This is an exhibition which explores the manner in which the negotiation centre vs. periphery, periphery vs. periphery, national/cultural centres vs. local/constructed centres is taking place in four cities of Eastern-Central Europe: Kyiv (Ukraine), Warsaw (Poland), Bucharest (Romania), and Brno (Czech Republic). The time of focus is the transition from the communist to the democratic regimes.

Before coming to Bucharest, at the Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism, in the period 19th May-3rd June 2022, the exhibition was hosted by CANactions Festival in Kyiv, from 18th to 24th September 2021, by SARP Pavillion in Warsaw, from 22nd October to 13th November 2021. Currently, it is on display in Brno, at Galerie Mini of the University of Technology/Faculty of Architecture (i.e. from 9th to 24th June 2022).

The four case studies are depicted from the common stance of the constant change that both the cities and, by extension, their countries have been undergoing in the last 30 or so years. Sadly, one of the cities among the case studies, Kyiv, has been the subject of dramatic and accelerated change in the context of the war currently going on in Ukraine, and, earlier this year, in the outskirts of Kyiv itself. Given these incredible developments, the tasks of the local and international teams of architects and urbanists consist of immediate solutions for the reconversions of space designed to host a massive influx of internal migrants, as well as of the transition from temporary housing to more stable ones, including the renovation of destroyed apartment buildings, accompanied by putting forward concrete solutions of common living like common spaces for canteens, lounge areas and such. On the more distant term, the specialists will work hand in hand with policy makers to create the legal framework for a cooperation between public and private entities for the reconstruction of ravaged areas of the city, and more significantly, of almost entirely destroyed cities such as Kharkiv. In this context, notions such as centre, periphery will gain conversions or even new meanings, just the way these cities’ infrastructure itself has to be reconstructed piece by piece.

Warsaw, the second case study, is an excellent example of multiple centres existing in the urban structure like in a dialogue between the past, the present, and their intermediary periods. Hence, the specialists in urbanism talk about a polycentric urban network based on traditional (cultural, religious) centres, on constructed centres (in the new business centres focused preponderantly on the commercial role), on ‘spontaneous’ centres, the result of informal roles assumed at the local levels (usually in the outskirts of the town). Naturally, there are centres which fulfil a double function, a local one, namely as a place which serves as a community nexus, but also a wider municipal one, as a transport hub between two separate districts/parts of the city. Warsaw also represents an interesting example of the manner in which periphery (the ‘civilisational’* one, this time) conquered the centre (seen as an eco-friendly habitat based on a green area). A car park destroyed a so-called biodiverse rain garden, built on Francuska, street of the once elegant district of Saska Kępa.

Bucharest is the perfect example of permanent shifting notions such and centre and periphery, both at basic, urban fabric, and at the more general legal framework. Indeed, there seem to be no boundaries in destroying or in converting public areas into private ones. The constructions as designed by private actors show no interest to preserve the genuine structure of the town, including those areas which once were dedicated to community activities, including socialisation. One typical example is Popești Leordeni, an area abounding in massive constructions which lack infrastructure almost totally. The predictable result is a kind of polyperiphery lacking any centre, with the gloomy prospect of failure in creating new communities from the many who inhabit the area. Moreover, as in contrast to the lack of boundary in applying the law or the rules of urbanism, entire spaces in Bucharest are fenced, hence the impression is of an eerie multitude/succession of fenced peripheries.

Brno instead brings some interesting contributions to the concept of urban centre, by adding broader functional and social roles. For example, in a district preponderantly inhabited by Roma population, Cejl, the facilities are synchronic to the level that the local centre serves as a social integration hub. A second, though unconnected illustration of the above mentioned trend is related to the paradoxical fact that the residential area of Lesná, a sort of garden city itself, has a church as a local centre. Indeed, in one of the most atheistic countries in Europe, the centre of one neighbourhood (built during the communist time) took on a religious stance.

Source: https://happeningnext.com/event/polyperiphery-public-spaces-after-89-and-22-eid3a08wss05h (accessed 12.06.2022)

*to be understood in terms of outdated living ways

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