What is community?

When asked what the word 'community' means to me, I immediately think 'togetherness'.

A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
— Oxford English Dictionary

 

When I returned the question, there was a clear trend: ‘pride’, ‘family’… ‘people’!

This led me to the article that set my community trail ablaze. Elevado Presidente Costa e Silva, known as the Minhocão (Big Worm) is a two mile stretch of road that snakes its way through São Paulo, Brazil. The highway closes at night and on Sundays to allow for peace and quiet in the surrounding residential area. Yet this intended silence is almost immediately broken, as it reopens with a new purpose. Families can be seen dancing together, bands play their instruments, people serve hot food and children etch chalk games into the tarmac.

The highway takes on a new role: it is now the star of a movie directed by the power of the residential community. An urban nightmare to some; it has no lines, no boundaries, no defined space, arguably no restrictions. However, I cannot help but see the beauty in the secondary use of a highway to create such a living atmosphere.

Would changing this place into a high line similar to that currently redefining ‘park’ in New York City actually improve this pop up cultural hub? Or would it fail, sterilising the vibrant communal hub that this residential population has nurtured for themselves?

The very fact that they have created a sense of place on such a contested site emphasises the importance of community involvement when it comes to designing or redefining space.

Other success stories include Madrid Rio; a 6km motorway conversion. It’s a perfect example of architecture with real soul. This reinvented space incorporates small cafés, live music and less conventional swings hanging from the roads above.

As with all of these projects, architectural impact would be lessened without the human aspect of community.

The need for a symbiotic approach to design is crucial. Without the support and vision of the people using it on a daily basis, we would be doing more than a disservice to the community which occupies it long after we are gone.

I see community as a collective term, a togetherness, in the same place and the same mind.

A few TED talks to further tickle your taste buds:

 

Author: J. Hutchinson