The small town of Kiruna in Sweden, with a population of almost 18,000, is to be moved. The reason for this is a magnetite ore mine. The city could collapse if the earth is hollowed out. Plans have been developed to partly demolish and partly rebuild the houses at a location about three kilometers away. This unusual move should be completed by 2033. Many, including the city administration, see a town developed on the drawing board as a potential new beginning. However, not everyone seems happy about the plans, which are closely linked to the company’s economic development. What would happen, for example, if the global market price for magnetite ore fell and the relocation of Kiruna, which has already begun, could not be fully implemented?
A City Displaced
City in Transition
The Wekerle estate in the southeast of Budapest has been part of the worldwide Transition Town Network for several years, which addresses the global challenges of the climate emergency and develops practices for local production as well as re-use. Alternative energy concepts are developed, food sovereignty is created, sustainable construction and emission-free mobility are promoted. In Wekerle, particular emphasis is placed on community-supported agriculture, organic horticulture is promoted through courses, seeds of local vegetable varieties are traded on exchange platforms, and compost is systematically collected. The local government has recognized this approach’s potential and supports it—despite some resistance—with material and financial resources. And so, a community house has been built, a community garden laid out, and the market place redesigned.
Technical Assistance for an Informal Settlement
South of Lisbon, in the hinterland of hotels and apartment complexes, is the not yet legalized Terras da Costa quarter. In 2012, the idea of setting up a communal kitchen was born in the neighborhood. Their proposal was tied to hopes that authorities would agree to install a water supply and thereby start the legalization process of the settlement. The architectural office ateliermob and many other groups, initiatives, and individuals supported this ambition in various ways. Some contributed their work directly, others positioned themselves in solidarity, and foundations funded the project. After about two years, water finally flowed to Terras da Costa. But many other aspects remained unresolved or have not been decided politically, so that settlements in similar situations have to continue the fight for their rights to the city.
Work Yard for Construction Materials
Why is the current mantra in the construction industry build, build, build—when reuse, recycling, or other forms of responsible use of resources should be the focus of attention? The interdisciplinary collective Bellastock addresses this and other major problems in the construction industry. La Fabrique du Clos in Stains, a small town in the north-east of Paris, was used to store materials from the demolition of residential towers. Yet the yard also became a meeting place and stage for the neighborhood’s residents. There were discussions: about future urban spaces, how and by whom and with what they will be designed. These activities resulted in prototypes for sheds, planting beds, arbors, street pavement, playground equipment, benches, pavilions, and much more. They show how small-scale alternatives can challenge established systems.
Participation in City Design
More than 400 people assembled at a self organized meeting in FC St. Pauli’s ballroom in Hamburg in February 2014. The reason for the unusual gathering were dramatic changes in St. Pauli. The neighborhood called for a »bottom up-organized, democratic planning process.« With the experience and the mobilization power of the broad Right-to-the-city-movement backing them, the interdisciplinary planning office Planbude is founded to develop a new land use plan for the city. Wish production starts in late summer. Planbude’s claim: »Knack’ den St. Pauli Code!« (Crack the St. Pauli code!) becomes the leitmotif for a process that builds on multilingualism in expression and making. The results of the process are captured in a contract and become the foundation for a planning competition. Local knowledge builds the basis for the reinvention of the city.
A Sign for Europe
The work EUROPA was created in the aftermath of Britain’s referendum for withdrawal from the European Union. Europe, according to the architecture and planning office morePlatz, lacks visibility, public presence, and positive feedback. The huge luminous tubes, which have been on display in Berlin and many other locations across Germany and abroad since their first installation in November 2016, were conceptualized to address this articulated lack. But this notion of Europe that these letters and this light fixture are meant to represent is also viewed critically by many for Europe’s external borders are being increasingly sealed off and defended. The promise of an open and solidary Europe remains for many an unattainable goal. Radiant EUROPA does not shine equally for everyone.
A Small Town’s Dialogue with Civil Society
The small town of Altenburg in Thuringia is shrinking. Since the 1980s, the population has declined by over 40%. Numerous individuals and initiatives have therefore been active for several years. They want to counteract the downbeat atmosphere. The cooperation of various initiatives, support associations, and cultural institutions—Stadtmensch—is supported by a program under the National Urban Development Policy and working on purposefully expanding existing models for the co-produced city. In concrete terms, the aim is for civil society to assume responsibility for public indoor and outdoor spaces. Calls for ideas bring forth projects, the implementation and promotion of which are decided upon by locals through various procedures. An important criterion: the projects should serve the common good.
A Model Project for Refugee Integration
Former mayor Domenico »Mimmo« Lucano of the southern Italian municipality of Riace was co-founder of the association Città Futura—City of the Future. In collaboration with aid organizations, he took in refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Palestine, and Lebanon. With this came state subsidies that were then also invested in the village’s infrastructure, which—many today believe—would likely have died out without the new residents. And so, together with the locals, abandoned houses were repaired. The newcomers were also introduced to local traditions of glass making, ceramics, and embroidery. But from the beginning, there was resistance to what was seen as an idiosyncratic approach, which finally led to the project’s collapse a few years ago. Lucano was accused of malpractice, abuse of his position, and had to leave Riace. In the meantime, however, he’s back forging new plans.
From Wasteland to Neighborhood Local
In the north of Brussels, surrounded by streets and yet almost hard to find, a small paradise has emerged. In 2013, a diverse team put an idea into practice: they combined the special and unique features of a park with urban agriculture and micro-farming. Involved were local initiatives and groups that had been using the fringes of the fallow land for some time for the collective cultivation of fruit and vegetables, small animal husbandry, and pigeonries. The resulting location—Parckfarm—still brings the neighborhood together today. Different actors organize various activities, workshops, gardening, and debates. However, a land use plan for the area is now in place. Neighborhood associations and initiatives see access to and use of the park as threatened.