Presentation of the participatory rehabilitation project Viu la riera!
The participatory project by which the UIC Barcelona School of Architecture’s Research Group in the Regeneration of Intermediate Landscapes (RIL) and the University of Girona’s Institute of the Environment seek to rehabilitate the Caldes Stream will have, as of this autumn, a web-based tool for submitting public input. The research team announced this platform for social involvement at the presentation of the project on Friday 27 May, at the El Vapor Community Centre, in which around forty people from the towns of Santa Perpètua, La Llagosta, Palau de Plegamans and Caldes de Montbui took part.
The event was also attended by the mayors of Palau de Plegamans and Santa Perpètua de Mogoda, Teresa Padrós and Isabel García, respectively, and Miquel Rovira, Councillor for Urban Planning in the Palau de Plegamans Town Council, alongside other elected representatives from towns along the stream. The researchers from UIC Barcelona, Marta Benages, Pedro Valle and Xavier Garcia, and the UdG, Anna Ribas, presented the project and promoted the participatory workshops.
The main purpose of this project is to “develop methods aimed at carrying out initiatives to improve the Caldes Stream from a participatory perspective, and ensure that the initiatives proposed by local residents can be implemented and maintained by the people themselves”, explained Xavier Garcia, a researcher from the RIL group.
The first part of the event focused on the project presentation and feedback from the more than 50 interviews conducted by the researchers, which gave rise to 140 mappings, 120 of which are related to the stream and surrounding landscape. “To prepare this participatory process, we met and interviewed 53 people to pinpoint positive aspects, negative aspects and possible initiatives for improving the Caldes Stream in the four towns”, explained Marta Benages, a researcher from the RIL group. During the first part of the session, participants were also given the chance to vote on the project’s slogan. From seven possible options, “Viu la riera” [Experience the Stream] was selected by majority decision as the slogan for all programme-related initiatives.
The second part of the session consisted of a participatory workshop in which attendees were divided into three work groups, one for each town, except in the case of Santa Perpètua and La Llagosta, whose representatives made joint contributions. “With our initial workshop, we sought to engage the groups in discussion so that they could devise ways of improving the stream by gradually raising awareness and analyse the inherent difficulties”, added Benages, who went on to explain that the next stages of the project will involve opening up this debate and participation to the entire population through a new web-based tool, with a view to making the project more informational and to encourage civic involvement. The RIL team intends to present this web-based platform in autumn and organise sessions to introduce the public to the platform, “so that anyone who has anything to say about the stream, positive or negative aspects, their view on the matter, things they want to change, initiatives, areas needing improvement, can do so through this platform”, stated Garcia.
In their initial assessment of Friday’s workshops, the researchers explained that concerns were raised about dissemination and the lighting and safety of the path system, whereas, for the most part, little reference was made to the facilities and heritage elements astride the stream. They also remarked that all three groups shared a similar mind-frame when it came to the importance of educating the population and the stream’s cohesive nature, which brought together around forty people from four towns eager to work together and make improvements.
The project marks the first collaboration between the UdG’s Institute of the Environment and the UIC Barcelona School of Architecture, which came about thanks to Xavier Garcia’s connection to both institutions. “I finished my doctoral degree at the UdG and, later on, thanks to a grant from the Obra Social ‘la Caixa’, had the opportunity to do a two-year post-doc at the School of Architecture, and this collaboration is the product of those contacts”, explained the researcher.
Regarding the decision to focus the project on the Caldes Stream, Marta Benages explained that she wrote her doctoral thesis on this riparian landscape and began interviewing people as early as 2011. “The reason is the case study’s level of interest; much has been said about rivers, yet virtually nothing about streams. The Caldes Stream had several conditioning factors: it doesn’t pass through any large towns, just small ones; the diversity of its natural, agricultural, industrial and residential areas; characteristics that make studying the resurgence of the stream as a public leisure space a fascinating endeavour”, she concluded.