Real: People- Projects – Inspiration Banu Pekol (Association for Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Turkey) visits David Juarez (straddle3, Spain) in July 2017 in Barcelona. I have always been a sceptic. Yet in the current climate of social media, I have become even more sceptical, especially when people I know make a big fuss about themselves, which I know is more self-promotion than reality. So I was in for a real treat, when I visited straddle3, in Barcelona. Having met David Juarez, founder of straddle3 (among many other achievements) for 3 days during a cold Brussels winter, I was curious to learn more about the work of his initiative. In Turkey initiatives resembling straddle3 are unheard of, due to our political climate. We face many challenges and are rarely encouraged. During my mobility in Barcelona, I hoped to learn and see how the collective works and how they have managed to grow, succeed and profit. My work in architectural heritage always involves communities, as they are a vital component of the survival of historic buildings and their environment. I felt it would be a great motivation for me to see that a collective like straddle3 can be so successful and thrive for so long. During my mobility, I was able to see first-hand, how straddle3 implements creative urban practices with the active involvement of the community, and talk to the straddle3 members about how they approach their challenges. It was great to see the parallels between our ‘workforce’ in Istanbul and that in Barcelona: Meeting the team at straddle3, what struck me was seeing how (like our team in Istanbul) their world view and lifestyle were inseparable. They were different from other architectural offices in that they worked towards the world they believed in, and lived according to principles that paralleled this. In Barcelona, the straddle3 team took me not only to sites of their own projects, but also to other activities which they valued and believed in. In this way, I was able to learn on site and get feedback/fresh ideas about my own context in Turkey. I was invited to join a neighbourhood community dinner, organised by residents of a street in the neighbourhood of Gracia. This dinner was organised to fundraise for the ‘Festa Major de Gracia’, for which neighbours work hard to decorate their street. The festival takes place in August, but the preparations (including hoarding recycled material) start much earlier. Recycled material for festive decorations Dinners such as the one I attended are designed to gather money for decorations that they must buy. One long table is prepared, (which reminded me of the ‘Table of Earth’, a yearly collective dining event which began with our Gezi Resistance in 2013) and diners can choose between vegetarian or non-vegetarian paella. Dancing and games ensue the dinner. Staying with Seba, another member of the straddle3 team, who lives in Gracia, I was able to witness the preparation activities of many other streets’ community events. An elegant table... ... to enjoy paella and community David took me to two construction sites that straddle3 was working on: The first was Ateneu Santboia, a huge complex consisting of a cinema, a night club, etc. with indoor and outdoor spaces, which was at first planned to be demolished. This decision was met with the resistance of the residents, and today a participative strategy (enter straddle3!) to preserve the fabric and make it sustainable is underway. Ateneu Santboià - A space for encounter David also took me to their project at the port of Sitges-Aiguadolç, where a low-cost office was being built for straddle3. I also spent an afternoon in the Poblenau district, which the straddle3 team recommended as a good place to witness the urban transformation of Barcelona. straddle3's office is in the Raval neighbourhood of Barcelona Elisabetta Fiorenza from stradle3 was amazing: She spared time for me to take me to sites, and to explain how their organisation works, as well as to share with me insights into working and designing with the community. She also took me to see a completed project of straddle3: the Urban community garden in Germanetes; this was a great inspiration since I saw in ‘real time’ how appreciative the local community can be. Also, this project was given a certain ‘expiry date’ by the municipality, but since the community embraced it so much, it continues past that date! Today Germanetes is in full swing, with a rich programme of activities. The urban community garden in Germanetes The municipality and especially the councillor of the city of Barcelona deserves special mention at this point: Gala Pin, an amazing woman nearly my age has an activist history in defence of human rights and citizen movements, including a movement against evictions. She seized the opportunity of becoming a decision-maker in the local administration, and now the city is flourishing in terms of the municipality supporting community-driven architectural projects. Being part of architectural projects myself, I once again saw the value of participating in a project you are organising. Rather than just standing back while others execute the project, it is important to involve yourself as a participant. This not only motivates the participants, but also makes you aware of opportunities or problems that would be impossible to realise when not involved at this level. Seeing the projects of straddle3 that include interdisciplinary urban interventions in public/abandoned spaces gave me ideas that I can use in my work/interventions on the historic urban fabric and to stimulate public awareness as well as encourage public collaboration. I learned that once their projects begin, once they are able to prove that it is beneficial and successful, certain parties which were sceptical or had no direct contact with you, can unexpectedly come to help you. This is what we hope for in our projects in Turkey. My association in Istanbul has widened its scope to projects with international partners, and hopefully straddle3 may be one future partner!