11 Unusual places reviving thanks to URBACT and the 2nd Chance Network

Simone D'Antonio

By Simone D'Antonio, on June 21st, 2018

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Discover spaces and brownfields of the 11 partner cities of the 2nd Chance Network, as well as ideas and good practices for the sustainable reuse of emblematic places of urban development. All these were at the core of the Integrated Action Plans presented by partner cities in Naples (IT) during the Network’s final conference.

Walking through the park that surrounds the former Military Hospital in Naples, the feeling is the same you get when facing one of the several sleeping giants located, unchanged, in small- and middle-sized urban centres: lost chances for the rehabilitation of these often huge structures which represented characteristic functions of their locations in the past.

The main theme of the URBACT network 2nd Chance is to harness the potential to facilitate the recovery of whole pieces of cities, starting from new functions that can revitalize relevant spaces in terms of aesthetics and spatiality. In recent years, the network fostered the debate between practitioners, experts and elected representatives of the involved cities to develop participatory models for the reuse of brownfields. A key tool for the public administrations throughout Europe, the models promote sustainable development of entire neighbourhoods thanks to the transformation of urban voids into common goods and resources for society.

Hidden stories behind each sleeping giant reveal a lot of the city’s past while the Integrated Action Plans draw potential trajectories for the development of the neighbourhoods linked with these unusual places, the starting points of urban regeneration.

Starting with these locations, we explore the potential transformations which serve as models for other cities in Italy and Europe.

The MalthouseThe Malthouse

The old malthouse and brewery in Lublin (PL) are key elements of an urban recovery action, which includes the participation of local residents in a co-decision making process on the future purpose (or allocation) of the zone. While one part of the structure hosts cultural activities, a pub and apartments, the rest of the space hosts laboratories and civic activities in order to foster sustainable development in the area and attract new residents.

The Spinning Mill

In Chemnitz (DE), a former spinning mill became a cultural hub and student housing, thus serving a new purpose for a diverse range of residents. The residents’ active involvement in re-thinking the former manufacturing structure supports temporary uses of the area, such as events and creative festivals, like the Wolkenkucksheim, open to different forms of art and urban cultures. The Network participation became occasion to reshape the private-public collaboration on brownfields regeneration. URBACT selected the case as a good practice that will be shared with the Transfer Network ALT/BAU.

The Prison

The Prison

In Maribor (SI), just one kilometre away from the downtown area, what was one of the most modern Austro-Hungarian prisons will be converted into a cultural centre thanks to the collaboration of architecture students, the local agency for cultural heritage preservation, associations, and civil society. In order to revive the entire zone, the brownfield must connect to the rest of the city, for instance, through the opening of the central way of the structure linking the residential zone to main routes leading to the Maribor shopping centre.

The Ballroom

In Liverpool (UK), the renovation of the nineteenth century ballroom could transform this structure into a new hub of innovation and sociability, as well as provide an opportunity for participatory action involving residents and different administrative levels. With the support of the Government Agency, Historic England, the URBACT Local Group strives to attract new investors in order to recover the Wellington Room and save the historic Greek-Roman friezes. While co-deciding the new functions, such as a learning space (universities, art galleries and museums) or a hub for economic development, the Agency is providing the urgent restoration works.

The Ballroom

The military barracks

In Genoa (IT), the former Gavoglio Barrack can be turned from the symbol of forsakenness into a permanent living lab, creating a physical and digital linkage between residents and administration. The huge structure in the Legaccio neighbourhood is already the location of the pilot project UNaLab, winner of a Horizon2020 call, which will provide for the implementation of nature-based solutions in order to enhance and improve the resilient capacity of the area. The objective is to make the barrack and the surrounding park open to Genoeses The military barracksand tourists which can be achieved through the reintegration of this key-space in the historic-cultural heritage of the city.

The summer estate

In the Mokosica neighbourhood of Dubrovnik (HR), a summer mansion built in the 17th century became a cultural centre and a sociality incubator. In spite of the fact that local laws concerning protected heritage made the restructuration works of Villa Gučetić expensive and complicated, the URBACT Local Group carried out during the project a set of experimental actions in the cultural reuse of the complex: meetings, events, workshops and concerts reaffirmed the ownership of the Villa that will be transformed into a community cultural centre in honour of the scientist and inventor Ruđer Bošković.

The religious building

The Recolhimento do Ferro, an old shelter formerly run by nuns in Santa Clara neighbourhood of Porto (PT), will host temporary and low cost accommodations, while also providing co-working zones and public spaces for free-time. The participatory planning of this for so long inaccessible area will contribute to enlighten the whole quartier which has also been the subject of a photographic contest in March 2018. The relaunch of sustainable tourism in the city is also made with the recovery of unusual structures but strongly linked to the history of the urban context.

The office building

At the core of the European neighbourhood in Brussels (BE), the building at Rue Arlon 104 is dismissed since 2004 but is evolving to become the key of the relaunch for the zone that has long been subject to controversial plans which are trying to combine the commercial and institutional nature of the area with the needs of the old and new residents. Starting from the occupation of the ground floor, the active involvement of architects, philosophers and other specialists able to re-design the mode of use in collaboration with the residents will contribute to transform the building in a community hub fostering a modular development of the activities in Rue Arlon 104 and in the surrounding zones of the European quartier.

The office building

The Tobacco Factory

In Gijon (ES), a new transformation is in view for the former baroque convent built in the 17th century, which was used as a tobacco factory for over a century before being abandoned. The ancient Tabacalera, set up in the centre of the Asturian city, will become a magnet for young talents: the objective is to convert the structure into a business hub that will host workstations, events, exhibitions and commercial spaces which will relaunch the internal development of the neighbourhood. This attempt to relaunch the city represents yet another important example of reuse made from the conceptual triad “Think, produce, show,” connecting the cultural and economic heritage of the region with development outlooks.

The Military Hospital

In Naples (IT), the relaunch of the Quartieri Spagnoli area starts from the former Military Hospital, surrounded by a park and adjacent to the Suor Orsola Benincasa University. The huge complex enjoys a strategic view of Naples and the gulf. Such beauty is a key element of the regeneration project of the historic-monumental heritage and of the ecologic network of the park. The impressive structure will be returned to the city providing space for business incubators on circular economy, temporary accommodations, and restaurants and barsThe Tobacco Factory that will attract residents and tourists in this emblem-place of the participatory regeneration of the city: more than 200 local subjects are involved in the rethinking process of this public space. The project is integrated in the debate on civic uses of the common goods that is the focus of the Transfer network leaded by Naples.

The Port Warehouse

In Caen (FR), the rehabilitation of the peninsula with new functions useful for a balanced and sustainable urban development represents the main legacy of the URBACT project which intervenes in a zone that already houses structures such as a court, a center of research and innovation, and a library. With the Integrated Action Plan, the partners of the project URBACT want to redefine the public image of the area, bring back to life the neglected structures that are still present, and encourage residents to live the peninsula, while also rediscovering the maritime identity of the city that has gradually faded.

The Port Warehouse

By Simone D’Antonio and Grazio Pagliarulo

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