Baltic Audience Links Partner meeting and public seminar Gdańsk, 17-20 May.

Introduction to the Workshop, led by Roman Sebastyanski

How to Widen Public Participation in the Urban Planning Context?


Authorities of many European cities try to involve their citizens in the visioning, planning and decision making processes concerning their common future. However, in most cases it has been several hundred instead of thousands involved, which raises the question about political legitimacy of decisions based on such processes. The problem corresponds closely with a concepts of Audience Development presented by Chris Torch from Intercult and Agata Etmanowicz from Impact Foundation at the 4th Strategic Project Development Workshop (9th November 2016 Stockholm, Sweden) and Co-urbanism presented at the event in Vilnius, Lithuania (07-08 April 2017). The goal of this three hour seminar and workshop in Gdansk is  to present, discuss and co-invent original methods of broadening the public access to urban political decision making processes. 


Roman Sebastyański (Poland) is an urban planner engaged with the Gdansk Shipyard regeneration process for over 15 years as an initiator and facilitator of the Gdansk Shipyard Artists’ Colony (2000-2007) and a member of the Gdansk Shipyard activists’ network (since then). During that time, artists and activists managed to discover unique industrial and political identities of that historical place and inform wide public about its rich cultural heritage. Finally, they managed to substantially change the public policy concerning cultural heritage protection of the former Gdansk Shipyard – the birthplace of the Solidarity movement. Currently, he is completing his PhD study at the University of the West of Scotland on public participation in the urban planning processes. 


Solidarity movement, born in the Gdansk Shipyard in 1980, was based on constructive political dialogue and won democratic freedom for Central Europe. Paradoxically, 20 years later this famous place was sold to US speculative funds and turned from democratic agora to liberal market. New business-driven land-use plan approved in 2004 without discussing it with public, became a tool of heritage destruction on the way to develop “modern” waterfront district called Young City.
As more and more buildings and other industrial infrastructure were disappearing from the area of the former Shipyard the new political opposition was rising against that. This time, constructive political dialogue has been initiated by several visual artists from the Gdansk Shipyard Artists’ Colony. Within the next few years they have presented great cultural values of the former Shipyard to general public and mobilized several city activists’ groups to get politically engaged in the struggle to save and protect them.
Numerous protests as well as petitions signed by thousands of Gdansk citizens and sent to all relevant government offices (including Ministry of Culture and Heritage and President of the Polish Republic) have forced Heritage Conservator to take action and list many of Shipyard’s relicts including great cranes traditionally present in the skyline of the Gdansk city center. This intensified conflict with the land owners-developers who, in turn, intensified demolitions. Four of them also sued this decision to the upper levels of the Polish judicial system.
Recently however, the Polish Supreme Court supported and accepted decision of the Heritage Conservator to formally evidence and list many of the post-shipyard relicts. That is great victory of all those actively engaged for the last 10 years in the Gdansk Shipyard heritage protection. More importantly, it also marks a turning point in the struggle for appropriate vision of the Gdansk Shipyard redevelopment between general public and forces of business and bureaucracy combined.
To develop our, publicly agreed vision, we would like to organize and facilitate a wide open and fully accessible public participative (on and off-line) dialogic process. We would also like to internationalize our discussion to get a valuable input from abroad based on actual experiance (both positive and negative). Let us all together make this place again a heart of Solidarity based on equality and freedom of speach! 

Roman Sebastyanski (November 2016)


»» »»