No, chairs are not being detonated. But public space is being changed.
The first two chair-bombing events by Greater Victoria Placemaking Network were a huge success. At our first chair-bombing, people gathering in the enclosed courtyard of Greater Victoria Public Library (Central Branch) with chairs and cushions. The library provided a couple of tables and we jumped into creative conversation about the courtyard space as well as other public spaces with great potential.
Chair-bombing is one term for a relatively spontaneous gathering in public space to discuss and change public space. It can also be described as a ‘flash mob on four legs’ or ‘taking a stand by taking a seat.’
The courtyard of the public library’s Central Branch is a challenging space to convert into a “place.” Its large, heavy surfaces of brick create a fairly dark environment, despite the atrium’s glass roof (which is a number of stories up, above offices). Ideas that were generated at our chair-bombing included a rotation of temporary art murals by street artists, regularly scheduled music, drama or other performances, noon hour tai chi or other exercise groups, food carts, water fountains, healthier plantings, freshening up / repair of furnishings and moveable chairs and tables.
The ideas are being passed along to the Library (who work with other tenants in the complex to manage the courtyard space).
For chair-bombing #2, organizer Emmy Marshall-Hill took it up a notch.
We gathered in the newly expanded Millie’s Lane, between the Odeon Theatre and Era condos, for a noon hour that included improv theatre, music, chalk drawings of placemaking ideas and (of course) great community-building conversation. See our earlier blog post for some background on Millie’s Lane, including architects’ visuals.
Emmy also did an interview of CBC Radio’s This Island in the Morning to spread the word.
The staff at Era condo development (Concert Properties) were very supportive. The space is a great example of improved placemaking in the city. And it can be even better. Participants at our gathering did no fewer than 28 creative ideas for site enhancements and activities that will make it even more inviting, ranging from murals on the walls of the Odeon building to doggy water dishes to moveable patio furniture in the plaza.
What’s your local chair-bombing target? What public spaces would you like to energize? Gather a few friends and make it happen – and we will join you.
We hear rumours (from anonymous sources, of course) that the next couple chair-bombings will be in Oak Bay and Saanich.
photo credits: Andy Guiry and Lorne Daniel