Zagreb for Me

Revitalization of Zagreb's public spaces using public participation as a tool

“Zagreb for Me” is an ambitious and comprehensive project launched in 2015 by the Zagreb Society of Architects in cooperation with the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Zagreb and the City of Zagreb.
The goal of the project is to start a revitalization of public spaces through the realization of 17 urban interventions in the whole city area at the same time. This distributed approach will improve the general “image of the city” and raise the quality of urban life in segments of housing, recreation, leisure and social cohesion. Although Zagreb has some significant historical parks and squares in its centre, as well as a few recreational zones, the rest of the city has plenty of neglected open spaces that have no specific function.
This project aims to decentralize designed public spaces and draw attention to some forgotten city spots. At the same time, the project, created from a “bottom-up” initiative, establishes a new model of public participation as well as new forms of collaboration.

Initiating context

The project, “Zagreb for Me”, arose from the “bottom-up” project called City Acupuncture. Five years ago, the Youth Section of the Zagreb Society of Architects began to organise interdisciplinary workshops with the aim to improve the quality of urban life by making small and precise spatial interventions in some neighbourhoods. In City Acupuncture, project members initially spent time in the chosen neighbourhood conducting spatial analysis along with interviewing inhabitants about their opinions. Afterwards, project members developed concepts and picked precise locations for project implementation. In the end, they held public presentations to discuss all the findings and proposals. As the work of this group very quickly became well accepted and widely recognized, they managed to build an international network together with similar initiatives and received funding from the European Union.
Up to now, City Acupuncture has been implemented in five cities (Skopje, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Zagreb and Split) and has resulted with more than 230 proposals and around 20 implemented interventions. The original methodology of City Acupuncture, which uses a participatory approach, has served as an inspiration to “raise the story to a higher level” and to start the revitalization of distributed public spaces in the whole city.

Project description

The project “Zagreb for Me” was launched at the beginning of 2015 by the Zagreb Society of Architects in cooperation with the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Architecture and Zagreb’s City Office. For now, the implementation of at least 17 interventions in public space has been announced. The project fosters collaboration between city offices, citizens and institutions, encourages discussion and the exchange of opinions, improves existing processes and creates new jobs. As well, many interesting and innovative design solutions for the upgrade of public spaces are expected to be developed which will change both identities of neighbourhoods and the whole “city image”. Interventions will range from small to medium scale and cost between 1.5 to 2.5 million Euros. Financing is meant to come from funds of the European Union and the city budget. The project is expected to last for 18 months and shall be implemented in 2015 and 2016.

Implementation process

After the official project announcement, neighbourhood councils, civil society groups and experts were invited to state their opinions about the city’s spatial problems and solutions. ”Zagreb for Me” team-members conducted field surveys at several locations asking citizens what they think about Zagreb’s public spaces and which locations they would like to have revitalized. A web platform has been established to share information about the project and to allow citizens to suggest locations online. In total 211 locations were identified, of which 51 were mentioned by numerous people. Simultaneously, a scientific team created by the Faculty of Architecture, examined potential locations in terms of the locations importance for the city and its reference in urban planning documents. In the end, both surveys were overlapped and 33 locations were presented and proposed for further selection by citizens.
Soon, competitions for urban-architectural designs for 17 locations will start. Citizens will be involved in choosing facilities for each location and the City Office will be responsible for the financing and the realization of the whole project. Still, there is the possibility for some other forms of participation in further phases of the project.

In addition, two pilot subprojects are part of the process. One is the Think Space program, which in 2015 organised a competition to seek out solutions for present-day public spaces on conceptual and theoretical levels. The other subproject, Savica, will be the first competition to be held and realized in order to test the whole
“Zagreb for Me” methodology.