On New Urban Topologies
– by Thomas Lundh, advisor New Urban Topologies.
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
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
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.
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
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
Stockholm by bus
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.
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 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)
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 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.
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.
Presentation on study visits and discussions on Stockholm
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
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 UrbanismWhat 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:
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
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.
Minsk by Bus
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 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".
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
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
The Skopje seminar
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.)
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 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
"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."
Different cities, different aspects
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
New Urban Topologies in Mostar
On 7–9 November 2012 Färgfabriken in conjunction with its Bosnian and Herzegovinian partners the City of Mostar, University Džemal Bijedić of Mostar, Association of Local Democracy Agencies Mostar and the Sweden Embassy to Bosnia Herzegovina carried out an extensive program on urban topologies in Mostar for city hall representatives, architects, urban planners, academics, students and other interested participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Macedonia, Latvia, the Netherlands, Egypt, and Sweden.
The main focus of the project New Urban Topologies Mostar was District, a centrally located urban area that presently lacks a master plan. The City of Mostar wanted ideas on this former division line from the participants, and a report was also sent to the City in December 2012.
The Mostar Case
1) Integration of the District Into the Already Existing Urban Tissue That Surrounds It. As almost all areas surrounding District already have developed master plans it is important to embed and connect District to these.
2) Traffic at the Bulevar Narodne Revolucije. The most frequent road in the city is also an obstacle for District. It would be interesting to see if there can be an alternative solutions for it.
3) Green Transverse. District area is surrounded by a major city park on one side and the Neretva river bank on the other. But in District there are no designed green spots or public spaces, except of the Spanish Square at its border.
4) Social Aspect of District. Twenty years ago this area was a division line between two war sides. Despite all efforts that have been invested into this process there are still traces of the wounds made by war. It would be interesting to hear proposals from someone who comes from abroad. New approaches, new visions and new perspectives for this city area are needed.
5) Local People – What Do They Think About? It would be of a high importance to hear the public opinion, to draw the poll with questions so that during the workshop we can realize what people generally think about District. One of the important elements in our law is to have public hearings during the planning process. Within the workshop it would be important to present the importance of public hearings as well as methods of participatory planning.
Excursion by bus
The first stop of the tour was Podvelezje Hill, a viewpoint at one of the mountainsides overlooking the city. Here the guides told the history of the city and presented its recent urban plans, both pre and post war. They explained how the present political system works in the city, with double governmental institutions on almost every level. The group also discussed the increase of informal settlements the later years and its reasons. Then the participants got to see the university campus, the new sports stadium and a large shopping mall in construction at the border of District.
The guides explained how illegal buildings are legalized in new master plans, and said that in Mostar politics seem to come before planning. The next stop was Bakijina Luka residential area in the outskirts of the city. Here the group discussed potential strategies for having more tourism as well as the present divisions in the city and the aims for unification during postwar times. At the end of the tour the participants got to see the countryside, ending up in the historical village of Blagaj where the discussions continued.
The first speaker was Ljubo Bešlić, mayor of Mostar, who underlined what a complex task urban development is but stated that he has faith in the future and wanted closer collaboration with Europe, which he said the New Urban Topologies project was a proof of.
Bosse Hedberg, Ambassador of Sweden to Bosnia and Herzegovina who stressed the importance of transparency and participation within the planning process and encouraged the audience to enter the New Urban Topologies project with openness and curiosity, even though the political landscape in Mostar is difficult.
Joachim Granit, creative director of Färgfabriken presented some key projects from the center, as I Will Never Talk About the War Again – dealing with the Balkan wars – and Stockholm on the Move – focusing the importance of communication over professional borders and neighboring municipalities within the field of infrastructure.
Bojan Boric, architect and head of the Urban Studio at the Royal Academy of Technology in Stockholm lectured on urban development, comparing cities like Hong Kong, Chisinau, London and Stockholm and underlined the importance of public spaces for a democratic society.
Ulrika Egerö, ecologist at the Stockholm City Planning Office presented the strategic plan of Stockholm and discussed its key focus areas, as environmental awareness, social integration and participation within the planning process.
Pelle Persson, urban planner and counsellor at the Embassy of Sweden in Sarajevo presented the Swedish governmental project SymbioCity which is a conceptual framework for sustainable urban development.
Marina Deronjić, head of the Urban planning department of the City of Mostar presented the structure of the department and some of its present challenges as the new plan of District. Salem Bubalo, director of the Institute for Urban Planning of the City of Mostar thereafter showed how the City maps Mostar in an advanced way with computer programs and shares the data with the citizens. Dženana Dedić, representative of Association of Local Democracy Agencies Mostar, explained how the organization supports local democracy, with training programs and meetings where politicians meet the civil society. The aim is to strengthen communication and to enhance transparency and participation.
Excursion by foot through the district
The five teams also got maps but without much explanations on them so that they could come up with new ideas for the area without being influenced by present plans. The groups walked around for three hours, made planning analyses, conducted interviews with locals, took photos and mapped both well visited and abandoned parts of the area.
The group that presented Integration of District Into the City stressed that District has been and is still in many ways a barrier in the city of Mostar. However, the area has great potential to become the unifying core. In this process, a substantial effort has to be made to transform it to an integrated part of the surrounding city. It is also important that any changes made are implemented with the citizen’s fully support. District already has many existing meeting points where people socialize, which is a great asset.
The participants that discussed Bulevar Narodne Revolucije had investigated the future potentials of this historically important road and concluded that it not only has a functional quality that serves automobile traffic or is an infrastructure connection but also could be an integral part of public life. They called their proposal Boulevard of Dreams stating that by making the boulevard more pedestrian friendly and by focusing on the quality of public space, the boulevard could become a stage for social and cultural activities. New nodes, paths and crossings over the boulevard would make it easier to walk from one site or neighborhood to another. By performing these multiple interventions one would create a web of spaces that link public activities throughout the city. The road should be perceived as a connective tissue for future possibilities for the young generation.
The participants that got the topic Green Transverse called their proposal A Green Mindset. They stressed that the vacant plots in District, many fenced in, form barriers. These plots cut off movement patterns and are painful reminders of the past for many of Mostar’s citizens according to the group. But unexploited spaces in such a central location are also a great assets. The same goes for the riverbank – a barrier today but with the potential to be an accessible highly appreciated green space for inhabitants and visitors. In order to gather people from the whole city to District one could initiate a community center for different groups to meet with contemporary art, a theater or similar cultural activities, the team thought.
The participants that focused on the social aspect of District called their presentation Meeting Points Strategies said that the character of the future public spaces must relate to the needs of people. Starting on a smaller scale, perhaps offering empty lots temporarily to cultural organizations and youth groups, for such things as art pavilions or community gardens, District could become a thriving and highly popular area. In Mostar there is a dynamic street life, and District is no exception. People do want to meet; they just lack enough spaces for it. They advised to transform the large empty areas around District into popular well-designed open spaces used by all citizens of Mostar with the Spanish Square as a model.
The team that had investigated what local people thought of District named their proposal Propeller of Creativity. They declared that a democratic platform for urban development starts with people – individuals, families and local cultural institutions, what we call the civil society. If given the chance, people will find solutions to community problems, they will demand policy changes, raise public awareness and increase participation and in the end create social harmony and a thriving democratic society. Thus, the starting point should be to think small – capture people’s creativity, invest in people, not big development projects that are many times corrupted or stop due to bureaucratic gridlock or lack of funding.
On a micro level, people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds do get along in the city. How can we create a critical mass on a macro scale? The team suggested to use the infrastructure the city already has, the cultural spots that already exist. Small projects are doable, cost less and the civil society can initiate and run them more effectively. In this way, people would take charge of their own destiny; a larger number of people would be involved in forming the future of their city. Once you have this running, new investments will come automatically. And new cultural institutions and events will in turn attract capital and subsequently the propeller will start to move, they concluded.
Conclusions - Think small!
Another important subject matter was the way history is present in the city and the urban development. The foreign participants saw a need to strengthen the presence of the pre-war history of the city, and by doing so create a counterweight to the painful history of the war, which still hunts the citizens of Mostar and have a great influence over politics until this day.
Participants and contributors in Mostar:
Bosnia-Herzegovina: City of Mostar ; City of Mostar, Urban Planning Department; City of Mostar, the Institute of Urban Planning; Herzegovina Neretva Canton, the Institute of Urban Planning; Association of Local Democracy Agencies Mostar; University Džemal Bijedić of Mostar, Faculty of Civil Engineering; University Džemal Bijedić of Mostar; University of Sarajevo, Faculty of Architecture; Abart, Youth Cultural Centre Abrašević; Mostar Youth Council; Mostar TV Group.
Sweden: Färgfabriken; The Embassy of Sweden in Sarajevo; The Swedish Institute Baltic Sea Cooperation; The City Planning Office in Stockholm; The Royal Academy of Technology in Stockholm.
Egypt: Gudran for Art and Development, Alexandria.
Macedonia: University St. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje, Faculty of Architecture.
Moldova: Center for Contemporary Art in Chisinau.
Latvia: Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration, Faculty of Architecture and Design.
The Netherlands: Delft University of Technology, Department of Urbanism.
The text is an shortened, and partly re-written, version of the report "New Urban Topologies Mostar" by Rebecka Gordan.
The Chișinău and Minsk Experience
In october 2010, Färgfabriken, in conjunction with its Moldovan and Belarusian partners Oberliht and Y ̆ Gallery, conducted extensive programs on urban topologies in the capital cities of Chişinău and Minsk. The participants were municipal administrators, architects, urban planners, and students, among others.
The result and the experience from these two cities are now gathered in the book The Chisinau and Minsk Experience. By making a complex process more accessible though visualizations, proposals, and stories about how each city could develop, we believe that more people will become interested in the future of their societies.
As each city has its own unique conditions, the program and results of NUT will differ from one site to the next. Nevertheless, it turned out that the same kind of overall themes were critical in both Chişinău and Minsk. The five themes that make up the whole of the publication are based on the main concerns expressed in both cities: cities of history, architectural aims, on public space, sustainable infrastrucutre and exchanging ideas. Some of these themes were the basis for workshop groups; others were strongly articulated in discussions and presentations.
The book’s thematic chapters include presentations from seminars, bus excursions, and workshops. In each chapter the reader will also find interviews with participants conducted throughout the span of the visits, as well as shorter freestanding statements and comments on the presentations. The book also includes essays written by contributing authors in retrospect.
Please click the icon down below to download the electronic version of the book.
New Urban Topologies – Indonesia
Färgfabriken has worked with Indonesian partners for two years. In Sept. 2012 Färgfabriken participated in the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) for Ministers of Culture where the New Urban Topologies method was presented to some 50 representatives of almost as many countries under the headline “Strengthening Good Governance of Historic Cities”.
An exploratory visit by Färgfabriken in Dec. 2012 crystalized a number of themes which became recurrent during the entire project: Interaction between art, architecture and cultural heritage, communication between the citizens and the authorities, disaster prevention, informal (slum) settlements, clean water and not least: Walkable and bicycle friendly cities.
In April 2013 Färgfabriken was invited to present NUT within the framework of Partner-driven Cooperation, a Sida concept, to some 40 ranking representatives of government authorities, Indonesian and Swedish commerce and industry, headed by the Mayor of Yogyakarta and Sweden’s then Minister for International Cooperation, Gunilla Carlsson. A one-day seminar took place at Gajah Madha University in Yogyakarta to look into results of cooperation with the private sector on issues such as waste treatment, renewable energy, climate change and toxic waste. Färgfabriken stressed the importance of sustainable development, green cities and public spaces.
That same month Färgfabriken organized a full day New Urban Topology seminar in Yogyakarta, at the Department of Architecture, Gajah Madha University. The seminar gathered around 50 teachers, students and NGO activists from Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Jakarta and offered lectures by Färgfabriken and Gajah Madha faculty as well as three workshops on Heritage Conservation as Economic Generator, Disaster Prevention in City Planning and in Terms of Awareness and Local Ownership and Participation in Urban Planning.
Färgfabriken contributed experiences on a holistic view of city planning and urban living and the integration of art and architecture in planning, on communication and creative dialogue on innovative ideas and of course on local democracy, political participation, ownership and transparency.
The first World Cultural Forum (WCF) took place in Bali in Nov. 2013 at the initiative of Indonesia’s President.Färgfabriken was the only Swedish organization present and attended two panel discussions; on Civil Society and Cultural Democracy and on Sustainable Urban Development.
Contact – New Urban Topologies