WikiPlaza was an experimental, long-term project that brought together several collectives of architects, hackers and activists at a time in which many cities in Spain were brimming over with self-managed creative activity operating in a harsh context of neoliberal policies. In the face of the gradual deactivation of public space, the idea sprung up of generating a hybrid public space in which to experiment with information and communication technologies as tools for individual and communal emancipation, based on free software and hardware, web 2.0 tools and an open and transparent use of spaces and systems. The project was developed by a mutidisciplinary team coordinated by Sergi Moreno and Laura Andrade from Hackitectura, and four prototypes were created between 2008 and 2011.
WikiPlaza is an infrastructure made out of lightweight architectural elements and technological systems (hardware, netware, software) designed to be used by the public in an open and participatory manner, to share knowledge and experiences, to access local and remote resources, to connect to other people and locations. The concept is based on a modular structure, which gives it maximum flexibility to adapt to different contexts and budgets, and which allows the independent development of the different modules, including: Web TV; Open MediaLab, Open Urban Screen and Open Performance.
For the first prototype in Paris, Hackitectura proposed the use of the Domo as a physical support for the WikiPlaza. Straddle3 had already worked with Hackitectura in 2005 on one of the precursors of the project, Fadaiat, where we designed and built the media lab. Given the characteristics of the event at Place de la Bastille, we agreed to build a new, larger Domo than the one we had used until them. The structure worked well, and we used it again in three of the four prototypes. While the WikiPlaza concept is mutating and does not have a fixed shape, the Domo adapted to the needs and the spirit of the project so well that it ended up becoming the iconic image of the WikiPlaza.
Wikiplaza Paris was set up as part of the Festival Future en Seine. Festival de la Ville Numerique (http://www.futur-en-seine.org), organised by Paris Cap Digital and curated by Ewen Chardonnet. It operated from 29 May to 7 June, 2009. The project was a co-production between the Cap Digital team, hackitectura.net and the Labomedia, directed by Sergio Moreno from hackitectura.net and Laura Hernández Andrade. It involved a production team of approximately 30 people.
The WikiPlaza has located in Place de la Bastille, one of the emblematic sites in the French capital, and functioned as the main hub of the festival. The architecture was developed by Straddle3 and Hackitectura, and consisted of a geodesic dome with a 15 meter diameter and a height of 7.5 meters, offering a covered area of some 180 square meters. To complement it, we designed a demountable platform based on the Layher system but adapted to the geometry of the prototype, which had to include an access ramp, a bicycle parking area, a ‘quarterpipe’ for skaters and stepped seating, all designed to enhance its integration with the everyday use of the public square. This base also allowed us to counterweigh the structure given that there was an express ban on drilling into the paving in the square. This was done using a sophisticated system of cabling and counterweights beneath the platform. The base and dome were complemented by the Mille Plateaux furniture element designed and digitally fabricated by Belén Barrigón, Borja Baños and Carlos Bauzá.
The modular structure of the WikiPlaza allowed us to test some of the modules we had designed: Web TV, Open MediaLab, Open Performance and Open Urban Screen, which consisted of immersive projections on the geodesic dome as a compilation-summary of each day's activities. WikiPlaza Paris allowed us to verify our hypothesis that it is possible to generate a participatory, hybrid public space, and became part of a feedback loop that improved each successive prototype.
The WikiPlaza.02 Figueres prototype was produced for Ingrávid, the Empordà Contemporary Culture Festival (http://festivalingravid.com) from November 24 to 27, 2009. The festival was organised by ZETA cultural association on behalf of the Town Council of Figueres, in Catalonia. The WikiPlaza was set up on the boulevard that is the principal public space in the town centre. Aside from the activities that took place within the wikiplaza, the space was also used as a gathering and information point for a range of projects presented by residents of Figueres. The Figueres prototype was a collaboration between Hackitectura, Arquitecturas Colectivas (Recetas Urbanas, Straddle3, etc.), Surt.tv, which took care of the Mille Plateaux audiovisual production, Susana Tesconi and Penélope Serrano, who tested the successful Kids Workshop that became a core module from then on then, Carles Sora, who organised the Open Performance workshop and Ramón Salido aka pijamaman, the facilitator of robinsonesurbanos.org.
In Figueres, the WikiPlaza was tested on a smaller scale, in a small town with a strong cultural tradition. The aim of the WikiPlaza in the framework of the festival was to address a predominantly young audience of locals and visitors, and to function as a device to encourage participation. In Figures, the architecture consisted of a geodesic dome with a smaller diameter than that used in Paris (11 m), which was placed directly onto the paving, without a base. This more direct contact with the public space, along with the more human scale of the site, allowed this second WikiPlaza prototype to function as a kind of tool box that opened up to the square and serviced it. Cabling, furniture and devices were taken outside the dome according to the needs of the different activities, creating a more effective, intuitive hybrid between traditional public space and digital space.
WikiPlaza Figueres implemented the modules Mille Plateaux (in a reduced version), Open MediaLab, Open Performance and Urban Screen, which had all been tested in Paris. It also added a new kids' workshop, which ended up being the most successful element of this prototype. The main positive outcomes of WikiPlaza 2.0 Figures had to do with the scale of the urban space in which it was set up, and of the festival that it formed part of.
The WikiPlaza.03 Cáceres prototype was set up for the WikiPlaza conference at the Creative Cities in the Imagination Society Congress in Cáceres. The congress was organised by Cáceres City Council, Cáceres Creativa, and the Centre for Youth Initiative run by the Extremadura Government's Ministry for Youth and Sport, as part of the activities to promote the city's candidature for 2016 European Capital of Culture. One of the activities on the congress program was the WikiPlaza conference on November 14, 2009, which was integrated within an architecture prototype built by straddle3, Recetas Urbanas and Asilo at El Rodeo park in Cáceres, which also hosted other activities that formed part of the congress program.
WikiPlaza.03 Cáceres was a reduced version of the WikiPlaza project. Two modules were implemented: a pared-down version of the Mille Plateaux module, and a second version of the Inventing Through Play kids’ workshop. Mille Plateaux consisted of the minimum technical set up required for streaming the presentations that took place. The entire live broadcast was carried out using a mobile Internet connection (hspa). The children's workshop, again directed by Penélope Serrano and Susanna Tesconi, decided to work with the team of architects based in the WikiPlaza. It focused on the construction of spaces using pieces that had been digitally fabricated in Barcelona (press-fit kits).
The WikiPlaza.04 Pasaia prototype was set up as part of the 2010 Arquitecturas Colectivas / Collective Architectures meeting held at Pasaia, in the Basque Country, from July 19 to 25, 2010. The meeting was organised by M-etxea, Lur Paisajistak, Recetas Urbanas and Straddle3 with the collaboration of Hiria Kolektiboa, Todo por la Praxis, hackitectura.net, aSILO and others, and the support of San Sebastián-Donostia 2010, Arteleku, Pasaia Town Council, the Basque Association of Architects, the Basque Government and the University of the Basque Country.
Arquitecturas Colectivas 2010 was held at a semi-abandoned industrial building known as Ziriza, in the port area of Pasaia. One of the purposes of the meeting was to reclaim the building and the surrounding area as a self-managed cultural space, and the participants fitted out the premises as an integral part of the process.
Although the WikiPlaza was, a priori, one of the principle elements in the programme, the event was actually about experimenting with “dissolving” the methodologies, practices and infrastractures of the WikiPlaza into the overall space and Arquitecturas Colectivas as a whole. More specifically, the project worked along two parallel lines. On one hand, the dome with the Mille Plateaux furniture-lounge was set up in the outside area of the industrial building where the meeting was held. The dome fitted out the vacant lot next to the building, and hosted a series of workshops, presentations, kid's games, etc. At the same time, the technical equipment of the WikiPlaza was used to equip a medialab as a workspace inside the building. This medialab, which was actually distributed throughout several parts of the building, consisted of streaming infrastructure, and the Open Medialab with the Situation Room table. The kids' workshop Inventing through Play was held in a separate space of its own.