RVW’s proposal ‘Places of Solidarity in Public Space’, in collaboration with LAVA architects and Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, has been selected as one of the three research projects for the BWMSTR Label by the Flemish Government Architect and the Flanders Architecture Institute.
For the sixth year in a row, the Flemish Government Architect – again in close cooperation with the Flemish Architecture Institute – has been looking for strong spatial concepts and integrated research questions that can make a positive social difference.
Ruimteveldwerk, LAVA architects and Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen explore together what a spatial concept for a ‘place of solidarity‘ in the public space can mean. The current issue of ‘transmigration‘ conveys a concrete starting point here.
We view transmigration as a symptom of the larger geopolitical and social changes that manifest themselves in our public space. It is a very visible problem that shows itself in a physical-spatial manner in that public space. From the architectural discipline, we have to work spatially for a more humane reception of people in precarious situations. By departing from transmigration, we deliberately opt for one of the most vulnerable and complex groups out there. We do not see their temporary presence as ‘a problem’ but as the starting point of a question.
The project will be carried out starting from a spatial study of the arrival infrastructure, which is usually distributed throughout the city, in order to arrive at a spatial concept for ‘places of solidarity’ in the public space.
An example of such an arrival infrastructure is a ‘humanitarian hub’ like the one in the Brussels-North Station. (1) What can such a hub teach us about developing a place of solidarity in public space? How can such a place of solidarity build a bridge between various (local) groups and different collective functions? It can be a place that facilitates shared needs and requirements and stimulates coming together, a place where temporary presence leads to permanent infrastructure. Arranged as superdiverse collective and shared spaces, these places cope with and shape the increasing migration realities of our cities and municipalities. Our proposal requires a broadened scope to include, for example, growing groups of newcomers and European guest workers, as well as the local population in general.
(1) “Humanitarian hub is an initiative of a civic platform and civil society organizations. This hub forms a reception and care network where low-threshold services are provided and basic needs are met.”
Civic platforms and civil society organizations have already proven that they can join forces to organize a humanitarian hub, for example. It is therefore necessary to give these initiatives a place in the public space. The role of a local and national government in contributing to sustainable and humane answers is of course not unimportant as well.
This project focuses on a growing group in transit that can never take on the role of a client. The BWMSTR Label can contribute to a well-considered spatial research that leads to a concrete, employable concept with a positive narrative. It must be a narrative in which vulnerable people are not pushed away or hidden away, but come into contact with local citizens in a positive way by giving them a place in the public space. This space must encourage solidarity, as opposed to confrontation, conflict and stigmatization. We see places of solidarity as points of departure to rethink collective infrastructure, of both cities and municipalities, and their emancipatory potential.
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