Where is Your Favourite Space?
Citizens of Antwerp Let Us Explore Behind their Doors
After a week of post-conflict peacebuilding discourse, I looked for a balance to end the week and thought I would share this lovely project exploring the positive private resonance between people and places
Let me share with you a workshop I ran in Belgium (some years ago now). We set out to explore an often hidden yet very important layer of private places in a city. Spaces within which the visitor has found moments of happiness.
These places aren't professionally created, co-created or scheduled for urban living, they haven't been specifically designed by architects, developers, politicians, landscapers or planners, they aren't commercialised and don't belong to any socioeconomic, historic, residential or leisure layer of urbanism. They are places which have been discovered and frequented, they are places which whisper to a caller's soul in ways only they interpret.
In this case, Antwerp citizens kindly let us in behind their doors to speak of their special space. We interviewed inhabitants from the city’s Major to busy waiters, residents and the homeless. Kind people who contributed with great effect.
After the fieldwork, we exhibited our findings in public which opened an amazing dialogue of people, place and privacy that continues today.
I think you'll agree that it is remarkable how people (you and I) connect with places and interpret them so individually. I still find myself inspired by the stories and spaces that we encountered.
The Mayor of the city, for example, revealed that when he had difficult decisions to make he would sit in a special place, a wooden seat, now an exhibit in the historic part of the council offices, a place where other Mayors sat in the past. He would seek solace in the company of his past peers. In contrast, Zwerver a homeless person explained his love for a space just off the high street where the sun warms you without wind, where the people are kind and grow flowers. Others speak of places that offer moments of peace and silence at work from stairwells to toilets, they all seemed valid moments of personal significance. Those that worked from home pointed out the best spot in the house for reading, typing or even doodling. Many people remembered childhood places of happiness, little worlds of play and make-believe often longing for somewhere similar. One person took us to a tree she loved – it had stood in from of her childhood house, the house longer stands there now but the tree does, “it makes me smile and I often pause there or touch it on the way to work”.
I hope this wee read has encouraged you to think about your special places and what makes them so. Perhaps, take time to ask others about theirs – some will prefer to keep them secret and preserve their exclusivity but most will be happy to tell where they go to relax, smile, rest or contemplate… I bet you will hear some surprising replies.
The exhibition: We mounted all of the participants on old doors recycled from city dump to help show our participant's location and their kind contribution through a adapted Polaroids connected to a map of the city.
Each response has a whole drilled so that the viewer can look through a polaroid of the person and be guided by a thread to their location on the city map
The city map and the growing fabric of personal places
This is Zwerner
This is the Mayor of Antwerp ( at the time of the workshop )
The Mayor's special place
The City Chambers where the Mayor works
The Mayor's response
An example of a response from Alma