ARCADE’s aim was to use design to transform The Causey, the space...
ARCADE’s aim was to use design to transform The Causey, the space at West Crosscauseway on Edinburgh’s Southside from a space for vehicles into a space for people. The proposal to SIX CITIES included working with the local community and artists to embed the design project as a cultural event in the community. The principal aim of The Causey project was to change people’s perception of places and open their eyes to the quality and potential for urban spaces to be reclaimed as places for people.
The Causey is a historic space dating from at least 1599 when it first appeared on maps and was recorded as being a ‘causeyed’ (paved) cross street linking Causeyside (now Buccleuch Street) and the Pleasance, at that time the two principal roads on the south side of Edinburgh. The Gusedub (goose pond) originally lay immediately to the south of The Causey and, later, a trough for watering horses was positioned in the space. The distinctive triangular shape of the space has persisted for 400 years. In recent times, its fate has been to be a traffic island with its surfaces designed for vehicles. Cars have taken over and people are no longer able to experience and enjoy the space.
ARCADE posed the question - could design transform The Causey into a place full of life and people?
In early February 2007, ARCADE invited existing local community groups to attend a public meeting. Following this the West Crosscauseway Association was formed from existing community groups and activists, workers and residents as a vehicle to involve local people, progress the event and make funding applications.
The design for the transformation of the space was initiated through a Community Ideas Workshop led by ARCADE and held at the Southside Community Centre in March 2007. Participants explored the past, present and future of the West Crosscauseway space through themes, ideas and aspirations. The idea of transforming the traffic island into a tropical island emerged from the workshop and was then developed into the design for the installation of The Causey by ARCADE, working in collaboration with artists Shaeron Averbuch of Art in Architecture, and Carnival Chaos.
The physical transformation of the space was carried out on Friday 25th May by 25 volunteers including Architecture and Geography students from Edinburgh University, and staff from Scottish Business in the Community, with the assistance of a local set-builder for Edinburgh Grand Opera and a local landscape contractor who advised on and demonstrated how to lay grass turf. Volunteers gained new skills in managing and carrying out joinery and heavy gardening work. The oral history of the people and places of the South Side was represented by recorded sound and written recollections of the Southside Heritage Group . Archive images of the area, in collaboration with The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, were exhibited on a sign board designed by a graphic designer who is also a local resident.
On Saturday 26 May, Shaeron Averbuch led a community painting exercise where children painted garlands of tropical flowers on the tarmac island and surrounding areas. As well as a celebratory party, impromptu street theatre performers and musicians took advantage of the re-claimed space to entertain visitors.
The project was filmed, photographed and recorded in overview from The Appleton Tower using time-lapse photography , made into a short movie.f [Both movies are now showing on youtube. The event can be seen on www.thecausey.org]
The Causey was dismantled by a small team of volunteers on 29 May, entirely recycled and small items donated to community groups. The construction cost incurred in implementing The Causey was £16,000.
For four days in May 2007, as part of the SIX CITIES’ Design Festival, ARCADE Architects, with the involvement of local community groups, residents and volunteers, transformed a historic public space from a place for vehicles into a vibrant place for people. Cars were excluded from West Crosscauseway, grass was laid on the carriage ways, road signs were converted into palm trees. The central lamp post became an “Ideas Tree” and a pink carpet was laid right across the space. Colourful tents and seats on the new grass invited people to stop, enjoy the space and listen to the recorded memories of local people and read about local history and place names.