Martin Vysoký is one of the winners of STs scholarships for field studies abroad. In his journey to Buenos Aires he investigated issues related to social inequality. The objective was to explore how to approach these places through landscape architecture practice to accelerate overall goal of help to secure the most fundamental human basic needs.
Parking your car in a garage, getting into your fully equipped apartment with a fast-speed elevator and discuss social inequality while sipping a hot cup of tea or coffee is a good way how to enrich your own manifestation about an issue.
But this isn’t enough to tackle these issues. It isn’t enough until the moment when you experience this reality fully with your heart and intellect.
That’s one of main reasons why I decided to voluntarily leave my comfort zone and for two months live in places where this global challenge is highly concentrated – in South America in Buenos Aires.
Leaving the European state of mind
The first most challenging moments were to leave aside my European state of mind, and also try not to evaluate the new comprehensive reality which was unfolding in front of me according to our European living standards. It wouldn’t make sense within ”good purpose of help” and from sheer ignorance of comprehensive reality of the informal area i.e. slums, destroy that what reveals as invisible value.
I think that under the flag of western civilization, Christianity etc. was already done lot of mistakes by ignoring and not respecting different cultural standards. I’ve found out that informal area is not necessary just extraction of negativity but that there are also values about which people from far more developed areas might be even jealous about (like sense of community, possibility to upgrade their place without bureaucratic obstacles, natural way of making authority, etc.).
Government represents a direct link to positive change
While spending several days in the informal area, communicating with social workers, architects and teachers I’ve got good overview of good practice how to approach these challenging and stigmatized contexts.
In every informal area inside of the capital Buenos Aires nowadays is presented one operative unit which is composed from social workers who represent the government. They provide very crucial and direct links between local citizens and local authority.
Always when there is a need to make positive change in such context one of their tasks is to start with gathering all necessary information about a place, mainly from people where such changes are going to be proposed.
Revitalizing socio-economically challenged areas
For example if there is a street with the potential to be revitalized, one of the first steps is that social workers and architects are going to emphasize and capture the social perspective from every person who is living on that street.
When this is recognized, an idea to solve certain issues is formulated and after that, construction and betterment of physical space can begin. But not solely from users who inhabit the space but co-created together with them according to the decisions they have agreed upon.
In Europe we call it active public participation, and usually this action is not that coherent in our context, or sometimes it is missing totally. However, in informal areas or slums its presence is crucial.
If this process would be neglected all new ideas would be most likely vandalized or invaded with the new informal housing.
Bettering the issues of social inequality
I order to gain knowledge of such an approach, I started to study one specific area and unfold pre-existence conditions there. For example by asking local people questions to get to know what they think is the problem or current quality.
With these findings social workers have better possibilities to navigate more successfully their next actions for betterment of the environment for the local citizens and tackle the issue of social inequality.