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Reimagining cultural heritage

Some outstanding examples of how refurbishment of urban areas and buildings, have multiple benefits for both communities and environments.
A design image showing a layout for the FOLK concept town
© European Union

Just as the creation of natural shared spaces, as we saw in the previous step with Ulia Garden, can combine to support sustainability and belonging, so too can the refurbishment of urban areas and buildings, have multiple benefits for both communities and environments.

Reclaim Žižkov, Prague

Reclaim Žižkov was a Runner-Up in the NEB awards of 2022, in the category of ‘Regaining a sense of belonging.’ Once a working-class neighbourhood known for its vibrant social scene and progressive community, Žizkov has been subject to market pressure, with private development pushing locals out.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

An important goal of Reclaim Žižkov is to initiate complex cooperation between the municipality and its citizens. As a facilitator, the project aims to provide:

  • equal opportunities for affordable and more secure housing
  • the residents the opportunity to design and have power over their livelihoods
  • self-driven projects that benefit the city.

Reclaim Žizkov is about converting vacant municipal property into a living sustainable housing network. It includes shared spaces and is based on cooperative management, offering a new paradigm for cities losing their spirit.

Gentrification afflicts Prague like many major cities. The district of Žižkov is uniquely placed to combat the ensuing displacement of people and culture. Formerly a working-class neighbourhood known for its vibrant social scene and progressive community, Žizkov’s dilapidated buildings and small businesses began to succumb to market pressures, that saw private development push out local residents. Reclaim Žižkov is a designed act of defiance to take back ownership of people’s urban future through a more cooperative approach to affordable housing.

In partnership with the Žizkov district town hall, the project aims to seed a collective housing network from vacant municipal buildings. The proposal transforms the half vacant town hall block of Žižkov into a new micro-centre with a mix of affordable housing, retail, entertainment, and educational programs. Reconstruction foresees the preservation of cultural heritage. High quality green and flexible spaces are connected through reconfigured entrances and walkways, that fuse the new centrality into its surroundings. The typical investor-developer model is replaced with a not-for-profit model known as a ‘wealth pool.’

FOLK concept, Poland

FOLK concept was a Runner-Up in the NEB awards of 2022, in the category of ‘Regaining a sense of belonging.’

The aim of FOLK concept is to give buildings a new life, through sustainable renovation that maintains their original form and details, while adapting them to a new use as public places, where local communities can come together and discover Polish cultural heritage.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

By refurbishing existing barns into new cultural uses, they not only enhance the feeling of identity and belonging of citizens but also take advantage of energy embedded in the form of carbon dioxide, that existing buildings contain. Renovating buildings instead of building anew, dramatically reduces the carbon dioxide emitted during new construction, by the manufacture, transport, and assembly of materials. As a result, architects can renovate existing buildings to reduce their operational carbon to zero, lessening their impact on climate change.

Read more about the climate and community impact on renovating buildings.

© RMIT Europe, EIT Community and New European Bauhaus
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