Making our neighbourhoods better for living. Planning Culturally in the Baltic Sea Region

UrbCulturalPlanning (UCP) is an Interreg Baltic Sea Region (BSR) flagship project, running from January 2019 until June 2021. Its main method is to use culture and creativity to improve living in the neighbourhoods in cities or in rural areas in the BSR.

What makes UCP special is its “target audience”. Usually similar projects focus on boosting either residents or artists, or NGOs working with residents. Now the idea is to improve innovation within the policy- and decision-makers, and the main objective of UCP is to advance the capacity of public authorities in the BSR, local NGOs, and associations to collaborate on citizen driven cultural planning.

Urban Labs

Several amazing tools have been implemented to reach the goals. One of them is called Urban Lab. For now, there have been several labs already – in Copenhagen, Gdansk, Kiel, and Pori. Residents, activists, and practitioners from urban and creative industries get together with public authorities and municipal planners, and work toward a shared goal – to make our neighbourhoods better for living. This can be achieved by boosting social innovation and capacity building, and by improving direct dialogue between the grassroots and municipal stakeholders.
Such Urban Labs (along with three conferences) literally bring cities together with citizens in order to plan culturally. Neighbourhoods become mutual canvases for cultural innovation, experimentation, creative changes within urban planning to benefit for all. For example, in Urban Lab Kiel everybody developed the creative index of the city together, led by the kingpin of cultural planning, Charles Landry. In Urban Lab Pori the overall topic was “Pori as an experimental city”, where a collaborative space PORIS also helped gathering more than 2000 suggestions from residents in one month’s time.

Urban Toolkit

Another great tool developed during the project is the Urban Toolkit. Its main idea is to gather great examples of cultural planning initiatives across the BSR and provide their methods in a comprehensive way online. The website also allows potential or actual planners to select their search preferences of case studies according to the character of the place, population of the urban area, ownership, types of organisations, duration, participants, or challenges. Finding good and really working examples of planning culturally has never been so easy!

About the project

UCP is a cross-border project of 14 Partners and 36 Associated Organizations in 8 countries, including municipalities like Copenhagen, Gdansk, Guldborgsund (DK), Kaliningrad, Kiel, Pori, Riga, Vilnius, and Visaginas (LT). Each city is hosting one or more BSR Demonstrator Projects, where the ideas of Cultural Planning are tested and implemented in real life on neighbourhood or small-town scale with participation of residents, NGOs, artists and activists.

Multiple “good examples” from Urban Toolkit and UCP demonstrator projects show various ways how cultural planning can work if NGOs find common language with public authorities. For instance, Riga has a great demonstrator where the “vacant house rejuvenation” community “FREE RIGA” have found direct link to work together with the City Construction Authority. Lindholm in Guldborgsund, on the other hand, has worked very well with cultural mapping by the juveniles. This proves the BSR is very much capable of working together to create better cities to live, create and express culturally!