As we count down to Placemaking Week in Amsterdam, we’re thinking about how grassroots placemakers are taking action in cities around the world. In this week’s spotlight, we look at how a new generation of placemaking has arrived for Central and Eastern Europe. As younger people begin to see public spaces in a new light, public attitudes that once deemed common spaces as belonging to nobody are fading away. In a Placemaking Week session titled “Rebuilding Trust: Placemaking in the Central and Eastern European Context,” PPS will explore how the region is taking on a role at the cutting edge of the placemaking movement.
PPS has a long history in Central and Eastern Europe, starting with projects supported by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in the mid-1990s. At that time, the placemaking methodology was seen as a way to build democracy in the region, and to start a conversation around community participation. PPS partnered with a consortium of environmental organizations, starting off in the Czech Republic, and trained members of the Environmental Partnership Association. This work grew to connect partners in other countries, including Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. As a result of this network building, many local partners in the region are today’s leaders in community planning, carrying the torch for the placemaking movement.
The shared history in Central and Eastern Europe remains clear today. Cities in the region face many of the same challenges, like public attitudes toward community assets, and a historical tendency toward top-down decision making. But now, grassroots activism is meeting these challenges at their nexus; in public spaces. Working for livable cities, with public spaces that attract people of all ages, a rising group of activists in the region are taking the placemaking movement and running with it.
At Placemaking Week, Project for Public Spaces Vice President Elena Madison will lead a discussion with some of Central and Eastern Europe’s most active placemakers, identifying the common threads that connect successful public space projects in the area. The range of voices represented in the panel is a testament to region’s multi-sectoral approach to placemaking, and the exciting discussion will explore numerous strategies and practices from the perspective of artists, academics, nonprofits and city leaders alike.
More and more, leadership in Central European public spaces is shifting to the grassroots. Milan Brlik, Head of the Participation Office with the Prague Institute of Planning and Development, is keeping up communities’ momentum in placemaking in the Czech Republic. Launching an international competition to re-think an under-used park in the city of Prague Prague, Milan has been a key advocate for taking public space outside of the usual government departments and placing it firmly in the hands of locals.
Meanwhile, in Kaunas, Lithuania, Vita Geluniene and Ed Carroll have strengthened community bonds by building up the local arts scene in their Cabbage Field Project, winner of UCLG Mexico City Culture 21 Prize. Vita and Ed have sparked a movement toward land reclamation, cleaning up places once used as dumping grounds to bring out the cultural identity and artistic talents in Kaunas. Small-scale projects are adding up to a movement.
A central pillar of the movement is the empowerment and education of a new generation of placemakers. It is precisely the types of projects mentioned above that Ivana Markovic works to support in her role as grant program manager with Belgrade’s Trag Foundation. Energizing projects that use Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper solutions, Ivana empowers grassroots placemakers.
Eliza Hoxha, Assistant at the Department of Urbanism and Spatial Planning at the University of Pristina, and Executive Director at the local nonprofit UrbaniaK, brings together academia and action in her work in the cities of Kosovo. An expert on the unique ways in which women use city spaces, Eliza has also worked to improve Mitrovica’s Ibar Bridge, a symbol of division between the Albanian and Serbian sides of the Ibar River. Thinking of the river as a place to connect, Eliza worked to make the riverfront more livable, engaging local students to help in the process. Magdalena Kubecka, meanwhile, is spreading the word about the placemaking movement in her role as a researcher and author with the Warsaw-based Cities Magazine. Last year, she founded an initiative called “How the City Works,” to create awareness around community processes and urban development.
Placemaking in Central and Eastern Europe takes many forms. Placemaking Week will be a chance to learn about how shared history and challenges can contribute to shared success in public spaces. Come learn more about the Central European experience with us in Amsterdam!
There's still time to register for Placemaking Week 2017! This year, Project for Public Spaces collaborates with partners in Amsterdam—STIPO, City at Eye Level, Placemaking Plus, and Pakhuis de Zwijger where the bulk of the event will be held—to host a dynamic program of sessions and workshops, where attendees will develop and share concrete strategies for advancing placemaking locally and globally.