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Placemakers part of WONDERLAND Project Space 2011 // Vacancy // Cluj Napoca // RO //


With the entry ‘Global from Scratch’, PLACEMAKERS started with the Project Space Vacancy in Cluj together with AREA3 // URBAN ISSUES // UMBAUWERKSTATT // COOP_pe Strada. Project Space was initiated by WONDERLAND and gathered a very diverse group of talented people, working in the realm of architecture, trying to find new solutions towards vacant industrial sites in Cluj. Central topic was to teach and educate each other about the current situation Romania is dealing with. Rethinking the issue of Vacancy, the Project Space Cluj created new ideas that can lead towards a different approach developing the city, incorporating industrial heritage, cultural identity, changing economical models, education and working under the current political systems.

A large industrial area in Cluj is in transformation, due to the closing and changing industries from large scale production to a small scale independent businesses. Still many buildings remain empty and sit vacant without having a strategy for the future. From one single owner in former days, these (post)industrial buildings, have been sold in little parts to many different owners. For urban planners and architects lies the challenge to come up with new innovative approaches to make this industrial area again into a lively and well used place. Could the role of the architect be to create a common ground of interests to develop these buildings in a more coherent structured way? How to revive the local, regional, national economy and attract sustainable investors and developers, became focal point for future development suggestions.

As a first introduction all the participants were taken on a field excursion to see the current situation of the area. As industries stopped, went down in scale, the city and it’s urban fabric changed with it. Every where you could find private housing project integrated with little enterprises and small local businesses. In between finding places and sites that have lost their function, starting to a get different meaning or are simply left as relics in the urban landscape from a once different time. What arises as a first question is how to deal with industrial heritage at such a large scale with a fragmented spacial and functional structure? The scale and number of the buildings makes it hard to comprehend to see how conservation & transformation can make sustainable change to preserve these buildings. Still you can find many inspiring places, that tell stories about the past and are full of potential starting points for developments. But its combining forces to make a common starting point first to make change together. A first step is start to communicate the historic value of these industrial buildings in the first place to the politicians and community. This is part of your city and worth investing in.

This is one of the difficulties found in implementing the overall masterplan for the area, to generate and guide towards sustainable urban planning. Recent years developments have started to take happen on different scales, but don’t seem to happen within the proposed framework of the master plan. Due to the economical crisis these developments, from private investors have gone in to recession and you find half started unfinished sites included new housing projects. This has led to making a masterplan for the area that is well embedded in the municipality to create a framework for sustainable urban development.

Including the community to reveal the potential of the Vacant industrial sites required  a good communication strategy. To provide this the Project Space Team came up to make a set of 29 POSTCARDS for the people from Cluj that  they can send to the mayor with suggestions and new perspectives for the development of the industrial area of Cluj. Simultaneously the postcard already tell a story to the people and trigger new questions allowing people to think about their city from a new angle.The main goal of this urban initiative is to raise awareness of the community towards a sustainable and integral urban development plan for Cluj. In a very short and dense way the postcards communicate that urban development is not limited to the built environment. It’s not only a spatial and architectural project, but also an integrative and contextual development linking social, educational and economic policies.

Alongside with raising awareness about area in the city and at the city council, the Project Space team agreed on the importance of activating the area, starting today. Due to the current fragmented structure of the whole area a strategy was developed to make incubators or seed dispersal bombs acting on several layers. The first incubator and seed project, SPRING LABORATOR, is a grass-root initiative of local architectural and planning entrepreneurs, creating a platform to allow people to look and act differently towards their own environment.During Project Space, a great deal of awareness has risen to start acting from your own perspective, own knowledge and implement this by own initiative to activate places.

How to produce Entrepreneurship?
How to produce Innovation?
How to bring Capital and Ideas together?
How to empower young professionals?
How to produce our own (local) goods and services?
How to become responsible?
in 21st century Cluj?

Spring Laborator is a one month long workshop to encourage and foster entrepreneurship for young professionals (up to app. 10 years working experience) specific to the situation of Cluj and Transylvania. The lab is intended to start in May 2012 and scheduled as an annual event until 2016. It is taking place in the vacant tower of the former Clujana Shoe factory in 1st of May Square of Cluj.  Spring Laborator is founded during the projectspace /wonderland in Cluj August 2011.

Cluj currently seems to need new formats and spaces of learning and experimenting. A generation of young professionals of all kind of disciplines are inbetween east and west, history and vision, communism and turbocapitalism or opportunities and lack of perspectives. To avoid this ambiguous situation which leads to massive waste of knowledge, the Spring Laborator aims at creating a new format to bring together these young professionals from different fields, to create new forms of collaboration and responsibility and new forms of contemporary craftsmanship.

The Laborator opens with a two day symposium bringing in theoretical background and case-studies from Romania and abroad. This launch is open to a large audience. Two weeks of workshops to experiment new forms of collaboration and entrepreneurship build the core of the lab. This format adresses to approximately 30 professionals from Cluj.

The final block aims at matchmaking. A market situation provides the frame to young professionals to present their ideas to investors and the municipality and the public.

Place: The vacant tower of the former shoe factory Clujana is the ideal place to implement this lab. It perfectly combines history, landmark and the dynamics of Clujana.

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