On 18 – 19 June, we visited the reSITE urban festival in Prague and participated in the accompanying conference – held for the fourth time, this year under the name “The Shared City”. The idea of shared city was discussed not only by the leaders of architecture, urban design and urban planning, but also technological and social innovation startups, municipal activists and politicians. Concepts reached beyond the “shared space” and ideas of the city as depicted in books of Jan Gehl, and covered a much broader spectrum of issues – from shared economy to the architect’s new role.
Speakers focused on the social dimension of the urban fabric. For whom is the city built and who actually creates it? Participatory planning and crowdsourcing, as a means of presenting different possibilities to each other seem to form a dominant vision on the way towards a sustainable future of Prague and other growing cities in Europe and around the world. James Corner, the creator of the High Line and a landscape architect, argued that commercialization of the communal space should be balanced. But Michael Sorkin showed that this is no longer necessarily. The common spaces not only don’t have to offer commercial potential, but even should not – because this negates their inclusive nature. The rhetoric of economic growth has already lost its rationale.
Density and Diversity
How to shape space when cities grow at such an amazing pace? We can either continue building around the old centres or start building new ones from scratch, or else – we can condense and improve the operation of the existing cities. The third way is the most difficult one but looking at the examples of successful strategies implemented today on a small scale, e.g. in small towns, particular public spaces, public-private partnerships, the involvement of local governments and urban activists – we can search for tools of conscious and wise development. Tactical Urbanism and urban informality co-create urban space from the bottom up in an increasingly noticeable way. Multifunctional design was a trend cited in many speeches. Co-housing, car-sharing (Uber Pool, mentioned by Rob Khazzam), co-working for the “creative class” as well as social housing as a necessary function of the city offer a response to the irrationality of space multiplication and reproduction of divisions. In cities dominated by the market, the design should focus on the integration of diverse, and most of all excluded groups (the poor, the homeless and people from different cultures) in the city through their mobilization and participation. We have to remember that safety of the public space is not ensured by the absence of those groups, but can rather be achieve through constant supervision of those for whom the shared space is a natural extension of their living room.
Technological innovations in shared economy
Innovative and sustainable cities can’t be built quickly. Cities of the future can’t be shaped only by technological start-ups (their numerous great solutions presented by Greg Lindsay), but should evolve through inclusive processes of implementation as a result of a critical reversal of accepted meanings. The spaces that function best in cities, such as the old towns, always grew slowly – through a participatory process, which was a result of negotiations rather than the implementation of ready-made solutions. Only through a joint acquisition of changes we build a mutual trust, which is essential to life close to each other, to which we are condemned in our fast-growing cities.