‘Giving citizens a say in the urban planning process’ (Project CASUAL)

JPI Urban Europe project ‘CASUAL’ looks at co-creation of knowledge, exploring the Urban Living Lab approach in Vienna and Stockholm.

CASUAL: ‘With the name CASUAL we try to capture the essence of what we want to achieve with our project. CASUAL focusses on placing people back at the centre of sustainable urban planning; how to make cities a more ‘CASUAL’, in creating a general ‘quality of life’ and contributing to a certain ‘relaxing environment’ in citizen’s daily lives. Our critique is that the responsible actors and institutions in urban planning are still too much concerned with what they think is a sustainable and good neighbourhood without really sensing what citizens feel would actually be beneficial to their ‘quality of life’. Within the project we thus aim to highlight people and their everyday lives, and pursue a more humanistic approach to sustainable urban planning.’

 

Why did you select neighbourhoods in Vienna and Stockholm to be the Urban Living Labs?

CASUAL: ‘First of all, Vienna and Stockholm are interesting cities, since they are among the fastest growing cities in Europe. Planners and researchers in Europe and beyond look at these two cities very carefully, particularly their coping strategies regarding the immense inflow of people as well as their needs in terms of, for example, consumption (including housing), provision of services and mobility. Both Vienna and Stockholm have ambitious goals in terms of becoming more resource-efficient. The two chosen neighbourhoods (‘In der Wiesen Ost’ in Vienna and ‘Årstafältet’ in Stockholm) are very illustrative examples, since they each demonstrate the city’s overall aspirations for densification, upgrading and retrofitting of the built environment. On the other hand they are also having to deal with local resistance against such plans. Both neighbourhoods are located just outside the edge of the inner city and show a somewhat chaotic urban structure with a lot of green fields developed over the past 50 years or so. These places have a certain identity, the people living there have specific views on the local assets and qualities and, most importantly, are assumed to have valuable ideas how to further develop and improve these places. And this is exactly where we want to engage by means of the urban living lab concept, namely to activate and mobilise the co-creation of local knowledge and help to integrate this into urban planning.’

Have you already found ways to actively engage these citizens in the living labs?

CASUAL: ‘Of course this will be a crucial aspect in our work, and we will test various formats such as seminars, workshops and excursions to involve the citizens. It is a bit difficult to predict what will work best. In the Stockholm case, for instance, we work together with the non-governmental organisation Färgfabriken, which itself offers a platform for citizens’ involvement in urban development. At the moment we are about to explore various ways of how we can collaborate within the CASUAL project. One idea is to try to integrate the case of Årstafältet and some of its citizens in the preparation and then also in the implementation of a larger exhibition about Stockholm’s future. This would also guarantee that we are able to contextualise this particular neighbourhood within the rapid development of the surrounding city.

What resulting innovative ideas and scenarios do you wish to have by the end of the project, in 2016?

CASUAL: ‘In the first instance we would like to come up with some practical inputs and solutions for integrating citizens into the governance and planning of urban areas with respect to our two cases. Secondly, we wish to reflect critically on the applicability and transferability of the Urban Living lab concept. What elements have an added value in varying contexts, neighbourhoods or cities? To what extent can the Urban Living Lab concept improve the co-creation of knowledge in coming up with more inclusive solutions for sustainable cities? How does it help to integrate various lifestyles and consumption patterns into urban planning.

For more information on the CASUAL project, please visit the CASUAL-website.

 

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 857160.