Stockholm on the Move

Ideas, visions and challenges for a city in transition

On New Urban Topologies

– by Thomas Lundh, advisor New Urban Topologies.

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For more than a decade, Färgfabriken has been active in the fields of urban planning, sociology, and architecture. Färgfabriken has a dual function, both being an exhibition space and a meeting place for different disciplines. Facilitating new net-works between public and private spheres, Färgfabriken wants to promote new ideas and strategies for our urban future.

A successful example using this method was Stockholm at Large, a pro-ject in several steps that Färgfabriken initiated in 2001 and produced. Here, the future of Stockholm in a long-term perspective was analyzed, considering a population growth of 600,000 people. This is one of several projects in the fields of urban planning and development, all with different starting points and perspectives, which Färgfabriken has organized. By making the complex process of urban development more accessible through exhibitions, seminars and publications, we believe more people will find it meaningful to engage in the development of their cities.

With extensive experience in initiating meetings on the city’s future and potential, Färgfabriken decided to fund a program with an inter-national scope in 2009, New Urban Topologies. The aim of the initiative is to create an open and free platform for an exchange of experiences be-tween the different stakeholders and the participating cities. This is in order to strengthen political participation and transboundary networks.

At the moment, New Urban Topologies is focusing on projects in the Middle East, the Balkans and in Eastern Europe. There are also plans for programs in South East Asia. Up until now, we have executed projects in Chisinau in Moldova, Minsk in Belarus, Skopje in Macedonia, Alexandria in Egypt, Amman in Jordan and Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Our main objective at these sites has been to start a process where Färgfabriken, in conjunction with participating local partners, initiates a discussion regarding urban challenges and possibilities. Together we identify a number of geographical areas of interest for development or general discussion and problem solving. The purpose is not to deliver complete solutions or answers, but to pinpoint different ways of thinking and to address and discuss complex matters.

It is our evaluation that the intentions of New Urban Topologies i.e. to be a steppingstone for new contacts, knowledge and understanding, between different groups have become reality. We have seen how new contacts between different groups within and between the cities have developed after each single New Urban Topologies session. This informal working method has proven an easy way to loosen up hierarchies and what seemed to be cemented power relations.

 

Alexandria – City of Layers

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The book Alexandria – City of Layers documents the New Urban Topologies project with summaries of workshop presentations and interviews with participants. It also includes essays on Alexandria, and a rich assortment of images. Translated into English and Arabic, the book was launched both in Alexandria and Stockholm during 2012. The electronic version is now available for free down below. 


City of Layers

- contributing essay by Joachim Granit.

The meeting with Alexandria in Spring 2011, after the big upheaval that the whole of Egypt had been through, was an experience in many ways. The city is worn-down with an intense life, lots of people and ideas—everything in a complex blend where the past meets the present. You could feel it in the air that there had been a change in the Egyptian society. It was liberating to see happy and proud people who had just had the chance to vote in the first round of fair elections.

Situated by the Mediterranean Sea, Alexandria has been a center for thoughts and ideas for millenniums. Here, different cultures and religions have met and been inspired by and confronted with each other. The traces of these trails of thoughts can still be found today in different layers, both physical and mental. It was this process of movement and meetings that we wished to high-light when, in co-operation with Gudran Association for Art and Develop-ment, Alexandria University, and the Swedish Institute Alexandria, we decided to organize the first New Urban Topologies in the Middle East.

When we came back to Alexandria six months later to carry out the New Urban Topologies program, the atmosphere in the city had changed. The euphoria from the past months had turned into uncertainty about the future, and impatience with the fact that a new Egypt seemed to take its time to be formed. Who and what groups of people would take over power?

On our way to the Swedish Institute, walking along the beautiful Cor-niche, we passed the courthouse where the trial against two police officers accused of the death of young activist Khaled Said had just begun. The web page We are all Khaled Said had led the way for the revolt, and the ten-sion in the air was obvious. The Military was present and a number of combat vehicles were parked on the street. I saw gripping scenes with people who expressed a deep sense of despair; people who fought for their rights.

Change takes time, and Egypt will eventually find its way forward. How, and in what way, is at the present moment hard to tell. During days of seminars, excursions and intense workshops, the temperature rose. Through meetings, discussions and working together new ideas took shape.

The questions were related to the planning of the city and a possible path to democracy. Alexandria worked as a catalyst for a future Egypt. It be-came an important experience for all of us, both the ones active in Alex-andria and the ones who traveled in from Stockholm, Amman, Istanbul, Damascus, Beirut, and Cairo. We all had different experiences from work-ing with culture, entrepreneurship, universities and the public sector. The diversity created energy.

The first cities were founded almost six thousand years ago, today they symbolize our civilizations. The cities will outlive most of us, but, while we are active in them we have a unique opportunity to create conditions for functioning and exciting urban environments, both for ourselves and for generations to come. We all have a responsibility and we must use it in a clever way. We, who represent Färgfabriken, believe that new struc-tures and new contexts can arise as we work with different sectors of the society and create informal meetings between different groups and wills —with and without power.

During this period that we are referring to as the Arab Spring we have seen clearly that it is in the public spaces that debates take place and where the people challenge the political structures. In Sweden, as in many other countries around the world, there has been a discussion about how these “lungs” should be managed so that they can continue to exist and expand. This important question, along with many other issues that came up during the intense days in October 2011 will be discussed further in this book.

Alexandria has something special. In cities where everything has not been designed and processed in detail, there are many opportunities for an intense dynamic life. This is in strong contrast to my own hometown, Stockholm. I cannot help compare with the present Swedish situation. In our eagerness to plan and structure everything, have we in the process lost what is informal and coincidental, the things that give our cities a soul?

The purpose of New Urban Topologies in Alexandria was to create a mental sphere for a new inventory of the many creative resources that exist in the city, all within a framework of history, culture and future possibilities.


To download the electronic version (PDF) of the book, just click the icon down below.

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To order the paper version of the book please contact, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

New Urban Topologies (NUT) is supported by the Swedish Institute and by the Swedish Institute in Alexandria.

Mostar – The Movie


 


By Johanna Bratel, 2012.

New Urban Topologies in Stockholm

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On 6–9 December 2011 Färgfabriken carried out an extensive program for the key participants within the New Urban Topologies (NUT) project. The aim was to gather these stakeholders for the first time in order to facilitate a common discussion on planning strategies, transparency/democracy, and the future of NUT. An important goal was also to identify problematic and successful aspects of the city of Stockholm and by so further ease the exchange of experiences. Among the participants were architects, urban planners, artists, educators, and researchers from Sweden, Belarus, Moldova, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt.

Reception at Färgfabriken
The starting point of the New Urban Topologies (NUT) program in Stockholm was a reception at Färgfabriken where all NUT key participants met for the first time. In addition to the Färgfabriken staff and representatives from the Swedish Institute, architects, urban planners, artists, educators, and researchers from Belarus, Moldova, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt were present. The directors of Färgfabriken, Pernilla Lesse and Joachim Granit, welcomed the group and gave a brief history of Färgfabriken. Project Manager Thomas Lundh described the program of the coming days. Hans Lepp, Counselor at the Swedish Institute, gave an informal lecture on the soul of cities. He also explained how the Swedish Institute is backing the NUT project in order to promote democratic development and new paths in cities all over the world through a connection of people. Finally, the participants got a guided tour through Färgfabriken’s latest exhibition.

Stockholm by bus
The second day the participants visited a number of key sites in Stockholm on foot and by bus. The excursion had been put together by Färgfabriken in collaboration with architect Ola Andersson who had prepared a map of the route and a text with background information of the different stops.

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The tour started at Fjällgatan in Södermalm in order to give an overview of the city. The participants got information about the planning history of Stockholm and the current debate on Slussen. Driving through the city center, the next stop was Gamla Enskede, an area built a decade ago as a part of the movement where inhabitants got state loans to build their own homes, “egnahemsrörelsen”. The group discussed gentrification, closeness to service and the social life in Stockholm and in cities in general, as many perceived Enskede as empty and segregated, with no impressive social life.

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Driving through the southern industrial areas, the next stop was the main square of the suburb Årsta. The group talked about the Swedish model and the social democratic visions for the society at the time of the Second World War. They noticed how the commercial activity was more vibrant in the streets, but that the square still hosted the cultural center and popular library.

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The following suburb visited was Bredäng with its large scale housing blocks built in the middle of the 1960s. Ola Andersson described the background of the housing program at the time, miljonprogrammet, and the events following with an escalating segregation where immigrants and low-income households constituted a bigger and bigger part of the population. The participants thereafter discussed how to make such neighborhoods more socially lively. The question was of particular interest to the Belarusians who have an experience of living in Minsk, a city where such blocks and suburbs are built in even a larger scale at the very moment.

The next stop was GlashusEtt, Hammarby Sjöstad's environmental information center. Here Carl-Gustaf Hagander, Architect and Technical Judge at the Land and Environment Court of Appeal, took over as the excursion guide and explained the thoughts behind the new district. A long discussion followed on participatory processes, energy efficiency, land use, how to make streets lively, and ways to create socio economic diversity. Finally, the group went to the central islet of Riddarholmen to see the new Waterfront conference building beside the City Hall. The participants reasoned about the tension in city planning that often arise between the forces that want to preserve the old image of the city and these arguing for new structures. The group finished the day at the Museum of Architecture and the Museum of Modern Art at Skeppsholmen. At the dinner two artists were invited from Intercult, an NGO that engages in trans-border cultural projects.

Visit to the city planning office
The next day the participants were split into three groups according to their professions for study visits at respective institution. The officials from the city planning offices were invited to The City Planning Office in Stockholm where they met with representatives from this office as well as from The Office of Regional Planning, Stockholm County Council. The theme of the meeting was Communication and Participation.

The day started with short presentations where the NUT participants described the major aims and challenges in their cities. In Amman the land use is a central issue where the City is aiming for a more compact city in order to make it sustainable. In Alexandria the Planning Department is working on a new strategic plan, something the city really needs as the present situation to a large extent is chaotic an unplanned. In Chisinau the planners face a problem with private investors that aims to build on public spaces. There are also problems in preserving the architectural heritage, and with the infrastructural system. In Minsk there is a present housing shortage and a need to develop the infrastructure and quality in housing which has put a great pressure on the planning office. There is also a need to preserve green spaces threatened by private investors. In Beirut the great challenge is that most of the land is privately owned, which limits the City’s possibility to act. After these presentations the Stockholm planners described the Stockholm administrative systems, explaining the functions of the regional plan, the comprehensive plan and the detailed plans. The following discussion regarded different land use laws and how to deal with the private sector. Thereafter the group talked about ways to execute and secure participatory processes and successful methods when involving citizens and how to make use of their input in the best possible way. Here the Swedish planners shared their presently used tools in the participatory field, among them web sites, sending out proposals to key institutions, visits to schools, ads in the newspaper and public exhibitions. Finally the group went to Kulturhuset to view a full model of Stockholm.

Visit to the Royal Academy of Technology (KTH)
The meeting at the Architecture School at The Royal Academy of Technology had four themes: The role of activist groups in urban planning; The relation between public authorities and private companies in contemporary planning; The colonial planning; The mechanism of coping with unplanned development. The day started with talks by Swedish representatives from the Department of Urban Planning and the Department of Architecture. The educational system was described as well a few chosen student works. Short presentations followed where the NUT participants from the respective universities developed their views of the different themes.

In Skopje the university staff has taken a new role in bringing together different stakeholders in the city, among them officials, activists and researchers. In Mostar the image is quite dark, with insufficient funds to the architecture- and planning education, few activists and great divides in the city. In Chisinau some young people have squatted heritage buildings in order to protect them but been forced out. In Beirut public space is used as a tool to attract people, not bringing them together which is much needed in the divided city. However there are activists working in the urban field. In Minsk there are no activist groups as of political reasons. This means that knowledge from abroad is absolutely vital. In Alexandria inhabitants have now discovered that they can be heard and therefore show a new interest in taking part in the urban planning process. In Amman the voice of activist groups is just about to emerge, they mostly focus on heritage protection and environmental issues. The subsequent discussion came to focus on the role of activism within the urban field. One aspect was preservation of buildnings and monuments of the past and how these can be uniting forces in cities battered by conflicts and war. Another issue was the power of private investors, and how to find urban pockets beyond their radar to develop democracy and creativity. In this process activist groups were seen as important stakeholders. Another topic was the educational system and how it can include more knowledge from institutions from abroad. The panel finally concluded that professionals within urban planning and architecture must take a more active role, and that this must be done in their role as professionals, not only in their private free time. This means that a shift is needed in the educational system as a whole where the universities must produce thinkers – not a labour force alienated to the society.

Visit to cultural institutions
The NUT participants coming from NGOs started the third day with a tour of Siri Derkert’s installation on Östermalmstorg. Here questions came up as: Who gets the assignments? Is it prestigious? One participant saw the permanent public artwork in the subway as contradictory as it is a place of movement and therefore the art should be mobile and developed.

The tour was followed by a visit to the Slaughterhouse Studios and a tour of the project Room With a View, which discusses the planned redevelopment for the area. The discussion focused on: How to find your place as an artist in Stockholm? How do one get accesses to premises? How does the state contribute? The fact that artists are working together in a collaborative way surprised some of the participants. They also wondered if the Swedish artists were interested in the urban development in general or if it was the local context that made it an affair of the heart. Parallels were drawn to activities in Alexandria and Amman, where the NGOs work in similar ways to strengthen cultural heritage sites and spread information to the citizens.

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The visit at the Slaughterhouse Studios (Stockholm Meat packing district)

In the afternoon the group visited Konsthall C and the exhibition ”En ömsesidig sak” about political solidarity and struggle, and art as acting space. The discussion came to touch upon how to work with local populationa and linking artistic activities to a local context. The participants also talked about the Swedish model and the program for artists and culture in Sweden. Moreover, the group discussed how Sweden could stop believing in their own model when it worked so well. Finally, the participants visited an exhibition on Gallery Index with images from Chernobyl. Together with the project manager they continued the discussion on how and why the Swedish model was abandoned and how it affects society and culture today.

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Konsthall C

Presentation on study visits and discussions on Stockholm
In the evening, all NUT participants met again. Each group told the others what they had discussed during the day. The conclusion from the university was that the most important issues discussed was public participation in urban planning, the planning field’s strong connection to politics and lastly the new role for professionals as activists: ”More ethics than estetics”. The NGO team mentioned the role of art regarding the issue of gentrification, learning and sharing strategies with local communities and the responsibility of artists to take action in the process of urban change as the most vital issues during the day. The participants that had visited the City Planning Office told the others that the most interesting things discussed were the regulatory frameworks of the comprehensive and detailed plans and their legal status in the different countries, and what to learn from each other. They also found the topic of public participation a fundamental issue; how to approach the public and get their feedback. The next morning, the group met for a final discussion on the city of Stockholm and the future of the New Urban Topologies project.
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The Slaughterhouse Area (Meat packing district). The next part of Stockholm to be gentrified?

Except for the foreign NUT participants, Bojan Boric from The Royal Academy of Technology, Anders Öhrn from The Swedish Institute and two journalists from the program Kulturnytt at Sveriges Radio and Arkitekten, were present. Initially, Thomas Lundh asked for experiences and criticisms of Stockholm. On the positive side, the participants described a well-connected city where the inhabitants walk and bicycle a lot. The street system is very accessible and well planned. The air is unpolluted and the buildings colorful with an appropriate height. The openness and the large amount of water was seen as a pleasant asset. The nature is integrated in the city with parks and natural forests that are easy to access. The low income-groups seem to have access to good facilities. There are a lot of playgrounds for children. The public transport system works really well, ”everything as practical as Ikea”. The streets often continues into public spaces. Usually there is public art at these sites which gives an inclusive feeling. The inhabitants looks happy, safe and satisfied. The planning process seem really effective and has a focus on community participation.

On the negative side, Stockholm is inevitably affected by the coldness and darkness. People seem to be stressed and constantly on the move. The water is not used as a part of the city life, which it could be with public boat traffic and better quays. The communities doesn’t seem natural but prefabricated. Because of the planning monopoly people don’t have the possibility of creating their own spaces, nor shape the city according to their wishes and needs. The city is over regulated, over controlled and isolated. Everything seem to be according to a certain template – diversity is needed. The city seems to offer a lot, but in fact everything is the same. Stockholm doesn’t feel vibrant or diverse even though people with many different backgrounds live in it. The fact that culture is branded entertainment is worrying. The city has clear tendencies of gentrification. It is over commercialized. Everything is expensive, from food to museum visits.

The future of NUT – common conclusions
The last part of the NUT Stockholm meeting was a workshop and subsequent presentations of ideas of how New Urban Topologies can evolve in the future. The suggestions for upcoming NUT projects came to focus on both on the preparatory work, the execution itself and the required strategies after the visits. The advices were the following:

Prior the visits: Create a sheet with photos and bios of the participants that can be shared within the group. Put together a qualified basic material about the city that the participants can reflect on before visiting the cities. Set up an online blog or a Facebook group where the participants can exchange information on beforehand.

During the visits: Each participant should have to write down their reflections on the process each day during program, which could be published online. Each local participant should present a site or phenomenon during the excursion.

The three steps with seminar, excursion and workshop works well. The mix of artists, architects, academics and officials is good, but more officials need involve. The seminar should give more qualified information about the current city. Some said that three days are sufficient, that no more time can be spared. Others asked for a two-day excursion.

After the visits: Gather the results – this could be done online, through social media, or/and in a travelling exhibition. A book with the results is good, but not enough as the process must evolve and continue. Instead of a book there could also be a small editorial board that gathers the material, this would make the reporting quicker. Perhaps the material gathered by this editorial board could be presented in a folder or magazine which also would be translated into the local language. Make the process visible, leave something behind in the city, as an exhibition or a public presentation where locals and officials are invited. Set up a social media platform where participants and others can discuss problems and exchange experiences and advices any time.

Participants and contributors in Stockholm:

Sweden: Färgfabriken; The Swedish Institute; The City Planning Office in Stockholm; The Office of Regional Planning, Stockholm County Council; The Royal Academy of Technology in Stockholm; The Land and Environmet Court of Appeal.

Egypt: Gudran for Art and Development, Alexandria; Alexandria Governorate, Urban Planning Department; Alexandria University, Faculty of Fine Arts.

Jordan: Hamzet Wazel Foundation; Amman Institute, Urban Development; Jordan University (JUST).

Lebanon: The City of Beirut; Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA).

Belarus: Gallery “Ў”; General plan workshop “Minskgrada”; Belarusian National Technical University Architecture department.

Moldova: Oberliht; Chisinau Project Institute; University of Moldova.

Macedonia: Press to Exit Project Space; University St. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje, Faculty of Architecture.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: University Herzegovina, Faculty of Civil Engineering in Mostar.


The text is an shortened, and partly re-written, version of the report "New Urban Topologies Stockholm" by Rebecka Gordan.

 

New Urban Topologies

– a short presentation

     

    Cultural exchange trough Art and Urbanism
    What cities do we wish for? How can we build and convert our cities and create a greater sense of participation among the citizens? In 2010 Färgfabriken initiated the program New Urban Topologies (NUT). The aim of this initiative is to create an open and free platform for an exchange of experience between different cities and different stakeholders; like governments and decision-makers, artists, architects, NGOs, activists, citizens, colleges and universities. The objective is to create informal meetings, and a democratic platform for urban development.

    No matter what city one lives in, the urban human wants to be able to move freely and easily, to have access to the necessary elements of life such as education, work, social care, security, entertainment, leisure, parks and public places. And a possibility to express yourself as an individual and as well interact with other people. The city is an opportunity. But does this opportunity include all citizens?

    An important perspective in NUT is to investigate the cities through lenses which focus on a holistic cultural perspective. NUT is a common learning process where Färgfabriken in close collaboration with local partners investigates and develops themes relevant for the city in question through alternative and site-specific perspectives. The NUT process has created several interesting spinoff projects as research programs, networks, exhibitions, publications, short documentaries and cultural organizations such as the ADA center in Mostar.

    The NUT project has so far identified and reflected over relevant topics which many cities in the world are struggling with as:

    • Socio/economic aspects of the city, inclusive communication between all stakeholders and about infusing art and architecture into the planning and communication process.

    • Lack of meetings between citizens’ communities, civil society and government. NUT provides communication methods between the people and the authorities. NUT therefore invites government agencies, civil society organizations, activists, artists, students and architects.

    • Strategies to promote local democracy and political participation; to give voice to those whose voices are otherwise not heard.

    • There is a need to take a holistic look at urban development by examining several subtopics as: The identity of the city, the use of public spaces, digitalization, pollution and traffic jams resulting from inappropriate public transport, hazardous waste treatment etc. All these issues and many more create complex patterns, which need to be highlighted in a cross- sectoral dialogue.

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    Our cities will always transform and change. Many different stakeholders want their voices to be heard. NUT is therefore a project who will adapt and be an instrument with the objective to strengthen the contemporary discussion of how we are composing our societies in global rapidly changing world. A world with many different needs and cultural contexts.

    In the New Urban Topologies menu you can find reports, reflections and pictures from each city. It's also possible to download and read the two publications "The Chisinau and Minsk experience" and "Alexandria – City of Layers"


    New Urban Topologies is supported by the Swedish Institute, by the Swedish Institute in Alexandria and by Forum Syd.

     

    New Urban Topologies in Minsk

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    On 27–29 October 2010 Färgfabriken jointly with its Belarusian partner Gallery “Ў” carried out an extensive program on urban topologies in Minsk for city hall representatives, architects, urban planners, students and other interested participants. The aim of the initiative was to identify ways to strengthen positive values and transform challenges facing the city of Minsk.

    City parks threatened by flashy constructions and anonymous module suburbs emerging at breakneck-speed. These are some of the challenges and opportunities facing Minsk, the Belarus capital city.

    The starting point of the project New Urban Topologies (NUT) in Minsk was a reception hosted by the Embassy of Sweden where a dialogue among the Swedish and Belarusian participants took off. A seminar at the Gallery “Ў” and a excursion in the city of Minsk followed. At the seminar the Swedish Ambassador to Belarus Stefan Eriksson underlined the importance of strengthening the Swedish–Belarusian relations in the field of urban topology. The director of Färgfabriken, Joachim Granit, spoke on the projects of Färgfabriken and the history of Sweden, from the 1800s urban slums to 1960s massive housing projects to the segregation of today, whilst NUT project director Thomas Lundh explained the working methods of Färgfabriken, which are focused on gathering of different kind of professionals for an exchange of experiences and ideas. Cecilia Lindahl from the Office of Regional Planning in Stockholm also underlined the significance of participation from stakeholders of different sectors at different levels, whilst Ludvig Elgström from the City Planning Office spoke on the challenge of a growing Stockholm, with new housing and infrastructure. Ebba Högström from The Royal Academy of Technology explained the education system for architects and urban planners in Stockholm and highlighted some recent research projects. Aliaksandr Akentieu, head of the general plan workshop “Minskgrada” described the main directions of the territorial development of the city of Minsk and the centralized planning process that is a heritage from the Soviet times. His colleague, Siarhei Bahlasau, head of architecture and design within the same project, spoke on the historical centre of Minsk in the modern city. Lastly, the artist Artur Klinau proposed a marketing concept for Minsk, focused on promoting Soviet architecture for foreign visitors.

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    Minsk by Bus
    The route through the city included several sites that all had been picked by the vice president of the Belarusian Union of Architects Mikhail Haufeld with the aim of showing a wide spectrum of what the city of Minsk is today. On the basis of the presentations during the seminar, informal discussions and the sites shown during the bus excursion Färgfabriken and the Swedish participants summarized it all into four themes. “Livable Spaces“, addressed issues such as street life, green areas, recreation places and diversity within architecture and city planning. “City of History––Looking Into the Future“ focused on heritage preservation, renewal of industrial areas, the recapturing of the past and the values and identity for Minsk. ”Exchanging Ideas” included topics such as global versus local, urban strategies and urban education and how to include the opinions of the city dwellers when developing the city. ”Sustainable Mobility” targeted alternative transports, how to create a healthy city, local production and decentralized connections within transport infrastructure.

    Then followed a workshop where four groups, consisting of both Belarusian and Swedish participators, intensively discussed and developed the chosen themes. Finally they came forward with interesting results which we're presented later the same day.

    Workshop outcome
    The participants in the group that focused on the topic "livable spaces" decided to address the unused industrial area surrounding the white plant on Krasnoarmejskaya Street. The team members did not want to demolish existing buildings but instead turn them into centers for sports activities, contemporary art, social facilities, and housing for students and guest researchers from other parts of the country.

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    The group that focused on the historical city and its prospects for the future came to name their proposal “The River of Time”, an analogy for the flow of history. As a case study they had chosen the large and old industrial complex in red brick on Oktyabrskaya Street, where there are almost no workers today. One idea was to turn the industrial plants into lofts, another to build new structures on top of the old. The group also wanted to extend the river by widen it and construct additional watercourses, insert more green areas, build a new tramline and tram station and perhaps also introduce old-fashioned horse carts. The aim was to create a boiling street life with room for creativity and meeting places. The participants that discussed exchanging of ideas decided to look at the city from the perspectives of experts, citizens and decision makers. Firstly, they discussed the diversity and individuality in architecture from the viewpoint of an inhabitant. Stories were told of how people create their own space in front of their apartments by adding flowerpots and how you deal with that as a neighbor if your taste differs. The team members suggested that, as people seem to want to add individuality to anonymous buildings, the city should provide unfinished structures to which the people could add their creativity.

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    The participants focusing on the subject of "sustainable mobility" discussed intellectual infrastructure as well as transport infrastructure. It was stated that the two existing metro lines are functioning well, as does the railway lines. With a high-speed train line however, inhabitants from the satellite cities could be brought closer to the central city.The team members also suggested better transport infrastructure between the suburban areas. They were concerned about traffic jams and pollution and suggested a prohibition of private cars in the historic center of the city. Moreover, the team saw a need for environmentally friendly transportation, they wanted to continue the construction of bike lanes and insert a new aerial cable car.

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    Closure Minsk
    One of the important discussions that came out of NUT dealt with the branding of Minsk and the directions for the development of the city. Today, new architectural projects are compared with the ones of Dubai and Las Vegas. The residential housing is focused on large cheap multi-story buildings in the outskirts of the city. Parts of the city center and some religious structures are being meticulously rebuilt. But many of the participants expressed a particular animosity towards these directions, asking for residential areas and architectural monuments at a more human scale and new ideas within the built environment rather that a rebuilding or repeating of the old. Among most local participants there was an expressed desire for an extended dialogue between decision makers and citizens, as well as a wish for a greater transparency within the planning process. A wish for international collaboration was also articulated, both among students and professionals.


    Participants and contributors in Minsk:

    Belarus: Gallery “Ў”; Committee for architecture and urban planning under the Minsk City Executive Committee; Belarusian Union of Architects (BUA); The Ministry of Culture Committee Historical and Cultural Heritage Protection and Restoration; Belarusian National Technical University Architecture department; Belarusian State University Department of Arts and Centre for Visual Arts; Minsk voblasts Committee of Architecture “Design and Production Architecture and Planning Bureau”; Town Planning Department; A number of local architects and students.

    Sweden: Färgfabriken; The City Planning Office in Stockholm; The Office of Regional Planning in Stockholm; The Royal Academy of Technology in Stockholm; The Swedish Embassy in Minsk.

    Moldova: Oberliht.


    The text is an shortened, and partly re-written, version of the report "New Urban Topologies Minsk" by Rebecka Gordan.

    New Urban Topologies in Chișinău

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    On 13–15 October 2010 Färgfabriken jointly with its Moldovan partner Oberliht carried out an extensive program on urban topologies in Chişinău for city hall representatives, architects, urban planners, students and other interested participants. The aim of the initiative was to identify ways to strengthen positive values and transform challenges facing the city of Chişinău.

    Meeting Chisinau
    The starting point of the project New Urban Topologies (NUT) in Chişinău was a seminar in the City Hall. At the opening, the Swedish Ambassador to Moldova, Ingrid Tersman underlined the importance of an elaborate participatory process within the fields of architecture and city planning. The involvement of the people is the major challenge for planners, and a great opportunity for citizens to influence the future, she said. Chişinău’s Vice Mayor, architect Nistor Grozavu, stressed that the city need to pay more attention to the environment and the use of renewal energy. The transportation system needs to be developed and more parking lots included, he said, adding that another important topic is the preservation of the historical structures.

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    Involving more citizens in the planning process, as women and children, was another issue he found essential. The founder of Oberlicht, Vladimir Us explained how public spaces did not represent any value in the Soviet system, and that they after 1991 were taken over by commercial and political interests, which in turn has created a continuous excluding of the city dwellers. This is the reason for Oberliht to operate in public places and try to encourage participation at these sites, he said.The director of Färgfabriken, Joachim Granit, spoke on the projects of Färgfabriken and the history of Sweden, from the 1800s urban slums to 1960s massive housing projects to the segregation of today. NUT project director Thomas Lundh explained the working methods of Färgfabriken, which are focused on gathering of different kind of professionals for an exchange of experiences and ideas. Niklas Svensson from the City Planning Office in Stockholm spoke on the challenges and benefits of the city’s population growth, the planning tradition of Stockholm, the present structure of the planning process and future projects that will take place in the city. Mohamed El Abed from The Office of Regional Planning in Stockholm talked about the successful technological systems of the region, but also its lack of housing and problem with segregation. He also underlined the importance of preserving green spaces and the creation more meeting places for people of different background. Bojan Boric from The Royal Academy of Technology in Stockholm described the structure of the school and how it relates to urban design and planning. It is essential that the students learn how to read and present cities and that they are taught about the connections between the local and global level when it comes to cities, he said.

    Travelling through public space
    The second day, the participants visited a number of areas, places and monuments throughout the city in order to generate a discussion and new thoughts within the group. The route included 15 sites that had been picked by Oberliht with the aim of showing a wide spectrum of what the city of Chişinău is today. The excursion included an open space for contemporary art on a public square occupied by parked cars, a memorial complex in the shape of rifles from the Soviet times, informal spaces for street art in the city’s periphery, multi-storey Soviet buildings, urban gardening, and new residential luxury housing.

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    After the 15 sites were visited, a group discussion followed at the location of the last stop, Centro 73. The Moldovan participants were asked to contribute with topics and issues for the workshop the coming day, and most of the partakers did add a topic or question. On the basis of the presentations, the informal discussions that had taken place earlier and the suggested topics Färgfabriken and Oberliht summarized it all into three themes: Public Space for People; Ecology of resources; City of History – Looking Into the Future.

    There is a lot to discuss!
    The discussion on public spaces spontaneously led to the case of the main public square in the center of Chişinău, Piaţa Marii Adunări Naţionale. The team members concluded that the square today is very monumental, empty and uninviting––a space of politics, monuments, control and security. They perceived the square as a space that is difficult to access because of the wide roads in front and around it. I was also stated that any sorts of protests are not allowed and that only the government stages the cultural events that occur on the square. The participants were bothered by the presence of the commercial billboards that could be seen from the square. The subsequent discussion and sketches presenting the alternative spatial proposal reflected the need for making the square more public and to allow diverse public functions including music, public art, sport activities, free wi-fi internet, and cultural events that could happen more spontaneously and whose organization would include people of Chişinău.

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    The group that focused on the ecology of resources came to discuss the relation between the green structures and their surrounding areas and how these interact or not. Riscani Park, located in the northeast part of the city, was picked as an example. The team members proposed that this green space should be preserved and further developed into an area that the city dwellers can use and be proud of. Today, only parts of the park are used, which allows new constructions to be built on its unused grounds. This was something the participants sought to prevent. The recommended strategy included a protecting edging of ecological villas, a cleansing of water for urban fishing and a new meandering road crossing the park, which would connect neighborhoods and constitute an attraction itself. The team members agreed upon the statement to use the economic forces to develop the park and the surrounding areas. The affluent people that would live in the villas and the tourist visiting the park would function as the “guardians” of the park, the group argued. In line with this, central values for Chişinău were discussed. The city has been known for its large amount of green belts and parks. As the present pollution and many centrally located industrial areas make it hard to market the city as a sustainable and “green”, the group came to the conclusion that Chişinău could be internationally promoted as “The Forest City".

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    The group that focused on the historical city and its prospects for the future came to analyze many aspects within the theme. One focal point was architect Nicolae Ischimji’s proposal of a reconstruction of the street grid in the old town, which was destroyed by the construction of two main boulevards built after the Second World War. Another suggestion was to arrange architectural competitions, which, according to the group, does not take place in Moldova at the moment. This strategy could be used to support a more diverse architectural scene in Chişinău. Students should also be encouraged to participate in international competitions. The team members also saw the need for contemporary buildings that could interact in a better way with the historic parts of the city. Further suggestions included an aerial cableway for public transportation and a renewal of the areas surrounding the river Bic, where new boardwalks and a transformation of the mainly unused plants where vital parts.

    A city grown in the forest
    One of the important subject matters that came out of NUT was that a successful path in making Chişinău attractive to its own citizens and making the city appealing to foreign visitors might go hand-in-hand. The city needs cultural centers as well as better infrastructure. According to Mohamed El Abed, the city of Chişinău has a market value that combines the profile as a "city grown in the forest" as a way to draw tourism which at the same time could function as protection of green spaces for the city dwellers. the young people of Chişinău have a strong desire for an extended dialogue between citizens and decision makers and a greater transparency within processes of architecture, city planning and urban design. As Bojan Boric put it, "the issue of public space reflects the nature and the degree of development of democracy in every society".

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    Participants and contributors in NUT Chisinau:

    Moldova: Oberliht, The City of Chişinău, The Agency of Inspection and Restoration of Monuments, The Moldova State University, The Romanian Culture Insitute, ISP Industrial Project, Chişinău ecological map, Digger phenomenon, Squatting movement and several independent architects, students and citizens of Chisinau.

    Sweden: Färgfabriken, The City Planning Office in Stockholm, The Office of Regional Planning in Stockholm, The Royal Academy of Technology in Stockholm, Embassy of Sweden in Moldova.


    The text is an shortened, and partly re-written, version of the report "New Urban Topologies Chisinau" by Rebecka Gordan.

    New Urban Topologies in Skopje


      On 16–18 November 2011 Färgfabriken in conjunction with its Macedonian partner Press to Exit carried out an extensive program on urban topologies in Skopje for Swedish and Macedonian city hall representatives, architects, urban planners, academics, students and other interested participants. The aim of the initiative was to identify ways to strengthen culturally positive values and transform some of the many challenges facing the city of Skopje. An important goal was also to create a platform for an exchange of experiences among the participants.

      Background
      The city of Skopje is a mix of different styles and cultures. In recent years, the city centre has undergone a great change. Parts of the old town has been demolished and replaced with modern architecture. However, this has led to big demonstrations and expressions of dislike. The city is divided by the river Vardar, where one side consists of mostly Orthodox Christians and the other of the population with Albanian and Muslim background.

      The Skopje seminar
      The starting point of the New Urban Topologies (NUT) project in Macedonia was a reception at the residence of Swedish Ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia Anders Wahlund where city hall representatives, architects, urban planners, artists and academics were invited. The four-hour long seminar the next day, were students also were present, took place at the Plenary Hall of the City of Skopje. At the opening Yane Calovski of Press to Exit expressed his gratitude to the Faculty of Architecture at University St. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje for bringing in their research into the Färgfabriken method. The Faculty had come to the conclusion that Skopje is not a divided city, as often stated, but instead a city that should be looked at in the context of urban fragmentation. Yane Calovski said that two municipalities had been chosen for the Skopje NUT project, namely Centar and Chair.

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      Swedish Ambassador of Macedonia Anders Wahlund said he was very happy to take part in the NUT project. He described his history working in the Balkans since the 1990s and said when in Skopje 2002, the city was much more divided than today and that the present situation is much better, even if he would like to see more efforts to improve the condition of the old town in the city, The Old Bazaar.

      NUT Project Director Thomas Lundh gave an introduction to NUT and its background with ten years of experience working with urban issues since Färgfabriken launched the project Stockholm at Large. Since then, the method of Färgfabriken has been to gather different kind of professionals and stakeholders from many countries for a more fruitful exchange of experiences and ideas.

      Christoffer Carlander, Urban Planning Strategist from The City Planning Office in Stockholm described the structure of his institution and the City’s latest comprehensive plan, The Walkable City, and its focus on strategic nodes, connecting districts and participatory processes. The aim of the planners has been to reach out to the inhabitants and meet them on their own terms, when and wherever they wanted. After he finished, the audience had many questions regarding visibility, transparency and tools to integrate the thoughts of the citizens as well as the visions of the City into the strategic plan.

      Architect and Educator Bojan Boric from the Urban Studio of the Royal Academy of Technology discussed the growing trend of environmental and social sustainability and how the school takes this knowledge into many exchange programs with other schools around the world in order to achieve a comparative perspective. He also described a project where his studio in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity worked with Roma people in Skopje. Furthermore he notified the audience of the student project in Chisinau earlier in fall 2011 – a project sparked by his involvement in NUT – and the gap between the planning office and the society there.

      Ognen Marina, professor at the Faculty of Architecture of University St. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje, explained how the geopolitical context historically has affected the city and stated that a general problem always has been a top-down planning system. Together with PhD Candidate Jovan Ivanovski he then presented the research Skopje: Fragmented City. The conclusion of this study was that Skopje is not a divided city but should to be described as a complex stratification of different layers and fragments that should be seen as parts of a holistic image of Skopje. Furthermore, the informal use of urban space should be seen as an asset and a tool for bringing in different concepts, not solely a problem. They also underlined the importance of keeping what already exists in Skopje and not create an entire new city, which might be about to happen. The fragments have valuable authenticity.

      Aljosha Shopar, Deputy Head at the Urban Planning Department, City of Skopje, told the audience about the present process in making a new master plan. One of the goals is to make use of the unexploited spaces and by doing so connecting the city. Among the present problems are the lack of infrastructure, the fact that 80-90 percent of the land is privately owned and the future of the existing and potential public spaces, as the inhabitants seem not no care about these spaces according to him. In line with this, democratic participatory processes and strategies also need to evolve so that the planners can use these strategies properly and not only see them as obstacles. In addition, he said that he hoped that the NUT project and the collaboration with the university would result in something the planning department could use in the future.

      The Skopje Tour – impressions and aftermath
      After the seminar, the plan was to visit a number of areas and places in the municipalities of Centar and Chair in order to get an understanding of their structure and the urban fragments that were identified by the Faculty of Architecture in their research. After the tour was finished the participants gathered for dinner in The Old Bazaar. Färgfabriken had prepared a sheet with possible themes and sub themes, based of the presentations during the seminar, the preparatory work of the university and informal discussions with the Macedonian participants. The sheet sparked many discussions and was modified collaboratively. The final version had the following themes: 1. Unidentifiable Spaces (Mapping relations of areas; Contextualizing; What narrative by whom?; Specific qualities; Level of intervention; Potential uses and possible danger; Designing an interface.) 2. Spaces of Publicness and the Process of Dialogue (Access to the decision-making processes and public debates; Green spaces as ecological and environmental asset in the city as well as public space; Communication between professional actors, the public and the decision makers; The thoughts and preferrings of citizens.) 3. Identifying the City (The multiplicity of the city and complex urban identities within; Opportunities and energy of the city; Values that promote the communication and collaboration among citizens; Architectural values of the past – how to measure architectural heritage; Choosing a strategy for the future; Construction of identity or strengthen authenticity.) 4. Public Values versus Private Ambitions (Urban regulations policies; The long term planning; Dynamics between the private property development vs. public interest.)

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      The team members that that focused on unidentifiable spaces described a situation with many mainly unused spaces that people have difficulties to relate to as they have unclear boundaries. Among them is the space under and on top of the train station, areas that they choose as case study. The station is seen as a barrier between neighborhoods. It has two large elevated tracks that have never been used and large empty spaces underneath, some used for parking. The areas are seen as unattractive and shady and are used only by some “outcasts”. The group suggested a transformation “from empty spaces to social spaces”, as a skate park, restaurants, etc. The visions of the group were an inclusive process of planning and a greener city where the tools of architects are better utilized. The way to achieve this, they thought, goes through cheap urban interventions executed through participatory processes including the academia, planners and inhabitants. It could also be so called guerilla actions, as painting parking lots all over the main public square or putting traditional market bookstands where new commercial buildings are planned to be raised. This would raise the attention of the public and so create pressure on politicians.

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      The participants who discussed ways to identify the city saw many identities that are not part of the common language describing Skopje, among them is the Roma neighborhood. The group underlined the importance of accepting that the city has many and complex identities, visible and invisible, and that the planning of the city should be performed in accordance to this. They pointed out some good and bad aspects, among them a diverse coexistence, a unique city center, bad infrastructure, and nationalistic architecture. The participants were also worried that the politicians now try to construct a single identity for the city and its inhabitants, raising new historical large statues, among other things. In this process the team members recognized the value of preserving and evaluate architectural heritage and sites of memory – and the danger in destroying these in order to construct something new.

      A story to be continued
      The last day the participants from Sweden met with Ognen Marina from the Faculty of Architecture, Yane Calovski from Press to Exit, and Aljosha Shopar from the Urban Planning Department. He explained the challenges that the City is facing. Skopje has a lack in infrastructure, of investments, and a problem with privatization. The Planning Department is loosing its tools to act and influence the decisions regarding the city, but hopefully, with the new master plan, perhaps things can change.

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      The following discussion led to a comparison to the Stockholm planning strategies, and the existing and non-existing collaborations among different stakeholders in Skopje, as NGO:s, architects, officials, and the academia. During the final discussion at the NUT workshop Thomas Lundh concluded that the lack of communication between different stakeholders is a crucial aspect in the city of Skopje.


      Participants and contributors in Skopje:

      Macedonia: Press to Exit Project Space; Urban Planning Department; City of Skopje; Urban Planning Department; Municipality Centar; Urban Planning Department; Municipality Chair; University St. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje; Faculty of Architecture; Line Initiative and Movement; Coalition for Sustainable Development.

      Sweden: Färgfabriken; The Swedish Embassy in Republic of Macedonia; The Swedish Institute; The City Planning Office in Stockholm; The Royal Academy of Technology in Stockholm


      The text is an shortened, and partly re-written, version of the report "New Urban Topologies Skopje" by Rebecka Gordan.

      New Urban Topologies in Alexandria


        On 23–26 October 2011 Färgfabriken in conjunction with its Egyptian partner Gudran carried out an extensive program on urban topologies in Alexandria for city hall representatives, architects, urban planners, academics, students and other interested participants from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and Sweden. The aim of the initiative was to identify ways to strengthen culturally positive values and transform some of the many challenges facing the city of Alexandria.

        Background
        Alexandria is one of the major cities on the Mediterranean Sea, and plays an essential role in Egyptian economy and cultural life as the country’s oldest and largest port. The city is a longitudinal city with the highest-class residential areas close to and parallel to the coast. South of this area are the middle-class districts and behind the railway track and south of Mahmoudia Canal are the low-income areas, usually informal. The canal, once a clean canal for fishing and transport, is today contaminated because the lack of maintenance. Nearby are some of the city’s many informal housing areas, multi-story residential buildings erected out of necessity, without permission or design regulations.

        "Alexandria has something special. In cities where everything has not been designed and processed in detail, there are many opportunities for an intense dynamic life. I cannot help compare with the present Swedish situation. In our eagerness to plan and structure everything, have we in the process lost what is informal and coincidental, the things that give our cities a soul."
        Joachim Granit, creative director Färgfabriken

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        Different cities, different aspects
        The starting point of the New Urban Topologies (NUT) project in Egypt was a reception with a following seminar at the Swedish Institute in Alexandria. At the opening of the seven-hour long seminar, participants from Egypt, Sweden, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Syria listened to and discussed the prospects and challenges of the cities of Alexandria, Amman, Beirut and Stockholm.

        The director of the Urban Planning Department, Alexandria Governorate, Tahani Abou Emera, told the participants about the efforts of the city in relocating inhabitants from low-income informal areas to new, often remotely located, residential area, which has proven a difficult challenge. Other main targets for the city are zoning regulations, waste management and strategies to make it more appealing for tourists, she stated.

        Regional Planner Cecilia Lindahl from The Office of Regional Planning in Stockholm spoke on the Stockholm Regional Development Plan from 2010 and explained how governance works at the national, local and individual level. She underlined the importance of an elaborate participatory and transparent planning process. 

        Principal and Urban Designer and Planner Rowan Attour from the Amman Institute, a non profit organisation owned by the municipality, told the participants about the Amman Plan, under work since 2006. She underlined the need of diversity in housing typologies, affordable plots and public spaces as pedestrian streets and community centers within the urban fabric of Amman.

        Senior Lecturer Helena Mattsson from the Royal Academy of Technology in Stockholm explained the structure of the urban planning and architecture programs in Stockholm, among them a critical design studio that uses activism and gender theory as some of their tools. She stated that research is about asking questions, not finding answers.

        Architect Ninette Fadel from the Urban Planning Department of the City of Beirut pointed out the importance of having a comprehensive strategic plan that considers the needs of the city and its inhabitants, an asset Beirut has been lacking. She described some of Beirut’s many challenges regarding transportation, overcrowding, a lack of water and a sharp divcision in the city, parting the east from the west. 

        Joachim Granit, Creative Director of Färgfabriken said that one must accept that change takes time and that he believed in culture as a social catalyst. He spoke on the main projects of Färgfabriken and the development of the Swedish society, from the 1800s urban slums to 1960s massive housing projects to the segregation of today.

        Niklas Svensson, Urban Planning Strategist from The City Planning Office in Stockholm underlined the importance of cooperation between municipalities and a transparent planning process where decisions taken by experts are based on the inhabitants thoughts and participation. He decribed some of the industrial renewal projects in the city and stressed the focus on new strategic nodes outside the city center.

        Khaled Kaddal from Gudran for Art and Development in Alexandria described how the organization is using urban spaces to link art with society and how it creates creative meeting places and events in order for the inhabitants to meet and develop their neighborhoods. He highlighted three of Gudran’s projects, one focused on art and community strengthening in a fishing village in the outskirts of the city, the other two located in the city center, developed as cultural exhibition space and a cultural meeting place.

        Finally, Assistant Professor Hebattallah Abouelfadl of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Alexandria University, concluded the session together with the seminar speakers. Main issues that she identified within the presentations that also are applicable on Alexandria were: dialog and communication; trust between the government and the people; land ownership; participation; awareness among the city dwellers of the urban systems; the gap between thinking and doing; affordable housing; densification; informal settlements; segregation; educational systems and migration to the cities and the implementation of plans and policies.

        After most presentations a number of questions from the audience followed, where the participants discussed issues as the approach to the inhabitants living in informal housing in Alexandria, public transportation in Stockholm, segregation in Beirut, and questions of general character as energy efficiency, land ownership, commercial interests, planning methods, and participation.

        Eight sides of Alexandria
        The second day, the participants visited a number of areas, places and monuments throughout the city in order to generate a discussion and new thoughts within the group. The route included eight sites, which had been picked by Sameh El Halawany, General Manager of Gudran, and Hebattallah Abouelfadl who hade the role of guiding in the bus. The aim was to show a wide spectrum of what the city of Alexandria is like today. As a result the participants got to see many sites that are normally not included in similar architectural excursions, which usually only show recent profile projects. 

        On Saad Zaghoul square, two obelisks of Cleopatra once stood and there an attempt also was made in the year of 1919 to unify the Egyptian people against the British. The Minet El-Bassal District was an important center for cotton manufacturing in the 19th century. Today many of its industrial buildings stand empty, but the area is still a vibrant market area for old goods and could perhaps be renewed. Stanly Bridge is a landmark, inspired by the architecture of the Islamic Period and the first bridge in Egypt to be constructed over the sea. The Chatby-Aflaton Street hosts educational complexes, examples of the revivalism, an architectural style that uses the motifs and imagery of ancient Egypt. The new Alexandria Library designed by Norwegian architects with support by Unesco is a contemporary Alexandria landmark of international acclaim. The excavation area of Kom el Dikka accommodates architectural remnants of the Greco-Roman, Arab, the Othman and the modern periods, highlighting the many historical layers of the city. The palace and garden of El Montazah is the former summer residence of Egypt’s sovereigns. Nearby are high-end hotels and beach resorts.

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        After the sites had been visited, the participants were showed around at Gudran’s cultural center Al-Cabina. The participants were asked to contribute with topics and issues for the workshop the coming day, and some added one or many topics or questions. On the basis of the presentations, the informal discussions that had taken place earlier, the suggested topics, and discussions with the seminar speakers and some other participants Färgfabriken summarized five themes for the coming workshop day. The themes were: Transport and public utilities; Public space; Vision and identity; Participation and communication; Case study: Minet El-Bassal, the Cotton District. A sheet with 84 key sentences was also written, based on the input from the participants. Some of these were: Learning from Tahir: City belonging to the people; Transparent planning processes; Implementation of plans and policies; Women in public space; People-based tourism.

        Discussions
        The discussion on transport and public utilities spontaneously led to the case of the Qaitbay area near the Cornish as it is a social active district with different social levels, strong local identity and a mental ability to accept changes which could help spread the ideas to the rest of the city. The team members concluded that Alexandria today is very crowded, with traffic jams and poor public transport. They perceived an area with pedestrian streets, an involvement of artists shaping the look of the streets and means of transport, bicycle paths, and green sitting areas.

        The group that focused on public space came to discuss the problem in connectivity between the public spaces in Alexandria. The team members furthermore recognized that many of them have semi-public or private character where beaches and parks have been turned into clubs or are charging an entrance fee. Shops and street vendors are also taking up a lot of the public spaces, a trend that has increased since the revolution in February 2011.

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        The team members that that focused on vision and identity saw a present scattered identity and sought to find a common ground in the description of Alexandria. They identified five areas that characterises the city which could and should be enhanced. Alexandria is a cosmopolitan city with a heritage of cultural institutions, arts and music. It is a coastal city and could be made even cleaner, more accessible and pedestrian friendly with a new fishing port. It is a linear city, why it is important to work against urban sprawl and the segregation of different socioeconomic areas.

        The participants who discussed participation and communication saw a gap between the old and the young, the individual and the authorities as well as gender differences and a socioeconomic structure with a lack of dialogue. They also saw a lack of awareness of urban issues and the mechanisms of the planning laws. The team members suggested an increase in public contribution, public debates and artistic interaction. This could happen through community centers, community groups and media channels.

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        The participants focusing on Minet El-Bassal, the Cotton District, pointed out problematic aspects of the area, among them buildings in decay, an absence of life, and a lack of trust to the society, green areas, and security. However, positive aspects are the location, with closeness to the canal and the port, the beauty of the buildings and the spirit of the local residential and business community. The team recommended a preservation of the identity of the district where it could be developed step by step with the inhabitants and people who work there in mind.

        Alexandria revisited
        After the project days ended many of the attendants have asked for further collaboration and contact information to the other participants. “This seminar was an eye-opening experience to me. I got to understand where my city stands and what the problems we are facing really are compared to Alexandria. This was an opening to new solutions and new possibilities to how I can help my city” wrote Mai Awawdeh, Media for Development officer at PBYRC, Amman.

        Inspired by the results from the workshop, the director of the urban planning department in Alexandria initiated a second meeting for the New Urban Topologies in February 2013. The main focus for the workshop was participatory democracy and communication during planning process. In addition, NUT also initiated a research based on how information, communication and technology (ICT) are able to establish or improve the dialogue between municipalities and its citizens.

        By bringing together cultural institutions, international NGO’s, representatives from the city planning offices in Alexandria, Stockholm and Mostar, academic representants, students and other artists, NUT Session II created a valuable interesting conversation in which participants shared knowledge and experience regarding participatory democracy and how ICT-tools can be used in order to establish or empower the dialogue between municipalities and its citizens.


        Participants and contributors in Alexandria:

        Egypt: Gudran for Art and Development, Alexandria; Alexandria Governorate, Urban Planning Department; Alexandria University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Architecture Department; Pharos University in Alexandria, Faculty of Engineering; The Library of Alexandria; Eskendrella for Culture and Arts, Alexandria; House of Environmental and Architectural Designs (HEADS), Alexandria; Energy Efficiency in the Construction (MED-ENEC), Cairo.

        Sweden: Färgfabriken; The Swedish Institute in Alexandria; The City Planning Office in Stockholm; The Office of Regional Planning in Stockholm; The Royal Academy of Technology in Stockholm; The Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm.

        Jordan: Amman Institute, Urban Development; Hamzet Wazel Foundation; Jordan University (JUST); Princess Bossima Research Youth Center (PBYRC); Rubicon Holding.

        Lebanon: The City of Beirut; Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA); 98Weeks/Project Space; Solidere, Urban Development Division.

        Turkey: Istanbul Technical Universit.

        Syria: Syria Trust; All Art Now.

         


         

        The text is an shortened, and partly re-written, version of the report "New Urban Topologies Alexandria" by Rebecka Gordan.

        New Urban Topologies in Amman

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        On 8–12 May 2012 Färgfabriken in conjunction with its Jordanian partners Royal Scientific Society, Hamzet Wazel Foundation, Jordan University of Science and Technology, Princess Basma Youth Resource Center, Turath Architecture and Design Consultants and the Swedish Embassy in Amman carried out an extensive program on urban topologies in Amman for city hall representatives, architects, urban planners, academics, students and other interested participants from Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Belarus, Moldova, Macedonia, and Sweden.

        The four-day program in Amman contained different methods as field trips, workshops and seminars. The aim of the workshop was to rely on new approaches, urban planning and community engagement to promote transparency and cooperation and expand the range of topics and disciplines related to spatial planning. The participants represented Universities, City Governments and NGO:s from Alexandria, Amman, Beirut, Minsk, Mostar, Skopje and Stockholm.

        Getting to know Amman
        Amman is going through various urban transformations; planning, migration, economic, social, environmental and political, that are affecting the city’s growth, its urban form and its socio economic dimensions. These aspects are creating a possible spatial risk that could increase social discrepancies and polarization in the city.

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        A bus tour for the NUT participants was organized going to a number of areas, places and monuments throughout the city in order to generate a discussion and new thoughts within the group. The aim was to show a wide spectrum of what the city of Amman is like today. As a result the participants got to see many sites that are normally not included in similar architectural excursions, which usually only show recent profile projects. The route included twelve sites, picked by the Jordanian partners and presented to the participants in a map. The day started at the large-scale model of Amman located in the information center of Amman City Hall, Ras Al Ein. Urban planner Rima Odeh gave a presentation on Amman and its population growth, the work of Greater Amman Municipality (GAM), and the latest master plan, initiated in 2007 as a response to a former mainly investor driven development. She highlighted GAM’s efforts in enhancing community participation and making Amman a green and pedestrian city at a human scale. During the following discussion the participants wondered about the legal status of the plan and the possibility to actually implement its aims.

        After passing some industrial areas, the group reached the second stop of the bus tour, “Decent Housing for Decent Living” in Sahab. A royal initiative for social housing, these areas was described by the guides as “distant islands” that pushes the poorer segments of the society to the outskirts of the city far away from public transportation, social services and commercial activities. The next stop was Princess Basma Youth Resource Center (PBYRC), a center founded in 2002 that aims to promote the active role of youth in the society by encouraging their participation in the development process.

        The next site was the Business Park, planned as a military camp but now a business park for computer technology. Here one of the managers of a gaming lab targeted towards young Jordanians held a presentation. Other stops were the Al Hussein Park, the biggest public park in Jordan, the Tabarbour Bus Station that opened in 2007 and accommodates all the transportation lines to the north of the country, Rainbow Street, one of Amman’s early commercial hubs that recently underwent an urban rehabilitation project, making it more pedestrian friendly with more public spaces, and the Zahran Corridor, on of the city’s most important streets.

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        Furthermore, the participants got to see the Wadi Abdoun Bridge, a landmark and the only cable-stayed bridge in the country, Limitless, a luxury real-estate project put on hold, and the Al-Abdali project, a real-estate project promoted as “the new downtown” with skyscrapers and high-end offices and residential spaces in addition to retail, commercial and other tourist activities.

        Discovery Challenge
        The second full day, the participants took part in a “Discovery Challenge”, designed as the micro scale complementing the macro scale provided at the bus tour the day before. The participants were divided into groups of four, mostly with three non-Jordanians and one Jordanian. The aim was to introduce the participants to Amman in an unconventional way. Now the groups discovered Amman using public transportation and their feet through a series of clues and challenges. These tasks were set out to reflect the diversity of the city, the opportunities it contains and the challenges it is facing.

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        During the day, the participants made their own traditional Jordanian lunch, interacted with locals, discovered old and new districts while mapping their services, and tried local arts and crafts, among other things. The last task of the Discovery Challenge was to make kites with the help neighborhood children at a small public space close to the citadel. When finished, participants and children went up to the top of the hill watching the kites flying by the panoramic view of Amman.

        The workshop day
        The participants gathered in a contemporary public space that was once the major electricity hangar in Amman. Transformed by Rami Daher and his team at Turath Architecture and Design Consultants, the hangar represents a new approach in reusing and preserving urban industrial heritage, a strategy that can be seen worldwide.

        At first, Färgfabriken asked the participants to share their experiences and give feedback on the passed two days and suggest themes for the upcoming workshop. The different aspects that were brought up during this discussion were then grouped into five major themes: Transportation and Public Utilities; Public Space; Vision and Identity; Participation and Communication; Segregation and Socioeconomics. The five themes were then discussed at five different tables. At each table were one Jordanian and one non-Jordanian facilitator. The rest of the participants were divided into five groups that rotated during the first hour. When all groups had been at all tables and discussed all themes the groups went to the table where they started and continued working with that theme, now also having the input from all the other participants, in sketches, slogans, and notes gathered by the facilitators. This working method was a development of the original Färgfabriken method in which attendants are placed in different groups where they are mixed according to their professions and nationalities.

        Workshop presentation
        After the daylong workshop, the non-Jordanian facilitators presented the conclusions and proposals that was the result of the group work. The team focusing on Transportation and Public Utilities concluded that transportation in Amman is a main problem, especially the public transportation network, which they thought should be extended. The group described Amman as city unfriendly for pedestrians and suggested that some streets should be open only for pedestrians, and that others must get better sidewalks and in other ways adjusted with disabled people in mind.

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        The participants that discussed Public Space saw a great lack of public spaces in Amman where even those sites designated to be used by the public were not utilized in the proper way. The team agreed on that the level of intervention should be done at the small scale. Instead of planning large parks there is a need for grassroots initiatives and public spaces at a human scale that make use of forgotten scars, holes and voids in the urban fabric. The work with creating more public spaces should start with small steps and mapping, the public spaces must be multi-use, which means that they can be utilized for different purposes different times during the day. Only when involving the residents living nearby the new public spaces the process of transformation will be sustainable.

        The team members that focused on Vision and Identity stated that the identity of Amman is tightly linked to Jordan’s history of immigration and war. But even though there have also been times of stability and progress, there is no doubt that the diversity among the population has put its mark on the city. The connections between different cultural, religious and ethnic groups are fairly good, and the segregation that exists is rather at an economic scale, where the richer inhabitants live in West Amman and the poorer in the East – the older part of the city. The identity is already present: Amman is a multicultural and diverse city with a spectacular geography and meandering staircases. This must taken into account when forming the image of today and the vision for the future of Amman, the team concluded.

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        The group that looked into Participation and Communication stressed that the urban development process in Amman is lacking dialogue and transparency. They underlined that the public must have access to public spaces in order to participate in society, but there is also a need to raise awareness through education regarding urban rights and ways to participate. As the public cannot go through with this whole process of transformation in their own, there is a need for engaged non-governmental organizations that can be discussion partners with the government and are strong enough to raise social demands.

        The participants who discussed Segregation and Socioeconomics pointed out that these subjects are huge and important topics in Amman, spanning from the lack of green areas to the question to how spatial planning contributes to segregation in the city. The team started with changing the title to Cultural Integration and Socioeconomics, as integration and not segregation must be the aim for the future. Among the topics discussed was the present transit culture in Amman that origin from the vast immigration history. Besides cultural and ethnic segregation, the team identified segregation and divisions in society based on gender, age and disability, where young boys are forbidden to enter shopping malls and disabled people are stigmatized and therefore cannot be seen in the streets.

        The group also discussed the gentrification of Rainbow Street. Under the slogan “Reclaim the Gentrification”, the participants stated that it is not bad to improve poor areas per se, but that it is crucial that the original inhabitants have the possibility to stay and are supported in doing so.

        Conclusion
        One may conclude that the NUT participants that met these days in Amman, all of various backgrounds and from different countries, had a strong desire for a common dialogue and were pleased to meet and exchange experience and knowledge. They also saw a need for greater dialogue between citizens and decision makers and for a greater transparency and room for grassroots action within processes of city planning and urban design.

        The non-Jordanian participants stated that they found the Amman academics and officials very well aware of the challenges and problems their city faces. This highlights the need of talking about potentials and strategies, they concluded.

        Many participants raised the question of extending, redesigning and creating new public spaces in the city in order to facilitate the interaction between the inhabitants of the city. In many of the presentations and discussions, dialogue and communication was also a great subject matter. The interaction with local Ammanians was highly appreciated by the non-Jordanian participants. Furthermore, the great presence by officials from the City of Amman and national government bodies showed that transparency within the planning process was not only words on a sheet of paper but that those people in power took the NUT message of dialogue seriously.

        New Urban Topologies (NUT) is a project initiated by Färgfabriken – Center for Contemporary Art and Architecture, Stockholm Sweden. NUT is supported by The Swedish Institute, The Swedish Embassy in Amman and The Swedish Institute in Alexandria, Egypt. NUT Amman is realized in collaboration with The Royal Scientific Society, Hamzet Wazel Foundation, College of Architecture and Design - Jordan University of Science and Technology, Princess Basma Youth Resourse Center, Turach: Architecture and Urban Design Consultants, Swedish Embassy in Jordan and Turath.

        Participants and contributors in Amman:

        Jordan: Royal Scientific Society; Hamzet Wazel Foundation; Jordan University (JUST); Turath Architecture and Design Consultants; Allied Planning & Engineering Corporation; Princess Bossima Research Youth Center (PBYRC); The Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Greater Amman Municipality Committee; Greater Amman Municipality; Al Ghad Newspaper; Consolidated Consultants.

        Sweden: Färgfabriken; The Swedish Embassy in Amman; The Swedish Institute in Stockholm; The Swedish Institute in Alexandria; The City Planning Office in Stockholm; The Office of Regional Planning Stockholm; The Royal Academy of Technology in Stockholm.

        Egypt: Alexandria Governorate, Urban Planning Department; Gudran for Art and Development, Alexandria; Alexandria University, Faculty of Fine Arts.

        Lebanon: The City of Beirut; Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA).

        Belarus: Belarusian National Technical University Architecture department.

        Macedonia: University St. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje, Faculty of Architecture.

        Bosnia and Herzegovina: The City Planning Office in Mostar.


         

        The text is an shortened, and partly re-written, version of the report "New Urban Topologies Amman" by Rebecka Gordan.

         

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