What is community-management of urban space and how can it function?

In search of an answer to this question, the interdisciplinary research team
has been looking upon initiatives from around the world for the past months to create
a co-management model taking into account:

  • decision-making structure
  • legal regulations
  • financing
  • space design
  • sustainable growth aspects

The target
model will be implemented in the functioning of the Jazdów Settlement in Warsaw.
The long-term aim is the promotion of solution, which will help to develop common
urban goods thanks to the cooperation of dwellers, research institutions, public
administration and social economy entities. Work within a local partnership supported
by the BORIS association has already begun.

During the project we were asking
ourselves several questions:

Who should decide about common space?

Finnish houses settlement in the Jazdów area in Warsaw is undergoing a major change.
The inhabitants’ resistance against the demolition of wooden architecture gave birth
to a strong group of friends of the settlement – Open Jazdów. The group’s members
organised a public consultation, which outlined the direction for the growth of
the area. The discussion about the settlement started the process of creating a
space for NGOs and informal groups as well as academic projects and cultural events.
At the same time, some of the houses still serve as dwellings. The settlement area
is looked after by the district and city entities.

Should public offer makers

who use the public space pay for it?

The number of micro-spaces around the world
which are becoming hybrids of dwelling, social, cultural and service functions is
growing. They do not fit into the current management model. They are not regular
settlements – they connect active dwellers from the district or the entire city.
They are not typical urban services quarters as some of the trade is done without
money. For the groups involved, the basic value is to create a well-functioning
social net: mutual aid in i.e. organizing events, sharing house space or a barter
net. The effect of the common actions is a rich social and cultural offer for the
whole city which invites new groups to co-create it.

Can you protect space

without preserving it?

Some of the actions undertaken in places such as the Jazdów
settlement entail a particular remuneration and a lot happens thanks to voluntarily
work, which consumes most of free time. Concern for such places to exist demands
a certain respect for cultural, historic and architectural values and not a short-sighted
vision of the plot of land’s market value. In similar cases, every change of power
and politics in the city or the emergence of an investor (developer) can trigger
resistance which will drain the social energy accumulated over the years. In that
moment, we need to start searching for allies anew. The energy and resources finally
end, and the place starts to fade or becomes gentrified. Persons and active communities
start from scratch instead of developing. Using common space as motors for social
change and integration (social cohesion) contradicts using them to generate market
value. What tools can the dwellers use to protect common spaces which they developed?

How to design a space, which is “almost ready”?

Searching for a space development
model with a given identity in an integrated and sustainable way is one of the major
challenges which places such as the Jazdów settlement have to face. The local space
plan can be based on such concepts and should be prepared in a particular manner.
Everyday functioning of the settlement and the surrounding space is already defined
to a high extent. Changes in the space should be limited to minor interventions.
Warsaw and other European cities have a number of tools for inhabitants to act on
a local scale – such as the participation budget or local initiative. Still, the
high frequency in the polls is not always followed by quality – especially as needs
desired by the dwellers are contradictory. Are we ready to listen to the voice of
the community, to integrate diffused activities and coordinate them into a model
which incorporates the highest space quality without losing the Genius Loci?

Michał Augustyn, Andrzej Górz, Maciej Łepkowski, Wojtek Matejko, Dariusz
Śmiechowski, Anna Wilczyńska, Ewa Zielińska

Project's operator: Miastodwa

Model for Jazdów Settlement project is funded by European Cultural Foundation and
supported by BORIS