A Space for Everybody!

PORTO em MOVIMENTO is a civic platform that aims to improve the city of Porto starting from walking, playing, meeting, moving, sports and physical activity. It's an inclusive platform meant for everybody, citizens and organisations with a common passion: the city.
We see a lot of possibilities to improve public space, through incremental actions using existing energies and available resources.

Giacomo Gallo, Porto, Portugal

Porto is a beautiful city, full of energy and with a huge potential to get better and better. In the present times of limited resources 'out-of-the-box' thinking is needed, a combination of concrete actions developed within a long term strategy for the improvement of public space and life quality.
These interventions can correspond to daily actions on the public space (just-do-it) to ephemeral activities, isolated or cyclical (requiring a certain degree of organisation), or even to structural changes (planning). For example: temporary re-use of empty spaces for sports, cultural activities or informal playgrounds; covering squares with grass to transform them in temporary parks; intervening in a street, claiming traffic lanes for pedestrian use, especially for children and elderly people...

A bottom-up and incremental approach is crucial. To achieve our long-term goals for the public space, implement step-by-step actions and find new ideas for the city the contribution of citizens and organisations is needed. We try to stimulate civic participation through a series of round tables and creative workshops with a diverse group of volunteers.

We are developing our first pilot project in Praça da República, a large XVIII century garden square in Porto. This place has a long and meaningful history for the city, but nowadays is largely underused due to the excessive car traffic around it, running on up to five lanes roads that act as a barrier and prevent easy accessibility. It's like an island surrounded by cars.
At the same time, the city of Porto and the neighbourhoods that surround Praça da República are lacking of informal spaces for sports, playgrounds for children, green areas and diverse and flexible spaces for social meetings among different users from all ages and cultural backgrounds.
The urban fronts of the square and the whole area around have potential for being rehabilitated with social life and small commercial activities, being just at the margins of the historic town centre and well linked to the vibrant heart of the city. Moreover, the inner city is quickly loosing residents, especially young families, as it doesn't offer the same quality of life than the diffuse suburbs. These players need to be attracted in the city once again.

Working closely with municipality, local residents and various organisations active on the social, cultural, sports and child care fields, PORTO em MOVIMENTO has developed a strategy for re-activating Praça da República, using the energies that are already there to improve step-by-step the liveability of the public space starting from the existing city.
It's easy as this: we propose to close to car traffic on Sundays two sides of the square, making it again accessible. The large roads will be than available for other uses, such as informal sport activities and playing, which perfectly suit on the hard ground; while the garden can be populated by markets, book fairs and music, depending on the local partners involved. Praça da República can transform itself in a large, mixed and active social place for a vast area of the city.
From a traffic point of view the idea is perfectly viable, as a study we requested to the mobility department of Porto municipality has confirmed. The real challenge is to cope with the deep-rooted car culture of this city that is also reflected in planning choices and designs of public space, where the car is often considered as the dominant variable. Therefore, we propose an incremental strategy, starting with a small series of events to draw attention and show the benefits of this action on a larger scale. In parallel, the municipality is re-thinking the current condition of the square, in order to implement more structural changes.
We are trying to introduce in the current planning system new temporary dynamics, aiming to take advantage of what's available today to make the difference in the longer term.

Submitter

Giacomo Gallo, Porto, Portugal

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