Autumn cleanup – outdoor event in the Azory housing estate

On Sunday 9th of November, in the square beside the Parish Church was held an outdoor event, organized as part of the USER project.

The theme of the event was autumn cleanup and a fair of redundancies consisting in the exchange of unnecessary items that may be useful to other neighbors. Children could take part in the art workshops, during which they made dolls from materials found during the autumn orders.

In addition, the event was an occassion to get the residents’ opinion on the projects included in the Local Acion Plan. The residents had a possibility to introduce new solutions for the housing estate or propose their own ideas for improving the quality of life in the Azory.

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A Square For Me – a methodology designed and implemented for USER needs to provide an active participation of young people in evolvement of public space

On February 11-14, 2014 in the framework of cooperation between Riga State Gymnasium No. 3 and the initiative Learner-Explorer-City Dweller of young architects from the Latvian Association of Architects, the pilot project for one of the USER pilot territories – the Square of Latvian Riflemen –was implemented with an active participation of schoolchildren.

The goal of Riga State Gymnasium No. 3 and the initiative Learner-Explorer-City Dweller was to design a methodology that would involve schoolchildren in redevelopment of public space.

The Square of Latvian Riflemen– one of USER pilot territories in Riga – was selected as a sample site. The schoolchildren of neighbouring Riga State Gymnasium No. 3 – users of the square – were involved to develop a vision for the public space according to their needs.

34 schoolchildren and students from 3 different age groups: age 13-14, age 15-16 and age 17-18 participated in a creative workshop A Square For Me. Different age groups were organised in teams of 11-12 persons. Two architects and also experts from the City Development Department of the Riga City Council joined each workshop. The level of discussion was adapted to perception ability of younger schoolchildren by teaching older students to have a respectful attitude to a different opinion by finding successful cooperation.


Development of the vision for the Square of Latvian Riflemen was started by the research of the current situation. Schoolchildren explored the site by seeing the square through the eyes of a city planner. They observed people in their daily routine and analysed functional use of the square.

In the research process of the site the questionnaires were filled-in by answering questions and also giving a brief explanation to answers. In the creative workshop the viewpoints were summarized by way of discussion. Team groups presented the results of research analysis to each other. The schoolchildren were searching for solutions to improve functionality of the square according to their needs. On the basis of the elaborated vision they developed a spatial model with changeable modelling patterns and scaling elements (a crowd of people, cars, and bicycles). Each team analysed the selected function, way and possible arrangement of users in the square by reflecting them afterwards in a spatial model.

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Vision of schoolchildren from age group 13-14:

Cheerful, lively, green and cosy square for relaxation and entertainment with an accent on its history: the Latvian Riflemen Monument and the Museum of Occupation of Latvia being located near the school. The Square and the Embankment is linked by a pedestrian bridge to evolve the empty and draughty square.

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Vision of schoolchildren from age group 15-16:

Well-arranged square with two separate zones: calm and active. Historical objects both: the Square of Latvian Riflemen and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia have been integrated into organised events there.

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Vision of students from age group 17-18:

Well-arranged square for relaxation and meeting possibilities: facade of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is improved; the Latvian Riflemen Monument is accented. The Square and the Embankment is linked by an underground tunnel with a waiting shed on the ground surface. Transport flow under the Stone (Akmens) Bridge is closed expanding the pedestrian zone along the Daugava Embankment.11-12 klase 311-12 klase 2

Easter feast in Azory

On the Palm Sunday, 13th of April, in the square behind the Parish Church in Azory was held an Easter Feast.

The aim of the event was an animation of public space in the housing estate: organization of games and activities for children and integration of residents. During the feast the adults had an opportunity to assess the works of students of architecture concerning the development of public space in the Azory and to participate in a lottery. Their opinions on housing estate needs and ideas to address the problems occurring there were also collected.

However, it was children who enjoyed the feast the most. They had the opportunity to participate in games organized by the students, such as bowling or racing in rolling Easter eggs and art workshops, where they could create Easter ornaments.

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Dresden’s XMas perception report

Dear USER friends,

don’t mistake this for a Christmas gift:

We are posting the report on the survey that has been conducted by geographers from Dresden Technical University, addressing the perception and use of public spaces within our USER area. The English abstract is on pages 43-46.

We are looking back at nearly a year of fruitful and enriching exchanges with the USER community. Considering the work still ahead of us and a LAP draft to be submmitted by September, next year will probably come up with even more hard work, enhancement, sound results and hopefully excellent and enriching seminars and workshops (and, why not, additional optional visits to partner cities …).

Owing to the current festive season, we have postponed our forthcoming ‚large‘ LSG meeting until January.

The Dresden USER team addresses their season’s greetings to all of you, wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year

Bruno and Martin on behalf of Dresden’s USER LSG and its working groups



Azory in the children’s eyes

The important users of Azory public spaces are children and the youth. To get their opinion on the housing estate the children’s art competition “At my Azory…” was organized. In response to the competition the pupils of kindergartens and schools submitted 160 works, which have been evaluated in four age categories. The audience award was also awarded as a result of voting by participants of the workshop which took place on 14th of November. The winning works below.

Julia Baran Konstancja Koleszynska Natalia Mars Oksana Sawicka Roksana Zięcina

Parking day: students testing ephemeral public spaces in Grenoble

On September, 19th, a class of students from Grenoble’s Alpine Geography Institute have taken part to the “parking day” event – and USER LSG members were invited to join the final jury!

“Parking Day” is an Europe-wide event which consist in taking over a parking place – and to set up an ephemeral public space on it. This action aims at proposing new uses of public spaces instead of devoting it to car parking. The goal is to discuss with users, to launch debates, to raise awareness on the question: “how to live cities public spaces differently”? As you can see, this Parking Days action perfectly matches USER topic!

The Students from the “Innovation and territories” master have grabbed this opportunity to think about public spaces and made a very interesting job, which presentation can be downloaded here: Parking Day_Presentation

For this action, the students were divided in 4 groups, and have installed 4 different public spaces in Grenoble city centre. 4 groups, 4 different ideas, which were:

– “Playful city” – More convivial public spaces thanks to open-air games

“Car Park Council” – An open City Council where inhabitants can vote for the future of their public spaces

-“ Intimately yours” – Resting and chatting in a cosy open-air living-room

– “Garden made of boxes” – Questionning the place of nature in urban public spaces

All the group have animated this 1-day even, led a reflection on what they have learnt, and proposed a project to develop their action further.

Have a look at their presentation as it is full of interesting questions and ideas that could feed into each USER city’s local experimentations!

(And special thanks to the students who have specially translated their presentation for  USER partners!)

Food for thought during the summer break!

During the summer Fernando, our lead expert, has gathered interesting documents about different public space-related topics: Links_Fernando_Aug2013

In this document you can find background thoughts, articles, experiences about:

Placemaking, walkability, streets, temporary uses of vacant plots, safety, privatization, managing public spaces, markets, sustainability, social conflits, walking observation of uses, design, gendered public spaces, tourism and public spaces, political activism, involving inhabitants, regulating public spaces, conviviality, mobility, using public spaces, street vending, sidewalks, lightening, urban farming, waterfronts, Jan Gehl, Jane Jacobs.

Like in a market, pick up the resources about the topics you are interested in!

And… of course, if you have interesting documents to share with the USER network as a complement to this (open) list, please do it!

New from the Lead Expert: documents about placemaking

Fernando has found out some background documents on USER topic.

If you’ve free time during the summer break (as the working rythm may be slowing down), make the most of it to have an eye on these articles!

– “Using public spaces freely: ownership and management of public spaces”: AllisonBuchwach_Using Public Spaces Freely(2)

– A guide to neighborhood placemaking in Chicago: placemaking_guide

– “Public spaces and Public life”, study made by Gehl Architects in Adelaide City: public_spaces_and_public_life_report

– A study about “The social value of public spaces”: Public-space-community

Enjoy your readings!

Communication within the LSG: ideas from Riga

Nika sends us her “trick” she has set up in order to contact her LSG members. Excellent idea of internal communication tool!

Here in Riga we have established our local USER “mini-site” where people can find the key information about the USER project.

 This mini-site also includes “project news” section where all local and international press releases are published:

 Every time I contact by e-mail our LSG members and users, they receive a link to the project information and project news. I do not attach pdf. file as attachment due to the size of file (~ 3 MB).