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.
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.
One Bucket at a Time Winnipeg was composed of over 2500 five-gallon painters’ buckets. Nesting three buckets together in a tight triangular geometry allowed for a flexible form when connected by a grid of ropes and multiplied. The resulting malleable 'surface’ functioned like a giant carpet that could be rolled or pulled together, into a peak or a line, to create different topographies.
The pavilion is both a sculptural object and an extension of the streetscape, with two white waves of buckets that curve up from the ground and bow toward each other overhead, their arches creating a partial enclosure for passers-by. Positioned on a major pedestrian thoroughfare, the structure’s shape funnels movement through the site and between the breaking waves, releasing foot traffic to neighbouring sites and pathways.
Although a departure from its compelling beginnings, it was critical that the Winnipeg pavilion continue to have a strong social impact and this brought the project full circle. With community in mind, the international team invited visitors to “fill the wave” of buckets through individual donations. Each bucket used to construct the project was replaced with a cash contribution, with proceeds given to Ayuda y Solidaridad con las Niñas de la Calle, a Mexican orphanage for at-risk girls and young women located in Mexico City.