The PUBLIC SPACE RESEARCH GROUP welcomes, Valentina Gulin Zrnic & Saša Poljak Istenič presenting, Urban planning and interventions into green spaces: Zagreb and Ljubljana’s imaginings of the future.
The project “Urban Futures: Imagining and Activating Possibilities in Unsettled Times”, which this presentation derives from, is dedicated to researching future-making in selected Slovenian and Croatian cities. Future-making refers to an understanding of elements combined in imagining, anticipating, and perceiving futures – cognitively, discursively, and affectively – as well as in modalities of everyday life and engagement that contain a particular relationship towards futures. Urban planning and interventions into public spaces – top-down and bottom-up – are inherently future-oriented practices the analysis relies on. They reveal often contested conceptions of “a static future of the imagination and a dynamic trajectory between now and then” (Abram 2017: 61). Using a comparative analysis of such practices in the capitals Zagreb (Croatia) and Ljubljana (Slovenia), the presentation focuses on public green spaces and discusses what kind of futures they have inspired through the last century. After the brief introduction of the cities’ design, it reveals how green spaces were planned and understood in socialism and how their perception and usage changed during the post-socialist period, especially regarding land denationalisation and restitution, constructions and commercialisation, citizen participation, and urban branding. The pandemic, however, has brought a new awareness of the significance of public green spaces and pokes us to speculate on the (different) futures public green spaces have and could potentially provide to the citizens and their cities.
Valentina Gulin Zrnić, PhD (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Croatia) and Saša Poljak Istenič, PhD (Institute of Slovenian Ethnology ZRC SAZU) are co-leading a bilateral project on Urban Futures: Imagining and Activating Futures in Unsettled Times (www.citymaking.eu).
Valentina’s research focus is on public spaces, public events and festivals, art interventions, urban gardening, urban governance and civil participation in post-socialist cities. She collaborates with artistic, educational, and civil association projects focused on current social and cultural urban issues in Croatia. Saša’s interests cover urban life, creativity, sustainability, social inclusion, and heritage. She has received funding from national agencies and European programs and was also granted a fellowship for visiting researchers at the Alpen-Adria Universität in Klagenfurt in 2020.
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