Citizen participation

theme_2016In 2016 ONE ARCHITECTURE WEEK will discuss the topic of citizen participation in the creation of the urban environment. This topic has been steadily gaining importance in various fields of design: from urban planning, through building design to interior architecture. Citizen participation has become in many countries a praised and sought method for working on the city. In the Bulgarian, but also in the regional Balkan context, this topic is still much of a taboo. And still, the Balkans have quite what to show, when it comes to active citizenry. The fall of communism/socialism and subsequently the wars and the financial crisis brought significant modifications to the urban tissue of many cities. It was rather citizens who were the main driving force behind those modifications.

As a main location for the festival has been chosen Trakiya, a 62.000 strong suburb of Plovdiv. Trakiya is a typical Bulgarian Modernist neighbourhood from the 70s and focusing on it is equivalent to focusing on half of the building stock in Bulgaria. What makes those neighbourhoods an appropriate location for a topic such as citizen participation is the fact that the Modernist suburbs are all very different from they used to be when built in the 60s, 70s or 80s. Since the fall of communism those previously “dormitory suburbs” have been transformed into active and sometimes even attractive city neighbourhoods. The immense visual, functional and social change, which characterises them nowadays has taken place almost entirely due to the actions of private individuals or companies. Can we call this citizen participation? The transformative force of those often uncoordinated private actions has rarely been analysed, never in its various aspects. Its potential as a legal and a planning instrument is still to be discovered and acknowledged.

What has been happening in Trakiya is to be seen in most Bulgarian, and many Balkan cities too. At the same time the Modernist neighbourhoods constitute a significant portion of the contemporary European city. Lately many municipalities across the continent have been investing resources into looking at possible new futures for those, often infamous areas. ONE ARCHITECTURE WEEK will work with an eye on the larger European experience in dealing with such areas.

ONE ARCHITECTURE WEEK 2016 seeks to illustrate the transformative force, which citizen participation has been, the ways in which it can be incorporated in the planning system and the potential for its further, sustainable development. The festival will aim to function as a catalyst, re-sourcing the existing interconnections of places, people, processes and histories of the Trakiya neighbourhood.

Curators of ONE ARCHITECTURE WEEK 2016 are studioBASAR, a Bucharest-based architecture and research studio. studioBASAR has been working for several years in the context of the Modernist neighbourhoods in the Romanian context, where it has been involved with the issue of citizen participation.

ONE ARCHITECTURE WEEK 2016 will take place between September 30th and October 9th in Plovdiv. Follow our Facebook page for information about the preparation of the festival and participation possibilities.