Urban interventions to turn old structures into useful facilities for society (read: phone boots converted into book shelves) might seem like a recent trend, but it has been happening for decades. It is our increasing awareness about the finiteness of materials and the need to avoid waste that make us look at these with interest.
They are, nonetheless, great, and when the goal of the recovery process is to use such structures for cultural activities they're even better.
Located in downtown Curitiba, Brazil since 1973, this recycled train wagon I bumped into while visiting the city a few weeks ago has served different functions over the years. It was first a children care unit to relieve parents when they were shopping or working around, and in the second half of the 1980s it became a tourist information point.
Around 1989 it was recovered as a cultural space, but only in 2010 was it revitalized once more to become what it is today: the Bondinho da Leitura, an open library that offers free books to residents.
It is part of the program Curitiba Reads, which is one of many created and managed by the omnipresent Curitiba Cultural Foundation, an institution born during the process of urban transformation the city went through during the 1960s and 1970s led by architect Jaime Lerner.
Any city resident walking the streets around the wagon can borrow a book for free by just presenting an ID and stating an address. There are over 2,500 titles for all ages, including classics and children books.
While it may not be running on the tracks anymore, this train wagon still follows its initial mission: to animate the heart of the city.