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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.

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Written by DeletedUser

RISE ABOVE A STORY, APPROPRIATE APOTROPAIC
 
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
 
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.

Attachments (1)

Floodstop-Datasheet_110111_HIRE.pdf

More info about Floodstop pods.

17 comments

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Photo of Pina
Team

I think this idea is very inspiring!
I passed a poetry road a few days ago here in Taipei- poetry is carved on the sidewalk pavement.
http://www.2rena.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/DSC03366_Snapseed.jpg
Maybe using some important or powerful script in the culture, marking them on a stone, or on some installation, can make the spot have a meaning for the community?

Photo of Rohith Rai
Team

Hi Mila,

I just went through the idea, it was a good move to develop the flooded areas. When i was in India, i had a team of people, we all worked to create awareness in the community and spread the concept of rain water harvesting. We were able to influence some communities to dig their own rain water pits in their backyards. The major problem in many places is that the water does not seep into the ground, and cause stagnation. This will trigger a lot of diseases, and also this water would collect all the waste and join a river or sea, which pollutes the fresh water and its inhabitants. I have been in a place where we were surrounded by plenty of water but, we could not drink it. We had to depend on mineral water supplied by companies that purifies water.

Now, the low income people who are live in these areas suffer with diseases and water contamination. I personally feel that rather than creating an uplifted platform, and allowing a pass for people to walk over, the idea of ground water pits, and awareness will help a lot. In this regard, we also conducted a campaign to spread the awareness. Some of them followed, but in a few days, their life was reverted back to normal. We need to show our credibility and make people believe.

Overall, we can collaborate, and as you asked about the concept of installing some street lights, we can work for a common solution. Reply me back with your views, and in case if i misunderstood any concept, please make it clear.

Thanks

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DeletedUser

Great concept, Mila! This has the potential to "lift" women and girls to higher visible ground. I like the mythological link to Medusa and the transformation of the story. I can see this concept having real social, as well as, symbolic impact -- all at very low cost.

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DeletedUser

Thank you for the encouragement Susan! I've observed what looks to be two types of ideas in this challenge: ones which practice discretion; avoiding calling attention to the need for safe passage so as to avoid attack, or delineation; showing outwardly that a community believes women (or pedestrians in general) deserve a safe passage. Although I imagine there will be settings where discretion is needed because the threats to safe passage are so significant, I'm partial to ideas which assert women's equality. I'm having fun exploring this concept while mixing in some additional practical purposes (urban flood prevention, street lighting) along the way!

Photo of Pina
Team

Hi Mila,
I like the idea that there are "moments" along the path. Because in my walking experience, it's the milestones that mark the memory of the journey, improvement doesn't have to be made through the entire path.

Linking it to flood prevention is cool, though I haven't seen any streets in Taipei that uses stone-boulder to create safe passage in flooding.
There are water tank, herb gardens, oven bakeries, all sorts of fun facilities
http://naturet.ngo.org.tw/notes/7-6citygreen.jpg
we have put along the public spaces. Those things naturally attract women, and also promote sustainable lifestyle. Maybe you can consider creating a series of cool facilities along the path?

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DeletedUser

Thanks Pina for looking at my idea. For cities like Taipei which may not have flooding issues, these moments along a path might house more rainwater harvesting tanks or gardens - I imagine different cities and even different locations within a city would have different needs. Really cool to think of other uses - wow oven bakeries! I imagine micro entrepreneurship could get creative with potential uses along the way if the idea of cool facilities along the path expands. Wonderful suggestion! Thank you!

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DeletedUser

This is a beautiful concept and I love the story of the societal protocol of raising a lost child above the crowd - a community participating in solving a problem. I love the idea that these moments of stone could be places where anyone (man or woman) can begin to signal a problem or a solution and bring to it their own thinking. This concept is very though provoking...

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DeletedUser

Thanks Barbra! I am curious how the lost child protocol in Argentina developed over time and I imagine one in this setting would need time and community involvement to develop but am encouraged by these real life examples.

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DeletedUser

Hi Mila,
This is a really interesting idea especially as a way to connect both protection of people and protection of the environment. I like the notion of creating a space where people are almost forced to interact with one another because of close proximity and who doesn't like to talk about the weather! It would be interesting to think about the flood mitigation aspect and how you could make it visible to those standing in the shelter either through permeable surfaces or small rivers running through the space or the like.

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DeletedUser

Thanks Ariane for your feedback! Yes, I'm curious how I might be able to take an idea that starts with something heavy and deliberate, and move it in a direction that is lighter, more malleable and responsive to different sites. One location that is prone to heavy flooding might look different than one that tends to stay dry. One location might need space for more people to stand than another location if for example one nearby bus line is more heavily travelled than another. I love your idea to try to demonstrate or reveal the path water might take as it relates to these moments. Thank you!

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DeletedUser

Mila - nice to see an architectural/urban design solution that also deals with issues of rain water mitigation. This, to me, really shows how design (in its original, physical sense) can actually change how we perceive and utilize a space. I would make sure that lighting is an important aspect of how this pans out - as it would, in my opinion, help to create a sense of safe passage. I also like the idea that this could be easily replicated over and over in a variety of areas. Do you think that this project also has a "landscape design" aspect to it? Is there an aspect of vegetation that would also be useful for you? (in terms of flooding and permeability, maybe also in a more symbolic sense? I'm not sure myself, just thinking and typing ;)
I hope to see your idea in images soon, well done.

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DeletedUser

Thank you Naseem! Dutch also commented along the lines of incorporating light into the idea so I responded on his comment thread with some initial ideas there. I'm curious what you think as well, check it out if you have time.

I agree that there is definitely a landscape design aspect to this - your suggestion to explore vegetation is intriguing. My brain first goes to filtration that might occur or be aided by plants...or how to make the material of stone or concrete more approachable or reassuring. You've given me a lot to think about!

Thank you so much for your feedback, I really appreciate it!

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DeletedUser

Its a cool idea. I will say that I would want the Stone Shoulders to be more active and participatory within the street life of the local community. Perhaps during heavy rains a portion of the structure glowed blue signifying its purpose and function. Then if shelter was needed for safe passage or if someone felt threatened it would glow another color and become a beacon for help. I would also want there to be some level of connectivity with either help centers for battered and abused women or even possibly other help centers for afflictions within the local community. It could really become place of respite and healing both environmentally and socially.

I think the idea of these glowing beacons throughout the city could be really cool. Not only would they allow safe passage, but they would also have the ability to notify the local community if something was wrong...

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DeletedUser

Dutch, I like where you're going with this! It would be interesting to play around with how "moments" of stone could be incorporated into your "beacons" of light.

Going back to the flood mitigation methods for a sec, I was checking out patented modular flood prevention pods called Floodstop from a company based in the UK. The pods act as ballasts, filling with floodwater and becoming the flood barrier themselves - they use a special foam gasket that creates a seal with the ground and they are denser than the surrounding flood water. As flood waters recede, they empty and can be hand held and easily transported. Evidently they're more cost effective and reliable than sandbags.

I mention this because I'm wondering if some of these flood pods could be incorporated into platforms or shoulders and if other pods, made out of a similar material, could be variations that fill with light as the sun recedes, creating the beacons of light you describe.

If you're interested, here is a link to a data sheet: http://www.fluvial-innovations.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/Floodstop-Datasheet_110111_HIRE.pdf

While I'm at it, there are a few other ideas I've seen that incorporate light such as:
http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/research/shedding-light-on-rape# which is pretty cool.

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DeletedUser

Hi Mila, very neat idea. I like incorporating ways to protect against flooding with ways to protect women against violence. The story of Medusa was very evocative and made me go back and read about her some more. I agree with the comment that images would help because I had difficulty understanding the how the form would support the function. Would the monuments be physical spaces that shelter members of the community watching out for female travelers? Or are they monuments that offer more symbolic protection?

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DeletedUser

Thanks for your comment Laura! I'm still getting used to format here, wishing there were options to link to images, but I do have an uploaded file of a neat project in Queens, NY by Rogers Marvel Architects where they designed street furniture that served a dual purpose of diverting flood water from street runoff, down through the subway. I will definitely upload some sketches, etc. as I continue to work on the idea.

Your feedback and questions on form are helpful for me as I've only described the concept above and have a lot of work to do on the physicality of the project.

As a starting point, I was thinking about nichos or altars I've seen along roads that are imbedded into walls and am wondering whether simple platforms or raised steps could serve as a place for women to meet and then walk together, to the next platform...and that there is some kind of corresponding social protocol or agreement that is developed with local residents that supports women gathering for this purpose. That idea on its own is more about having a dedicated symbolic safe space.

When I start to think about how many urban centers face issues with storm runoff and flooding, there is an additional safety that higher ground provides. What if higher ground was something that in some locations is a simple platform that is pervious to water, allowing runoff water to recharge into the soil/water table, and in others, depending on where the greater water runoff issues are, there are shoulders built up alongside roads that are acting as retaining walls to divert water or they are constructed as large stone filters that keep debris out of the storm drains but let the water flow in a specific direction.

In all three variations, the platform/shoulders would be wide enough to stand on with a small group of people. By building up alongside the edge of a road, I'm trying to avoid adding objects so as to not clutter what might already be a busy, cluttered street. It is a little bit like having vista points on a scenic route that serve a dual purpose while the social contract/protocol is developed over time.

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Hi Mila, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story with higher impact. You should be able to use the Update Entry button on the right of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. We know occasionally people have issues uploading images so let us know by hitting the Feedback button at the bottom of most pages of our site if you face any problems. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

And here's some tips on adding visual goodness to your idea: http://ideo.pn/vis-uals