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I recently read a couple of articles regarding public space which gave me with a rush of inspiration that challenged me to start writing again.

The first thing that came to my mind when I started thinking about public space was: What defines it? This question was immediately followed by another one: Does it need to be defined? My response to both questions was:

The most beautiful thing about public space is that it cannot be defined, nor contained, nor limited. It is like trying to hold water in our hands; it flows freely, slipping through our fingers and escaping in search of new places to bring new life and make them shine.

It is free and independent, unlike its peers the buildings, who are contained within a lot or parcel, defined by their neighbors, and limited to exist forever wearing the same suits.

Public space can change, mutate, and adapt to the new realities that surround it. It can adopt new personalities over time, always thinking of how to exist forever.

Years ago, I watched one of those movies with the ability to stay in our memories forever. It was this movie what led me to my career path. In the movie, one of the characters was an architect, and he said something that I was never able to forget. He was dictating a class to a group of architecture students and showed them a brick. He then asked the students: “What is this?” After listening to several responses, some very basic and some others a little more creative, he answered: “It is a brick that wants to be something…” The phrase was followed by a group of images of architectural landmarks.

“It is a brick that wants to be something…” That phrase has been my companion ever since to remind me that there is something exceptional, some kind of energy that forms when we are about to be creative, a je ne sais quoi that accompanies us step by step through the creative process. I am not talking about some mystical or supernatural idea; it is simply a part of the architects’ craft that, at least in my case, is always present and leads me to believe that what I am doing is something special regardless of the outcome.

It is this phrase what comes to my mind when I think about public space. I picture it as that brick wanting to be something. I visualize it as a character within the city, a sympathetic one, always cheerful, a superhero, able to stretch its limbs in search of its peers, with the intention of taking them by the hand and forming a large network of happy characters.

I dream of a city full of elastic superheroes breathing life and keeping our streets and squares full of energy of which we all extract a small portion before continuing our path.

I believe that architects and urban planners should have this idea in mind when designing cities. If when designing a public space, we consider not only in the void space contained between filled spaces but also each and every one of the ramifications of that void space, the network would begin to be woven in harmony and not in a casual way as it happens in most cases.

Let’s become weavers of the city, let’s create harmony in the gaps so the rest of the cities can benefit from their energy.

-Ana Manzo


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