_Introducing a game as tool for the production of desires
In January 2000 transparadiso was invited to participate in an international symposium on architecture in Valparaíso, which was organized by Antonio Angelillo (Milano) and Bruno Barla/ arqval (Valparaíso/ Chile) in cooperation with the three faculties of architecture in Valparaíso. We developed the topic of the workshop with students and young graduates from Italy and Chile as the starting point for two successive urban interventions of our “applied research” between artistic and urban acting. Valparaíso was to be declared “patrimonio” (cultural heritage) by the Unesco, which caused extensive discussions regarding “conservation” and “patrimony”. Therefore transparadiso focussed their workshop, as well as the self-initiated follow-up project in 2001, on questioning the role of urbanism within the larger context of society. Which voice could the inhabitants of Valparaíso acquire in this context without perpetuating European patterns of conservation?
In his text “experts and amateurs” Edward Said describes, how “intellectual concepts materialize in action itself, when the intellectual as amateur ruptures the professional routine in which most of us are enclosed and (can) transform it into something more vital and radical.” Questioning the distribution of the roles in the game of urban activities was the starting point of our interventions. According to Said, the architect/ urbanist would no longer be the “expert ” given knowledge alone, but would first have to demonstrate expertise in the new sense, as a conscious “amateur”. The architect can no longer hold a distanced position, but must assume the specific situation of the “consumer”, the user of the city. Only by taking this stance the architect can realize a truly radical approach, in the etymological sense. Expectations of the client need to be questioned and then answered in a different way. Instead of emphasizing the preservation of buildings without considering the social context, we wanted to discuss the implications of economic exchange, including “cultural capital”, in an urban intervention.
As site of intervention we chose the Hogar Maria Goretti, a home for girls from age 5-18, in a poor neighborhood far away from the historical city center which was to be declared UNESCO World Heritage. We decided to make a film with the girls in public space in front of their home, making use of the context of the international symposium and the debates around the world heritage in order to create public attention for the issues concerning that neighborhood. We handed the cameras over to the girls, who assumed all the roles – as actresses, directors, videographers. The students and we served as coordinators and assistants, whereas the tías, the matrons of the home, were interested spectators. The doors of the home were opened and the street became the film set for one day. The video-project “lady arriba” was born. The film was shown at the TAC (taller de acción comunitaria, a community center closeby) and at the final exhibition of the workshop. The experience of switching roles produced a specific cultural and social space and left a strong impact on those involved – and also on the experts from the urban planning department. Therefore we decided to continue with the project after the symposium.
One year later the public screening of the film at the Plaza la Matriz was the starting point for the urban game „deseo urbano“ which was research and intervention at the same time. The invitation to participate in the game was announced publicly and took place in cafés, parks, restaurants, community centers. Apart from these public events we played the game with the urban design department of the city of Valparaíso and the housing department of the 5th region of Chile. Playing the game with these diverse participants, their passion and active involvement, allowed for reconsidering the conventional practice of urban design and opened up the possibilities of negotiation with the planning authorities. The players noted their wishes and desires on postcards which were presented to Daniel Sepulveda, the director of the MINVU (Ministery for Housing and Urban Design). The questions and wishes served as a basis for developing a diversified planning process. Paz Undurraga, an architect who helped us realizing the project, was then hired by MINVU as advisor for special projects.