City-making in the age of uncertainty. Meanwhile spaces – a key to sustainability

Sustainability | 2021-11-09

Radical economic, demographic, and climate changes, emerging needs in our neighbourhoods and communities require a new approach to urban development and the application of innovative urban strategies.

Urban regeneration is not only about cities’ hardware – buildings and infrastructure. It is a fundamental reboot of the urban software – the social, economic, and cultural fabric that makes cities thrive, persist, and mitigate against present and future shared risks. The software and hardware of the city are in a constant process of transformation and cannot exist separately – changes within the software impact the hardware and vice-versa. In addition, the diverse society and the abundance of its needs cover urban areas with different layers that justify a variety of requirements related to business, accommodation, services, culture, leisure, sports, recreation, meditation – work-life balance, and other site-specific needs. Therefore, when creating new or regenerating urban areas, it is essential to work on the city’s software and hardware at the same time and compose together the diverse needs of society.

Moreover, with increasing uncertainty, and accelerating life, the complex transformation process becomes unpredictable and accelerates. Therefore, long-lasting urban projects run the risk of becoming obsolete before they are completed. On the other hand, the “waiting time” between the preparation of master plans and their implementation can become an opportunity for urban development experimentation and transformation.

Unconventional urban regeneration methods are getting popular in Europe and beyond. One of them is temporary urbanism, supported by meanwhile uses – cultural, educational, entrepreneurial interventions delivered in abandoned locations (buildings or territories for a certain period. It is an innovative and sustainable use of available spaces awaiting its transformation, which helps to domesticate the area and make it recognizable within the local community, potential partners, and investors beforehand.

Meanwhile, spaces enable vibrant urban areas, promote sustainable cities, and multistakeholder engagement to the regeneration process. While waiting, vacant infrastructure becomes a temporary space for cultural activities, new businesses, sports, community initiatives, education, and more. Meanwhile, uses can last from one day to several years, thus popularizing the area and revealing its potential. Some can organically “grow” in the area and stay permanently, while others can inform about inappropriate solutions for further development. In this way, urban areas become a living laboratory for urban development, where citizens and stakeholders can work together to shape the area’s near future and its “software,” without which the “hardware” cannot work.

In cooperation with the Kaunas University of Technology and Kaunas City Municipality, an international project, “T-Factor,” is being implemented in Kaunas, which aims to apply temporary urbanism locally. In this project, Kaunas has become one of the six pilot cities with London, Bilbao, Amsterdam, and other cities. The European Commission is investing in its initial regeneration phase. In Kaunas, the pilot is carried out in Aleksotas, at Europos pr. 27, in the territory of the Aviation factory, where the Aleksotas Innovation Industry Park (AIIP) covering 30,1548 ha is going to be established. Kaunas city aims to attract here local and international investment and create new jobs. This park is designated for low-carbon companies with high intellectual added value through research and experimental development projects.

11th of November, KTU will host an international forum “URBAN ORIGAMI – Innovative City Making Strategies” to discuss meanwhile uses in the long-term urban regeneration processes and the possibilities of applying this method in Kaunas Aleksotas Innovation Industrial Park (AIIP). The event is part of the EU-funded project “T-Factor” and will host presentations from foreign experts. More information here

10th of November, inhabitants of Aleksotas and Kaunas are invited to the workshop aimed to imagine together how to use the site of the former military base that will host the Kaunas Innovation and Industry Park in the near future. More information here