From colorful stripes in Santiago de Chile to a red carpet gracing Shanghai’s most glamorous pedestrian zone: Sometimes, all it takes to make life in the city more enjoyable is a generous splash of color – a theory put into glorious practice by urban beautification experts 100architects.
In 2013, Marcial Jesus (Chile) founded this international research-focused design studio together with Madalena Sales (Portugal), Pablo Juica (Chile), and Javier Gonzalez (Spain) to make cities a healthy and vibrant place to be. Focusing on clever interventions, they leave their mark on public spaces – with a splash of paint or a few perspective-altering tweaks. The resulting projects reconnect people with their city and actively invite them to get involved.
Huellas Artes: “It works because it is simple”
Take Huellas Artes, a project completed in 2015. Here, 100architects took a soulless, empty square around a metro station and transformed it into something truly lively and dynamic. Textile tape in a variety of sizes and colors “dressed up” and completely altered the public space – all of a sudden, entirely new ideas and activities seem possible.
“It works because it is simple, but it also conveys a lot of meanings. It transforms a ‘dead’ space into something enjoyable,” states 100architects co-founder Madalena Sales.
Although their approach did not actually change the underlying physical fabric of the square and only graced the place for a few days, the design enriched the urban experience with a designated spot for artists, helpful directional arrows, special seating areas, a meeting point, and a selfie wall. After only two days, more than 1,000 photos had been uploaded to social media – and Huellas Artes became a communication hub between the real and virtual world.
And while definitions of this approach may vary – try “exposed architecture” or “street architecture” – the result is inevitably vibrant “architecture for public use in a public space.”
Shanghai Red Carpet: encouraging new social dynamics
Switching scenes and continents, another project took 100architects all the way to Shanghai’s most glamorous pedestrian zone, right in the center of town. Harnessing the universal dreams of fame and recognition, the project transforms a small, rarely-used performance stage into a spectacular setting and scene: a large inverted plaza that doubles as a huge red carpet.
Bridging the gap between its former and current incarnation, this Red Carpet now serves as an open amphitheater. Through simple means (and color schemes), it automatically changes the relationship between passersby and the nature of public performance: With both stage and elevated seating incorporated into this highlighted landscape, the Red Carpet removes the invisible barriers between performers and audience for a more inclusive experience – and invariably draws the eyes and attention of the milling crowd. Here, everyone has a role to play.
“It’s almost surreal,” adds Madalena. “It’s something that you wouldn’t see very often. And it converts this normal city feature into an incredible attractor, encouraging new social dynamics.”
At the same time, the project’s intervention in day-to-day social dynamics is remarkably clever. It takes the simple and individual act of walking down the street and transforms it into an unforgettable and aspirational shared experience.
Both Huellas Artes and the Red Carpet prove that today’s cityscapes do not need to be defined by angular glass structures and enormous skyscrapers. And for 100architects, this is just the start. At the time of writing, they have upcoming projects in Austria, the UK, Portugal, and China – with equally delightfully disruptive intentions.
All pictures, incl. the header image: 100architects