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The Magic of Imagination

The Magic of Imagination at the Service and Study of Public Spaces

by Vanessa García Otero

Imagination can take us to unthinkable places and face a whole world that could only be dreamt of. It can take us to a city under the sea in the midst of chaos or to a tyrannical and savage empire over the clouds, in which the slaughtered are thrown from the heights above, just to fall into the ocean to a city in the midst of chaos. However, it can also (and this is something we usually ignore) enable us to discover the magic of the reality of a place, a community and a way of living and understanding the world. The imagination, as a transgression of reality, also manages to show us much more than a totally trustworthy and strictly linked description of the facts. But, why?

Why is the story of Macondo in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude capable of characterizing and describing in such a magnificent way the culture of the peoples of the Colombian Caribbean coast? This is because the transgression of reality puts in sight that what has been transgressed. The reality that is intended to be broken becomes evident, for it cannot be transgressed what is not known. We might think then, that imagination and the transgression of reality can also be valuable tools in the description and analysis of the spaces we inhabit in our daily lives. The public spaces of our cities are arranged as scenarios in which, continuously, thousands of stories are happening around us and being created. What if we tell these stories to decipher the scenario? How can imagination help us in this task?

Have you ever seen or read one of those public space studies in which a series of data is collected and analyzed to finally reduce it all to one or two numbers? Numbers such as indexes for public space quality, safety, traffic, air quality, average temperature and even the quality of the red tone of the clay they use to make the brick that was put in the ground. These are useful studies and numbers when it comes to writing the extensive reports of the local governments, accountable to the various public and private institutions. But these numbers, don’t really tell us much about the life in the situations that these public spaces unfold. It is for this reason, that Stories of Parks and Squares seeks to produce literary results of observation exercises in public spaces, emphasizing the experiences of the people in them; how they interact with this public space and what kind of stories take place.

A walk through some parks and squares of the city is already in motion, we want to be surprised by them, and then, tell their stories. Stories in which fiction, products of the imagination, take the main stage of how the reality of these spaces is revealed. For these observations we will highlight our senses (what we can hear, what it smells like, how it looks and what it feels like), and the activities that are witnessed, the people who execute them, how they are implemented and how they relate to each other and to that living scenario of the park or the square. Their stories are what can give us an idea of what they really are and offer to the community. We want to go and pursue them, get to know them and tell them, for it is of crucial importance to get to understand how people experience the urban places they use or inhabit.

Join us and take a walk through these Stories of Parks and Squares.

Vanessa García Otero

Bogotá, Colombia
September 2018

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