- Rebuilding the Post-Socialist Cities in the Age of Neo-liberalism    click here to open paper content206 kb
by    Lorens, Piotr | plorens@pg.gda.pl   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
The paper explores recent political and economic transformations effected in the accelerated process of change for the cities, which is also clearly visible in the case of the post-socialist ones. The specifics of these - emerging from a different model of development the since post-war period - call for new planning approaches and require planners to reinvent their profession.
Since the fall of the socialist system in 1989 cities in Central and Eastern Europe were undergoing rapid changes of different nature. These included the new economic realities of development (namely: reintroduction of the market system), new political doctrine (namely: neo-liberalism) and new approach to social development (namely: withdrawal from the policy of the “welfare state”). These effected in severe consequences to the urban development processes, which were exposed to entirely new situation. In result, a number of new phenomena occurred, including decline of the traditional industries (and – in consequence of this – abandonment of the numerous industrial sites), rise of the suburbanization of housing and commercial developments as well as emergence of the urban regeneration ideas. The latter ones are associated with rapid development of the new urban structures which were developing as a result of housing and commercial structures shortages. Therefore, despite the transitional period and many economic difficulties, the cities in Central and Eastern Europe were undergoing major spatial transformations, and many of these were resulting from the unique changes of the socio-economic system. During the last decade these processes were additionally influenced by the processes of globalization and metropolization, which can be already clearly visible in the cites of Central and Eastern Europe.

In the majority of cases these processes were associated with the small scale of new interventions and developments of different nature. This resulted from a number of reasons, which included a huge risk of developing the bigger structures, confrontation with problems regarding obtaining larger scopes of financing and – finally – impossibility of buying numerous small pieces of land from separate owners. At the same time the new political doctrine of neo-liberalism led towards creation of the unusual in the highly-developed countries system of acceptance to any development that occurred and enabling the almost every investor to realize his/her development concept. This new phenomena effected in rise of the fragmented structures, consisting of numerous but separately planned and developed buildings and complexes, with many “urban voids” of different nature. Besides this, thanks to the passive policy of the municipalities and willingness to “express the freedom of the owners”, the urban landscape of these cities started to lack any order. At the same time the planners’ duties were limited to creating the “development opportunities” instead of comprehensive development policy.

In this situation the planning profession has to face new tasks. These include: rising the awareness of the municipalities and citizens regarding the outcomes and effects of the situation, development of the new pro-active planning approach at the local level and – finally – developing the new planning tools allowing better control of the development and more effective architectural coordination. But at first this requires reintroducing the set of values to the profession, as after over twenty years of ne-liberal doctrine the planners are self-limiting to the roles defined by the politicians, developers and land owners. These values have to include the issues of sustainability, liveability and quality of urban landscape. But at the same time planning profession has to be redefined in order not to serve only as the part of the development process, but rather as the vehicle for spurring, programming, facilitating, controlling and managing the development. Therefore, planners need to rediscover the fundamentals of the profession, but – at the same time – work out the professional workshop appropriate to the issues and challenges posed both by the post-socialist realities and globalization processes.
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