicts and prisoners, children and teenagers at risk Рand to promote actions to bring about social reintegration through sport.

The gymnasium uses makeshift equipment. Lorry tyres are transformed into sand bags, lorry axles become barbells and shock absorbers converted into strength-training equipment.


Cora Garrido, Gymnasium below the motorway, São Paulo

Each year, the “Day of the Dead” and “All Saints” see thousands of people visit their forefathers in the cemeteries of La Paz and El Alto. The commemorative event is also a festive ritual in which music is played and people are invited to take fruit, bread, drinks or coca that have been laid out to receive the souls of the departed. Informal markets are set up between graves and children’s games appear where prayers are swapped for food and drink.


Roberto Bogani and Sergio Forste, Convite de almas

Bas Princen‘s photos are always worth mentioning. The exhibition is showing a few photos from Utopian Debris, a photo series that attempts to illustrate the future of urbanism and landscape.

The first photograph below shows the section of a construction site which is excavating the ground under an existing village, and the second one, the sand-storage area for the construction of the Olympic Park in Beijing. Both demonstrate how the artificial nature of places is temporarily disguising itself as the natural.


Bas Princen, Section II, 2007


Bas Princen, Future Olympic Park, 2007

Post-it City. Occasional urbanities – Ciudades ocasionales remains open at Centro Centro in Madrid through 19 February 2012. Entrance is free.
Image on the homepage: Roulotte magazine, Special issue on Post-it City.