SL - 38 EAST EUROPEAN CITIES AFTER THE POLITICAL CHANGE: REAPPROPRIATION, SECURITY, PRESERVATION
The session is aiming at a comparative analysis of the East European cities, mainly Budapest, Moscow and Prague, after the end of totalitarian regimes in 1990. The problems of urban development of East European capital cities can be analyzed from several angles. The paper-givers of this session are proposing to demonstrate to interrelated phenomena through three themes:
• reappropriation of the urban territories: new political regimes have chosen different paths to deal with the symbolic heritage of the previous political regimes and to refurbish urban territories by their monuments; similarly, the built environment of the communist period are judged in various ways, but certainly meant a counterpoint to post-communist architecture and urban design;
• urban security: the shift towards open societies caused a certain unease at more open and, accordingly, more disputed urban space and lead to the rise of crime, which ended up in various techniques of property protection. The recent division of urban space into protected and unprotected areas modified the circulation possibilities in these cities and had a deep impact on social segregation;
• preservation: the three cities possess a considerable built heritage, which attracts large scale tourism. They all belong to the UNESCO World Heritage List. National and international preservation legislation has a deep impact on the urban development of city centers in the last two decades. Critiques of this process most often refer to lack of architectural creativity in the era of preservation and to tourist-dominated city centers. These phenomena lead to serious social and cultural problems as well as to different solutions. Context
It is hard to define what an Eastern European city is from the point of view of urban studies. The three cities in question represent three different modes of urban development, which were united by the ideological regime of communism for four decades. Their individual histories, however, diverge before and after this period, and it is an interesting task to spot the similarities and differences in the urban planning of these capital cities under the influence of a totalitarian regime. This analysis also serves to test and to verify the notion of Eastern European city, which is quite widespread in secondary literature.
The intervention of the central power in the urban planning of the three cities is a common phenomenon. Prague, one of the largest cities in late medieval Europe, was an important imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire and a showroom of the imperial power. From the mid-19th century till the 1910’s was a privileged place to express Hungarian national pride to the world and especially to the Austrian part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. After the World War One, both cities were eager to demonstrate their national pride and/or their cosmopolitan character by installing art nouveau and modernist buildings. From its very founding, Moscow was destined to express the grandeur of the Muscovite/Russian Empire. Accordingly, all the three cities had a tradition in expressing the central power ideological and political message through their urban tissue. The communist regimes followed their predecessors practice in re-planning their capital cities. With the fall of communism, however, it is not just the traces of the communist regime are supposed to be removed or neutralized in these cities, but new guiding principles are expected to replace the old ones. These guiding principles do not seem to impose themselves so easily as they used to do in the previous centuries. Therefore, one of the major questions of urban planning in present day Eastern European cities is how to validate intervention in the urban territory. It is not unique for this region, but the application of international trends is a crucial question, since Eastern, and especial Central Eastern Europe (i.e. Czech lands, Poland, Hungary, etc.) has always defined itself through the adoption of Western terms to their own reality.
In the last two decades, Budapest and Prague have lost some of its population, have become much richer and have been exposed to mass tourism. All these changes lead to a kind of new urbanism, which could be summarized in the triad of reappropriation-security-preservation. In the same period, Moscow has become the largest city in Europe and the most expensive cities of the world, with a huge concentration of financial potency. Though its recent evolution is different to that of the two Central European cities, the triad of new urbanism can be applied to its analysis easily.
In the case of Eastern European cities, similarly to other parts of the world, preservation is said to have replaced architectural innovation in urban planning. The social and cultural aspects of this new paradigm (which can be call the cultural heritage paradigm) will be analyzed through the three Eastern European metropolises’ recent evaluation. The most important characteristics of this new paradigm from the point of view of city planning are the following:
• ambitious modernizing plans were disfavoured to urban habilitation in the city centers;
• the surroundings of the historic monuments gained more and more attention from the point of view of protection, what valorised old buildings with less monumental/architectural interest; • a sort of urban hermeneutics developed gradually in urban planning of historic city centers, in which not just the author’s (city planner’s, architect’s, etc.) will, but the receptor’s (inhabitant’s, stakeholder’s etc.) perception was also taken into consideration;
• the widening scope of stakeholders lead to the legislative process of participation. The influence of democratization on urban planning cannot be omitted in Western Europe and in North America, but it is worth examining whether the application of the participative principle to the (Central) European context was a real social necessity or rather a borrowing of an external concept to make local realities to look fancier. Obviously, the participative principle is more relevant in wealthy neighbourhoods, in which the inhabitants are more apt to defend their interest. Low-income immigrants and pauperized minorities are usually much more vulnerable to interventions in their territories all over the world. The way city minorities are handled in recent urban planning is an excellent indicator of the democratic sensibility of a society. Several cases from the three cities in question will demonstrate how to measure the level of democratisation through urban development.