Let’s go to Ecuador with the Global Heritage City project of ILUCIDARE partner the University of Cuenca. Discover how an Andean community turned an unused public space into a lively market place in times of pandemic.
The Global Heritage City project supported by the University of Cuenca has been working for more than 10 years in urban areas such as the city of Cuenca and in rural territories such as the Susudel settlement, located 90 km away from Cuenca, and listed as national heritage in 2013.
Background: Susudel’s community life process
The ILUCIDARE local team at the University of Cuenca is not new to working in Susudel. They have been working since 2011 in participatory community development processes: two maintenance campaigns of the built heritage, projects of brick diversification (2013-2018), as well as participatory design in the restoration project of the Casa Hacienda (2019).
In 2019, the ILUCIDARE project kickstarted a community reflection in order to create a comprehensive strategy of urban-rural intervention, better articulating local authorities, the academia and the community.
In December that year, coaching sessions held in Cuenca and Susudel identified the community’s needs and the areas for capacity building. Capacity building sessions were planned for 2020 but had to be rescheduled in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ‘Mercadito’ initiative in Susudel: pandemic and social creativity
In 2020, in the context of the restrictive measures and lockdown imposed in response to the pandemic, the community of Susudel decided to promote the local agricultural production activities. As of the closing of the Oña Sunday market, its main supply point, the community took advantage of an incipient commercial activity that offered its products along the street to start the creation of a local market on Plaza de las Escaramuzas. This area is significantly larger than the original street market place thus enabling for physical distancing. This is how the Susudel Market (‘Mercadito’) was born as a weekly peasant fair taking place on Fridays.
ILUCIDARE support: Co-creation process of Susudel’s Mercadito
The ILUCIDARE local team accompanied the efforts of the Susudel community through a participatory design process which started in May 2020. Then the team carried out co-creation workshops which week by week built a strong decision making process that was progressively applied to the market.
During the design workshops, the community’s interest focused on a better organisation and management of the space, for instance selling and products exchange points, areas for cultural activities, parking lots and other services.
Proposal: Furniture design for the Mercadito
From the co-creation process with the community, the ILUCIDARE team took the opportunity of a call for ideas - ‘ideathon’ - initiated by the Inter-American Bank of Development under the title ‘The return to public life’, to develop a prototype of furniture for the Mercadito.
The prototype includes 4 pieces of furniture:
- A multifunctional awning for market stalls, inspired by solutions implemented in the past but using modern and low-cost materials, easily workable by the community;
- A stage to be placed under the stall system but visibly larger in scale;
- A metallic traction trolley for the transfer of goods;
- Iron supports to install colored flags anchored to the peripheral stone walls of the Plaza, to make the market day more visible to visitors.
Today the project is in its first incubation phase. The prototypes will be built and tested in Susuel in the Plaza de las Escaramuzas but in the medium-term the initiative and furniture could be used in other neighbouring communities. In the long-term, the prototype could be used in community markets in some public spaces in the city of Cuenca.
Germania Erráez, Vice-president of the Susudel Government said: “We have a wonderful Plaza de las Escaramuzas, and I would say that it was inactive but thanks to this pandemic we revived it and now we have a nice suitable area that we must give back to the community, to the many artisans and also to the people who come to visit us. We need to enliven this small square and strengthen the space, welcoming the different criterias that are important for adults, for children, for all citizens at the same time, for the development of our village”.
The revival of the Andean ancestral market has transformed the public space: on the one hand as a lively and festive space which bonds the community with exchanges and solidarity, strengthening small peasant economies, and on the other hand as a space of (re)encounter and dialogue with material and immaterial cultural testimonies of the local culture.
Want to know more about the Mercadito project? Contact the ILUCIDARE / Global Heritage City team in Ecuador:
Local director: Fausto Cardoso firstname.lastname@example.org
Local coordinator: Maria Sigüencia email@example.com LinkedIn