The educational project ACT|UP 2019-20 offered advanced training on the revitalization of peripheral large housing estates for 80 young urbanists and multipliers from Ukraine, Russia, Georgia and Belarus. The activities included a study trip, workshops, round tables, public events with international experts and presentation of the results, with the goal of reaching and informing approx. 1200 actors from urban civil society, education, research, urban planning and culture sectors.
The project opened a constructive local debate on sustainable urban development and helped increase the expertise and competitiveness of the participants. This strengthened the international network of experts, multipliers and professional institutions and fostered new partnerships in the area of revitalization of housing estates.
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Eastern Block Stories
Visualising Large Housing Estates from Post Socialist Cities
Microrayons as a cultural heritage: Over decades, mass housing districts were considered characteristic features of post-socialist urbanity. Nowadays these districts are undergoing polarizing and difficult development processes. In the middle of transformation and change, we started collecting photos documenting exactly this process. What has emerged is the exhibition “Eastern Block Stories'', which opened in a hybrid format at Haus der Statistik in January 2021 and is now moving to the Center for Sustainable Development in Eastern Europe, Ahlbecker Str. 3, 10437 Berlin.
The book Eastern Block Stories features a dozen texts, stories and studies and over 60 unique hand-picked images about mass housing estates in former Eastern Bloc countries. This book aims to address the blind spots to take a closer look at the major challenges for post-socialist housing estates today and imagine what could be their future.
C’mon Room 2 focuses on the “commonness in our increasingly individualized and fragmented societies”. A symbolical wooden wireframe which is constructed based on the average floorplan of Służewiec Przemysłowy (a large housing estate on the outskirts of Warsaw) provides an experimental stage for performative actions on “common” urban vocabulary. Each of the symbolical private “rooms” aims to host a discussion on particular “common” or rather semi-public spaces and their elements. A “trash bin” located in the “kitchen” allows neighbors to “throw away” everything that irritates them in Służewiec; “post boxes” in the “bedroom” are there to send “Dear Służewiec” love letters; drywall of the “living room” allows all visitors to graffiti there their dreams.
The purpose of the workshop was to explore the formal and informal public spaces of Gldani (a large housing estate on the outskirts of Tbilisi) to discover, research, account, process and present its unique features, peculiar atmospheres, urban legends and places.
These features were studied within the context of everyday life of the city and the neighborhood, the questions about their potential and how they can be adapted to today’s challenges were raised and analyzed.
By participating in the workshop, students gained experience in identifying existing urban problems based on the analysis of public spaces through a social prism. For this, students used the so-called “bottom-up” and “hands-on” approach, which means cooperating with locals, considering their ideas and requests during the analysis and the research, as well as during a design phase.
The project aims to present information about the unique spatial features of Gldani to the viewers in an interactive, playful way.
Series of podcasts “Minsker Asking” presents a qualitative approach to the projects’ objective — mikrorayons (large housing estates). ACT|UP participants were invited and to reflect on their topics from an ethnographic perspective, as well as to discuss preliminary results of their work. Topics discussed include the emergence of neighborhood communities in dormitory areas in Belarus and Ukraine; practices of being neighbors (Ukraine) and commoning (Russia); the potential of big data for improving mikrorayons (Belarus|Poland). A single podcast issue, one hour long, would feature invited speakers, both from the ACT|UP team and external guests (e.g. from a local initiative in Minsk). The idea is also to give space for music tracks from local artists in the podcasts (for instance, compiling local scene’s pieces within one issue) which would attract new audiences to the urbanist thematic field.
What is the global future of "Mikrorayons' ' as a large housing estate typology? What are their potentials and how can we reflect on them? Do we have the need and capability to appropriate them under new socio-cultural systems? What is their relevance in contemporary urban life?
The documentary film “Garage People” (Germany, 2020, ‘95, Russian with English subtitles) offers an insight into different garages in the North of Russia and the life realities happening inside them: behind rusty doors everything can be found, except cars. Watch the trailer
After the screening the film director Natalija Yefimkina and the urban researcher Tinatin Gurgenidze talked about the phenomenon of the transformed garages in post socialist cities and its different newly adopted functions.