With our annual awards just a few weeks away, we’d like to introduce you to the nine projects selected as the very best examples of action transforming the liveability of city centre districts, the social fabric of cities and the repurposing of historic buildings.
Every year, our awards recognise cities whose outstanding achievements in the delivery of local activities and practices have improved citizens’ quality of life, in the context of the theme of the annual conference. This year, our theme is ‘cities at a crossroads’ and we looked for innovative ideas implemented in response to the changing landscapes in our cities.
- Antwerp pioneered a new governance model to overcome opposition to a ring road extension project. When the city decided to take up a citizen group’s idea to cover over the new section of road, creating tunnels topped by green spaces, it developed a tailor-made co-creation process. Led by an independent curator, this process enabled all affected communities to have a say in the project’s goals and the design of their own new spaces.
- Bristol enabled citizens to trial future energy systems as part of its ambition to encourage energy efficiency through behaviour change and to tackle fuel poverty. The city set up a community engagement group for the project, which involved installing smart appliances in people’s homes to identify the energy and financial savings these could deliver and also promoting changes in travel habits towards more sustainable options.
- Dresden dealt with the challenge of finding a new purpose for disused industrial infrastructure through citizen participation. Guided by a process of structured dialogue between creative and cultural players and citizens, an old factory was transformed into a vibrant multifunctional centre which succeeds in meeting the needs of preservation with those of creative producers and consumers, all within a reasonable budget.
- Izmir introduced a multidisciplinary design office into the heart of its city-centre conservation and regeneration project so that local people could drive local projects. Through workshops, events and project idea co-generation and co-implementation, the atelier helps communities address the issues affecting their neighbourhoods, take ownership of public spaces and feel more connected to the city’s history.
- Munich renewed the neighbourhood of Pasing, making it more liveable and interconnected, thanks to the cooperation of city departments, citizens and commercial partners. Through shared planning goals and participation tools, a new bypass, transport hub and commercial, residential, retail and green spaces have been developed – and, crucially, welcomed by the community.
- Another Munich project is tackling the problem of disturbances and disagreements in public spaces through an approach based on equality and personal responsibility led by an all-party conflict management team (AKIM). Where different groups or interests collide in streets, squares and parks, the team goes out to mediate and reassure, guided by its belief that balancing everyone’s interests and enabling calm discussion encourages a positive change of perspective.
- Rennes repurposed a city-centre university building as an imaginative and inclusive ‘hotel for projects’ that welcomes innovative social and artistic grassroots initiatives. Flexibility and adaptability are key elements in the renovation of the building, the cooperative governance model and the activities embraced, with the main spaces of the building remaining undefined to allow for different projects’ needs.
- Strasbourg set up a scheme that addresses two key problems: vacant homes and the need for affordable housing. Understanding owners’ reasons for not renting their properties enabled the city to develop a toolbox of support, from help with the cost of renovation to finding tenants, which led to 225 private properties being made available as social housing within the scheme’s first two years.
- Zaragoza established a shared governance model to manage a neighbourhood cultural centre set up in an old flour mill which was conceived as a space for participation, empowerment and transformation through creativity. The city council, citizens and cultural players have an equal voice on the centre’s assembly, which determines the projects and activities it undertakes and prioritises the engagement of groups at risk of social inclusion.