week 1 – first impressions

week 1 – first impressions

5000 seen from Germanetes

Hola todos!

We’re Anka and Janek from mech.build. We came to Barcelona last tuesday. For the next two months we’ll be working as artistic residents with the University of Barcelona and the local community of Espai Germanetes.

brain storming

Germanetes’ business

Our first impressions from Espai Germanetes:

We were amazed by how great that place is. The plot is small, but every square meter is put to good use. A wasteland has been transformed by the community into a living oasis. A lush vegetable garden and an impressive multi-purpose shaded geodome are accompanied by a bar surrounded by coffee tables.  They also have a small tool shed and a ludoteca – a medieval-war-machine-like vehicle made from recycled traffic barriers, currently serving as a kid’s playhouse. There are plans to build a climbing wall and a few other small structures. As we were talking to Laia with her pigeon-eating dog Bruna and their friends from L’Eixample, something was constantly going on around us. Seniors were tending the garden, children were playing in the ludoteca, people were relaxing or trying out new gymnastics moves under the geodome. In other words the place is alive and serves the neighbourhood well. 

Under the Geodome


Espai Germanetes is only a small part of a larger plot called the “5000 seeds”. Its greater part is completely unused and dead. It’s a field of rubble which was created by the police by destroying an old stone floor after a neighbourhood party. 5000 is separated from Germanetes by a fence which has pretty much killed our initial concept of creating temporary installations as a demo of the site’s potential. We can’t do much there without breaking the law and we don’t really want to spend the rest of our residency in prison. We started to wonder about this wall separating a living garden from a dead field of rubble. What is the reason for not letting people use this large space? Is it dangerous out there? Is there someone or something behind the fence imprisoned to keep us safe? Or are we not allowed beyond the barrier because of some precious natural treasures hidden on the other side?

5000 – a dangerous place


Anyway, we decided to start all over and come up with a new line of ideas based on what we hear from what we can understand from talking to people and our own observations. We’ve had a few very fruitful meetings and brainstorms with the UB team – Ruben, Moisés, Irene, Silvia and Victor. We have the feeling we’re getting close to reaching the right conclusions, which we will present on thursday at the Germanetes Assamblea.

On our first weekend in BCA we went to the monthly farmers’ market held on a street right next to our site (the street gets closed off to car traffic during some weekends to allow public activities). People were selling, buying, talking and playing guitars – normal market business. At some point a couple of guys started to take stones from our 5000 site and carry them to the street. Immediately other people (including us) joined in. A human chain was formed. Stones were passed hand to hand and a symbolic barricade was built at one of 5000’s permanently locked gates. Some revolution songs were sang, really good paella from a giant frying pan was eaten and so market day ended. The barricade remained. In fact it was still there today – a statement and a reminder of the spontaneous energy of neighbours, activists, passers-by and market visitors. These people really want to do a lot together. They have ideas and are willing to argue and fight for the space they are needlessly deprived of.

Espai Germanetes paella


Building la barricada

Building la barricada

Espai Germanetes farmers' market

Farmer’s market

This week we also went with our flatmate Adam to Can Batlló – an old factory quarter being taken over by the local community. It’s a huge site and a lot is going on there. We only saw a small part of it, but like Germanetes, it was really impressive. After having a cup of coffee in their bar we were given a short tour through a well organized community center with workshops, studios, a dog park and a large vegetable garden. A small street runs through the old factory giving free access to anybody.  This place is the result of dialogue between community activists and the local government.

Can Batlló

Last but not least, this week we took part in the process of choosing two trainees with whom we will be working on the project for the next two months. Out of a long list of candidates 4 were chosen by the university, 3 by Germanetes L’Eixample. Afterf a long discussion we all agreed upon choosing two winners. We’re looking forward to meeting them today!

For more news visit residency and mech.


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