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LA CUADRA: Social Production of (In)formal Parks
Cuenca, Ecuador
image: Gabriela Carrión | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
Cuenca, Ecuador
meeting place
design development
12 August 2021
The project seeks to enable the social productión of an informal public space of Cuenca city. After a process of analysis of the quality of La Cuadra public spaces; It seeks to articulate neighbors, the academy as well as actors from the public and private sectors. During six months, an experimentation lab will be accomplished using bottom-up participation methodologies oriented to sustainable participatory design from ideation to implementation.
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After the articulation between the SurLAB Research project, the LlactaLAB research group of the University of Cuenca for the research related to informal public spaces and the link with Minka SUR, an urban practitioner team. The project aims to join principal actors of the community, public and private sector to rethink and redesign a public park. Thus, funds are allocated for a pilot intervention, which allows influencing local public policy for the collective and participatory construction of (in)formal neighborhood parks. Baños was chosen as the first neighborhood where this collective intervention will take place. It consists of a social fabric that is dulled and weakened by the lack of quality public works. However, designs made by the inhabitants can be identified for the improvement of collective assets. At first, the pandemic has meant a distancing from relationships and activities in public space. Currently, it has served as a stimulus for the sum of community and political wills for the collaborative design and construction of a neighborhood park which allows generating community and recovering trust in the common space.

Baños, within its 327.3 km² of surface, doesn't have a recreational park to serve its almost 12,271 inhabitants. For this reason, neighboring communities and the parish government consider it urgent to build collectively public spaces that recover the sense of intergenerational community.
Project Intro

image: Gabriela Carrión | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
The participatory design process and active decision-making by the community, as well as the technical support, will allow the inhabitants of the Baños neighborhood to be empowered not only by the new spaces developed, but also by the learning and adoption process of capacity building implementation of several methodologies, tools and urban activations, achieving the scale and replication of these interventions in other places in the neighborhood. This participatory process allows people in their territory to be aware of their capacities in decision-making, as well as in the build back better processes.
A social process of participatory design fosters the consolidation of local leadership and stimulates the creation of new diverse intergenerational groups, integrating gender mainstream and intersectional approaches. This, in turn, allows to refresh the historical memory of the neighborhood and recover community rituals that value coexistence and respect among inhabitants, promoting safety, solidarity and diversity.
A participatory design process articulated to a public and academic institution, allows generating the necessary evidence of spatial physical and public management data that validates the relevance of the process and consolidates the necessary arguments for the formulation of public policies that prioritize participation and collaboration in the construction of public space and city. 
Core team
SurLab, LlactaLAB and Minka SUR, join together to pass the research results from theory to spatial practice. To meet the community we had a first reunion with the main assembly from the community, which was a good start to vision the project together. 
Minka SUR is an urban practitioner team which is related to the work in urban, rural and remote territories in Ecuador from the transdisciplinarity. The focus of the projects are based on the co-construction, development and strengthening of local capacities from the Social Production of Sustainable Habitats, through Action Research and the active participation of individual and community wills that are linked in our processes.
LlactaLAB Is a Research Group of the University of Cuenca, part of the Interdisciplinary Department of Space and Population. LlactaLab understands the city as a complex system of interactions between people and the environment they inhabit, with patterns and emergent properties that are strongly influenced by shape, structure and spatial distribution. They approach its study from a multidisciplinary approach, through deepening the study of various urban components such as built space, urban form, urban life, urban systems and, laterally, urban ecology, heritage and governance.
SURLab is a VLIR-UOS South Initiative Project 2020-2022 which tackles the challenge of triggering sustainable and resilient development through the co-production of inclusive public spaces in low-income, consolidated informal neighborhoods in Guayaquil (Ecuador).
Image gallery
LlactaLab team

image: Jose Aguirre | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved

image: Jose Aguirre | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
Local Government

image: Jose Aguirre | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
Minak SUR Team

image: Jose Aguirre | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
SurLAB Team

image: Jose Aguirre | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved

image: Jose Aguirre | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
Technical drawings

image: Team | © all rights reserved

image: team | © all rights reserved

image: team | © all rights reserved

image: Team | © all rights reserved

image: Team | © all rights reserved

image: team | © all rights reserved
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Where are we now
The research teams combine an effort to articulate with the territory and the community for the consolidation of the participatory design process has generated the following steps:

A first approach with the community, to share the project and to identify the interactions which can be managed collectively.

A second step was to plan a collaborative methodology which aims to bring the community to the fore in all the process as well as bringing linkages between local authorities, technical practitioners and advisors. 

At the moment, seed funding is available to start the participatory ideation phase, besides the donation of materials by private companies for the prototyping process.

Finally, the Parish GAD has shown interest in the contracting of the park design and its integration into the process initiated by all the aforementioned actors.
An indication of our team’s capacity:
40% funding already raised
80% expertise already found
40% materials / equipment already found
70% builders already found
Finance: € 2,910
The project has the support of academia, private and public sectors for the participatory design process. However, the current resources allocated to the project do not cover  specific construction supplies such as painting, contracting of labor and materials. 

Our goal is to provide a model of an alternative urban park design process for (in)formal spaces. In this sense, a transversal activity is to generate quantitative and qualitative data which influence the local political agenda, towards a bottom-up policy, related to participatory design in urban and recreational areas in peripheral neighborhoods.
  • 2 power dill
  • 4 shovel
  • 6 paint roller
  • 1 pressure wash
  • 2 tape measure
  • 1 Traffic Tape
  • Cement 7m3
  • Pieces Wood
  • rent transport
  • Plants
Skills: Design, Planning & Management, Technique, Law & Politics, Financial advice, PR & Marketing
Currently we have a methodology of social production of space and participatory design, to which we have intervened considering the knowledge skills that Architecture in Development can provide us with. However, we consider that three of the most potential knowledge skills A--D bring us are in planning and management, financial advisory, law and politics.

During our process, we seek that the inhabitants of the local community are the ones who finally achieve knowledge about the design and enabling of common urban spaces.

In the case of law and policy, it aligns with our final phase which is to generate quantitative and qualitative data to influence the local political agenda, towards a bottom-up policy, related to participatory design in urban and recreational areas in peripheral neighborhoods.
Expertise Needed

image: Team | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
Stuff: Materials, Equipment & tools
We have planned that the seed funds that we have will be used for the first phase of the project, that is, the approach to the case, definition of focus and preliminary participatory moment. During this time we will develop a series of hybrid workshops, for which these funds will be available for those physical workshop spaces.

While the support we require from A - D has been planned for the testing and adjustment phase. During this time we will need to purchase material and equipment for the prototyping and later for the furniture that is final in the park. Thus, it is expected to buy:

Paint roller
gallons of paint
Pressure wash
Electric extensions
gardening supplies
Safety vests
Supplies for Covid protocol
inputs for security protocol

Power drill

Utility vehicle (use the drive service)

Wooden crate

Milk crates


Pet bottles

Glass bottles

Small trees

Gardening supplies 
This project will have the volunteer support of students from the architecture faculty of the University of Cuenca, in two aspects: on the one hand, we will have two thesis that will address the issue of (in) formal public space, where quantitative and qualitative data will continue to be collected. On the other hand, for the laboratory fase: prototyping, testing, implementing and adjustment, we will have students from the same faculty who will attend under the community outreach program.
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