Many Russian cities are traditionally located near the water: some of them are situated on the shores of the seas and bays, the others are separated by rivers or stand next to artificial reservoirs. In each of these cities, coastal areas become a place of concentration of local residents and tourists. Water spaces are in the public domain, but they are generally managed and maintained by local authorities without the involvement of local residents. This authoritarian approach, when local communities are excluded from the landscaping and improvement process, results in controversial projects that do not always meet the real needs of residents.
In the framework of the Waterfront project, we strive not only to change the space of the city embankments, but also to motivate citizens to reconsider their role in the process of their improvement. We are eager to develop and establish different ways of interaction between residents and representatives of local government, business and the art community. The cooperation of these groups is the key to creating a comfortable and modern urban environment, which is open to all.Сoncept and phases
The Waterfront project was initiated in autumn 2017. It started with the opening of the eponymous urban research exhibition, which took place in Sevkabel Port. The exhibition featured Russian (Moscow, St. Petersburg) and foreign ( Helsinki, Copenhagen) artists who by the means of their works tried to answer the main question of the project — how should the modern city near the water and its embankments look like? how does the proximity of water change the quality of citizens’ everyday life?
The second phase of the project started with an open-call for future participants. After studying the applications received, 40 participants were selected and divided into 4 groups. Each group explored a separate area chosen by the project experts as a platform for experiments:
- Galernaya Harbour. Monument of fortification art on Vasilievsky Island
- Okhta River. One of the least landscaped rivers of St. Petersburg
- Pryazhka River. The river that flows in the historical center of St. Petersburg — in the culturally significant district of Kolomna
- South-West Beach. The beach located in the South-Western part of the Gulf of Finland and situated right next to the promising areas of the latest development
Waterfront project combines theory and practice so that the participating teams started the final stages of work on their projects with the necessary set of knowledge and skills. The approach of each team to the problems associated with the landscaping and improvement of coastal areas is unique. However, the most important factor of cooperation is interdisciplinarity. Each team consisted of representatives of different professions — from architects, designers, artists and programmers to urban sociologists, theater directors and lawyers. This interdisciplinary composition allowed participants to use different methods (sociology, anthropology, social engineering, artistic practices) for research, which later became the basis of possible models and scenarios for the development of the selected areas.
At the beginning of 2019, the teams began field research in order to identify the needs and analyse the requests of local residents and propose concepts for collective design of coastal areas. Both Russian (St. Petersburg, Moscow) and foreign experts (from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and the Netherlands) were involved to shape an expert attitude to the problems of landscaping.
The key of the project is the constant exchange of experience between experts and participants. Working non-stop, we managed to conduct workshops with representatives of the Dutch studio Observatorium, as well as made a trip to Northern Europe, where we got acquainted with the strategies for the development of industrial areas and embankments.During the study-trip teams:
- Met with representatives of the administration of the Finnish city of Turku and learned about the long-term strategy of working with coastal areas, designed for 50 years
- Studied Stockholm and got acquainted with one of the most ambitious urban projects — Royal Sea Port, located in close vicinity of the Strait of Värtan, as well as with the strategies for the development of remote areas of the Swedish metropolis
- Went on a sightseeing tour in Malmö, where got acquainted with the self-organized creative space based on the territory of the former ship repair sites and formed a new attitude to the embankments improvement in small towns
- Visited Copenhagen, the ship-workshop of the artistic community Illutron and the Museum of modern art Louisiana
In the summer of 2019, we moved to the most interesting phase of the project. Within six months, our teams developed plans and concepts for the development of the selected areas. Since June, the plans have began to be implemented.
On October 10-11, Archclub hosted the annual urban Waterfront Forum in the Sevkabel Port, where experts from Northern Europe and Saint Petersburg (architects, urban planners, urban activists, artists, government and business representatives) took part.
In parallel with the forum, an exhibition of the same name was organised, which showed the results of the teams' work, as well as the stages and methods that the participants used in course of their research. The exhibition was placed in four cargo containers and consisted of four semantic blocks: methodology of territory research, "territory portrait", team experience, and art objects.
The forum and exhibition summed up the second stage of the project Waterfront: neighborhood&community and marked the beginning of the third stage — Waterfront: networks&tools.What's next?
The third stage — Waterfront:networks&tools — started in February 2020. Over the past two years, we have managed to gather a lot of not indifferent people around the project and gain a unique experience. We are ready to share our networks and tools!
In 2020, we plan to make the project more public, turning it into an open platform for discussions between different actors of the city: representatives of local authorities, the professional community of urban planners, architects and urbanists, the artistic community, businessmen and citizens.
On February 15, we held an open meeting at the Mayakovsky Library's Center for Art and Music to discuss the project's agenda for 2020. Follow our social networks to be updated about our upcoming events!