Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


Urban Catalysts, Strategies for temporary uses - potential for development of urban residual areas in European metropolises

Funded under: FP5


The Urban Catalyst research sites represent a spectrum of diverse conditions in which temporary use can act as an urban catalyst. These conditions could be considered prototypical for the European condition today. Helsinki and Vienna, for example, continue to profit from a strong real estate market, while economic crisis and collapsed property markets in Berlin have led to a slow down and virtual standstill in property development. In a context of an oversupply of space and high vacancy rates many developers resign to apathy and 'wait for better times'. However, the success and failure of urban transformation processes cannot be measured by short-term growth alone. A booming economy with an over-inflated real estate market (Vienna and Helsinki) can banish all creative energy from the city, making it impossible for young and weak economies to thrive, potentially endangering what one might call a 'sustainable mix'. Both scenarios reveal a crisis in current planning tools, which fail, to different degrees, to initiate and direct sustainable urban change. While traditional state initiated planning is no longer affordable, the radical shift to neo-liberal planning policies has failed to offer inclusive models. Boom and gentrification can lead to social exclusion and an increasingly divided urban society, while the failure of market driven development to adapt in the context of economic collapse has led to apathy and stagnation. Both gentrification and neglect are symptoms of a crisis, which should be considered as an opportunity to critically examine and question the existing planning procedures and consider alternative models of development.

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