Monthly theme: Inclusive Society – a larger vision with urban regeneration projects

Monthly theme: Inclusive Society – a larger vision with urban regeneration projects

Through our program work, BUUR Part of Sweco seeks solutions to today’s most important social issues. Each month we highlight one of our programs; for August it is Inclusive Society. In this article you learn more about the social challenges that we face with urban regeneration projects. And how we tackle them by focusing on the true identity of the place.

When we do big projects in socially fragile environments we always need to keep the organic development of society in the back of our minds. The identity of a place has to become a key component in the implementation of the plan.

And this not only in terms of space and accessibility, but also regarding image, memory and identity. When creating a “place”, the building up of a memory becomes a challenge to be addressed strategically.

Avoiding social exclusion

Demographic pressure in an interdependent global context places growth as both a challenge and an opportunity. To avoid further urban expansion that leads to increased land consumption and new forms of social segregation, strategic operations of optimization of urban land must be encouraged. In that sense density, proximity, diversity and environmental integration emerge as conditions that contribute to social inclusion.

But these conditions can be addressed in many levels and scales. At the regional or metropolitan level, the reach of projects is different from the ones promoted at the municipal or community level. Each scale implies a different range of operators, policies and actors, with different capacities and scopes. In this sense, should we identify a more appropriate scale for social inclusion?

A cross-cutting dialogue between actors on different scales is necessary for addressing social inclusion

Bridging gaps

Real state driven urban planning and moral empowerment of participation and bottom up initiatives, could be sometimes seen as antagonist forces. These tensions, even if they are sometimes unavoidable, disrupt the coherence of the urban project. It is often within these voids between conception and implementation that unwanted forms of social exclusion find their way into formal urban projects.

The traditional promotors of the city do not change their business models so easily and planning tools often fail to properly inspire them to test alternative models. The challenge is to structure an effective bridge between planning and execution by facilitating collaboration between actors and to reveal opportunities in unexpected coalitions. In this sense, to conceive a project that is coherent and continuous, the most appropriate scale for addressing social inclusion could be one that allows for a cross-cutting dialogue between actors operating at different scales.

This is the ‘in between’ scale of proximity, social interaction, identity, appropriation of spaces; the scale that support the spontaneity of everyday life.

To envision an effective urban transformation it is necessary to innovate in many levels

Partners in transition

The notion of ‘in between’ highlights the importance of transition management as a fluent and complementary effort to “create the conditions” to guarantee the continuity between the vision and the implementation. In consequence, the urban planner has been taking the role of mediator between actors and scales by providing common ground between different parties and easing the flow of information. In that sense, “research by design” becomes a tool to create consensus, identify actors, understand local dynamics, facilitate processes, test solutions, explore ways of citizen appropriation and adapt methods according to the realities of the place.

Continuous experimentation

Considering that each place is unique, with its on specific geographical, historical, social features and identity, we should not come up with generic methods. Every strategy must be consequent with the specificity of the territory. Therefore, to envision an effective urban transformation it is necessary to innovate in many levels.

In this sense, the Inclusive Society program aims to motivate BUUR’s daily practice to contribute to generate links that allow the implementation of a larger vision, to put in to action experimental coalitions of urban thinkers and makers and to search for opportunities to upscale local tactics into significant projects. This wider approach needs a continuous experimentation with methods, media, communications resources, which are specific for a place and a community.