Participatory Urban Projects in the Context of Cultural Pragmatics


The basic ideology of modernization of urban space should become a strategy for creation of a territory, providing a comfortable environment and human quality of life. Based on this postulate, a study was conducted to identify the specifics of cooperation with the virtual and real urban communities for the construction of foundations of urban policy, based on awareness of collective identity. The study was conducted on the basis of the methodology that allows the synthesis of Smart City concept and the theory of post-industrial city’s development. In this study were identified the discourses about architectonic actors of the urban environment. Results of the study on the basis of real cases in Tomsk showed that today there are real urban communities, but their influence on philosophy and management’s practice of space-communicative development of the city are insufficient due to lack of specific mechanisms and sites of interaction with government and business. The article also contains the main strategies of solving the problems in interaction with various Community.

Keywords: Urban communitiescollective urban identityurban studiesthe social urban managementSmart CityPractices of Looking


At present, the issue of sustainable urban development becomes increasingly important. The main global trends that define the appearance and the essence of a changing society, are: a radical change in use of energy resources, climate change, scarcity of resources, demographic change, urbanization. Thus, development of modern cities creates a number of serious challenges. The solution of urban problems today is particularly important because most of the population live in them. Accordingly, the key vector in ideology of city development strategy should consist in creating of a territory, that providing a comfortable environment and high quality of life.

The research problem could be formulated as a question: whether there are really valid urban communities and do they have influence on the philosophy and practice of management of space-communicative development of the city?

The purpose of research - to identify the theoretical foundations of cooperation with real and virtual urban communities for constituting grounds for urban policy, based on awareness of collective urban identity.

The methodology consists of the multidisciplinary approach, which allows to synthesize the Smart City concept and a theory of post-industrial city, namely, Urban School ideas presented by new urban social management, principles of interdisciplinary quality research of urban environment, developing by cultural sociology of space.

Methods: focused interviews "Using the architectural heritage of the city in order to optimize the cultural infrastructure" (4 focus groups were conducted in July 2015), a survey in the form of questioning "Tomsk is a city of equal opportunities" (sociological survey of people living in Tomsk was the empirical basis for solving research problems; held in November 2015 (the sample consists of 400 people, the object of research – people over 18 years old), expert interview (were interviewed acting Head of the Department of Transport, road and communication activities of Tomsk region, Chairman of the Committee on Architecture and Urban Planning of Tomsk region).


World and domestic experience in a search of "the city of equal opportunities" model, a new spatial structure within the city allows to highlight the main aspects of the discussion:

Discussion of population activism’s problem in modernization process of the urban environment is reflected in the literature devoted to sensible growth.

The question of whether there is a participative in a process of city's modernization becomes the most actively discussed in urban literature of postnonclassical stage (Main, & Sandoval, 2015). Discussion of who is a native and a conductor of the most appropriate solutions for city change is a story of urban social management, a long time existing in Europe (MacLeavy, 2009).

In the western urban studies (Binns, 2005) participatory is also seen as a strategy for culture-led regeneration. Luke Binns, for example, states that “third, alternative, culture-led regeneration strategy focuses on achieving renewal from the bottom up. This vision turns the old ‘civilizing’ argument for cultural policy on its head and enables social actors to be more than passive consumers of official art handed down to them by above” (Binns, 2005). There is the view that participatory – is a modern method of designing team work with different social groups who are interested in the final result of the design: “Results have included: enhanced social cohesion; improved local image; reduced offending behaviours; promoted interest in the local environment; developed self-confidence; built public/private sector partnerships; explored identities and visions of the future; enhanced organisational capacity; and supported independence” (Binns, 2005). These social groups could be investors, customers, city authorities and consumers of the product - residents, tenants and others. In design process an architect also acts in a role of communication's moderator between all participants. He must reconcile the interests of different social groups, actively including them in the process of creating an architectural project, as well as to find a professional solution that satisfies all parties. There is a broader approach, according to which "permit" as the main driving force of spatial development, very selectively involved in this process.

To determine what exactly does "permit") in the present context, it is required to find a balance between competing views of the city, which held by those who are actively living in the city, rather than just a traditional "local resident" (Purcell, 2013). Who should determine which residents are "good" and "useful" for urban development? Who defines the overall vision of the city, around which could unite and act interested people? How this struggle related to the stable representation of the city's residents? All these problems are reflected in those investigations that are based on case-study research strategy and they are not intended to rise to the theory that would explain the phenomenon of participatory exhaustively.

Also the discourse about architectonic of urban environment's actors is very important for scientific societies and for ordinary citizens. The key issues discussed in this context is the question of who can become a lobbying force in the implementation of global urban projects (business structure, city planners, different urban communities)? What is the balance of power within such a hierarchy? Representatives of European urban policy formulate the focus of developing policies as follows: “Over the last two decades, the EU has produced a number of major political documents, Community initiatives and programmes to support urban regeneration, innovation in urban policy and the exchange of experience and good practice; in addition, the pace and complexity of change has quickened. The initiatives and programmes mainly focus on four political objectives:

strengthening economic prosperity and employment in towns and cities;

promoting equality, social inclusion and regeneration in urban areas;

protecting and improving the urban environment, in order to achieve local and global sustainability;

contributing to good urban governance and local empowerment” (Argenbright , 2008).

These issues are discussed in European urban planning especially tough (Argenbright, 2008; Dixon, 2010), in cultural sociology of space, and even taking into account the realities of Russian urban projects (Dixon, & Cohen, 2015). Special relevance debate gained during the construction of Moscow-City. In the area number 18-19, where the great Norman Foster designed the tower "Russia", then began to work SPEECH Bureau. In 2003-2005. SPEECH has drafted one of the most recognizable skyscrapers "Moscow-City" - the tower "Federation". However, design experience in City, according to managing partner the SPEECH Sergey Choban, was quite complex: the project was implemented in violation of the terms and significant distortions. The architectural community with solidarity that even the great architects defeated if their efforts are not combined with the actions of local architects and can not find the response among builders. Protests against the projects of large-scale urban buildings in St. Petersburg and Moscow (Argenbright, 2010) show that there is an urgent problem in Russian cities too. The constant struggle going on in St. Petersburg, which takes place mainly around the Gazprom skyscraper, and it becomes a problem of research that has already solved more general issues: Will the economic profit from taxes and new job positions of those, who wants to see the skyscrapers project completed, be justified? Or the harm, caused to law and building code, coupled with influence on unclarity of political process, is more weighty than any benefits (Dixon, 2010)? But sometimes these protests are demonstrative, unfinished, unable to influence the urban policies, but, however, still little explored in urban literature.

We can fix a kind of balance of discourses of social and economic city's development or the discourse of social, environmental equity, which we conducted as a marginal, so a passivity of citizens is understandable. What explains the passivity of citizens in the implementation of urban policy, in conjunction of traditional spatial development with Smart City technologies?

Community of citizens, even in the case of a small town, apparently, should be attributed to the class of imaginary (according to Anderson). For this type of community, the basic form of existence is the level of auto-stereotypes reproduced in a situation of creating representational text or compatriotic communication, as well as contrasting strategies other relevant surrounding communities (other townspeople). В целом в урбанистической и социологической литературе акцент в обсуждении – скорей на реальных сообществах, которые могли бы способствовать имплементации концепта Smart City. The problem of how the study of urban space can help understanding of large-scale social processes in the society as a whole (Moore-Cherry et al., 2015, Yoon, & Currid-Halkett, 2015) still debated since the emergence of Chicago urban school.

The problem is that the new spatial configurations (Elsawahli et al., 2014, Prior, & Blessi, 2012), the city itself is no longer occupies the central place of which it held in the classic urban studies. Interaction between Community and the authorities, urban planners and city- designers is still one of the most pressing urban discourse in the context of the research problem. How to provide mutual understanding in the city of people with different backgrounds, in different life circumstances, having a variety of resources, value and presentation skills? How to overcome alienation and conflicts between them efficiently?

It is known that in disadvantaged areas is reduced not only the social integration of the population, but also the political and civic participation. How to strengthen the collective identity of the city? The concept of intercultural urban planning and construction should help to solve these problems (Huston et al., 2015, Cheng-Yi, & Woan-Chiau, 2009, Le Gales, 2002). Its aim is to create conditions for dialogue between the different ethnic and national groups. An analysis of studies on the search for new approaches and tools for working in the changed conditions of the urban social space allows us to identify global and domestic experience of social search technology cooperation with the urban population.

For example, in the process of involving citizens in a creation of urban environment city halls of the Czech municipalities can use: public opinion polls, public meetings, targeted meetings, seminars and others. Topics that could be discussed: strategic planning, urban planning, the creation of places (reconstruction of public spaces), well-being of the city (transport, parking, cleanliness, safety, etc.), community planning of social services, protection of public order, etc. Country: Czech Republic, Eastern Partnership countries (Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia), the Balkan countries, Turkey, Tajikistan and others.

Since 1999, Germany has a federal program “Districts with special development needs - the social city” (Stadtteile mit besonderem Entwicklungsbedarf – die soziale Stadt). The objective of this program is to ensure the integrated development of urban areas with innovative forms of organization and strategies of citizen participation in order to ensure continuous and independent development of the city. In addition, the goal of this program consists in stopping the regressive development of urban areas with a high concentration of social problems. With the participation, integration and cooperation should happen association of additional forces and means for returning areas with special needs in development to a normal life. Under this program, the urban area is considered as a socio-spatial unity, so that all spatial, social, cultural and economic problems in the development of area should be solved by an integrated approach. It is inetworks will be formed, will be mobilized self-help and endogenous potential. “Activation and Participation” is the main motto of this program. Following the example of Germany, to the program currently joined nine other European countries. The project was named “Urban Governance, Social Inclusion and Sustainability” (UGIS).

A driver for development of the city should be awareness of city’s collective identity, involvement of the majority of residents in decision of reconstruction’s questions and territorial development.

During the analysis of cooperation’s tools with citizens in a process of urban environment’s modernization the following problems have been identified in Tomsk as an example, related mainly to the fact that interaction between the city authorities and residents leads to conflict. The manifest opposition of interests (needs, goals, motives and others) between residents of the city and the authority which embody changes the projects of the urban environment, will be called urban conflict. Changing of the urban environment can be implemented in two main ways: changing a legislative framework of the city or change a “material”, natural-objective plan (demolition of buildings, construction of buildings, roads and others). This division is conditional, because any changes of urban life by the power must be based on responsible decisions of the city administration, district administration and others, i.e. to combine regulatory changes and changes in “nature” of the city.


Case 1. Stumbling block; Country/City: Russia/Tomsk; Content: temple or parking?

In October 2015, the district Zarechny consecrated the foundation stone of the future basement of the temple in honor of St. Prince Vladimir. Upon the sale of apartments developers have promised that soon on that area should appear a school. Residents wonder why in the area intended for the construction of the school, all of a sudden going to build a temple? And the mayor's office and the priests, for their part, argue that the construction - an initiative of the residents themselves."With the request to b uild a temple acted themselves residents of the neighborhood, - he told reporters at the ceremony of consecration of the church, Metropolitan Tomsk and Asino Rostislav. – “There are a lot of such districts in Tomsk nowadays, but, unfortunately, there are no temples in these neighborhoods: most of the temples of Tomsk are concentrated in the historic part of the city. And the people came with a petition to the Tomsk diocese asking them to build the temple. We went to the town hall with the same asking. As a result, land has been allocated here.” According to Metropolitan Rostislav, the construction of the temple quite roomy for 300 people is due to start next year, as soon as the project is ready. The priests have already consulted with Tomsk architects and decided that the religious building will be built on the model of the Saviour Church in Chernigov, or the temple of Archangel Michael in Smolensk.

The church knows about discontent residents of the neighborhood but, according to the Metropolitan Rostislav as temple construction procedure was initiated by the faithful people of the neighborhood, the rest just need to be more tolerant and to respect the interests of their neighbors Orthodox believers, who have the right to visit the temple. The press-service of the mayoralty of Tomsk gives following comments on the conflict and the representatives of residents of the neighborhood and church: the temple will be built not in lieu of the school, and next to it. The area designed for school more than 500 students, located next to the site where will be built the church. In addition to the school building must also accommodate small school stadium on this site.

Construction of the school is due to start later than the construction of the temple. And the press service of the mayor's office claim that the new school in the district will be exactly (land reserved for it), but to build a temple on the area transmitted by the Church would not be allowed as long as architecture management is not building the project will be provided, which takes into account and arrivals-departures for the parishioners, and the availability of parking. As explained in the press service of the City Hall, originally the land transferred for the construction of the temple, it was intended for the construction of a large covered parking at the entrance of "Zarechny". I change the destination site is only one person who was present at the public hearing on the transfer of land as early as 2013.

"Two years ago Tomsk citizens very reluctant to go to public hearings and virtually no interest in the fate of their neighborhoods. Now, of course, the situation has changed, but at the time was sufficient and one voice, so that he turned out to be decisive at the public hearings ", - the comments from press service of the City Hall. Now Zarechny district residents have teamed up to find out whether they really need a temple, people fill the special sheets, questionnaires, which are in favor of or against the building, and these sheets are collected in one place. If the opponents will be more initiative group of tenants willing to go further: to achieve at City Hall cancellation of the decision on the construction of the temple.

It was noted that the effective development of the city means versatility building when creating living environment is more varied, intense communications. Such conflicts could have been avoided if the monitor power level of dissatisfaction with the residents. Researchers have long found that the level of discontent with the townspeople predetermined by the two most important factors: infringement of the interests of the construction of the object and psychologically subjective predisposition residents escalated. In addition, the normal interaction of government, business, urban community is complicated by inconsistency or ambiguity in the rules of law. Under the contradictions we mean the existence in law mutually exclusive normative prescriptions: the implementation of one of the regulations entails a violation of the other. The uncertainty, heterogeneity of the right margin may be a factor in the protracted conflict between residents and authorities.

The degree of self-organization and solidarity of the residents. From the self-organization and solidarity of the residents depends the efficiency of not only the opposition, but also further action in solving the conflict. Thus, the presence of an active, organized and legally formalized the initiative group (the legitimacy of the group) introduces significant complications in conflict with the categorical rejection of this group of construction. It is essential and the presence (absence) of real support of the initiative group of actions on the part of the majority of residents of the conflict zone, as well as the legal knowledge of the members of the group of its rights and powers. All this can significantly complicate the solvability of the conflict.

The degree of conflict in the situation depends on the nature of the bundle the interests of the residents in the building group of supporters, opponents and indifferent. Naturally, the more serious the conflict, the greater the "specific weight" opponents of the construction. This ratio is in the process of development or conflict resolution can be quite dynamic and subject to change in the direction of increasing the number of "enemies", and towards increasing the number of "supporters", by enhancing and attracting residents from a neutral position.

Case 2. The route network; Country/City: Russia/Tomsk; Content: optimism or reality?

Experts from the Permian company "Radar" conducted a comprehensive survey throughout 2015 of the road network, traffic flow and route network in Tomsk. After that, at the end of November, results were presented. Suggested version of the route network includes 25 bus routes, five trolleybus and four tram and allows, according to experts, to reduce duplication and to maintain a low coefficient of transplants. Currently Tomsk has 34 bus, eight trolley and five tram routes.

“So, if you go on the new routes, you have to change, and sometimes more than once, to get to the right place. The buses are so crowded at the peak hours, what will happen now, when will be canceled some routes in the city, who will handle the transport? "- asking the townspeople.

The day before in the city administration held a meeting, where were announced the results of the study during the year. Developers also submitted a draft of a new route network in Tomsk.

The discussion was attended by MPs, representatives of the public and the business route, traffic experts, veteran community. The company conducted a survey of passengers Tomsk, collected more than five thousand questionnaires, as a company spokesman said. The data were processed separately for each route; volunteers worked on 550 stations.

Also, developers have used data of number of residents in different areas, the number of training places in universities and the main places of work. Established on the basis of these data transport model of the city included 9740-crossroads units and more than 21 400 segments the way.

It is noted that the developers have offered two versions of the new route network – “optimistic” and “realistic”. At the heart of the first track is five main tram routes and nine bus and trolleybus. “However, this option requires enormous financial resources to upgrade the tram fleet that the municipality does not have at this time. In addition, the city has not yet introduced a single ticket, with different tariffs in the event of transfer from one mode of transport to another,” - said in a statement. In this regard, it was decided to focus on “realistic option”. It includes 25 bus routes, five trolley and four tram and reduces duplication and maintain a low coefficient of transplants.

Tomsk Mayor instructed to hold public hearings in December on the draft of a new route network. Residents may pre-acquainted with the proposed options for the routes on the site of the city administration and may make suggestions on the draft of a new route network, prepared by the Permian company "Radar", said the press service of the municipality.

During the analysis of the factors affecting the quality of life in cities, identified the need for transport accessibility. In modern cities, it involves the use of the concept of a coordinated multi-modal transportation system that will allow citizens to comfortably use all modes of transport.

It is obvious that there is no single solution to the problems of transport accessibility for all cities. However, it is important to identify key areas: whether it is the concept of refusal to adapt to the car, the creation of highways, or introduction of new transport modes. Engaging residents of Tomsk to the problem showed that the authorities are not ready to into account the competing interests of citizens.

Case 3. Cultural Identitu; Country/City: Russia/Tomsk; Content: safety or destruction?

In 2011, during a meeting of a working group at the regional and city councils on wooden architecture, it was decided to transfer the building on the Nikitina street in use to Uzbek diaspora for organization of cultural autonomy, with a burden on its recovery. As explained in the mayor's office, the building was resettled due to the accident rate. Later, citizens reported that the fire was in the house twice. The building was not fenced and there was no reconstruction.

A year later, the representatives of authorities, visiting "cultural center" saw the abandoned building, not canned for the winter, and decorative elements that represent the historical value, dumped in the yard of the heap. At the end of the regular meeting the city Council has decided to terminate the contract with the Uzbek diaspora regarding the gratuitous use of the house and restore it in its original form by the city administration forces. Deputies of the city Council also recognized that transfer of the architecture’s monument to the Uzbek diaspora was a wrong decision.

The urban environment development strategy should have the local context, be identical to a particular city. In the case where modernization is not related to the realization of cultural identity of the city, then it is carried out formally.

Studies show lack of coordination and cooperation in the search for a consensus between the representatives of government, business and urban communities on the modernization and development of the urban environment. The need for involvement of citizens in these processes is obvious. What are the urban communities and with what resources should be involved in this process?

Among the urban communities of Tomsk, in some way participating in city transformation, possible to concentrate attention on: communities, which are working with wooden architecture, with transport systems, different urban community centers, internet communities and public chats.

The general hypothesis of urbanization temp acceleration was proved by analysis of cases. This acceleration very easy to identify not on example of big cites, but on example of small town, which only trying to implement their modernization strategies, renovation through the active use of cultural heritage in the framework of the knowledge economy.

Also we see the diversity of contemporary urban phenomena, which can be found not only in the cities themselves, but also in suburban spaces. Research case studies demonstrates, typical for modern cultural, internal contradictory process of interaction between government, urban planners and citizens. This process is not limited to the expansion of areas of theming of this interaction and increase the modes of actualization and forms of cooperation. Changes very concept of monuments, landscapes and historical sites: important is not only the past, to which they refer, but also the conditions in which they acquired their shape and Heritage status. With the value of the objects themselves, different practices of their development and utilization also becomes very significant. Their event-actualization has particular importance to maintain interest in history and the past.


Among the basic solving strategies of raised tasks on the interactions of different communities should be:

  • citizen questioning dedicated to urban environment regeneration, with processes of social solutions development, considering large amount points of view from wide range of citizens;

  • creation real centers of urban communities, initiators of regional referendums on key issues of modernization of the urban environment, as well as the involvement of citizens in these processes and raise the collective urban identity;

  • development the platform for distribution and exchanging of content on Internet, destroying the informational barriers between government and citizens, between different ethnic and cultural groups, providing a lot of freedom of choice;

  • monitoring of discussions and comments on the publication on the internet sites, with further development of correct solutions and detecting the level of citizen’s satisfaction about urban environment;

Thus, it can be noted that the urban is a complex self-developing organism, so the development of urban space should be identified not only by planning and architectural design, but also by complex system of interaction between the government, business and the urban population. It is important that all participants of this process should be active and the process should occur continuously.


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Kolodii,  ., Rodionova, E., Kolodii, V., Ivchik, A., & Baggio, R. (2017). Participatory Urban Projects in the Context of Cultural Pragmatics. In F. Casati, G. А. Barysheva, & W. Krieger (Eds.), Lifelong Wellbeing in the World - WELLSO 2016, vol 19. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 248-257). Future Academy.