Meeting in Rijeka, Croatia

Reflections of Bernardo Vaz Pinto

Reflections of Bernardo Vaz Pinto from Portugal

 

Overview of Rijeka

 

The meeting was organized around several panel discussions, one exhibition and the visit to special area of the city in current need for rehabilitation and re-conversion.

 

The overall theme was centered on the citizen’s involvement in city planning decisions, and how civic initiatives can influence the outcome of the urban development of the city itself. Influenced by the recent experience in several countries, where Urban interventions were criticized by the public, the central idea seemed to propose a critical look on the democratic capacity of society and civic associations to participate in the urban discussions, and eventually change the outcome of urban projects. It seems clear that Urban planning and developments should not remain in the hands of a few public and private investors, as well as the decision makers should extend to other areas of the society, representing the diverse condition of the contemporary city.

 

1. The Exhibition

Titled “Oh, My Complex: On Unease at Beholding the City”, the exhibition showed several examples of urban developments and urban realities around the world, through different perspectives, being it urban or architectural. It looked at the urban phenomenon from separate points of view, and disciplines, being it artistic or socio–political. It stressed the idea that without a critical vision, decisions are easily warped and twisted without the approval of the majority.

 

Exhibition Discussion

 

2. Panel Discussions

Panel discussions were organized around three sub-themes, (My) Human City, (Our) Public Spaces, and (Your) Art Beat. In these discussions became clear that it is not easy to define what is the “public” sphere today, what distinguishes public from private developments, since many times the private investment is also responsible for developments with the interest of the city´s officials. Many case studies were called to show how issues seem to be different from country to country, from local to local, even in a globalized world.

 

The Panel preparation

 

Some of the Participants

 

3. The Visit to Ex Paper Factory “Hartera”

Before the workshop discussion, the group visited the industrial area where is located the large paper factory, now abandoned, on the banks of the river Rječina. A very interesting Post-industrial site, which needs to be re-invented in this new era of global commerce and digital production. Solutions were not easy to agree on, but more important was the awareness that this cases seemed to be in themselves representative of the conditions of our urbanity today.

 

The river site of the Paper Factory

 

4. Conclusions

Bringing together several groups of people and organizations with quite different backgrounds, with the aim of discussing together problems that somehow touches all, is always a valuable way to develop critical ideas about possible future orientations. To learn from other people experiences is still a positive way of developing strategies that tend to be more inclusive, more encompassing. As the sub-theme of The Rivers of Opportunities is about “Audience Development” a bigger discussion on the results could have been taken place, evaluating the results and the meeting of the expectations, while preparing strategies for future cases. Still the experiences have been challenging and the networking proved to be successful.

 

Lisbon, 15.04.2014.

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