Third Summer School of the project Youth Council Benčić was held from July 11th – 15th 2016 in the complex Rikard Benčić in Rijeka, in the parking lot in the front yard of the future Children’s House.
Summer school under the name “A Place for Me – A Place for Us” was actually an “occupation” of outer space in the complex Benčić by children to point out the changes that will take place in it and their wishes related to these changes.
The idea for the theme of the summer school arose following several events – decisions that one whole building in the complex will be a place to create programs for children and youth, participation of YCB in Rijeka’s candidacy presentation for European Capital of Culture 2020 and getting the title ECOC 2020.
The aim of the workshop was to familiarize children with the changes that will occur in the process of renewal and reuse of the complex Benčić, focusing on changes around the Children’s House, but also to start a dialogue with the community that inhabits or daily uses the space in the complex Rikard Benčić.
To ensure high-quality implementation of the workshop, we decided to work with:
- Architect Saša Randić, the author of the current design and plan for the Children’s house,
- Aleksandra Mihajlovska, actress and coordinator of MultiKulti Center in Kumanovo, Macedonia, now in the residence Kamov Rijeka,
- Marija Kajapi, one of the three leaders of the project Art Mašina in Rijeka.
Summer school program was divided into two parts. In the first part our host was architect Randić. With him, the children had the opportunity to study the layout and plans for the Children’s house and discuss their proposals and wishes that can still be implemented. Together we had drawn in front of the Children’s House its future ground floor plan, in the ratio 1: 2 so that the future visitors can see what is about to happen in this complex. Architect Randić used Styrofoam bricks to build some elements, such as the front door, the outer wall, the elevator and the like so that children get a better feel of the future space.
In the second part of the workshop the children had opportunity to become activators and decision makers themselves. During a few days we had the goal to make changes to a neglected green space of surrounded by parking lots that will already begin to gather people from the neighborhood, children, parents, dog walkers, seniors… We had set ourselves a question – what are the minimal interventions in the area with which we can attract and retain people in a particular space and to offer them something that might not be found in their immediate environment or the neighborhood?
We called this action creation of a pop-up playground to emphasize the unexpectedness and the temporary nature of our interventions.
With this action we wanted to point out how an outdoor space is essential especially for children, but also the community and how much even the minimal changes can enrich a space. Throughout the summer school we noticed the growth of interest of the neighborhood, residents and passers-by, for our work and this is one of the greatest benefits of working in the community, in the open – that during the entire workshop we had the opportunity to receive direct feedback from the community in which we were working in.
In over three days, children conceived various interventions and elements for our pop-up playground. They had to detected our target groups and beneficiaries of future space. Very quickly we noticed many dog owners who, on a daily basis are using a small piece of green space, parents walking with children who did not stay too long, pensioners and young people who spend hours on the benches nearby, cats and birds that inhabit the ruined building…
After detecting the target groups and their needs had we had to think about the interventions. We initiated the following interventions: we have created flowerbeds out of Styrofoam bricks (which may also serve as benches for resting) and planted Mediterranean herbs; made signs that point to the future facilities of the buildings in the complex; created three chalk boards for writing where passers-by can answer questions – “Will you come to the Children’s house when it was built?” and “What you lack in complex Benčić?”; decorated the scaffolding with colorful origami creations; set the bags and scoop to collect dog droppings; bird feeders. Furthermore, children drew the games “cip-cop/hopscotch” and “noughts and crosses” and made the explanations for various other games that can be played on the playground – “Spider Web”, “Princess, a bear and a hunter”, “Looks”, and so on.
On the last day of summer school, we had the public opening of the pop-up playground during which the children made a tour for all visitors and demonstrated all the mentioned games. A large number of visitors, parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends, journalists gathered but we are particularly delighted because of the arrival of neighbors whose appearance confirmed the success of our intervention in the community.
We want to thank the Department of Culture of the City of Rijeka, Rijeka City Library and Cafe and Bar Gala for their support. Special thanks to Komunalno društvo Čistoća Rijeka d.o.o. for the donation of plants and soil for our flowerbeds.