Micro-scale urban regeneration

Format Action

City Aveiro, Portugal

Urban 'voids' in the neighbourhood – With Micro-Scale Urban Regeneration, a group of citizens works together to regenerate an urban 'void' near their homes, and create a new public space for all. They participate in several work sessions to identify urban issues, needs and expectations regarding their residential area, discuss and co-design a consensual idea for the void transformation and, finally, co-build the space through a set of construction workshops. This will have a direct impact on the city image and urban form, through a better quality of living in the urban environment. It furthermore raises awareness among citizens and empowers them to appropriate and transform their surrounding urban space. This leads to a broader community development based on dialogue and commitment as well as the strengthening of community ties, sense of belonging and ownership.

There were several urban voids in the city centre of Aveiro, a passive and unaware local community regarding urban issues with a lack of trust towards local authorities. Simultaneously, there seemed to be an absence of accessible public space and green areas in some residential districts. Additionally, a friendly and collaborative interaction between local residents and university students hardly existed. The underlying idea of micro-scale urban regeneration is that it brings about community empowerment and autonomy by reinforcing citizens’ skills, establishing connections with national and international networks, and enhancing susceptibility to urban issues. This allows communities to develop urban solutions in a creative way, through collective processes encouraging an active and positive participation. It furthermore triggers inter-generational engagement between students and local communities by promoting the exchange of experiences, knowledge and skills. As such, collecting memories, needs and expectations activates processes of place-making, reinforces local identity and inspires a sense of belonging.

Location Map & diagnose the urban voids

Identify and map the urban voids in the city and select the area(s) that need intervention. Then analyze the intervention area and its surroundings regarding historical background, social and cultural context, urban form and typologies through research. This includes archival research in the shape of literature reviews, image archives and memory collecting, as well as observations on location.

Mobilization Activate the community

Promote the project through a set of street initiatives. Engage and activate citizens for action: mural painting, street interviews, mouth-to-mouth communication, happenings and flash performances, and so on.

People Power Participatory work sessions – Part 1

Under guidance of a facilitator or mediator, a group of up to thirty citizens participates in a series of around five work sessions to create and prepare a work team for the temporary urban intervention. In these meetings, participants map the worst and the best of the neighbourhood, share their needs and expectations concerning the intervention zone, generate and discuss ideas about what to do, build consensus and co-design an intervention proposal.

Official / Legal Does the community agree?

Organize a public event in the intervention area, such as a community picnic, to present the intervention proposal to the broader community. This is a moment of debate, explanation, fine-tuning and adjustment, and overall validation. This step is crucial to also get the formal approval from local authorities.

People Power Participatory work sessions – Part 2

After receiving green light from the broader community, the work team, consisting of the project team and citizens from the first round of work sessions, organizes themselves in smaller working groups to plan and prepare the intervention. This includes collecting materials (wood, paving stones, paint, trees, shrubs and vines, mortars, tiles, etc.), as well as recruiting professionals for specialized work (land cleaning and preparation, transportation, pavement assembly, etc.) and services (water supply, licenses, housing, food supply, etc.).

Production Workshops for urban transformation

Next up, facilitate a series of open construction workshops for citizens to participate in, in line with the intervention proposal and its construction specificities. Potential workshops could be carpentry, gardening, painting, illustration, and so on. Here participants learn construction and arts techniques and develop their skills for the temporary urban void intervention that is to be produced co-creatively.

Communication Opening event & Maintenance Plan

Finally, organize a public opening event to present the maintenance plan defined between the project team and the participating citizens. This moment is an opportunity to engage more citizens into the maintenance of the urban void and its intervention.

Observing the city and listening to citizens is the first step for effective urban change: trust, commitment and awareness are the pillars to make the city together!

4iS - Platform for Social Innovation