Between Bottom-up Regeneration and Coworking

Petra Očkerl

By Petra Očkerl, on March 12th, 2015

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As described in a recent blog post, in Slovenia, collaborative spatial practices have been springing up like mushrooms after the rain. The publication Prostori sodelovanja (“Spaces of Collaboration”), published by IpoP, and a dedicated website deal with a wide variety of these practices within seven themes: co-mobility, housing communities, bottom-up regeneration, temporary use of space, coworking, local economies and urban gardening. Some of the themes and examples of collaborative spatial practices are briefly described in this blog post.

Bottom-up Regeneration

Bottom-up regeneration, similar to community-led or participative regeneration, is revitalization and renovation of a public space initiated by the local community or local NGOs. Often it is connected to temporary use of empty premises or abandoned building sites until those get another purpose. One of such building sites in Ljubljana got a new life when a local NGO decided to use it for urban gardening. Similar happened in Tobačna factory, where the local creative milieu established a coworking space. In Ljubljana, there are two very successful bottom-up regeneration projects – Park Tabor and Savsko naselje, both initiated by a local NGO.

Urban regeneration has been associated with various approaches throughout history, sometimes involving massive physical reconstruction of neighbourhoods and many negative effects. A common denominator of such traditional urban regeneration approaches is that they have been centrally run. On the contrary, bottom-up regeneration stands for practices that also contribute to better living conditions in cities, in particular in relation to open public space, but are bottom-up, initiated from the citizens and local entrepreneurs, who use the public space daily, and are implemented through events and interventions in public space.

Savsko_IMG_3410The most ambitious example of such bottom-up regeneration on a neighbourhood level in Ljubljana is Savsko naselje.  It is a form of renovation just as focused on the community as it is on the physical space. Four organizations – V.I.B.E., MHP, Saprabolt! and prostoRož – and a few individuals from the neighbourhood have connected in 2013 to form a programme of renovation through socializing and residents’ meetings. After a long community-building process, they implemented some improvements of open public spaces and community premises. One example is ‘Lokalc’, a small space next to the post office and the bank, available free of charge to all residents of Savsko naselje for many different activities. There, each resident who passes by can find out about the activities and events in their neighbourhood. In the afternoons, the space is available to different activities, such as celebrating birthdays, meetings of the local council, workshops for children and even band practices.

Temporary Use of Space

Temporary use of space is usually an intermediate use when a certain purpose of the space expired and a new one has not yet started. It can be a one-time event or it can last for decades. Temporary use has a great potential for revitalisation of abandoned and unused spaces – be it open spaces, buildings or parts of buildings. Whereas unused spaces are signs of stagnation, crisis, and lethargy, and often even lead to decline and consequently to the degradation of a wider area, temporary use revitalises the space with small steps and increases the value of the space itself as well as its surroundings; be it its usefulness or its social, economic and cultural quality.

Beyond a Construction Site  (Onkraj gradbišča) is a community-based garden intervention in a degraded urban space in Ljubljana, initiated in 2010 by Obrat Culture and Art Association  in collaboration with neighbourhood residents and other interested people. They have been transforming a long-fenced-off plot of land, not far from the city’s main railway station and the Old Town in Ljubljana into a community space intended for urban gardens, socializing, education, and culture. In this way, they are examining and showing the potential of degraded urban areas and the possibility of their receiving new value through temporary use and community-based interventions.

Parallel to this the project enhances and promotes possibilities for urban gardening as well as a more active inclusion of inhabitants in decision making about the planning, development, and the management of urban spaces. Currently around 100 people take care of app. 40 gardens and take part in different public and community-based events.


Coworking defines a way of production involving autonomous individuals or members of organisations that occasionally or permanently use a common space, where independent activities take place. Coworking is a social event that enables people with common values and interests to meet and explore synergies that can evolve from working in a common space. The very different forms of coworking range from authentic garage-workshops and associations of creative workers to organised forms of coworking that take place in payable workspaces or free of charge.

Poligon_IMG_6548 Poligon Creative Centre  is a training ground for the self-employed and creative communities operating in the field of creative economies, social entrepreneurship and culture. It was established on the initiative of Slovenia Coworking, Slovenia Crowdfunding, Kreativna cona Šiška and, who furnished the user-friendly coworking space on their own on a very low budget. It animates a formerly empty space in Tobačna, a former industrial complex and now a failed real-estate project.

The number of Poligon residents, who need a creative working environment either permanently or temporary, has been growing at an encouraging rate. Also, the ranks of the residents are increasingly diversifying; in addition to the initial community of designers, programmers, and architects, there are more and more profiles of self-employed and employed people, who every now and then like to change their working environment.

Eager to get to know collaborative spatial practices related to co-mobility, housing communities, local economies and urban gardening? Follow the URBACT Blog!

By Marko Peterlin and Petra Očkerl, IPoP

Header Photo: Onkraj gradbišča
Middle image: Savsko Naselje 
Bottom image: Polygon Creative Center

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