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My reading room

Award category
Regaining a sense of belonging
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NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS AWARDS: existing completed examples
Project title
My reading room
Full project title
My reading room - a spatial attractor and a community builder

The project is an experiment in cooperation between the design of public space and culture - culture as a driver of sustainable development and well-being. The goal of the project was to build an environment, a cube, which enabled heightened and sustained awareness of the built environment its corresponding community. Not only through the promotion of reading, but also in changing the perception of where and when people can exchange ideas and share their values. 

What was the geographical scope of your project?
Does your project address mainly urban or rural issues?
Mainly urban
Does your project refer to a physical transformation of the built environment or other types of transformations?
It refers to a physical transformation of the built environment ('hard investment')
Has your project benefited from EU programmes or funds?
Which or fund(s)? Provide the name of the programme(s)/fund(s), the strand/action line as relevant and the year.

European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC)

Has your project won an EU prize?
Your project is fully completed?
When was your project implemented?
How did you hear about the New European Bauhaus Prizes ?
Social media
On whose behalf are you submitting the application?
As a representative of an organisation, in partnership with other organisations
Please provide a summary of your project

The University of Ljubljana, together with its partners, prepared a functional art installation "My Reading Room" next to a lighthouse in Izola, a coastal city in Slovenia, which operated as a completely public reading room. The Europe Readr installation was set up in an open space in a park under the shade of pine trees. As a hands-on workshop with the added experience of participatory approaches, it fully involved the local community. It was implemented within the digital platform Europe Readr during Slovenia's presidency of the EU Council, and its purpose was to bring current issues forward to readers of all generations around the world - to encourage reflection on what kind of world we want to live in, while also reinforcing public spaces for reading and promoting an intergenerational exchange of ideas.

The installation was carried out as part of a student workshop and planned from the very beginning in a participatory process as part of the implementation of the "Learning by doing" process. This process in itself presupposes the intergenerational transfer of knowledge through the direct application of theory to practice. Participatory work included a wide range of different actors that contributed to the successful implementation of the project. The process of building the installation itself has achieved a new awareness of the quality of life in public spaces among students and all other actors involved, which exceeds the space of consumerism and consumption. The project also implemented a series of content-oriented events that bring together a heterogeneous crowd of interested actors. The library itself encourages visitors and readers to think about current social issues through the selection of books available that encourage them to think about their future.

Please indicate the main themes of your project with 5 key words
public participation
learning by doing
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of sustainability (including circularity) and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

The project aims to create an installation that redefines the public and private interface that will accommodate the safe, comfortable and enjoyable reading space for local people in the surrounding neighbourhoods of Izola and strengthen the community. The making process of this space is collaborative bringing architects, designers, workers, students, local community together in order to think and produce a space that creates a social impact on the local environment. Our concept was to generate a sustainable design by sourcing recyclable materials -sustainably and locally sourced wood and elements for the structure and ensuring the long-lasting life span of this installation. The modular concept is designed and constructed with disassembly in mind, as no part of the structure is glued or welded together. This allowed for the structure to be moved to another location when the municipality discovered another suitable location in the fall of 2021. 

Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

The expression of the idea is a simply designed cube with levels of wooden frames. This idea is reflected in the transparency of the façade. The material meaning is in the construct of transferring the knowledge: a multiplied crafted frame. Wood as a local material defines all facades, all structures, all frames of the cube. The team is composed of lecturers, students, craftsmen, local community, municipality members etc., has explored different locations in Slovenia. The Izola case is a prototype, the same public space design approach can be used in several different cities, and locations within a city, with a broader focus on the organisation of surrounding public space.

Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of inclusion (equal opportunities, public participation, citizen engagement, co-design, universal design, accessibility, affordability, etc.) and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

The design idea of “My reading room”, is a mobile element, a part of public space design, a focal point of creativity: to bring people together, to create the platform for interactions between inhabitants, tourists, artists, students, the unemployed, children etc. To act on the topics of challenges for a better future, or just to simply re-connect different users with storytelling. As part of the activity, the students have also published the newspaper Palindrom “What am I reading? Why am I reading? How do I read? ”, which included the thoughts of international authors aged from 5 to 75. The publication of the newspaper, as part of the ER project, ensured the sharing of reading experiences of generationally different authors of articles. The course of student work itself included a wide variety of content that is still ongoing: from the search for an idea, the organization of events, field implementation to the editorial board of the newspaper. The most exciting part was definitely the implementation of the project, understanding the installation process, tackling small and big challenges on-site with beach visitors of all ages and interests.  During the installation itself, the visitors of the beach adopted the art installation as their own, as a corner of reading, connecting between generations. Students, kindergarten children and the elderly then participated in the Palindrom magazine. Everyone had a common reflection on the space - why, where and how am I reading?

Please explain how these three dimensions have been combined in your project.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary

On the local level and on the national level of Slovenia, the sharing acts as free use of books proved very popular and the project of “My reading room”, a simple wooden cube, showed promising capabilities of playing a role of a spatial attractor in open public spaces. Sustainability by itself was the main driving force of the project reflected in the social environment (SC) and material sustainability (MS). SC: contributing to people, life, society, city environment and nature. MS: wood as a recyclable, degradable, circular, transformable material; a cube as a mobile transferable art installation; a cube that can be simply disassembled and tidied up. The inclusion process made the project value far more than the material form itself, because of the cooperation between the students, all of the people building the project and the local community and tourists. The events brought more than 7000 people to the project and the newspaper reached even a greater number of people through social media. 

Please give information on the results/impacts achieved by your project in relation to the category you apply for

The space of "My reading room", in a pine forest in Izola, was visited by 7,176 young and adult visitors from 7th July to 30th September 2021, who borrowed 2,704 books. Students read fairy tales to children on a daily basis. A total of 96 fairytale hours with workshops were conducted. The fairytales were chosen from the treasury of folk tales, and they were listened to by children but also by parents, grandparents, tourists, beachgoers and passers-by. Every Tuesday afternoon, the storyteller told fairy tales about trees and the forest, raising awareness of the importance of trees as living beings, important for human life, the planet and our future. On the occasion of World Language Week, in the last week of September, the Municipality of Izola, the Italian National Community of Izola, the Center for Culture, Sports and Events and the Izola City Library took part in 28 EUNIC Reads - EUNIC Reading meetings organised by French institute in Slovenia with partners. In the process of creating this newly interpreted urban point on the beach, with art-installation as an idea of public space design, we encourage public debate, which through the network of international groups promotes and support the global debate.

Please explain how citizens and civil society were involved in the in the design and/or implementation of the project.
Please also explain the benefits that derived from their involvement.

»My reading room« Izola, was organised as a construction workshop. Students from different fields have worked together with craftsmen, the local community, tourists and other stakeholders. From the idea to the implementation of it, we followed the process of "learning by doing" as an inter-generational transfer of knowledge through the direct application of theory into practice. The participatory approach ensured the participation of a wide range of different actors, who with their experience and knowledge, contributed to the successful implementation of the project. The process of working on the meaning of the art installation has triggered in all involved the questions about: a new awareness of the quality of life, sustained awareness beyond consumption, how to stimulate the need to read and its knowledge; and how to satisfy the human desire to be part of experiments in the open space. The most exciting part was definitely the construction, not because of its expression, but because has immediately started to be a topic to talk about. Simple questions such as “What are you doing?” has connected the people. The visitors of the beach adopted the art installation as their own, as a reading corner, as a connecting point between generations.

Please explain what kind of global challenges the project addressed by providing local solutions

The vision derives from the idea of readings in public space: social sustainability with environmental awareness. Readings in public and its art installation in Izola has been adopted well and been spread in next proposals in different countries – a global network of reading in connecting different environmental issues and social groups. In developing the idea, we have used the workshop approach as an excellent challenge to raise awareness about the influence of human activities on sustainable spatial development. With the global community of ER, it is planned the dissemination as research on the topic of how the art installations have contributed to knowledge, awareness and social connections across the globe.

Please highlight the innovative character of the project as compared to mainstream practices in the field of the project.

An open urban space is a space that is primarily intended for the public and opens an opportunity for a completely unique interpretation of its purpose. Such a space can be inclusive, equal and accessible. We can talk about the urban "Living room" as a public space that concerns entire neighbourhoods but also maintains the original understanding of the meaning of common-living in a  flexible structure that meets different aspirations and needs after using the space. Among other things, it can be also a reading area. Reading actually distances itself from materiality urban space and ongoing activities where the reader enters the spiritual world where he/she is focused mostly on each individual’s thoughts. Yet this distraction is only apparent and quite unstable, as the influence of space is extraordinarily strong. Thus, despite the focus on the content of the book, the reader can then direct the focus to detect the murmur of the river, the singing of birds, the noise of the engine traffic, squeaking sand, echoing footsteps on granite pavement, the sound of a church bell, horn railway compositions, children's laughter, greetings, conversations and dialogues that take place in the open, etc. The power to drown in this rich environment prooves even greater when sitting in the urban "living room", reading a book, when comprehension and the auditorial control of space are heightened.

Please explain to the potential of transferring the projects’ results or learnings to other interested parties and contexts.
Please provide clear documentation, communication of methodology and principles in this context.

Creative and experiential learning help us to build values, skills and knowledge with everyday work and social experiences. The workshops have the privilege of “maintaining” the abstract level of visionary thought, their creativity is practically unlimited. This stems from the basic orientation of the Design studio Fikfak (prof. dr. Alenka Fikfak, assistants and external professionals), where we focus on methods of experiential learning, learning by doing, learning together. Some of constructed contributions in the open space: Stone house in Dalmatia 2015. From the analyses and project concepts prepared in the classrooms, a group of students reconstructed the destroyed Kažun on one of the Croatian islands. Reorganisation of the open spaces in the Community Hospital, Nova Gorica, 2016. The students designed new communication centres, renovated the halls, and added service areas. Open pavilion as a place of community in the open space of »Ruski car«, Ljubljana, 2017. An open public space to socialise – inclusive design and creation of a new intervention as an abstraction of the platform itself. Lie-in-between, China, 2019. International Colleges and Universities Competitive Construction (UIA-CBC), in Guoyuan Village, China. The concept was based on the traditional prototype of a theatre, constructed as a new open platform for public debate.

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By submitting your application, you guarantee that you are the author or have the rights to proceed with the application and to authorise the use of the project, concept, idea, and that you have obtained any necessary consents, licenses or assignments from third parties and included copyright notices when necessary.
By submitting your application, you understand that all the applications that meet the eligibility requirements will be shared for the purposes of the selection processes, and notably published on the secured platform and for the purposes of the promotion of these on the New European Bauhaus website and/or other European Commission communication channels. In this sense, the applications would be widely available. Applicants should ensure that they present their ideas, concepts, projects, in such a way that they could be shared without giving rise to intellectual property related concerns. If your submission is selected as one of the finalists, it will additionally be shared for the purpose of the public vote that will take place. The European Union is granted a licence to use and share your application with the general public and the official external experts for the purposes of the selection process, including the voting. The European Union has the right to use the images and visual materials and the description provided in the application for communication purposes related to the contest and beyond. Rights granted comprise the right to store, reproduce, display, publish and communicate or distribute copies in electronic or digital format, including, but not only, through the internet. Unless you have disclosed your name, the European Commission has no obligation to share your name when using or disseminating your contribution to the public. The European Union cannot be held responsible in case any submitted idea, project, concept is found to infringe third parties rights. The European Union shall be neither responsible for the use that third parties may do of the applications or related content.


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