Paso Moya: A Message Board

Wood, Metal Tubing, Chalkboard Paint, Chalk

In 1973, Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship began a decades long campaign of distrust between the citizens of Chile. Even between neighbors, the suspicion and uncertainty of government loyalties dismantled the core of many Chilean communities. This condition of incertitude continued long after a democratic system was introduced. Mending community ties was a gradual process, but in 2010 when an 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit the center of the country, residents had no choice but to rely and depend on neighbors again. Some of the worst damage occurred in the colonial city of Talca, 380 kilometers south of the capital city of Santiago.

The GFRY studio visited Talca in the summer of 2011 and was lucky enough to be provided with the keys to a community center, the Sede Social, in Paso Moya -- a small industrial neighborhood in the southern region of Talca. The task was to help re-establish the feeling of trust and community in Paso Moya, and having access to a neutral location within the neighborhood was an important first step. The street front of the center is lined with a black iron fence intended to provided security and protection for the children playing in the front yard. The project proposed by architect Laurel Bancroft and designer Ivan Martinez was informed by this specific space.

The Message Board project was intended to re-purpose the fence as a space for interaction and not just exclusion. A grid of 35 blackboard painted plates were affixed to a new steel grid bolted to the original fence, creating a wall of writable surface. Additionally, a stencil of the neighborhood was painted on, highlighting every block and lot in the Paso Moya area. There is now a fixed location where residents can leave messages for each other, even directly by pointing to an exact neighbor’s lot. The vital feature for the message board is having a known, unchanging site. In the case of another disaster, the blackboards can serve as a rallying point for news and updates.

The night in which the project was unveiled, the Paso Moya community wasted no time in relaying their hopes and dreams for the future of Talca. Within minutes, the blackboards were filled with messages of good will to their fellow neighbors, optimistically looking to mend the divide they’ve experienced for countless years.