2009-2010. Pablo Valbuena. URBAN TACTICS (theoretical + visual data)



‘a new relationship between space and psychology is needed: what we loose in geometrical space we recover in the form of psychological space’
Constant Nieuwenhuis_New Babylon lecture_Stedelijk Museum_Amsterdam_1960


This project for Madrid Abierto focuses on two main goals:

Promote the creative use of space and urban resources and to take the concept of ‘public’ to every stratum of action.

It is expressed in a series of spatial installations created with standard urban elements of public use, produced en masse.

The temporary re-interpretation of these elements (fences used in urban works, traffic cones, outdoor area furniture, scaffoldings, plastic canalizations,…) which are invasive of the urban environment and participate of the utilitarian city suffer a readjustment to a new use of space able to generate other experiences in public areas.

In the current urban approach we still see part of the modernist conception of the city as a machine à habiter’.  Le Corbusier establishes four functions of the practical city: life, work, entertainment and transport towards and from the workplace. In this proposal I am seeking to reactivate the relational aspect, recreational and generator of experiences in the contemporary city,involving the citizen as a generating element of these experiences and diversifying the intervention in actions on a lower scale.


Le Corbusier_Cité Radiuse_1935

 Following similar conceptual guidelines as those of Constant Nieuwenhuys’ situationism in New Babylon, or other projects by Yona Friedman, I am interested in altering the vision that the citizen has of urban elements.


Yona Friedmanr_Ville Spatiale_1958

It is suggested as a proposal with ample perspectives, rather than an isolated intervention. It is necessary to present it in a global way, although later it might have to be adjusted to the available resources. In this way the whole is open to the number of interventions and is scalable.

Formally I work with ideas I am developing in other projects related to the organization of elements in macroscopic and microscopic orders and the formal relations established in these orders, intimately associated to the formal construction of the city in its various scales.

5Constant_New Babylon_Kllein Labyr [Small Labyrinth]



I will now describe some interventions belonging to this proposal:


Reutilize fences used to enclose urban works’ areas, demonstrations and public events.

These fences are taken out of their usual access prohibition context in order to create a labyrinth type of installation which invites the observer to explore and enter it.

They are supported by their own anchorage system, plastic bridles or cramps used in scaffoldings. 



Plastic elements used in the city to control traffic, to limit lanes, prohibiting traffic, etc.

The shape of these objects enables the creation of interesting geometrical patterns.


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Fence installation in Colon square 



In the summer, public space is temporarily privatized by the commercial use that some bars make to install tables in sidewalks, parks, etc. These areas are used only for consumer oriented purposes, in spite of exploiting a common space.


Sidewalk cafes in Alcala street / Sidewalk cafes in Plaza Mayor / Types of furniture for sidewalk bars

I set out to change the function of this type of furniture, recovering public space which is made private during the summer, in order to create spatial installations in winter, when the furniture is stored and given no specific use.

Multiple elements all of which are stackable and connectable using bridles that enable the design of a great variety of configurations. 


Terrace furniture readjusted in Plaza de la Paja. 



Scaffolding for facades is another element that usually invades public space. In this case I use the modular structure made of tubes and anchorages to create abstract structures without a specific function.





The conducts used to put cables underground are flexible, light and connectable to each other.

It is a non visible element which is always present. I am interested in making visible a massively used but undetected element.




Considering the scalability of the proposal and its global intention, it is open to be completed by other interventions created with other elements which are present in the city, such as containers, trash cans, etc.


Installation with scaffolding in Plaza de Colon



In order to articulate these interventions I suggest the following strategies:

Means of action used in ‘urban art’
- use of the city as working platform
- ephemeral
- fast installation
- cheap and accessible means of production
- generated by the citizens

Use of previously existing elements in the city
- change the functions of these objects, from practical to creative
- standard properties, production en masse
- qualities adequate for use in public space: durability, easy to load for transport, clean assembly, easy and fast to assemble and disassemble

Involve every layer of what is called ‘public’
- give the passive citizen the possibility to reflect on his urban environment and its components
- the use of public elements as means of involving administrative strata

I find it interesting to place the craftsman of ‘public art’ as generator of structures and situations which activate experiences and change in urban conception. Therefore the social reach of a proposal can be broader and influential on different levels, compared to an individual action located on a precise place.

The idea of creating a public art project in public space turns more coherent when the substance that conforms it, is public property and is provided by a public institution as well.

Following the same guideline I suggest some interventions to be created by citizens, themselves. It would be interesting for citizens to participate actively in those installations which are built with simple and safe elements.

A feature of the proposal which I find interesting is the project’s adjustment to different areas and urban contexts, as a conceptual proposal it can adjust itself to elements of public use that can be found in different cities.

To stress the global intention of the proposal I think it is important to create it in a city axis or nucleus. Maintaining the independence of each proposal (for Madrid Abierto) but with spatial continuity to be understood as part of something bigger, not just as isolated proposals.

By grouping projects we may stimulate citizens’ participation, knowing that there probably will be someone to guide them in the intervention process.


 Installation with cones and tubes in Paseo de Recoletos










09-10prtc3572, 09-10pric2582, 09-10pric2580