Pop-up City | Reflections from the backstage

August 25, 2014
By City Space Architecture


Some reflections from Pop-up City #11 photographic session at Giardini Margherita, Bologna.

During the past year we worked on investigating some bottom-up actions and informal practices able to transform and enhance public space and its perception in the city of Bologna.

Our challenge was: can we deliver a powerful idea of the surrounding everyday space, often taken for granted, through a single picture? Together with the photographer and member of our Board of Consuls Fabio Mantovani we looked for different locations, sometimes hidden or car-crossing spaces, sometimes suburban places, that we intended to enlighten. Working together with Fabio means putting yourself in the line, leaving the mind open to unforeseen experimentations.

One of our locations was the biggest park in the city of Bologna, the Giardini Margherita. In this park in the Seventies you could even find some lions who lived in a dedicated cage, in a sort of small successful zoo. Today the lions are no longer there but the space they were living in has remained: once the grid was removed, a raised platform and a wall were erected, someone then painted a mural representing a jungle. The collective memory of this place is still so vivid and strong in the Bologna community that even today’s teenagers, who never saw the lions, meet at “the cage of lions”.

Close to this meeting point there’s a primary school: every afternoon, as after-school activity, lots of children get out and meet at “the cage of lions” place, to stay and play, together with their parents.

The idea to describe this space came to us just looking at the wall with the mural: in front of it there is a streetlight that during the years has slowly tilted, so we thought to work around it and make different movements, like leaning, dancing and jumping, even horizontally standing as a human flag.

So last May we decided to organize a shooting session: we started to play some of these actions, having fun and laughing, while Fabio was working with his camera on the tripod. Suddenly, a large group of children, happy to be finally free to play, begun to animate the park and space around the cage: some kids were playing football, some others were trying to learn how to use the skateboard, running up and down along the light sloping street. In the middle of that we were looking around: the space has suddenly changed, with different activities and joyful sounds, it was performing as a real public space! So we had to reconsider how to describe it with a single shot, putting together the cage and that fantastic moment of cheerful life.

While discussing, a parent asked us if we could stop to jump and lean around the streetlight because we were giving a bad example to the kids, he said he was scared by the possible risk that they could get hurt trying to imitate us. Even if surprised by the request, we decided to end our photographic session and to move to another location. But while taking our stuff a spontaneous question came to our minds: is it possible to restrict the fruition and the enjoyment of a public space, referring to subjective, unwritten rules of good and harmless use?

A public space should be a place where everyone can feel free to do what he wants, within the limits of civil dignity, but some human activities could clash, even respecting the security of other users.

This circumstance offered us a reflection about possible, allowed uses of public space: it simply showed us that some simple actions could determine an unexpected perception and behaviour, based on sensitivity, and that different users sometimes can’t coexist together.


The mural has been recently removed, so the cage today looks different, but the lion is back!




The Lion is Back - videomapping installation
Serre dei Giardini Margherita (Bologna)
Videomapping: Aelion Project
Production: Kilowatt Summer
Sound Design: Jan Maio

The Lion is Back - making of wall painting


No Responses to "Pop-up City | Reflections from the backstage"

(optional field)
(optional field)

Comment moderation is enabled on this site. This means that your comment will not be visible until it has been approved by an editor.

Remember personal info?
Small print: All html tags except <b> and <i> will be removed from your comment. You can make links by just typing the url or mail-address.