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Benches around Europe

Award category
Reinvented places to meet and share
You want to submit
NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS RISING STARS : concepts or ideas submitted by young talents (aged 30 or less)
Project title
Benches around Europe
Full concept/idea title
A more inclusive and closer society is possible.
At this point in which urban conglomerates are returnig areas previously occupied for other uses to citizens and the general public, they could act as hotspots for not only decision-making, but also knowledge production. In addition to provide rest for the people, benches are essential elements in our cities, towns and neighbourhoods that make possible for people to get in touch with the nearest realities, share experiences and ideas, and discuss. Benches in public spaces are the new Ágoras.
Where is your concept/idea being developed or intended to be implemented in the EU?
C/ Rosalía de Castro 5, 1ºF
Please provide a summary of your concept/ idea
With the proposal ¨Benches around Europe¨, I want to emphasize the importance of creating spaces in neighbourhoods that foster the interaction between people. I got inspired from a personal experience that has played a very important role in my life. A friend of mine and me have built a friendship relationship whose history could be traced in a map of different benches. In these elements located across our village, we not only have met each other, but also other people and stories. This made me realize about the importance of these elements. It surprises me that in times in which communications are better than ever, and we have such number of tools to get in touch with people,  in many cases one does not know who their neighbours are, at least their names! In addition to this, how is it possible that in the times of Social Media and the supposedly global interconnectedness, the rate of European adults feeling loneliness is growing in Europe (one of the most advanced regions in the world)?And what about the levels of chronic depression which, according to Eurostat (2014) were higher in areas with more people than in others? Roy Galán. a famous wirter stresses in his work the need to developing affective skills and responsibilities in a world that for many years has classified them as ¨not productive¨ for the economic system and so left them behind. Benches could become the new Ágoras.  The New European Bauhaus should introduce the concepts of community, emotions and collective responsibility in its developments, as they are universal and equally needed across the Union. And this is what I want to achieve with my experience. To spread across Europe the benefits of benches and achieve, at least, as I said before, that people know and meet the ones that surrounds them to build this needed feelings of community and solidarity, which are among the EU values. 
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of sustainability and how these would be met
This kind of  places that I propose are sustainable in different ways: First, it is sustainable in the sense that its use does not imply the pollution of the environment, nor the consumption of resources. On the contrary, since, although small, it is a green area, it can help to counterbalance pollution of the environment. In addition, the natural elements present in these spaces reduce other kind of pollution, such as noise and light ones. Moreover,, they foster the preservation of biodiversity in their surroundings. Second, it is socially sustainable, meaning that it also counterbalances the individualistic forces of the current system and enhances the possibilities for union and understanding, something essential for the survival of societies and communities. They do so by the indiscriminatory provision of spaces (benches) for exchange and rest.   
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these would be met
In my opinion, the essence of this idea is more focused in the quality of experiences than in aesthetics. With the establisment of benches in public spaces, regardless of their location or surroundings, one aims to enocurage people to meet. This proposal expects that the establishment of benches fosters the capacity of citizens to dialogue, share and live the life they want, puting special emphasis on persons and what they experience.  Moreover, public spaces should be where everyone could reveal its self without any fear or constraint by playing, speaking and sharing. In essence, the construction of a sense of community and solidarity that help the population of the cities to recover the condition of citizens, implying being able to participate in community building and decision-making.  Although I acknowledge that other kind of structural changes are needed to reach that utopia, the creation of these type of spaces could be the first step towards the creation of collective experiences and the achievement of wider goals. Last, but not least, I also think that some kind of aesthetics can improve the quality of the experience, everyone likes beautiful landscapes and decorated spaces. Nevertheless, I do not find aesthetics essential, since goes quite in the line of the superficial thinking that prevents the creation of deeper relations. I think that are experiences and not the aesthetic of a place what prevails in the memory of the persons.   As I said, all this could be met by allowing people to make a free use of public spaces, and again, puting benches. 
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of inclusion and how these would be been met
In fact, one of the main objectives of this idea is inclusion. There is nothing more inclusive than a public space that invites everyone to be oneself, and to express their ideas with freedom.  For doing so, however, one does not need from a lot of items, but it is enough with a public space and a bench. Currently, most of the main squares and streets in the cities are prepared for consumers and private establishments. Squares are usually paved and prepared in such a way that most of its space is occupied by the terraces of cafés and restaurants or by the goods sold by shops, leaving no more space for other uses. This denies the possibility for people who makes no use of these services, or cannot afford it, to enjoy that space. This could be seen as the imposition of economic barriers to the enjoyment of that space, as it acts in such a way that implies that if one has no money to consume in a terrace, that person cannot enjoy that space that theoretically is ¨public¨. Again, this works as a mechanism of social segregation by economic level. With this I am not looking to abolish terraces, but yes to impose some rules to their establishment. Also, this idea is aimed to organize public spaces (squares, streets) in such a way that enough space is left for the enjoyment of everyone without any kind of prejudice, and puting benches is one of the best solutions.  The fact that no permission is needed for their use, and also that they can be shared by a multiple number of different persons at the same time, and at any moment of the day without limitations, make benches one of the most representatives elements of freedom and inclusion that can be found in our public spaces.  The example from my village that I provide here, is one of these free places, in where no one and nothing prevents persons from ¨disclosuring¨ themselves.  
Please explain the innovative character of your concept/ idea
Although for a long period of time, the different adiministrations have tried to create spaces that meet this criteria, they usually have done so with large projects, that include a lot of preparation and technical expertise; a lot of innovative techniques and elements, but that have not achieve the expected outcomes. However, my example and proposal evidences how the common spaces can be created in a very simple way and with a small-scale intervention. This highlights how simpler things can be the more exceptional, and how sometimes, as a fried of mine said once, us, people, get things more complex than they really are.  So, in essence, I want to emphasize how simple spaces can create the most extraordinary things in our current world used to always be in search of more different and innovative elements.  As as artist said once, currently, in times of complex and innovative things, there is nothing more innovative and revolutionary than simpler and basic things, such as emotions. 
Please detail the plans you have for the further development, promotion and/or implementation of your concept/idea, with a particular attention to the initiatives to be taken before May 2022
I think that this proposal goes quite in line with the idea of building community and fostering public services that the Union has been undertaking in the last times.  The use of public transport, such as railways, also helps to share experiences among people. So 2021 as the European Year of Rail in some way also shares this idea of promoting collectiveness.  Furthermore, in the last years the European Commission and other institutions have been trying to get closer to citizens, and this initiative precisely covers that. Why about placing some benches at the entrance of the EU buildings. Imagine people talking and laughing at the entrance of the Berlaymont building in Brussels, or kinds playing at the main entrance of the European Parliament. In that way, the European officials could get in touch with the citizenry and vice-versa, creating synergies that could improve the democratic caracter of the EU, the decision-making, and thus, the future of the European Project.   
By ticking this box, you declare that all the information provided in this form is factually correct, that the proposed concept/idea has not been proposed for the New European Bauhaus Rising Stars Awards more than once in the same category.


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