How can “invisible borders” be broken down?

noelito
2 min readJun 15, 2024

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There are methods we can learn from that people use to cross invisible and physical boundaries within public spaces. Learning from these can help others reshape the borders that restrict them.

Empower yourself by understanding people experiences borders

Living libraries help people tell their stories in public spaces on how borders have affected them, while participatory art helps people map their personal boundaries or represent the experiences of people affected by borders, like the Campito project.

Map the impact of borders and intersections on people’s lives

Asset mapping walks and collaborative modelling help document the impact of the borders people experience in their neighbourhood, whether that’s places they don’t feel safe or spaces they don’t feel included in. Like the Water Playground Game, you can also document the intersections where these are being broken down.

Bridging borders to make public spaces more inclusive

Groups are also prototyping ways to break down physical borders to make spaces more accessible. The places between the German/Polish borders show you can turn a ‘no man’s land’ into an experimental environment with its currency.

Subverting borders to show new ways of living

People have constantly tweaked the way things have evolved. For example, ARTfarm has turned a crossing between two blocks into a transitional space to grow plants and to meet. In contrast, Bubbleware turns the linear lines that define where we walk into circular bubbles where people can interact.

However, people are subverting the systems that define the boundaries of our public spaces, from ‘chair bombing‘ parking spaces to protest against not being able to sit on the sidewalk to turning foreclosure adverts into ways to let people know where to squat. In some cases, citizens are creating their own boundaries to show the authorities the solutions needed, like creating their own ‘guerrilla bike lanes‘.

Suppose we can learn to see the invisible and physical borders that people experience in our neighbourhoods. In that case, we can design and open up public spaces to be more accessible and inclusive so everyone feels the space is theirs.

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noelito

Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese