Izaskun Chinchilla

The caring city

Edition: 2019

After decades of industrialization, our cities, in their physical and legislative dimensions, are places geared towards productivity. In them it is possible, materially and in a relatively simple and daily way, to distribute merchandise, arrange advertising for a commercial activity or go driving to work. There are rules that regulate these activities, that allow and even support their completion and that tell us how, when and where we should execute them. These norms seek the balance between the individual right and the collective interest.

Our cities are a more hostile environment for non-productive activities: try to sleep a bit, use a toilette, drink clean water without paying, breathe uncontaminated air, have fun without consuming or walk without getting wet in a rainy day, and you will realize how challenging the city can be. The normative interest towards these practices has been marginal. When there are related regulations, they generally have their prohibition or limitation as main objective.

Since productive activities has been privileged, citizens has been defined as individuals who contribute to productivity. Citizens are plumbers, managers, merchants or employees. The biological and subjective characteristics of citizens are not considered when the city is designed, regulated and governed. This negation does not happen only in practical terms: the denial of the biological and subjective dimensions of citizens has been socialized and normalized to become a cultural and, fundamentally, political principle. Our cities deny the right to rest, health or affection while considering them, activities that do not need protection, impulse or collective agreement.

Women, historically, have performed many tasks that are given without market value. Not only have they attended to others without expecting financial compensation, but they have done so without the surveillance of an institutional or business regulation. This has generated a unique capital, enormously socially and culturally rich, but traditionally invisible and disarticulated: the heritage of care. Citizens who exercise the so-called reproductive activities, traditionally women, have been creating for decades a hidden dimension in cities in which the biological aspects (age, cognitive capacity or body fit) and subjective (affect, disaffected or mood) are fundamental. Our workshop within MADE LABS will be a bit purple: celebrating, recognizing, visibilizing, socializing and promoting the capital of care, and its intrinsic and culturally female character.

The workshop wants to contribute to build a living and active definition of care, addressing them from diversity and complexity. Caring includes a great tangle of activities: rest satisfaction, health protection, preservation of privacy, obtaining pleasure, exercise of hygiene, play or affection. Following Papanek’s understanding of things we will defend that this are ‘real needs’, compare with the ‘invented needs’ introduced by productive and consumerist agendas. Participants will be asked to design urban furniture that:

  • allow quality rest,
  • introduce fun games,
  • increase biodiversity,
  • facilitate the sharing of the space among citizens with different bodies and subjectivity,
  • help maintain a healthy body,
  • promote affection and pleasure,
  • socialize childcare,
  • or intensify social gathering, among others.

All these within the Public Realm. With this, we want to contribute to empower caregivers, to discover and consolidate their use of cities and to question the formal and legislative aspects that prevent, neglect, marginalize or exclude care. We think that this is a contribution that, in the long run, all citizens can benefit in different moments of life, which will facilitate work and life balance and will suppose a superior form of social organization that guarantees a more satisfactory urban life. We believe it is urgent to do so because, if we do not consider care as a fundamental capital, our cities will increasingly deny the right to biological singularity and the subjectivity of millions of individual experiences.

  • made labs