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100 Chairs

Award category
Reinvented places to meet and share
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NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS RISING STARS : concepts or ideas submitted by young talents (aged 30 or less)
Project title
100 Chairs
Full concept/idea title
100 Chairs: instant public space on wheels. Coming soon to a town near you
In Bulgaria, boroughs outside city centres lack public space. But with small interventions, empty lots can become thriving social hubs. Adding seating and basic amenities can open them up for people, while a collective design process fosters community. We propose to scale up this placemaking process by streamlining it and putting it on wheels. We will equip a truck and travel across the country to seed public space. Let’s get the engines running so any neighbourhood can enjoy greenery and play.
Where is your concept/idea being developed or intended to be implemented in the EU?
Sofia, Ruse, and others
multiple locations
Sofia, Ruse, and others
1000, 7000, and others
Please provide a summary of your concept/ idea
In Sofia and other Bulgarian cities, interstitial urban spaces are left abandoned or underused, while many people outside city centres lack accessible places to gather (Jan Gehl, 2017). But with small architectural interventions - access stairs/ramps, seating, lighting and decoration - empty lots can become thriving public places. We are proposing a streamlined placemaking method that can be applied across the country. Modular construction elements will be creatively reused for each space. Architects will collaborate with residents to design and build the interventions. Further, we will put the whole process on wheels: we will equip a truck to carry the modular materials and get the engines running to seed public space. Our organisation’s work so far has yielded a 7-step method to create public space: Inclusive design. A workshop brings residents and architects together to design effective, beautiful structures that fit the context and local needs. An easy-to-build intervention with maximum aesthetic impact. The designs creatively reuse modular elements and standard outdoor furniture and fixtures. A programme of opening events to create a festive, inclusive atmosphere. We provide a platform for local artists who activate the space and gather people together. А targeted communication campaign to engage locals as well as the broader public. Involving socially-responsible sponsors who support the cause for a greener, more inclusive city. Analysing results to see if maintaining a public space at a given location is sustainable in the long run. If so, campaigning that the temporary intervention becomes permanent. Involving city authorities throughout the process and building bridges between residents and politicians so more grassroots ideas can come to fruition. To make the process even more effective, we plan to take the show on the road with the 100 Chairs truck so any neighbourhood can enjoy inclusive design, greenery, play, and community.
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of sustainability and how these would be met
100 Chairs is a project with a light footprint that requires minimal means to be realised. We will reuse a set of basic modular materials to create urban interventions without disturbing the terrain. Depending on the context, we will also collaborate with local authorities and/or the space’s owners to introduce plants in harmony with the ecosystem, including species that attract pollinators. This way, we aim to enrich urban biodiversity.  In the longer term, the project aims to bring sustainable change in cities in terms of environment and ecology, but also community and inclusion: those aspects of our work as interrelated. We not only create urban design - we also build the social infrastructure that is necessary to activate and sustain it. Design workshops involving locals create a shared sense of ownership for each of our interventions. We also work closely with local authorities and bring them into dialogue with residents. This way, the two sides see that they have shared interests and that change is within reach. Finally, by involving socially responsible private sponsors, we ensure the project’s financial stability so it can continue to develop. Thus, 100 Chairs’ temporary urban transformations are designed to spark permanent regeneration. In our previous project, The Rivers of Sofia, what started as a two-week festival grew into an initiative to permanently turn the riverbanks into accessible public areas, which is now supported by the city’s Architecture and Urbanism office and the Chief Architect, as well as thousands of citizens. We aim for a combination of ecological, social and financial sustainability and we design processes through which one enhances the other. Our goals would be met if at least half of our temporary interventions generate sustained grassroots movements for permanent revitalisation and, within two years, a third of the spaces we transformed have turned into green, accessible public spaces.
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
The project involves architects in placemaking initiatives alongside citizens. With each intervention, aesthetics is top of mind so that the design would create shared joy and celebration. We believe that play and pleasure enabled by high-quality design are essential to generate energy for further change. A key part of the project is the aesthetic impact of instant transformation. When an area commonly perceived as worthless becomes a prized social location, this creates a lasting effect that allows the project to flourish. After an intervention is constructed, a series of events targeted at locals activates the space and changes its function. Music, performances, sports and games for children may be part of the programme, depending on the context and neighbourhood needs. Activities are realised with local partners; in our previous projects, we have collaborated with independent artists and performers, as well as local cultural institutions. A shared festive experience draws on community resources to let people see their neighbourhood in a new light. Interventions are designed to allow multiple uses as well as multiple experiences. Distinct areas are defined for active participation, for rest and contemplation, and for socialising in smaller groups, so people can appreciate various aspects of the new environment. Aesthetically stimulating features like colourful lights or a sculptural installation are combined with plants, vertical gardens, or paths secluded by greenery so that there is a space for everyone. 100 Chairs will create attractive, enchanting places that draw people in and create excitement and hope about their neighbourhood. The project will be successful if, in each place where our truck arrives and a new space is transformed, a significant number of local people enter and then spend at least an hour on-site, turning the space into place. Subsequent surveys will evaluate the intervention and monitor the impact it has on the neighbourhood.
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of inclusion and how these would be been met
The 100 Chairs van is an incubator for collective placemaking that creates new connections within the community and empowers local residents by involving them in collective design and decision-making. The spaces we create together are free and accessible and allow everyone in the neighbourhood to participate in shared activities. In our outreach strategy, we target different social groups on the local level and proactively include marginalised members of society. Taking part in a shared initiative and enjoying a new public space becomes a way to combat social divisions. In a previous initiative we organised, the Rivers of Sofia festival, locals from the Arab and Roma communities, which tend to be segregated, joined in the festivities along with Bulgarians. The rich cultural programme created an inviting space for all. Communities that live next door to each other but hardly ever come together had a chance to do so. We also actively involve diverse residents from the beginning, in designing the space during interactive workshops. Designs are openly discussed and community feedback is taken into account. That way, we create mechanisms of inclusion and empowerment. Afterwards, a wider public debate as part of the opening events brings together locals and members of the municipal authorities to share ideas about the space and the neighbourhood. Locals have their voices heard by decision-makers. A main topic of discussion is how the site of the temporary intervention can be permanently transformed to benefit the public. Local officials share how people can initiate and develop more bottom-up initiatives in a democratic manner. Thus, 100 Chairs bridges social divides on the neighbourhood level through shared activities and celebrations. It also empowers locals to connect with officials and shows them new ways of participating in decision-making about their built environment.
Please explain the innovative character of your concept/ idea
The innovative idea is: instant public space on wheels. We are taking an established placemaking process and scaling it up by streamlining it into 7 simple steps and then putting it on the road. This way, we can reach remote parts of the country and engage local residents. We bring all the materials necessary as well as research about places that are ripe for transformation. With some input from locals, we make it happen. The more our truck travels around the country, the better-known the process becomes and the more achievable social and architectural change on the neighbourhood level becomes. We weave a national network of engaged citizens who create beautiful, inclusive and accessible cities for all - from the ground up. While placemaking initiatives are common throughout the EU, scaling them so that we can create instant public space in any city is an important upgrade that increases the initiative’s impact. We are also recycling materials: prefab scaffolding and other modular elements are disassembled after one to several months in one place, to be used in the next design elsewhere. While each design is unique and co-designed with locals, it also uses light, standardised elements that can be reused over and over again. No waste is generated - just more public space. Seeds of change are planted in neighbourhoods across the country. Using “lean startup” methods, we pare down a process that typically takes years so that it can happen within a few months. We obtain permissions for temporary installations instead of permanent projects, which is vastly easier in terms of paperwork. Then, we show people what is possible and ignite their imagination. Once locals and city officials feel invested in the project, permanent change is easier to envision and achieve. Public space on wheels for all: what could be better?
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
July 2021: Hosting a pilot event to launch 100 Chairs as a brand. Installing seating, lights and greenery in an abandoned space in Sofia. Developing a programme with our partner Goethe-Institut Bulgaria and coordinating with artists and performers. Executing a multichannel PR and communications campaign to reach diverse local residents and gain public support for the upcoming launch of the 100 Chairs truck in 2022. Aug. 2021: Purchasing the materials for the truck, including scaffolding and other modular elements suitable for seating, platforms, raised planting beds etc.; cloth, lights, and stackable chairs! Nov. 2021: Creating a website to further popularise the initiative. Nov.-Dec. 2021: Completing the truck’s design. Jan.-Feb. 2022: Conducting research and creating a detailed map with potential spaces for interventions, based on urban morphology, current condition, ownership status, and sociological data. Compiling lists of potential partners to be involved in each transformation - including local NGOs and businesses, institutions and artists. March-April 2022: Initiating contact with potential partners and sponsors to ensure the project’s sustainability. If possible, visiting locations and conducting in-depth interviews with locals individually or in focus groups. April 2022: Finalising the list of locations to transform for the rest of the year. Moving the truck on-site to the first location. Deepening connections with local residents and partner organisations and launching a PR and communications campaign. Selecting at least 10 local residents to take part in the design workshop alongside architects. May 2022: Conducting the design workshop and creating a vision for transforming the space. Holding a public discussion to get feedback from the community and adapting the design accordingly. Beginning construction. June 2022: Completing the first full 100 Chairs intervention and launching the opening events.
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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