Have you ever thought about who owns the city where you live in? That was a striking question for many of us attending ‘People-Driven City’, the international seminar of the urban festival ‘Lähiöfest2017’ (‘Festival for Neighbourhoods’) at the University of Helsinki. Are the owners the ones who have the political power, the businesses, or are they the people who inhabit it, the citizens?
The seminar brought together experts as well as activists involved in projects that interlace placemaking, city planning, entrepreneurship and community involvement, and it wanted to inspire broader discussion on urban planning and development by presenting varied initiatives from traditional structures to grass-root work. The aim was to look how and where “top-down” and “bottom-up” initiatives can meet, the emphasis being on the areas of the city in the midst of change.
During the day we learned about fascinating international cases. One of them was MakeShift (UK/FR) organization, which designs, builds and manages new public destinations that house communities of local, independent businesses. One of them is Peckham Levels project, which is transforming seven empty levels of a multi-storey carpark into an experimental cultural destination by creating affordable workspace for artists and entrepreneurs. Not to mention the cases of Lola Lik culture hub and The Movement Hotel (NL) run by refugees, both located in Amsterdam at a former prison. In those cases, the deserted places in a city are being taken over by an organization and the people are developing the city with the help of these organizations.