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.

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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

Conviviality in Public spaces – an article from Dresden

Ahead of the workshop in Dresden, our Dresdener colleagues have written down a note to explain their local practices in terms of conviviality in public spaces.

This extremely interesting paper aims as well as discussing Fernando’s contribution on this “conviviality” topic. An exchange of point of view that proves to be enriching.

So, if you are interested in learning more about Dresden’s practices, or in deepening the topic of conviviality in public spaces, let’s take 5 minutes to read this document!

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A couple of pictures of the workshops!

The lead expert will write down a paper summarizing the discussions of each workshop. But meanwhile let’s share some pictures of these 3 events! (If some partners have other pictures to share, feel free to do it – just as Dresden did!).

Malaga Workshop, with Riga and Lublin (April, 24 – 25)

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Dresden Workshop, with Copenhagen and Pescara (May, 5-6)

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La Métro Workshop, with Cracow and Lisbon (May, 12-14)

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Public women. Gender and planning.

Gender and urban planningWhen creating urban space we make priorities, reflect the influence of power, and visualize our rights. Gender is a cultural construction that assigns different roles to women and men. We understand that the city should not contribute to perpetuating the division of tasks between women and men, especially between the reproductive and the productive spheres.
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Social interactions in urban public spaces

Social interactions in urban public spaces.SOCIAL INTERACTIONS IN URBAN PUBLIC SPACES, by Caroline Holland, Andrew Clark, Jeanne Katz and Sheila Peace. Edited by Rowntree Foundation in 2007.

This research focuses on the use of different public (and pseudo-public) spaces in urban areas.1 It draws on a case study of a year-long research project in the town of Aylesbury in southeast England, a market town with a population of around 69,000. The study set out to examine how different people use public spaces and to analyse how social interactions vary by age, gender or place.

Reshaping public spaces in Barcelona

Combining urban functions and uses

Gaudí Avenue in Barcelona. A good example of a reshaped space where several urban functions are mixed: pedestrian street, benches, outdoor cafes, lanes for restricted traffic (goods distribution),  sidewalks close to the shops and a high quality of pavement materials.

Convivial public spaces – Lead expert’s contribution

Our Lead expert Fernando has written a short paper about “Fostering conviviality in public spaces“. It aims at feeding in the debate of Dresden’s workshop, of which “conviviality” is one of the main topics.

It’s worth to share it among the whole USER network as this topic may interest every USER city!

You can download it here.

Enjoy your reading!

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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Workshop topics – Malaga and Grenoble-Alpes Métropole

The 2nd round of workshops is almost here. Two host cities, Malaga and Grenoble-Alpes Métropole, have sent a thematic proposal to their sub-group today. Dresden is about to do it for its own sub-group.

You can download the proposal of Malaga here: Workshop_Málaga (workshop to be held on April 24-25),

and the proposal of Grenoble-Alpes Métropole here: Workshop_Grenoble-Alpes Métropole (workshop on May 12-14).

These documents are draft version that still have to be discussed within each sub-group.