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Invading the urban environment
A group of young designers are making their mark on Nicosia’s urban scene by creatively redesigning “misused public spaces”.
“Our goal is to give solutions on how these spaces could be used,” said designer Marina Hadjilouca, one of the founders and designers of Schedia, organisers of this weekend’s Urban Invaders event.
Schedia was set up in December 2009 and focuses on user-centred designs, exploring how methods used within this area of design can improve urban regeneration, such as the transformation of the old town of Nicosia, as well as public and private places like libraries. This type of design is centred on the user, researching its characteristics and providing solutions that meet their needs, wishes and expectations. The process covers each stage of design, starting from the research involving the public to the outline of the idea and the development of the space.
Urban Invaders has been in the pipeline since last April and has recruited two sets of designers who will propose solutions for two misused public spaces in Nicosia. The two spaces are the Pontiakou Ellinismou park in Engomi and the square in the heart of the old part of Ayios Dometios. However the designers do not simply rush in to put their mark on these so-called ‘misused spaces’, there is a process they go through which involves the local community of each area thus allowing them to voice their ideas.
“These places are there for a reason and to be used by the public,” said Hadjilouca. “And the municipalities want them to be used in the right way too,” she added.
Hadjilouca explained that two interventions take place, a small one and a bigger one at each site. The smaller interventions took place on November 5 and 6 for locals to discuss with the designers what they need and want from the project. The designers themselves have to investigate the area as well to discover its character and what it may be lacking. The research, in turn, will help them come up with design ideas for the space.
The second interventions will take place next Saturday between 12pm and 9pm at both sites. “The point of the second intervention is for the designers to respond to the findings of their research,” said Hadjilouca. Young designers are also given the opportunity to exchange ideas with each other.
Locals have asked for things such as a small lake, a theatre and more swings along with more practical requests such as a toilet. “From the very start of the project we were honest with the participating designers and the local community that this is a way for us to promote user-centred design and its research methods,” explained Hadjilouca.
As well as serving the community and providing them with a more aesthetically pleasant environment on their doorstep they hope “to make a statement as to how a space can work.” Afterwards organisers will forward suggestions of how people want the spaces to work for them to the municipalities involved.
According to the organiser of the events, Stephanie Polycarpou, both of the small interventions that have already taken place were a great success. “It went very well and lots of people attended the park in Engomi,” said Polycarpou, adding that they had a very positive response probably because it was somewhat of a novelty too.
Schedia founders Georgina Chimarrides, Despina Hadjilouca and Marina Hadjilouca pride themselves on creating this specific type of design experience for its users. They also plan to organise lectures, workshops, collaborative projects and design festivals. During these events innovative ideas and new projects will be proposed so that young designers and “creative thinkers” will be encouraged to adopt “user-centred” design methods.
Since its establishment it has been involved with three successful events so far: the event Fresh and Wild, the workshop Wild and Fresh and the discussion Ministry of Improvement (Ypourgeio Veltiosis). Fresh and Wild was held in old Nicosia where group members presented the concept of user-centred designs to a group consisting of architects, musicians and psychologists among others. What followed was an exchange of ideas based around the subject.
In the workshop Wild and Fresh, participants were given the chance to get to know the research methods on a more practical level, through the setting of a “mission” in different places around the old city.
The Ministry of Improvement, held at the Ayios Dometios Cultural Centre, took the form of a discussion with the purpose of exchanging views which concern the daily lives of Nicosia residents in relation to people and the urban landscape.
Saturday 27 November, Old Ayios Dometios Square, Ayios Dometios and Parko Pontiakou Ellinismou, Engomi, 12pm–9pm