Parking Space Events
Conversations, community feedback sessions, exchanges in public space
Dreamt up by Letta Shtoryn and co-created between Johannes Buch, Letta and myself alongside with ad-hoc collaborators. We ventured out into our neighbourhood and occupied a white parking space for two hours or so. We sat with chairs, a table, and something to eat and drink ranging from tea, coffee and biscuits to a full scale BBQ setup.
The whole thing started off as a mini exploration and experiment about how to reimagine and make better use of the public space usually dedicated to stationery cars (aka parking space). We invited passers by to share tea and coffee with us, which often started conversations about kindness, trust and the joy of having a cuppa and a friendly conversation out on the street.
Sessions eventually evolved to include more structure and interactivity. Here are some of my favourites:
– Recipe Exchange, where we sat with a vintage typewriter and invited passers by to share their favourite recipes with us. We swapped these with our own, previously typed favourite recipes. We created a book out of the recipes we collected.
– The Tree Council in collaboration with the Gabriel Caruana Foundation, where we invited residents of an tiny old, urban village to gather around two trees that were earmarked to be removed in order to make space for road widening. Participants were invited to reflect on the significance of these two trees and tell stories that involved them. Someone remembered appreciating the shade of the trees as a child during the funeral of a student, a memory of swings being tied between the trees during Pentecost feast, how the trees saved lives during a big flood when cars got jammed between the trees rather than getting dragged away. We facilitated heated discussions and held space for strong emotions from opposing sides.
– Il-Kamra ta’ Barra in collaboration with Unfinished Art Space, where we set up a living room complete with sofa, furniture units and a coffee table, in a parking space in front of a building site in the town of Sliema. For the few hours during our intervention, the rectangular lines on the ground marked the confines of our living room, which we invited attendees and passers-by to ‘enter’ and interact inside, while of course still being very much out on the street. We asked questions and invited discussions about what makes a good neighbourhood and about their thoughts about what is happening in the streets of Sliema at the moment.
What? Public space events inviting passers by to linger, interact, share food, reflect.
Why? Like many countries where the weather gets warm, Malta has a tradition of sitting out on doorsteps and in piazzas, whiling the time away. With more of public space dedicated to cars and private business, plus the idea that time is money and should be efficiently spent, the streets are much less for the people nowadays. We wanted to host spaces that reminded everyone how heartwarming it is to linger and chat.
Achievements? I absolutely loved hosting these on-street spaces and found the format of designing a section of public space with the aim of encouraging interaction, lingering and discussion to be important and affirming. Participant feedback strongly confirmed this.