SEE Cities

Innovative Solutions for Sustainable Cities


Webinar City-to-City Dialogue in Place-led Development and Placemaking
December 9, 2020


The second webinar on place-led development and placemaking was organized on December 9, 2020, under the Urban Partnership Program (UPP) in collaboration with Superwien from Vienna and representatives from Belgrade, Novi Sad and Niš. The webinar was led by Roland Krebs (Superwien, Director). This was the fourth workshop (Niš in 2018, Belgrade in 2019 and Novi Sad in 2020) on the topic of participatory planning/placemaking organized under the UPP in Serbia. The webinar gathered around 30 participants from various institutions and organizations including urban planners, architects, local economic development representatives from Belgrade, Niš and Novi Sad, University students and professors, NGO representatives, representatives of the SCTM. 

The aim of this webinar was to establish a city-to-city dialogue between Belgrade, Niš and Novi Sad in order to exchange experiences and knowledge about integrated urban development in specific public spaces prioritized by the City Administration. Placemaking tools were presented earlier in the program, and they were tested for the analysis of the defined planning area; and initial recommendations were elaborated and co-created by the participants. Now, the aim was to follow up with the same cities, in order to discuss how these recommendations could potentially convert into real interventions with cultural and artistic focus, what is still missing in the proposed solutions and how to organize short-term actions, with involvement of the private, public as well as the cultural sector (how to start and who to involve).

Going back to the previous workshops and webinars, some reflections and conclusions were mentioned, inter alia, that the planning processes should not be static but dynamic and always integrated. It was agreed that the design and architecture alone will not create great public spaces, but they also need to include innovation, participation and activation. As the urban planning is shifting worldwide, we need to develop (1) hardware – architecture, physical space, zoning; (2) software – uses and functions, mixed use, coolness; and (3) orgware – how to organize public space and what is needed for this space to come to life. According to the Leipzig Charter, the EU is requesting participation in urban planning to have green cities and place based solutions to be implemented. The two main questions were raised: 1) What can the public sector do to enable civic engagement processes? and, 2) How can the public sector support private initiatives without losing public interest?

Particularly in the light of COVID-19 pandemic, and social distancing measures imposed, many examples from cities such as Vienna, Linz, Brno, Novi Sad and beyond were presented including open air galleries and film festivals with proper distancing requirements, gastro safe zones, social spots around the river channel, street painting, children playground, etc. The placemaking guidebook that is following this activity has been announced and it is being finalized at the moment. The guidebook contains different tools used in workshops and webinars that could help professionals implement some of the activities and exercises; it also includes many different examples and solutions offered as good practices from other cities that could be adapted to the local setting and applied adequately.

Two case studies were presented during the breakout sessions - Niš and Novi Sad. Group work followed the introductory presentation for both cities, where participants were divided into 3 groups: a) Focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal – including the question which stakeholders should be involved in the further development?; b) Designing solutions - and an integrated vision and project goals! And finally, c) let’s start the implementation! Where to start? A new strategy! E-facilitators worked in parallel in 3 break-out rooms and were using interactive technologies and online tools like “Mural” for co-creation and presentation of the group findings. 

In the case of Novi Sad and its Novo Naselje neighborhood, it was discussed that direct and personal linkages should be created with institutional representatives for better result achievements. Strong cooperation with already existing institutions should be used as a starting point before making any new relations. Any potential intervention should be in the spirit of the community in order to be accepted by the residents. The sense of ownership must be given to the residents, meaning that all programs must be aligned with residents’ interests. Better cooperation and coordination should be established with the utility companies (Public utility companies) and residents’ councils, and the establishment of a coordination body would be much needed. The main initiative should come from residents, youngsters, while the City Administration should provide active support. Long-term design solution will come once the cultural center is built, while the placemaking interventions should be short-term. It should boost variety of social life in Novo Naselje with various pop-ups, night markets, temporary ateliers, open-air festivals, etc. Local community is already very active but with sporadic project activities.

Figure 3: October Webinar results, Novo Naselje Project Proposal. Source: superwien

Figure 3: October Webinar results, Novo Naselje Project Proposal. Source: superwien

One of the important remarks for Novi Sad representatives was that the tipping point for their project of Cultural Centre Novo Naselje was the moment when the City of Novi Sad recognized the project as a “project of public interest”. This brought significant improvements to the operationalization of the activities, and they started to have “open doors” and direct contacts with different institutions and departments. Additionally, the administrative taxes for temporary activities and objects were significantly reduced or even in some cases canceled, which contributed to financial stability and reduction of time for obtaining different permissions for their activities. 

Following the case of Niš, main discussion was how to include the Nišava river in the city and how to organize public space around the riverbanks? 

Figure 2: The collection of ideas for programming the Nišava river embankment source: Superwien 2018
Figure 2: The collection of ideas for programming the Nišava river embankment source: Superwien 2018

Some of the participants agreed that content is very important for this case study and how introducing bike culture, recreational zones and lanes could be of great interest to people. Regarding the question how to create new form that is not linked to commercial functions, participants from Novi Sad gave the example of Brod Teatar aligning it with suggestions how Niš should use green areas near the Fortress. All the current activities are the product of different planning interventions and they haven’t always been participatory, therefore some of the solutions are less accepted by citizens (especially reducing green spaces). Currently, there is a momentum in Niš, as the city has an ongoing project at the city level on citizens’ participation, which also includes placemaking activities and participatory urban planning ideas. Different stakeholder are involved in these participatory processes, such as cultural heritage and nature protection institutions, water management companies, CSOs (youth and culture), etc. as this project is covering the river, riverbank and the Fortress. Knowing that this is a specific area, any activity or intervention should be carefully planned since this is the city center and the imperative is that the users like it. Pop up solutions could be used as test beds to temporarily change the public space and see what the citizens think about it.

The panel discussion started with the remarks of the representatives from the Public Enterprise “Urban Planning Institute of Niš” and observations on how the zoning methodology could be implemented to this particular riverbank. One of the ideas presented was to rent places and zones to the private sector for a couple of months. They also brought up their agreement on the importance of the mobility, appreciating the idea of biking lanes and recreational zones. It was agreed that framework should be prepared in the coming months.

Ms. Stela Jovanović – from the Office for Local Economic Development and Projects, City of Niš stated that the webinar helped them connect with the City institutions, particularly in the first initial step. People are more eager to push projects when they are personally involved in the process. 

Additionally, representatives of CSOs have expressed their great interest in these methods, since they believe that the public spaces belong to all citizens and they could help provide a better definition of design and use (programs) of the mentioned public spaces.

Political support was also underlined as very important – the City of Niš now has clear interest of the City officials that Niš should be brought closer to the Nišava river – therefore, this process comes in the right moment in order to create solutions that are combining public interests and can be co-created together with the urban planners, citizens and other stakeholders.

In the concluding segment of the Webinar, Mr. Darko Polić, the City Coordinator for the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) and former Chief coordinator for cultural infrastructure projects (2017-2020) at the City of Novi Sad, stated that this is the right timing for Novi Sad. Quality solution that can be presented to the City and the presented methodology will be implemented with the new project, which makes this a win-win situation. 

Placemaking webinar presentation_superwien
Final Agenda Placemaking Webinar

City-to-City dialogue Placemaking webinar recordings

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