Urban Tinkers – Between City Planning and Grassroots Insurgent Urbanism

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 13:00
Location: Hörsaal III (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Anna DOMARADZKA, Institute for Social Studies, University of Warsaw, Poland
Recent emergence of „right to the city” movement in Poland indicates a shift in a way people perceive their urban environment, expecting greater participation in local planning, but also taking matters into their own hands, to counteract the money-not-people-driven city investments. That’s why grassroots insurgent urbanism often coincides with top-down revitalisations projects, focused on the recovery of degraded urban areas, through renovation that often leads to gentrification.

The focus of the paper is to analyse the impact of different types of urban revitalization initiatives on the wellbeing of people living within the affected areas. Paper investigates how, through planning or collective re-imagining of public space, both local governments and neighbourhood groups can create potential for the city social revival. The analysis is supported by the works of Hall (1966), Whyte (1980, 1988), Jacobs (1961) and Gehl (1987, 2010), describing the links between the urban space and forms of interactions happening within it. The classical measures of Convoy Model of Social Relations (Kahn, Antonucci, 1980) were used to identify the characteristics of urban interventions that lead to their success in terms of raising social cohesion and the residents’ wellbeing.

Paper presents results from quantitative study (N=1000) conducted in 10 Warsaw neighbourhoods that underwent revitalisation projects in recent years, supplemented with qualitative data from 20 in-depth interviews with leaders of grassroots initiatives involved in social revitalisation and “reclaiming the city” projects.

The study attempts to explain how urban revival initiatives stimulate self-organization of the residents, and in result leads to higher social cohesion and wellbeing. As research shows, crafting new city spaces often leads to non-intended democratic mobilization, that transforms passive residents into active agents of urban change. Embracing the potential of “angry citizens” in re-shaping of public space lead to more sustainable improvement of quality of life in studied neighbourhoods.