Set within an existing social housing complex, a series of linear paths were transformed into zigzagging walkways that encourage leisure walks that knit together two existing plazas. The walkways are made more inhabitable by a complex shading system and by the introduction of small pockets of rest areas equipped with furniture that encourages various social interactions.
Located within a social housing complex in the tropical city of Merida, México, a series of functional linear paths meant to connect the houses with basic services such as schools, grocery stores and churches were rehabilitated to make them not only pleasant places to walk through but actual public spaces where the community could interact and socialize. Ludens in collaboration with Briefcase proposed an integrated design system, where path, roof structure and furniture all worked within a particular geometry - a polygon - allowing each element to respond and work with the others. The polygon allowed the pathway and the roof structure to zigzag in order to avoid the cutting down of trees at the same time that in its zigzagging, small pockets or islands of leisure would be created. The furniture, following the contour of the polygon, created inhabitable niches, each with a different assemblage of the three set pieces generated to create distinct ways of sitting in relationship to other people. The columns, which structurally always come out of the joint of the polygons, work in a system that allows three unsupported frames in any direction, creating a forest-like perspective of columns that enhances leisured walks.
The walkways have been extended to join an existing plaza and the plaza itself has been rehabilitated under the same logic of trying to enhance social interaction. The existing program was maintained – a multi-use field, a children’s playground and general seating – but their boundaries were diluted. Instead of a fenced out playground where parents would sit outside the fence and observe their kids at a distance, a new porous boundary made out of pre-fabricated concrete furniture allow parents to sit one way or another while the same furniture becomes playful obstacles where kids climb and jump. A shaded structure covers a part of the playground area so that kids play more comfortable but also so that the shade patterns become material to play with. The plaza was extended all the way to the houses to eliminate the street that separated the plaza from the houses and walkways, giving priority to pedestrians. In between walkways, where roads pass by, an elevated bump informs drivers know to slow down and give priority to the flow of pedestrians.
We believe that by equipping the existing circulation paths with a partially roofed-structure, that could offer distinct qualities of protection to the harsh sun of the area, and playful furniture that could promote different social interactive dynamics, with a generous and human-scaled lighting system and an indigenous botanical landscape design, the P108 walkways not only became a more pleasant area to pass by but could become a significant place for the community to come together and build in their interaction a stronger common-public space.