Give space! A “Placemaking” Project in Hungary in 4 questions

Mariann Majorné Venn

By Mariann Majorné Venn, on June 30th, 2014

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In january 2014, URBACT kick-started 6 pilot transfer network. We’ve introduced the Placemaking Fo(u)r Cities project on this blog only a few weeks ago, presenting how the network approaches Placemaking and the challenge of transfering a practice. How does it work on the receiving side of the transfer? How does the Placemaking practice translate, not only in Hungarian, but in Hungary?

1. What Are the Transferable Good Practices and the Main Goals of the “Placemaking fo(u)r Cities (P4C)” Project?

The project is part of the so called URBACT Pilot Transfer Network, which provides the framework for transferring particular good practices from one city to others. The method of “Placemaking” is both a theory, philosophy that fits into the process of integrated urban development prevailing primarily in Anglo-Saxon culture, as well as a “toolbox” containing actual activities and actions.

The point of the method is that the users of a city need not only beautiful, carefully designed – and therefore often sterile – public spaces, but also spaces (streets, squares, public buildings, etc.) that are actively used and valued by the community. This means that emotional connection between people and the urban environment has to be created in order for public spaces to becomes more sustainable, due to more responsible use by the community.

Its essence lies with the never ending process in which the management of a city and the local community take the responsibility for their public spaces together. In Hungarian, “Placemaking” can be translated with the term “Give space!” which describes the way a mainly top-down process – the administrative management and development of the city – gives room for residents to contribute to planning, design and management of the development process. In many aspects “Placemaking” includes and integrates community planning, community development, open space management, and even “public art”, and is related to human ecology, sustainability, social innovation as well as the reform of public sector.

Community gardens, roof gardens, guerrilla gardening, recycling in public places (e.g. trendy benches made of used skateboards), creative use of swings, community built sculptures, creative street furniture (e.g. message walls, recycled tires as flowerpots, variations of benches) creative pavement signs and drawings (for example games for children), community actions – it’s all part of “Placemaking”.

The project aims to demonstrate and recognize how Dun Laoghaire Rathdown (one of the southern peripheries of Dublin) uses this methodology, as well as how it can be adapted to the practice of other cities.

The most comprehensive website on the subject is the Project for Public Spaces site, which gives an overview on the theoretical background. For specific activities it is worth searching the keywords on Pinterest, which gives place for the website of the project, too, but you can also explore many interesting and creative ideas. The project’s minipage and Twitter site are also worth visiting:

2. How Does Dun Laoghaire, the Project Lead Partner, do Placemaking?

The P4C project can be regarded, in many aspects, as a continuation of the SURE project, which was led by the town of Eger. This other URBACT project intended to map out good practices for social rehabilitation- one of that practice, introduced in Belgium, was Placemaking. The Irish partner, consisting of specialists of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, made good use of the lessons learnt in the international cooperation project: they integrated the practice in their daily operations and went to organise an international conference on the subject in order to disseminate the method in Ireland. The process was also strengthened by local network development.

On behalf of the city, people responsible for community and economic development are the most involved professionals in the project. They are using Placemaking in a variety of ways. Dun Laoghaire is primarily mentioned in the guidebooks for its – now mainly recreational – port and for its beautiful pier. In line with the strategic objectives of the city, it was planned to obscure the sight of the suburban railway line running along the coast and create a direct pedestrian link between the coast and the city’s fabric. This was the Metal Project, initiated by the local government, which in many ways relied on the views of users of public spaces via sensitive, thorough questionnaires for instance. This is a typical example of how a top-down project can be strengthened and made more sustainable using the methods of Placemaking. We have seen more examples of grass-roots initiatives introduced by the Lead Partner in April 2014. Community gardens are getting popular in Hungary. The city of Dun Laoghaire has also supported such project with social purposes, initiated by the local community of a declining part of the city (Shanganagh). Another reported example was the community centre led by the local community. Both are examples for the local government’s sensitive, facilitating support for local initiatives that are becoming self-sustaining over time. Under P4C project, it is planned to fill yet another empty space around another community centre with life.

3. What Is the Role of the Hungarian Partner, the Town of Eger, in the Project? How Can it Use the Method of Placemaking?

P4C2

The topic is particularly relevant in Eger as the renewal of the historic town centre is just taking place in the frame of an urban regeneration project. The famous Dobó Square and its wider environment, a total of five squares and the surrounding streets are subject to renewal. The project obviously affects the life of the entire city, but the questions are how public spaces can be turned more liveable and how the emotional attachment of users, residents, local workers and tourists can be built or strengthened. As a first step the support group in Eger started a 6-week communication campaign, each week asking the citizens – with special regard to young people – what activities they could imagine concerning the use of the areas under construction. Subsequently, the local support group will analyse the proposals, andimplements the best ones in autumn, hoping that a few key people or key organizations will get actively involved to whom the management of public spaces can be delegated in the long run. The process and the results will be demonstrated to P4C project partners in November 2014.

4. How Can Other European Cities Profit from the Results?

Beyond communication and dissemination activities (website, final publication in national languages, social media, info-graphics, etc.) the main objective of the final conference held in Dublin in March 2015 is to bring together one of the internationally renowned “big guys” of Placemaking – such as Brent Toderiant, Vancouver’s former chief architect, or Cathy Parker, head of the Institute of Place Management – with the EU Parliament member or other lead policy makers of this field, due to the fact that the methodology of Placemaking could be integrated into policies such as CLLD (community-led local development). Other important outputs of the project are the national action plans, resulted by the partner city’s delegates negotiating with the most relevant decision-makers and national bodies to promote Placemaking to be integrated into the national-level development policies.

Interviewees: Attila Rátkai, project manager, chief architect, Eger;  and Ferenc Szigeti-Böröcz, URBACT expert, HitesyBartuczHollai Euroconsulting Ltd.

by Mariann Major Vén, URBACT National Contact Point in Hungary.

 

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