Culture, Heritage and Diversity

 

Stadslab in Melitopol - Designing an Intercultural Park

 

The Intercultural Cities Network recommendations in the areas of cultural policy and urban management have produced outstanding results. The latest collaboration between the two pilot cities of Tilburg and Melitopol clearly illustrate this. The success and the practical applicability of the Intercultral Cities network is reflected in the latest collaboration set up between the two pilot cities Tilburg and Melitopol.

 

Gorky Park lies at the heart of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol. It is going to be subject to a radical urban redesign as part of the Intercultural Cities initiative. The Academy of Architecture and Urbanism in Tilburg will offer creative and professional guidance. Stadslab European Urban Design Laboratory, is the postgraduate programme run by the Dutch Fonty’s Academy of Architecture and Urbanism in Tilburg. It is currently operating a one-week long Master Class to generate new ideas for the park’s design.

 

Two prize winning and internationally renowned designers (Beatriz Ramo (Dutch architect) and Anouk Vogel (Dutch/ Swiss landscape designer) will be in charge of supervising the course. Supervision of the Master Class will be in the hands of two prize winning and internationally renowed designers: Beatriz Ramo, architect from the Rotterdam based office STAR strategies + architecture and the Swiss/Dutch landscape architect Anouk Vogel will assure the outstanding quality of this programme.

 

Mr Glaudemans, where did the idea for this project derive from?


Whilst attending an international conference in Tilburg last year, I met the Melitopol delegation. They put forward their case for an intercultural park. At that time they were rather vague, but it seemed like potential case study material for our Stadslab European Urban Design Laboratory. This would involve mobilising our expertise in international design expertise for cases such as this one. Irena Guidikova from the Council of Europe and Olexandr Butsenko from the Kyiv based organisation Democracy through Culture acted as mediators and we planned a visit to Melitopol to investigate the viability of a joint project. During this visit in September 2009 I visited the park and met with the city board and various stakeholders in Melitopol and was pleasantly surprised with the well-focused ambition of the city. From that moment on we decided that we would set up an international cooperation.

 

Why do we need such thing as an intercultural park?


Well, if we agree on the ambition to create liveable cities and acknowledge that different cultures within an urban community could positively contribute to this goal, the next step is to create moments (like festivals or events) and places for the celebration of intercultural coexistence. Public space in a city, such as parks and squares are the natural locations for such events, which could range from very modest, daily practises to annual thematic events for large communities. Melitopol regards itself as a city with a successful social and cultural infrastructure, with over a hundred nationalities form the urban community. Supposing this is true, the creation of an icon to brand this aspect of the city is an exciting question, especially considering the fact that the city is definitively in need of a revamped image.

 

What could an intercultural park look like, are there existing examples?


We don’t know yet how it will look; this is the main task for the designers in the Master Class! There are a few international examples (for instance the Stadtpark in Dessau) and some literature references. But the examples are so few and geographically and culturally separated that in any case the outcome will be very much site specific. The context of the park, the current use and the means and the ambitions of the city will greatly influence the results.

 

What are the differences with “normal” park design”?


I would estimate that about 80% of this project will be similar to a regular park regeneration scheme. Successful parks are a gateway for social and cultural interactions to occur between local communities. Just take a moment to reflect upon the role of New York’s Central Park. Gorky park can also be seen as successful urban space. For example it is frequently used by diverse members of society for various activities. These may range from sports, leisure, cultural occasions, to commercial events. The level of diversity within the local community may be mirrored in the events they operate and the park design which best suits their needs.

 

Through what criteria will you ensure that the park is attractive for diverse customers?


We are going to carry out a series of evaluations both for the city as a whole as well as for individual stakeholders. Beyond achieving purely social and cultural cohesion, the park is also designed to provide economic stimulus. For example, it should boost the attractiveness of Melitopol as a tourist destination. If we are going to be realistic, I would like to return to my previous estimate of 80% of this project being similar to that of a normal park regeneration scheme. This would involve designing a state of the art park based on the existing one. This will also bring notable and visible improvements to the city. However during the Master Class we will definitely aim higher than this. The new park design will attempt to address the interculturality objective, although at present this is difficult to quantify.

 

Who can participate in this Master Class?


Stadslab Master Classes are targeted at professional architects, urban planners as well as at landscape designers. On top of their university degree, they must have some practical experience. Nevertheless, we do welcome participants from other disciplines as well. For instance these may be urban anthropologists, sociologists and real estate developers, as they could add a perspective which designers lack.

 

What do I have to do to participate?


Just visit our website (www.stadslab.eu) and download the enrolment form. Or send us a CV and portfolio to check if you are accepted to participate.

 

Interview: Annasophia Heinze

Mr. Marc Glaudemans is Professor for “Urban Strategies” and Dean at the Fontys Academy of Architecture and Urbanism. He is Director of Stadslab European Urban Design Laboratory where he launched the idea of Master Class to life.