Standby Spaces: Civic Ecology as agent for urban transformation and social reinvention.

Our study focus is the “terrain vague” network that we detect in the surroundings of the M-40 ring in Madrid (Spain). These abandoned spaces, or “on hold” spaces, have minimum dimensions of around 90Ha- small vacant lots were excluded of this research to allow a real derive in such spaces; all of them are surrounded by residential fabric of the city; and the total approximated area of the whole terrain vague-network is around 2.500 Ha. These conditions guarantee both that they are spaces used by citizens so we can observe their social practices and, on the other hand, they are big enough to have a significant potential role in the city’s urban space, development and ecosystem. Our starting point is to consider these spaces as reservoirs for sustainability in the city-reservoirs of biodiversity and ecosystem services, but also reservoirs for citizens’ imagination. We conceive of this territorial network as an important geographic capital in which we can see the beginning of a new urban inception, a frame for citizen re-appropriation, re-invention and urban transformation. This research began in January 2015 when our transdisciplinary group was formed. At the moment, the operative protocol that we follow is mainly based in the observation and registration on terrain, exploring and mapping the territory that we previously demarcated with ortophotos and GIS technology and with the support of our own diaries, drawings and audiovisual material. The group have been developing walking tours (with guests such as social activists, choreographers, architects, journalists and student communities…), cultural events revealing the potential of these places, several cartographies of the different areas, photographic reports, informal interviews and workshops and collaborations with university programs. In these walks, we also try to be aware of a wide collection of data like the identification of the terrain, its flora and fauna, the garbage and remains that are present on site, informal conversations, or extensive photographic reports. Through this immersion we find: 1/ the rising of a wide range of civic ecology practices pioneers in Madrid; 2/ concerning geography and urban organization, an “informal and subversive green ring” appears. A ring full of ecosystem services which once revealed could transform Madrid into a city of much bigger ecological integration, in all the aspects (social, environmental, mental and economic); 3/ we find a source of urban stories and new narratives in which reality, facts and imagination coexists.

(Full text only in Spanish)

Authors: Mª Auxiliadora Gálvez (Universidad San Pablo C.E.U), David Prieto Serrano (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Oscar Miravalles, Víctor Moreno, Ana Fernández and Alejandra Salvador.

Year: 2016

Presented at XII "Congress of Sociology" FES (Gijón) 2016.