ME . DU . SA ...................................................... Stone Shoulders, Safe Passage
Use readily found materials of stone &/or concrete along with flood prevention techniques to create raised platforms or shoulders within the urban fabric for pedestrians to gather en route. These stone moments, in addition to aiding pedestrians, protecting nearby property, and playing a role in a community's storm water management system during frequent flooding, could serve as a societal sacred space - a nicho, alcove or altar - where a social agreement or protocol could begin to take shape that fosters safe passage for all.
RISE ABOVE A STORY, APPROPRIATE APOTROPAIC
Urban flooding in Bangalore.
MTC Flood Mitigation Street Furniture, Queens, NY http://www.rogersarchitects.com/mta-flood-mitigation-street-furniture-urban-plan/
Diagram of patented Floodstop pod. http://www.fluvial-innovations.co.uk
I thought I knew the story of Medusa, the ancient Greek myth of a woman monster, her hair of snakes and one gaze into her eyes would turn the living into stone. Used to strike fear into opponents, her image was used on battle shield as an apotropaic symbol – something designed to ward of evil. Later it came to symbolize female rage with derogatory connotations.
This gaze we’ve been warned against, the meeting of the eyes that had the power to turn you to stone: What if stone wasn’t a material to fear? What if stone could be used in a way that demonstrated its strength but explored its capacity for reassurance and safety? What if stone or concrete evoked comfort instead of a harsh environment?
In looking at some versions of her story, Medusa did not start out as a monster. She was a young woman and she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was raped in a temple. As a victim of violence in a sacred space, it was her beauty that was blamed for another’s crime, it was she who was punished, fated to never again have a meaningful place in society. How can we re-write this story?
In recent years, there has been a second look at the story of Medusa in some feminist writings. In this project, I’m interested in looking at the nature of a dynamic; that although society blamed victims of sexual violence in the past, let's explore shifting that narrative to inspire social behaviors that protect and value women and children. What would a modern apotropaic device look like...modern objects or moments designed to ward off bad things from happening to each other? Can we look at stone in order to make our societies come alive with positive places for women and children?
Materials easily gathered or used in urban settings around the globe: primarily stone &/or concrete. A “low tech” architectural or landscape solution, integrated into streetscapes and other transit corridors. In some cases might be a solid cut or cast piece, in others, might be smaller stones or salvaged concrete pieces that are assembled into retaining wall or fence/screen elements. Potentially integrated into flood remediation/prevention strategies including rainwater catchment devices & storage.
FLOOD PREVENTION & MITIGATION
The infiltration of stormwater in urban residential areas is one of the major causes of urban floods due in part to the urbanization process and insufficient drainage systems. Me.du.si could incorporate flood mitigation techniques including rainwater harvesting for greywater reuse, groundwater recharge, prevent clogging of drainage facilities, and incorporate detention and retention basins.
Explain your idea in one sentence.
Moments of stone that create sacred spaces in the urban fabric for safe passage.
What is the need you are trying to solve?
1. Safe passage for women and children in urban environments
2. Inspire and cultivate a social protocol for fostering safe passage
3. Flood prevention and mitigation for low-lying urban streets
Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?
An entire community:
1. women and children - or any pedestrian who may be vulnerable in an urban transit corridor
2. property owners & residents from flood damage
3. a community at large for both support and protection of all members of society as well as flood mitigation/improved storm water management
Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?
I am able to assemble a cross-disciplinary team of designers (architectural design, civil engineering, applied mechanics & hydraulics, etc.) and partner with a local community-based organization interested in convening a community dialogue around the creation and adoption of a social protocol.
Where should this idea be implemented?
1. An urban community struggling with pedestrian safety, in particular, communities struggling with violence against women 2. In any urban environment that has an abundance of stone &/or concrete including salvaged concrete pieces 3. Challenged urban stormwater management systems which are prone to flooding due to rainfall and low lying urban streets.
How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?
The architectural/engineering components of the physical structures have a dual purpose: fostering safe passage and flood prevention. To understand the human physical use of the platform for safe passage, prototypes could be made of temporary materials in conjunction with the community's development of a corresponding social protocol. To understand the flood prevention measures, temporary modular flood prevention devices could be used to test calculations. Observation and interviewing of a variety of potential users/stakeholders would be essential to help anticipate how the project would be received, utilized and integrated into the urban fabric.
What might a day in the life of a community member interacting with your idea look like?
A dry place to stand alone or with others, waiting for safe passage. A deliberate place that doesn't impede or clutter the streetscape, that serves a dual purpose: to differentiate oneself in a positive way while linking up with societal support, and protecting the safety and value of the street itself during flood.
A friend shared a memory with me: in his native Argentina, there was an unsaid social protocol developed along the crowded coastline. As families vacationed at the beach, children eventually wandered and got lost among the crowded beachgoers. It was a regular, daily occurrence to spot a child looking for their parents and a consistent protocol emerged: a tall strong man would lift the lost child and hoist them onto his shoulders, elevating the child above the crowd. All the beachgoers within sight of the man and child would start clapping. If you were a parent and couldn't see your child riding shoulders, you still heard the clapping to alert your attention and to be reunited with your child that had gone astray. .........................................................................................................................................
A societal agreement or protocol like the lifting of a child and the clapping of a community may look very different in different cultures and situations. My intent is not to impose a protocol upon a community and nor assume that an architectural intervention would inherently generate such an agreement. I do think that a physically manifested yet thoughtfully designed moment or series of moments could be part of the inspiration for a group of people to develop a shared value and commitment to each other. Let's climb on stone shoulders, shift the narrative we thought we knew, and create safe passage along the way.