For some time here in Barcelona, and globally via email etc, many of us have been talking about an inititiave that is simple, practical, ecological, cheap to do and can be a massive benefit to healthy urban communites. Some precedents exist already: New York City is perhaps the best that I have heard of. Perhaps Erik might be able to provide links for this. Some say it is impossible to do it here, I disagree, I think it is not only possible, but that it is feasible, and as the “eco awareness” grows and the city looks for answers to its eco problems, this is a simple, small, nice step.
This mail is to propose the idea to you, see what you think, seek support, seek your knowledge, ideas etc. Its also an invite to learn about, visit, share experiences and learning with us in the existing catalyst and example of this idea, that is alive and growing as I type: the new community garden in Gracia, Barcelona.
Mobile garden, Image from Gracia hort gallery
The idea is to seek legal authorisation to turn existing unoccupied urban solars (the sites where buildings once stood, but now demolished and awaiting re-construction) in green zones, breathing spaces for the city. This could happen at a series of levels:
1- Simply, gaining permission to enter a “grey zone”, break open the concrete, open up the earth again, enter biochar to the soil, plant certain carbon storage planting…and let it grow untill time comes (if it comes) for the site to be cleared and built upon.
2- As above, but using the space as a food production zone, a community garden, along with all the beneficial affects involved with that.
Presently Barcelona has big problems; pollution, water crisis, lack of green spaces, hi electricity use in hot summers…all of these, to an extent are related to 2 big problems we collectively need to adress and start solving; climate change and peak oil. While this project would not solve all the problems, it might begin a process by which a strategy might develop and from that, eventually, the problems might be solved.
As things stand at present, BCN is a very dense urban city, very little greenery, all this adds to the effect of heat island, that makes it even hotter in summer, this project, initially would help alleviate that effect. Presently in Gracia, my barrio and where we are trying to develop a transition initiave, a new space has been opened; our lovely urban community garden, or in catalan, HORT COMUNITARI GRACIA. This garden, is 4 months old, has much support from and is used by the neighbourhood, all types of people. A half hour audio documentary about the opening of it can be listened to here. This solar had been abandoned for 5 years and now it is amazing and growing. The thing is that people have not asked to use the space, they have taken it, they have occupied the space, and with that it could be evicted and returned to a grey zone. If we manage to develop this project I am outlining, well then, maybe our garden, and more, far more, might exist for many years. The NYC garden, apparently, uses mobile gardens, so when they have to move, they can simply to the next vacant lot.
Mural detail: A Greener and more colorful city
PRECARE in Brussels, Belgium are successfully carrying out this type of temp legal space occupation project with buildings: supports an emerging network of urban projects in negotiations for temporary use of buildings