Format Action Workshops
City Lisbon, Portugal
Praça São Paulo is a square located in the center of Lisbon. At night, it is frequently being crossed by tourists, homeless people, local traders and young people. Hostels, restaurants, cafés and ice cream shops are casting the locals out of their houses as well as public spaces. The mobility of people crossing this space for just a moment is juxtaposed with the immobility of others. During the Festival Silêncio (2017), Oficina do GatoMorto answered the call of the Biblioteca Itinerante to leave a small part of a library on the Praça São Paulo. during a public building workshop, a portable shelter was constructed as an intervention on the square. Asking ‘What do we need to call this a house?’, the shelter became a manifesto of alternative living for people that cannot inhabit the city center anymore.
Things you need PRE-BUILT STRUCTURE
Design a skeleton structure with a floor and a roof that resembles the structure of a house. Keep it simple to promote its self-made character, and show that building your own shelter is not that difficult. Collect left-over materials from the streets, your houses, construction sites, etc. Lend tools or use your own to start building the structure. Once this is finished, transport it to the site of intervention, and bring along some additional materials and tools to accommodate the workshop.
People Power OPEN DISCUSSION
Certainly, the pre-built structure in public space will attract quite some attention from local inhabitants and passers-by. Gather engaged citizens to discuss 'What is missing to call it a house?'. Start writing down all their ideas and wishes; you will be surprised to see the ideas that people come up with!
Production BUILDING TOGETHER
Now it is time to take action. Invite participants to bring or find materials and tools. Collaboratively build and furnish the shelter to transform it into a house. Anyone willing to help is welcome!
Communication MOVING IN
Invite locals to use the shelter. Explain to them that it is open and for everyone to use. There are no timetables, no programmes, no doors! The intention is to leave to shelter to be lived, and observe its different usages and natural transformation over time. Families stopping to have a bit of shadow and read a book, kids playing inside, young people chatting and having a beer, homeless people and dogs sleeping there at night. This will provide you with interesting insights on urban and social issues.
Think of different actions fitting to the context in which you find yourself using this tool. For instance, you could list the shelter on Airbnb as a provocation towards the real-estate housing war. This ironic act engages visitors and tourists to think about housing problems in your city. Think of a description such as 'private bedroom, with shared toilets and common living room, located in the center of the city'... it fits the shelter perfectly! In a ludicrous way, it raises awareness about changes in the politics of habitation. If you actually manage to rent out the shelter over Airbnb - in Lisbon, the listing was removed by the website's moderators, stating 'This is not an accommodation' - use the money to create another action and build a new shelter.
Official / Legal LICENSES
It can be particularly difficult to get the licenses and permits to build the shelter in public space. Make sure to check local rules, laws and legislations, and inform yourself about the limits and possibilities in your own context. The nature of the shelter, and whether it is permanent or only temporary, depends largely on licenses. One option is to start the project in the frame of a festival or other event. Alternatively, you could find an empty or abandoned lot and implement the tool here. Your context might require a good dose of courage and creativity to still make an intervention happen!