Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism will host a four-day annual meeting of the AESOP thematic group of Public Spaces and Urban Cultures in Bucharest, Romania. The meeting is a second one under ‘Becoming Local’ theme, following an inspiring first meeting in Istanbul in November 2013. The aim of the ‘Becoming Local’ series is to share international, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary perspectives in studies of public spaces and urban cultures.

The objective of Bucharest meeting is to debate locally present issues within a broader context of the post-socialistic communities across Europe and wider. The field-visits, presentations and discussions of high quality work of scholars and practitioners working on the theme aim to offer an insight into the topic as well as provide valuable sources of inspiration for further improvements of both theoretical and practical approaches in the field.


Gabriel Pascariu / Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism (on behalf of local organising team)

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Matej Nikšič / Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia (on behalf of AESOP thematic group)

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The atomising society and public space – the case of post-socialistic territories

(Deadline for abstracts: Monday, April 14th 2014)

Eastern European countries have been in a state of a permanent socio-economic change in the last century. The last major change took place at a turn of a millennium and caused significant alterations of all social strata with human relationships redefined and individual and collective behaviours changed considerably. Consequently the communal spirit was replaced with the individualism and visible social segregation. The rise of commercialisation and privatisation more generally have been shaping a new type of consumerist society seemingly characterised by a weak social cohesion, weakened empathy and decreased solidarity.

The social changes are reflected more or less directly in a transformation and evolution of urban public space. Newly designed public spaces, created under the constrained financial budgets, profit-oriented economic rationale, and with the know-how bounded with post-fordist economies, often missed to address the cohesive dimensions. Some newly designed public spaces may appear to be inviting and attractive at a first glance, but a more thorough look often reveals their social flatness characterised by lack of spontaneous encounters and usages of space, exclusiveness to some user groups, exclusion of some disadvantaged users etc. This may partly be a result of a widely spread top-down planning approach which fails to understand and address communal as well as individual user’s values, behaviours and needs in the broadest sense, as well as a result of the ongoing commercialisation processes that have other than social well-being objectives.

Similarly as elsewhere across the continent there were however nuances of public life in Eastern European cities through time. Viewed from today’s perspective some of them are prized and some criticized for their (un)ability of supporting social life and building the commune. Many cities for example have had some good inter-world-war traditions of sense of public space, un- paralleled to any examples in the periods that followed. On the other hand a number of cities got public spaces that were not conceived for social contacts and improved sense of community in the post-WWII period as they were rather designed to host public events related to representation of political powers. Above all any generalisations are uneven as a considerable variety of the approaches to the provision of public space accross territories and times can be traced.

This complex situation opens challenging questions at both theoretical and practical levels:
- What is the role of public space in the environments with a lost sense of a community? Are there any specifics related to post-socialistic societies in this sense?
- In what way can a sociality of place be strengthened through public space provision?
- How local life was created in the frameworks of the communist regimes (totalitarian social design?) and in space of Western Fordist welfare states (total social design?) on the one hand, and how local life is created nowadays under the influence of global flows on the other? To what extent are the historical traditions and trajectories helpful in finding contemporary ways of reviving communal being given the contemporary socio-economic realities?

- Who is in charge of rethinking and improving urban public spaces in service of local communities? What are the roles of civil society groups, actors and collectives in these processes? What are the roles of each individual her-/himself?

- (How) Can grand planning schemes create livable public spaces today?
- How can civil society and how can local authorities deal with the increasing private interests in the field of public space (resulting in its privatisation, commoditisation and commercialisation) in order to protest and foster non-profit interests?
- How can market driven planning approaches be overcome in order to provide inclusive public spaces and fair redistribution of (public and collective) resources?

The Bucharest “Becoming Local” meeting aims to reflect different points of view from the widest professional and general publics. Having in mind that public space lies at an intersection of a number of disciplines and is a crossroads between theory and practices, a discussion beyond disciplinary or academic constraints is anticipated and contributors from any professional background as well as non-academic groups (NGOs, state actors, and so forth) are invited to add to the discussion.

Preliminary Meeting Schedule

Wednesday – June 11th 2014 – Arrivals & Introductory session

Thursday – June 12th 2014 – Field trip and discussions

Friday – June 13th 2014 – Workshops and panel discussion

Saturday – June 14th 2014 – Sum up & Departures

Abstract Submission (Deadline: April 14th 2014)

Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words and a short biography of 100 words to Gabriel Pascariu atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and to Matej Nikšič at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Monday, April 14th 2014. We will finalise the sessions and inform all respondents of the outcome by April 17th 2014.

Organisational and Advisory Board

Celia Ghyka, Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism,Bucharest

Liviu Ianăşi, Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism,Bucharest

Sabine Knierbein, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna

Matej Niksic, Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia, Ljubljana

Gabriel Pascariu, Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest

Ceren Sezer, Delft University of Technology, Urban4, Delft

Tihomir Viderman, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna


Participation to the meeting is free of charge.

Related Links

* TG Bucharest meeting (operational from April 2014 on):

* Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism:

* Aesop:

* Aesop Thematic Group Public Spaces and Urban Cultures