What makes a city attractive?
In HSE Saint-Petersburg, a lecture on topic of "Urban Transformations" was delivered by the Dutch urbanist, Evert Verhagen. The lecture was held with the support of the Museum of Street Art and the Consulate General of the Netherlands in St. Petersburg.
What makes a city attractive and who should find it attractive? As the founder of the agency "Creative Cities", Evert Verhagen has been searching for the answers to these questions for more than twenty years by rethinking the functions of former industrial areas.
Turning a gas factory into a park or transforming a former slaughterhouse into a culture center is standard practice for Verhagen; his goal is not to destroy the old and replace it with the new, but rather to give a second life to existing buildings that already have their own history. In his opinion, mankind has left behind the eras of agrarian economy and industrialization and entered the age of the information society, the era of total computerization. Now the world is ruled by the creative industries. Creative people have become the major component of living and business in larger cities. As he says, universities play a leading role in maintaining their creative potential.
"Cities where you can’t get a good higher education usually don’t develop. Young people prefer to leave such places because they simply have nothing to do there. Cities with universities are benefiting: here people are getting education, uncovering their talents and developing their creativity. Universities are the main suppliers of creative people who can change the city. However, the attitude to education must be rethought. In most countries, the education system, as well as other government systems, are linear and sewn on the patterns of industrial society. The new era demands a more creative approach: we need to create attractive places for people, not places that simply comply with the rules", Verhagen says.
The Dutch urbanist has been lately working on projects in Moscow and Amsterdam. In Moscow, he discussed the possibility of improving public places with representatives of 50 districts of Moscow Region. Unfortunately, the project was put on hold. As the lecturer says, this is not only a Russian problem.
"You can say that anyone can create a park area in Amsterdam, but just try to do the same in St. Petersburg! But believe me, the attitude towards transformation is the same everywhere. No one has money, officials are corrupt and they don’t want to change anything. But if you really want a change, success will follow you. You need to constantly convince people that you are right and entice them over to your side."
Evert Verhagen is a Dutch urbanist, the founder of the Creative Cities agency and a Government Adviser for the renovation of public areas and parks. He has been awarded the Dutch government award for excellent project management, called the Golden Pyramid, the Landscape Institute Award (awarded by the British Institute of Landscape) and the Europa Nostra Award for the preservation of heritage. As an expert in urban planning and forecasting he has experience in creating urban parks as the head of the project team. He is also the founder of Creative Cities, which specializes in creating comfortable and attractive public spaces in cities, by developing and implementing the transformation of industrial zones and buildings into public spaces.