How to create an Open City towards you

‘How do you imagine your city? How do you think it? How do you live it?’ These questions aroused when we started to ideate the graphics of Open City, Barcelona’s Thinking Biennale. As a communication cooperative, this posed the challenge to create an opening towards our city and stimulated us to launch our creative devices. We initiated the adventure with the following question: ‘How many possible cities coexist in our city?’ We soon began to think about the universe of Italo Calvino, the author who in the book Invisible cities imagines cities that still do not exist, yet somebody has outlined them. That way, we just needed to create open graphic features to remind us that there are plenty of ideas and ways to improve our city, plenty of possible cities the citizens would surely be pleased to live in. The Biennale had to surface these cities while promoting diverse and horizontal dialogues.

However, we couldn’t ignore our nearest reality. As a cooperative – and city neighbours – we started up a collective creative process in order to bring together perspectives from different disciplines like design, journalism and art. We didn’t start from scratch, the spirit of the Biennale inspired us. In other words: ‘Everybody, regardless of its origin, has a voice in this dialogue that will be useful to transform the city socially’. So the graphics we created would become a city background, a landscape of an imaginary Barcelona still under construction, a city made of people and desires.

A collective creative process in order to bring together perspectives from different disciplines like design, journalism and art

The neighbours’ active role

Another important question to create the Biennale’s graphic campaign was: ‘How can we reach you, neighbour?’ Therefore, the graphic items should appeal the neighbours to think the city from a collective approach. This generated a landscape of flying elements, allowing all kinds of imaginations and interpretations. An architectural landscape suspended in the air, a city with an open skyline under construction. Using the collage technique this mural shows several frames of the city, real and imaginary. The city is diverse (with different colours, shapes and textures) and human (we can see some of its organs, like the heart or the brain). In this city, dialogues and words play a significant role. Moreover, the conception of an open city, able to be shaped but, at the same time, with the ability to shape, generated the idea of transforming pictures into fabric. For us, a city is like a giant cloth capable of continuously creating unique shapes full of interaction despite the existing empty spaces between threads.

We could not forget our permanent inspiration: the participation of the people, creation, aggregation…

Regarding the logo, an open city is a defeated city that creates a corridor for the winner, and also a wounded city, still showing some fresh scars. On the other hand, the city should be decentralized, that is why three different centres are shown (with different sizes and colours), located in the middle and the edges of the logo. To conclude, considering the Biennale is devoted to thinking, with this logo we tried to bring to mind a speech bubble to be filled with thoughts, debates and all kind of expressions. During the creative process we could not forget our permanent inspiration: the participation of the people, creation, aggregation… Things we are already living, all that may be possible and somebody is beginning to think. Issues that often focus the debate about the city and things that usually remain on the edges… Everything fitted in the Biennale.

Plural city, plural graphics

But how we could capture all this things in tangible physical graphic features expressing vivacity? Besides Italo Calvino, our inspiration also came from Archigram, an artistic group from the sixties considered anti-design, futuristic, funny and utopian, which used technology and popular culture to generate new realities. Regarding our productive process, we worked both in the analogic (cut, paste…) and digital worlds in order to achieve a wide range of textures and tones, combining different organic features with more detached perspectives. The variety of formats also influenced the visual campaign: posters in bus shelters, printed programs, 15 second teaser, advertising in buses, banners in lamp posts, etc.

This artistic variety intends to reflect the thematic itineraries of the Biennale, which have been developed item by item, detail by detail. You will have the chance to discover them in the streets and squares of Barcelona, the Open City. Enjoy it!

About the Biennale

Cities constitute the main settings for the many transformations marking the present change of epoch. Meeting points which accumulate diversities, opportunities, innovation skills, and creativity as well as conflicts and exclusions, cities must resolve the issues of a globalised world from a position of proximity. The Thinking Biennale invited people from here and around the world to contribute thinking about all these questions. In squares and markets and neighbourhoods of the city. In libraries and civic centres. In all the spaces where our city is an agora. The Thinking Biennale took the form of a week of reflection, questions and exchange of experiences. This festival of ideas – held from 15 to 21 October – promoted dialogues, lectures and reflections by participants from all over the world, such as Judith Butler, Jean-Louis Laville, Marina Garcés, Richard Sennett and many more.