2022

MCHAP.emerge

Catalyst Cube

Incursiones and Will Sandy Design

Caracas, Venezuela

November 2019

PRIMARY AUTHOR

Josymar Rodríguez, María Valentina Gonzalez, Stefan Gzyl, Will Sandy.

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

Alexandra Nuñez, Alfonso Torres, Pedro Tortello, Alejandro Mendez, Enrique Mendez

CLIENT

British Council, Auramarina Lazarde

PHOTOGRAPHER

Edgar Martínez, Rui Cardozo

OBJECTIVE

The Catalyst Cube is a tool for engaging citizens in our urban environments' future design and uses. It is designed to inspire social, cultural, and educational exchanges, creating an instant neighborhood focal point. Its multiple configurations allow it to support a diverse range of activities, from basketball games and exhibitions to community events and meetings. The Cube aims to provide local communities with the tools to define & reconfigure public spaces and streets to meet their needs in real-time, reducing misinterpretation and making the process clearer for all involved.
The installation consists of a steel structure with metal and wood components that can be easily set up, operated, and disassembled. It can be delivered to the site as a whole or as a kit of parts, providing instant activation while minimizing disruption. It is tough and inviting at the same time. It was designed to be specific yet flexible, providing a clear framework while allowing unforeseen uses and appropriations. It provides a moveable and reusable asset that can be adopted by local governments, institutions, and organizations alike across multiple future locations. It aims to involve citizens from the very onset in constructing a space built through interaction and agreement, opening the door to more complex participatory dynamics.

CONTEXT

The Catalyst Cube resulted from an ambitious alliance between The British Council, the School of Architecture at UCV, Incursiones, Will Sandy Design, and various other institutions. The project included an open call, a public space workshop for university students, lectures, exhibitions, and an international design collaboration for a public space installation. The Catalyst Cube is the result of this process: an attempt to generate an engaging spatial experience that brought together multiple actors and synthesized the needs and desires uncovered during a rich and open design process.
The Catalyst Cube is a small, prefabricated, itinerant pavilion designed to activate public spaces where inadequate infrastructure constraints potential for development. As a catalyst, it aims to increase opportunities for interaction, exchange, and development, generating enough momentum so that activities can continue when the structure moves to its next location. The project aims to give people agency to define and curate public spaces for themselves at a time when city's physical and social fabrics are in constant flux. In that sense, its value does not reside only in the object's physical qualities but in the efforts it can articulate. In a scarcity context, this coordinated human effort is a form of wealth, one that is vital for breaking cycles of urgency and dependency, reducing risks associated with the built environment, and constructing a sense of belonging around space.

PERFORMANCE

The Catalyst Cube was unveiled in November 2019 in a centric Caracas square, hosting a program of cultural and educational activities. These included puppet shows, dance competitions, live music, storytelling, public speaking, exhibitions, 3D video mapping, and activities for the 'Day of People with Disabilities' among others. It worked as an exciting, participatory tool to enable citizen-led change in our city by demonstrating a new range of possibilities for this public space. By inviting new user groups, the pavilion initiated community activities around itself.
In November 2021, the installation arrived at Barrio San Blas, Petare. The only open space in this self-built neighborhood was an open-air basketball court next to an abandoned lot. Together with Uniendo Voluntades, a local NGO, the community welcomed the Catalyst Cube as an opportunity to consolidate new activities and reclaim a much-needed space occupied by a few vehicles. Since its installation, it has worked as a meeting and play space for different age groups, hosting podcasts, photography and art workshops, exhibitions, and most importantly, weekly movie nights in an environment where nighttime activities are usually avoided. The intense use of the Catalyst Cube revived community engagement and brought attention to the space from other organizations, leading to the renovation of the basketball court. Now, it is a colorful sports and events space with the installation hosting an intense program of weekly activities.