The One Bucket at a Time installation was first presented in Mexico City for the 2017 Mextrópoli City Architecture Festival. What began as a conversation about engaging the public through design — in essence, claiming the public space — quickly evolved into a malleable, playful phenomenon that drew residents and visitors to participate in an ongoing urban dialogue.
The project’s original intent was based on a local grievance in Mexico City, where 45 million daily commuters navigate complex road networks, frequent traffic jams, public protests and parking shortages. The street, prime public space, is the setting for all such friction. There, “viene viene” — entrepreneurs who function outside of government oversight — bribe the local police, use common painter’s buckets to claim a piece of the street, and charge drivers looking for parking with an additional fee in exchange for a stall. Inspired by this unique yet contentious urban condition, the team used buckets as the building blocks for an interactive pavilion, flipping the perception of the object from one that holds public space hostage to one that provides a space to explore and activate. Once assembled, the installation allowed people to sit, run, play, stand, lounge, and participate in the act of taking back the public realm.
In situ for a three-day period during the Mextrópoli festival, the installation came down gradually; released from the ropes and absorbed by the city. By using buckets—a symbol of holding public parking space hostage from vehicular traffic—the design team was interested in highlighting and questioning this pervasive condition and also empowering the people of Mexico City to reclaim ownership of their public space, one bucket at a time.
The Mexican pavilion was received with great enthusiasm, sparking potential for a second installation in a different city. With this energy, the strong local origins of the bucket were reinterpreted by the collaborative design team in a new iteration at the historical Forks site in Winnipeg, Canada.