Yellow paint highlights vacancy to start a public reflection on (built) space usage in our cities.
The outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the lives of many city dwellers. Since March 2020, governments have been continuously implementing measures to curb the infection rate. With the partial closure of kindergartens and educational institutions, as well as the shift of the workplace to the home office, the personal living space had to provide room for a variety of additional functions. Suddenly, the living room was no longer just a living room, but a workplace, learning space, and playground all at once. At the peak of the pandemic, meeting points and public spaces were no longer accessible, and an overuse of the private living space was the result.
While living space is scarce, there are lots of (built) space resources in our cities that stay unused. The main problem is that in most cities, including Vienna, vacancies are not registered centrally. There is no obligation to report a vacant property, nor are there any consequences for owners if spaces remain empty over long periods of time. On our walks in the city of Vienna during the pandemic, we witnessed many vacant ground floor spaces, many of them being former businesses. The comparison of dense living situations and the high proportion of vacancies shows the urgent need to make space resources accessible, especially in times of crisis. «unused / overused» aims to bring this issue to the public space to raise awareness. Yellow paint on the street reflects vacant ground floor areas onto the street. These areas reveal the spaces of possibility behind the facades. Pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers will notice the yellow paint on the street. They might slow down, pause and wonder: “This could be a communal kitchen!” or “This could be a library!”. Neighbours could join to organize a coworking room. Creatives could set up a workshop. Initiatives could meet here to discuss. Parents could get together for play dates with their children. The vacancies available could provide alternative spaces of possibility to the overused living spaces. However, making spaces visible is the first step to start a discussion on (built) space usage in our cities. Next, new models and incentives should be developed by the municipality to make these spaces accessible.
We are convinced, the spaces of possibility in the ground floor area – a kitchen, a library or a room for co-working – can make our cities more resilient and enhance the solidarity in the neighbourhood.
© people: skalgubbar.se