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Created on 03-06-2022 | Updated on 04-07-2023

LiLa4Green is a research project that aims to foment participatory creation and the implementation of nature-based solutions in densely built neighbourhoods in Vienna. The project has been developed by an interdisciplinary consortium and its main objective is to bring together experts and residents to collectively address the issue of climate change. The project is an innovative, transferable example of the successful communication of a complex issue that requires expertise in an approachable and inclusive way from experts to non-experts. Hence, its importance lies not only in the replicability of the developed green solutions to neighbourhoods of similar characteristics to improve their microclimatic conditions, but in the transferability of its innovative methodological approach in reaching out and engaging citizens of diverse characteristics in the co-creation of solutions on urban issues that significantly affect their lives and which had been previously overlooked due to lack of awareness.


Its goal is to move beyond climate-resilient considerations and to embrace social priorities, such as improving quality of life, raising local awareness on resilience and achieving acceptance of scientific solutions on environmental issues by non-expert communities. To this end, a Living Lab (LL) approach is employed to engage citizens, stakeholders and decision-makers in the co-creation and implementation of green solutions that collaboratively respond to local emergencies.

Tested in two neighbourhoods in Vienna, the project’s roadmap is targeted on spatially and socially challenged residential areas, characterised by their lack of open public space and green areas, by the dominance of car traffic and the disadvantaged living conditions. LiLa4Green demonstrates an innovative social-scientific approach to dealing with local urban emergencies through enabling user participation facilitated in an inclusive and flexible way that adapts to the social and urban context.

Initiating entity
Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT)

Smart user participation for the implementation of climate- and social-resilient solutions in priority residential neighbourhoods

Educational/participatory methods
Scientific Analysis, Urban Living Lab, Green Workshops, On site activities

Environmentally and socially priority neighbourhoods / funded by the Climate and Energy Fund and implemented under the "SMART CITIES - FIT for SET" program.

Neighbourhood Scale, “Quellenstraße Ost” and ‘Kreta’ neighbourhoods in Vienna

Completed / 2018-2021

3 years

Research consortium (Austrian Institute of Technology, Technical University of Vienna, Weatherpark, PlanSinn, GRÜNSTATTGRAU and GREX IT), citizens, local stakeholders

Object of study
Neihbourhood Event



Over the last decades, international and national environmental policies have been designed and implemented to counteract the impact of the emerging climate change, this forcing many cities around the globe to adapt their urban environment and update their planning strategies. On a local level, targeted solutions to improve urban microclimates play a catalytic role on the sense of urban comfort, especially in densely built areas lacking green. Such nature-based and cost-effective solutions which provide environmental, social and economic benefits for resilience (European Commision Research and Innovation, n.d.), as well as comprehensive green and blue infrastructure strategies that promote the use of natural processes and vegetation to achieve landscape and water management benefits in an urban context (Victoria State Goverment Department of Environment Land Water and Planning, 2017)  can counteract the effects of rising temperatures and provide resilience for cities and inhabitants (Roehr & Laurenz, 2008). However, their implementation and maintenance face many challenges, such as administrative limitations and lack of awareness or acceptance by the local stakeholders and residents (Hagen et al., 2021; Tötzer et al., 2019).

Working to address this challenge in a holistic manner, the LiLa4Green project, as part of the Smart Cities Initiative, aims to foster the implementation of nature-based solutions in the city of Vienna, by integrating a LL approach that focuses on social innovation and knowledge-sharing. The main goals of the project include the collaborative identification of challenges and potentials, the implementation of co-created solutions in the streetscape and the visualisation of the effects of potential solutions in a creative way to raise awareness and activate participants (Hagen et al., 2021).

The project is funded by the Climate and Energy Fund and is carried out by an interdisciplinary consortium consisting of research, academic and community partners. The project’s methodology has been tested in two residential neighbourhoods, ‘Quellenstraße Ost’ in the 10th district and ‘Kreta’ in the 14th district of Vienna. Both neighbourhoods are characterised by dense urban structures and insufficient public and green spaces, and their population consists predominantly of young, low-income immigrant groups who are poorly qualified and which suffer a high unemployment rate (Hagen et al., 2019).


Methodological Approach

The project was implemented along two parallel lines of work. The first refers to a scientific approach conducted by the research consortium. This initiated with the open space and microclimatic analysis of the areas, the results of which were seen in context with the climate of the whole city, concluding to the areas’ characterisation. A demarcation as ‘vulnerable with respect to densification’ (Tötzer et al., 2019, p. 3) reflects the high density and bioclimatic stress of the neighbourhood. The analysis offered valuable insights in identifying priority spots, i.e., small-scale heat islands, and was followed by discussions on greening potentials and recommendations about the areas’ needs and characteristics.

In parallel, a participatory process was initiated in the focus areas to inform the scientific findings on the most problematic locations in the neighbourhood based on the local knowledge and experience of residents and local stakeholders. At the same time, through the establishment of the LL as an alternative to top-down city planning strategies, residents moved from being information facilitators to co-creators.

Following this approach of empowering residents to actively participate in the development of solutions that affect their living environment, the LL investigated ways to raise public awareness on mitigation and measures to facilitate citizens’ adaptation to climate change and to ensure a broad acceptance for the green-blue infrastructure among the general public, through the design and testing of multiple and diverse smart user participation and visualisation methods. A combination of innovative social science methods with the latest digital technology was put forward to facilitate the dissemination of information of the diverse functionalities of green and free spaces, testing also new methods of visualisation of the effects, such as Augmented and Virtual Reality, for more informed decisions ( Focusing further on the visibility and traceability (Hagen et al., 2021, p. 393) of the added value of the potential interventions, the monitoring phase included a combination of measurements, simulations and surveys, while in the assessment phase, innovative tools such as crowdsourcing and maps were employed to correlate multiple measurements such as costs and maintenance requirements.



The innovative methodology was tested in practice in a range of different activities organised by the LL that opened the research to citizens and stakeholders in an interactive format. The participatory process initiated with the LiLa4Green research team coming together to design the operation and context of the LL. The activities in the LL began with the ‘Start Workshop’, a knowledge-gathering meeting in which research team members and relevant stakeholders (representatives of municipal agencies and local institutions) came together to discuss constrains, potentials in the project area and the mutual benefits.

This introductory event was followed by the four cornerstones of the project, namely the ‘Green Workshops’ (GWs) that took place every 6 months and involved the research team, stakeholders and citizens. In preparation of each of these four events, a set of activities was organised on site, related to the objectives of the foregoing events, as well as the results of the previous ones. For instance, before the first Green Workshop that focused on sharing information, building mutual understanding and establishing social connections(Tötzer et al., 2019, p. 5), the research team conducted on site activation activities which included the creation of a temporary space for conversations using pictures, signs and questions to approach the people passing by, and also engaging them through game-like activities of mapping and voting.

The first workshop started and concluded with a survey. The comparison of the answers of both surveys enabled the organisers to detect changes in the perception of participants on the topic and hence the success of the workshop in the transfer of knowledge. The workshop was organised in two parts that differentiated on the flow of knowledge from the research group to the participants and reversely, using posters, a memory set and a flyer as tools for communication.

Working on the feedback from the first workshop, the second event focused on the realisation of the first urban intervention, a parklet, that was developed as a student project at intended design studios at the TU Wien and then selected by the participants of the LL. Furthermore, using a smart interaction tool with AR technology on site, participants were given the chance to visualise and provide their feedback on potential greening interventions.

Having built trust between the participants and the research team, the third workshop aimed at the identification of the potential uses of the open space through gamification. The participants designed adaptation activities to respond to the scientifically identified conditions and further grounded their decisions to real restrictions, such as budget. In the same workshop, participants tested the AR tool that was further developed by the research team according to the feedback from the second workshop.

Finally, the fourth workshop dealt with the collective implementation of the developed proposals. Due to the pandemic outbreak the workshop was delivered in a digital format and the results were eventually implemented in the summer 2020.


Communication and Sharing Experience

Parallel to the workshops and activities, the consortium gave a great value to the communication and dissemination of LiLa4Green within and outside the focus areas by sending out a frequent newsletter and an Explain Video to attract and maintain participants’ motivation. Surveys and questionnaires were used to incorporate the feedback for the next stages, and experiences were shared via a website. Furthermore, the team created a brochure with the title “In 5 Schritten zum guten Klima”  (LiLa4Green, n.d.) to summarise the smart participation methodology in five steps: 1. Prepare the ground and initiate the process, 2. Share knowledge and learn together, 3. Decide and create trust, 4. Designing the future in a playful way, and 5. Specify and implement together. Lastly, aiming to disseminate the knowledge and experiences with the scientific community, the research team actively participated in conferences, presentations, lectures and journals.



I would like to thank Tanja Tötzer, expert advisor at the Austrian Institute of Technology in Vienna and coordinator of the LiLa4Green project, for the inspiring discussion and generous insights that have helped to write about LiLa4Green.  

Alignment with project research areas

Lila4Green is particularly relevant for RE-DWELL’s research on affordable and sustainable housing through a transdisciplinary approach as it brings together three areas: climate research and resilient design, community participation and innovation to address social and environmental emergencies in neighbourhoods and populations that are at risk of vulnerability. The implementation of the project in residential neighbourhoods of disadvantaged urban and social characteristics denotes the overarching focus to improve the quality of life of these neighbourhoods and instigate active citizenship to combat environmental and social issues.

In particular, this project is related to the research area on Community Participation due to its participatory methodology, as well as with the area of Design, Planning and Building, due to its scope of implementing green solutions at the neighbourhood scale to counteract the effects of climate change. In a second level, as a nationally funded project that is also part of an international network of knowledge-sharing, there is also an important relation to the area of Policy and financing (categories Governance, market and financing and Social housing policies).

Within the broader areas of research, three major categories – and further related extensions – best reflect the LiLa4Green project. The first is transient and digital societies which is concerned with to the implementation of physical and digital infrastructures and spaces for urban innovation and knowledge sharing such as the Urban Living Labs, as drivers of social and urban change. Through the Living Lab approach and the interweaving of diverse tools and methods to activate and engage the residents and stakeholders in the co-creation process, the project expands its limits to the spectrum of inclusive design, community planning and co-design.

The second main category is that of green building, that aims at implementing designs that achieve environmental sustainability. Nature-based solutions as well as green and blue infrastructure that are developed and tested during the LiLa4Green project, are successful examples of these designs. As an extension, the project relates to the categories of sustainable planning and urban regeneration. Lastly, the third category is the innovation procurement, as well as housing design education as they relate to the LL’s pillars as an innovation and knowledge-sharing space.

Design, planning and building

Community participation

Policy and financing

* This diagram is for illustrative purposes only based on the author’s interpretation of the above case study

Alignment with SDGs

Although LiLa4Green has not explicitly associated its targets to the Sustainable Development Goals, several alignments can be drawn with specific goals and targets.

To begin with, SDG 11 sustainable cities and communities and significantly the targets 11.3, 11.6 and 11.7 are reflected in the project’s overarching goal to achieve environmental and social sustainability in the test neighbourhoods, through a participatory approach that aims at creating a healthy neighbourhood, improving the quality of life and safeguarding the residents’ access to open green spaces. Related to this, the integration of a participatory methodology that engages all relevant stakeholders in the co-creation and decision-making processes through innovative methods to align with the Smart Citizens initiative, connects to SDG 16 peace, justice and strong institutions with a great focus on the extrapolation of target 16.7 on the neighbourhood scale, as well as with SDG 9 industry, innovation and infrastructure.

Furthermore, SDG 4 quality education and specifically target 4.7 that refers to education on sustainable lifestyles, is reflected in LiLa4Green Living Lab’s role as a space of creative knowledge sharing on sustainability challenges and solutions through raising awareness and activating the residents and local stakeholders. The initiation of the project by an interdisciplinary research consortium that involved research and academic institutions significantly contributes to addressing this goal.

Moreover, SDG 13 climate action and target 13.3 are connected to LiLa4Green’s main goal to raise awareness and co-create nature-based solutions and green and blue infrastructure in priority neighbourhoods that are mostly affected by the impact of climate crisis and the urban heat wave. Similarly, the implementation of blue infrastructure projects, as well as in the engagement of local communities in the water management also is also related to SDG 6 clean water and sanitation and targets 6.5 and 6.b.

Finally, the project further relates indirectly to the Goals 1. no poverty, 3. Good health and well-being, 7. Affordable and clean energy, 8. Decent work and economic growth, 10. Reduce inequalities, 12. Responsible consumption and production, 17. Partnerships for the goals.


European Commision Research and Innovation. (n.d.). Nature-Based Solutions in the EU: Innovating with nature to address social, economic and environmental challenges. Academic Press Inc.

Hagen, K., Gasienica-Wawrytko, B., Meinharter, E., Brossmann, J., Matejka, V., Ratheiser, M., Gepp, W., Erian, P., & Tötzer, T. (2019). LiLa4Green, Begleitendes Living Lab für die Realisierung von grünblauen Infrastrukturmaßnahmen in der Smart City Wien, Bericht zur Potentialanalyse.

Hagen, K., Tötzer, T., Meinharter, E., Millinger, D., Ratheiser, M., & Formanek, S. (2021). How to Make Existing Urban Structures Climate-Resilient? REAL CORP 2021: CITIES 20.50 Creating Habitats for the 3rd Millennium – Vienna, Austria, September, 393–402.

LiLa4Green. (n.d.). In 5 Schritten zum guten Klima MIT LILA4GREEN. Retrieved March 17, 2022, from

Roehr, D., & Laurenz, J. (2008). Living skins: Environmental benefits of green envelopes in the city context. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 113, 149–158.

Tötzer, T., Hagen, K., Meinharter, E., Millinger, D., Ratheiser, M., Formanek, S., Gasienica-Wawrytko, B., Brossmann, J., Matejka, V., & Gepp, W. (2019). Fostering the implementation of green solutions through a Living Lab approach - Experiences from the LiLa4Green project. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 323(1).

Victoria State Goverment Department of Environment Land Water and Planning. (2017). Green-Blue City. (n.d.).

Related vocabulary

Community Empowerment

Participatory Approaches


Social Sustainability

Area: Community participation

Community empowerment appears in the literature of participatory action research (Minkler, 2004), participatory planning (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018), and community development (Luttrell et al., 2009) as a key element of participatory practices, understanding it as a process that enables communities to take control of their lives and their environments (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Many argue that community participation becomes meaningless if it does not lead to, or pass through community empowerment. As the term is being used in diverse and ubiquitous ways, it runs the risk of ending up as an empty definition and a catch-all phrase (McLaughlin, 2015). It is therefore important to specify the perspective through which we will view the term and clarify the nuances.  Since its origins, empowerment has been used in two different ways. Firstly, top-down as the power that had been ‘granted’ by a higher authority, such as the state or a religious institution, and secondly, bottom-up, as a process by which groups or individuals come to develop the capacity to act and acquire power. Examples of the latter can be found in social groups such as feminists working in nongovernmental organizations throughout the global south in the 1970s, who found a way to address social issues and inequalities that enabled social transformation based on women’s self-organization (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). The term was gradually appropriated by welfare, neoliberal, and social-neoliberal agendas whose priority was individual agency and choice. In neoliberal rationality, empowerment is related to efficiency, economic growth, business productivity, and individual rational choice to maximize profit in a competitive market economy. In social liberalism agendas, empowerment is understood as ‘effective agency’, where ‘agency’ is not an inherent attribute, but something that needs to be constructed through ‘consciousness-raising’ (McLaughlin, 2016). A broader definition sees empowerment as a social action process through which individuals, communities, and organizations take control of their lives in the context of changing the social and political environment to improve equity and quality of life (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Rowlands (1997), refers to four types of empowerment: power over, as the ability to influence and coerce; power to, to organize and change existing hierarchies; power with, as the power from the collective action and power within, as the power from the individual consciousness. Using this classification, Biewener & Bacqué (2015), adopting a feminist approach, understand empowerment as a multilevel construct with three interrelated dimensions: 1) an internal, psychological one, where ‘power within’ and ‘power to’ are developed, 2) an organizational, where ‘power with’ and ‘power over’ are strengthened and 3) a social or political level, where institutional and structural change is made possible through collective action. Thus, community empowerment links the individual level, which involves self-determination, growth of individual awareness, and self-esteem, to the collective level, relating critical consciousness and capacity building with the structural level, where collective engagement and transformative social action take place. This view of empowerment, which considers its goals and processes, has a social dimension that is lacking in other approaches that prioritize individual empowerment. Aside from the feminist movements, the philosophy and practices of community empowerment have been greatly influenced by the work of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and an advocate on critical pedagogy. Freire proposed a dialogic problem-solving process based on equality and mutual respect between students and teachers; that engaged them in a process of iterative listening-discussing-acting. Through structured dialogue, group participants shared their experiences, discussed common problems, and looked for root causes and the connections among “problems behind the problems as symptoms” (Freire, 1970). The term conscientization, that Freire proposed, refers to the consciousness that arises through the involvement of people in the social analysis of conditions and their role in changing them. This awareness enables groups to be reflexive and open spaces, to enact change or to understand those limited situations that may deter change (Barndt, 1989). Empowerment can be understood as both a process and an outcome (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018). As a process, it refers to “the development and implementation of mechanisms to enable individuals or groups to gain control, develop skills and test knowledge”(Harrison & Waite, 2015) and it entails the creation of new subjects who have developed a critical consciousness and the formation of groups with a ‘collective agency’ ‚ or ‘social collective identity’ (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). Empowerment as an outcome refers to “an affective state in which the individual or group feels that they have increased control, greater understanding and are involved and active” (Harrison & Waite, 2015). This can lead to a transformation of the social conditions by challenging the structures and institutionalized forms that reproduce inequalities. The values and the significance of community empowerment can be further applied in the participatory and community-based approaches of the housing sector. Examples of such approaches in the housing provision are the housing cooperatives, and self-developed and self-managed housing groups. Housing cooperatives aim at promoting co-creation to engage future residents, professionals, and non-profit organizations in all the stages of a housing project: problem-framing, designing, developing, cohabiting, managing, and maintaining. Such organisational models stress the importance and pave the way for community empowerment by uniting individuals with similar interests and ideals, enabling them to have housing that responds to their needs, preferences, and values. The participation of the residents aims to strengthen their sense of ownership of the process, the democratic decision-making and management, and the social collective identity, making community empowerment an integral characteristic of cooperative housing initiatives. With this social perspective, residents can gain individual and collective benefits while contributing to fairer and more sustainable urban development on a larger scale (Viskovic Rojs et al., 2020).

Created on 03-06-2022

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)


Area: Community participation

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, participation is “the act of taking part in an activity or event”. Likewise, it can also mean “the fact of sharing or the act of receiving or having a part of something.” It derives from old French participacion which in turn comes from late Latin participationem, which means “partaking” (Harper, 2000).  References to participation can be found in many fields, including social sciences, economics, politics, and culture. It is often related to the idea of citizenship and its different representations in society. Hence, it could be explained as an umbrella concept, in which several others can be encompassed, including methodologies, philosophical discourses, and tools. Despite the complexity in providing a holistic definition, the intrinsic relation between participation and power is widely recognised. Its ultimate objective is to empower those involved in the process (Nikkhah & Redzuan, 2009). An early application of participatory approaches was the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) which exerted a significant influence in developing new discourses and practices of urban settings (Chambers, 1994; Friedmann, 1994). In the late 1970s increasing attention was paid to the concept by scholars, and several associated principles and terminologies evolved, such as the participation in design and planning with the Scandinavian approach of cooperative design (Bφdker et al., 1995; Gregory, 2003). Participation in design or participatory design is a process and strategy that entails all stakeholders (e.g. partners, citizens, and end-users) partaking in the design process. It is a democratic process for design based on the assumption that users should be involved in the designs they will go on to use (Bannon & Ehn, 2012; Cipan, 2019; Sanoff, 2000, 2006, 2007). Likewise, participatory planning is an alternative paradigm that emerged in response to the rationalistic and centralized – top-down – approaches. Participatory planning aims to integrate the technical expertise with the preferences and knowledge of community members (e.g., citizens, non-governmental organizations, and social movements) directly and centrally in the planning and development processes, producing outcomes that respond to the community's needs (Lane, 2005). Understanding participation through the roles of participants is a vital concept. The work of Sherry Arnstein’s (1969) Ladder of Citizen Participation has long been the cornerstone to understand participation from the perspective of the redistribution of power between the haves and the have-nots. Her most influential typological categorisation work yet distinguishes eight degrees of participation as seen in Figure 1: manipulation, therapy, placation, consultation, informing, citizen control, delegated power and partnership. Applied to a participatory planning context, this classification refers to the range of influence that participants can have in the decision-making process. In this case, no-participation is defined as designers deciding based upon assumptions of the users’ needs and full-participation refers to users defining the quality criteria themselves (Geddes et al., 2019). A more recent classification framework that also grounds the conceptual approach to the design practice and its complex reality has been developed by Archon Fung (2006) upon three key dimensions: who participates; how participants communicate with one another and make decisions together, and how discussions are linked with policy or public action. This three-dimensional approach which Fung describes as a democracy cube (Figure 2), constitutes a more analytic space where any mechanism of participation can be located. Such frameworks of thinking allow for more creative interpretations of the interrelations between participants, participation tools (including immersive digital tools) and contemporary approaches to policymaking. Aligned with Arnstein’s views when describing the lower rungs of the ladder (i.e., nonparticipation and tokenism), other authors have highlighted the perils of incorporating participatory processes as part of pre-defined agendas, as box-ticking exercises, or for political manipulation. By turning to eye-catching epithets to describe it (Participation: The New Tyranny? by Cooke & Kothari, 2001; or The Nightmare of Participation by Miessen, 2010), these authors attempt to raise awareness on the overuse of the term participation and the possible disempowering effects that can bring upon the participating communities, such as frustration and lack of trust. Examples that must exhort practitioners to reassess their role and focus on eliminating rather than reinforcing inequalities (Cooke & Kothari, 2001).

Created on 17-02-2022

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13), L.Ricaurte (ESR15), M.Alsaeed (ESR5)


Area: Community participation

Placemaking in the urban realm is a holistic approach that foments the collaborative transformation of public spaces into vibrant, inclusive and engaging places. The core objective of placemaking is reflected in David Engwicht’s analogy: “placemaking is like turning a house into a home” (Placemaking.Education, no date), that is, to transform a mere physical location or space into an emotionally resonant and socially connected place. Placemaking encompasses not only the planning and design of spaces but also their sustainable management (Project for Public Spaces, 2016). The placemaking theory has been developed on the principle that urban and architectural projects should prioritize people and their emotions over cars and shopping centres. This idea originated in groundbreaking work of intellectuals from the 1960s, such as Jane Jacobs[1] and William H. Whyte[2]. Building upon their work, the term ‘placemaking’ started being used in the 1970s by architects and planners to describe the process of transforming public spaces into enjoyable destinations. Since then, a number of placemaking organisations, most notably the pioneering Project for Public Spaces (PPS)[3], have played a pivotal role in guiding community leaders toward the value of reinvesting in existing communities instead of pursuing endless urban sprawl. These organisations have raised awareness that this approach is both economically and environmentally more sustainable (Ellery, Ellery and Borkowsky, 2021). Over the last few decades, placemaking has been extensively used to describe various approaches in urban development, ranging from community-driven emancipatory practices, such as reclaiming underused neighbourhood spaces, to top-down strategic plans for neighbourhood revitalisations. Theoretical discussions have attempted to categorize placemaking processes with regards to ignition, goal, scale, budget and involvement, among others (Courage et al., 2021). One widely adopted classification among placemaking scholars is Wyckoff’s (2014) distinction of four types:    Standard Placemaking (or simply placemaking) aims at creating quality places and reviving existing public spaces. This approach is pursued by the public, non-profit, or private sector, employing community participation into a variety of projects and activities. These projects are often incremental, such as street and façade improvements, residential rehabs, which may encompass public spaces and small-scale projects. Tactical Placemaking focuses on creating quality places using a deliberate approach to change, developed in phases that begin with quick, short-term commitments and realistic expectations. Over time, short-term activities and projects achieve gradual transformations in public spaces. Tactical placemaking can be initiated by local development strategies or from bottom-up. It includes activities such as parking space conversions, self-guided historic walks, outdoor music events, and temporary conversion of buildings. Creative Placemaking utilises arts and cultural activities to strategically shape the identity of a neighbourhood, city, or region. The processes include revitalisation of buildings, structures and streetscapes, often improving the local business viability and public safety. Strategic Placemaking is targeted at achieving specific goals, such as raising the economic, social and cultural prosperity of a community in addition to creating quality places. This can be achieved by interventions that attract talented workers in certain locations, such as mixed-use places that are pedestrian-oriented, bike-friendly, as well as supporting recreation, arts and housing options. Naturally, implementing placemaking processes come with their own risks. Similar to other forms of civic participation, placemaking can sometimes become a buzzword for urban renewal programmes, especially when used to drive economic development of an area through spatial upgrade. When the goal is to replace an existing place with one considered an improvement, it is likely that the affected people may experience negative effects, such as direct or indirect displacement. In this regard, as placemaking strategies, aimed at revitalising underutilised spaces into vibrant places, consequently enhancing the location’s attractiveness and value, are often criticised for potentially fuelling gentrification trends rather than alleviating them (Placemaking Europe, 2019).   [1] In her work, epitomised in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Jacobs introduced the idea of “eyes on the street” that advocates for citizen ownership on the street. [2] Whyte’s groundbreaking work The social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980), summarises his extensive research on the Street Life Project in New York, in which he recorded the human behaviour in the urban setting, concluding to the essential elements for creating social life in public spaces. (see more at Projects for Public Spaces, William H. Whyte) [3] Organisation led by Fred Kent and consisted of an interdisciplinary team, has been advancing placemaking processes since 1975 originally in the US and recently globally. Developing roadmaps and toolboxes that place community participation at the centre of action they have engaged with more than 35000 communities in 52 countries (About — Project for Public Spaces, no date), while at the same time sharing their placemaking experiences and principles (see Project for Public Spaces Inc., 2015) through networking activities and courses.

Created on 08-11-2023

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)


Area: Community participation

From the three pillars of sustainable development, economic, environmental and social, the latter  involving social equity and the sustainability of communities, has  been especially neglected. Ongoing problems caused by conflicting economic, environmental and social goals with regard to the processes of urbanisation continue. underpinning economic growth that contradict principles of environmental and social justice (Boström, 2012; Cuthill, 2010; Winston, 2009). Research on sustainable development highlights the need for further investigation of social sustainability (Murphy, 2012; Vallance et al., 2011). Social sustainability has been interpreted as an umbrella term encompassing many other related concepts; “social equity and justice, social capital, social cohesion, social exclusion, environmental justice, quality of life, and urban liveability” (Shirazi & Keivani, 2019, p. 4). A vast number of studies have been dedicated to defining social sustainability by developing theoretical frameworks and indicators particularly relevant to urban development and housing discourse (Cuthill, 2010; Dempsey et al., 2011; Murphy, 2012; Woodcraft, 2012). However, with a lack of consensus on the way of utilising these frameworks in a practical way, especially when applied to planning, social sustainability has remained difficult to evaluate or measure. Consequently, planning experts, housing providers and inhabitants alike understand social sustainability as a normative concept, according to established social norms, and less as an opportunity to critically examine existing institutions. Vallance et al (2011) provide three categories to analyse social sustainability, development, bridge and maintenance sustainability: (a) social development improves conditions of poverty and inequity, from the provision of basic needs to the redistribution of power to influence existing development paradigms; (b) the conditions necessary to bridge social with ecological sustainability, overcoming currently disconnected social and ecological concerns; and (c) the social practices, cultural preferences as well as the environments which are maintained over time. Maintenance social sustainability particularly deals with how people interpret what is to be maintained and includes “new housing developments, the layout of streets, open spaces, residential densities, the location of services, an awareness of habitual movements in place, and how they connect with housing cultures, preferences, practices and values, particularly those for low-density, suburban lifestyles” (Vallance et al., 2011, p. 345). Therefore, the notion of maintenance is especially important in defining social sustainability by directly investigating the established institutions, or “sets of norms” that constitute the social practices and rules, that in turn, affect responsibilities for planning urban spaces. A conceptual framework that appears frequently in social sustainability literature is that of Dempsey et al. (2011)⁠ following Bramley et al. (2009), defining social sustainability according to the variables of social equity and sustainability of community and their relationship to urban form, significantly at the local scale of the neighbourhood. In terms of the built environment, social equity (used interchangeably with social justice) is understood as the accessibility and equal opportunities to frequently used services, facilities, decent and affordable housing, and good public transport. In this description of local, as opposed to regional services, proximity and accessibility are important. Equitable access to such local services effectively connects housing to key aspects of everyday life and to the wider urban infrastructures that support it. Sustainability of community is associated with the abilities of society to develop networks of collective organisation and action and is dependent on social interaction. The associated term social capital has also been used extensively to describe social norms and networks that can be witnessed particularly at the community level to facilitate collective action (Woolcock, 2001, p. 70). They might include a diversity of issues such as resident interaction, reciprocity, cooperation and trust expressed by common exchanges between residents, civic engagement, lower crime rates and other positive neighbourhood qualities that are dependent on sharing a commitment to place (Foster, 2006; Putnam, 1995; Temkin & Rohe, 1998). In fact, “the heightened sense of ownership and belonging to a locale” is considered to encourage the development of social relations (Hamiduddin & Adelfio, 2019, p. 188). However, the gap between theoretical discussions about social sustainability and their practical application has continued. For example, the emphasis of social sustainability as a target outcome rather than as a process has been prioritised in technocratic approaches to planning new housing developments and to measuring their success by factors which are tangible and easier to count and audit. Private housing developers that deal with urban regeneration make bold claims to social sustainability yet profound questions are raised regarding the effects of gentrification (Dixon, 2019). Accordingly, the attempted methods of public participation as planning tools for integrating the ‘social’ have been found to be less effective - their potential being undercut due to the reality that decision-making power has remained at the top (Eizenberg & Jabareen, 2017). Therefore, social sustainability is not a fixed concept, it is contingent on the interdependence of the procedural aspects (how to achieve social sustainability) and substantive aspects (what are the outcomes of social sustainability goals) (Boström, 2012). From this point of view, social sustainability reveals its process-oriented nature and the need to establish processes of practicing social sustainability that begin with the participation of citizens in decision-making processes in producing equitable (i.e. socially sustainable) development. As a dimension of sustainable development that is harder to quantify than the economic or environmental aspects, the operationalisation of social sustainability goals into spatial, actionable principles has remained a burgeoning area of research. In such research, methods for enhancing citizen participation are a particularly important concern in order to engage and empower people with “non-expert” knowledge to collaborate with academic researchers.

Created on 03-06-2022

Author: A.Panagidis (ESR8)


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