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Siberian expert points to microneighborhoods as the future of urban planning

May 16, 2017, 16:28 UTC+3 MOSCOW

An expert believes that "work-household-rest" model that took hold in the middle of the 20th century is becoming a thing of the past

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© Vitaliy Timkiv/TASS

MOSCOW, May 16. /TASS/. A researcher from the Siberian Federal University (SFU) has conducted a study of urban areas in Russia, the US, and Europe and drew the conclusion that microneighborhoods will become the basic component in the future of urban planning, the university’s press office said.

The work entitled "Living urban units: the new development thrusts" and published in AIP Conference Proceedings, contains the results of a study on global changes which influenced the formation of urban planning during the last century.

"The microneighborhood remains the key unit of urban planning for the modern metropolis. In recent times, city block development appeared on the scene, but the microneighborhood is more self-sustainable and comfortable for citizens, which was confirmed in my study," said Irina Fedchenko, the study’s author, research assistant and senior lecturer at the Urban Development Faculty of the Institute of Architecture and Design at the Siberian Federal University. According to her, the microneighborhood allows for flexible building. One could combine various types of buildings ranging in height including single-family houses, create safe traffic, build libraries, community centers, hospitals and other medical centers, children’s educational institutions and pre-school facilities.

Fedchenko presumes the "work-household-rest" model that took hold in the middle of the 20th century is becoming a thing of the past in almost every microneighborhood. It is being replaced by planning which takes into account the new way of life in modern cities. The multistructurality of the economy, new technologies, the evolution of new employment statuses including freelance or irregular working hours dictate the new terms of work for architects and planners. They have to consider the ecological compatibility of a building to preserve all species of the surrounding wildlife and microclimate, as well as the inclusion of art objects and ‘clever’ technologies in lighting, security control, heating and other utilities in the urban landscape.

International experience

Another popular trend to mention is the formation of ‘environmentally-social’ thinking when a design’s foundation is put together by social process, while a human being is seen through a prism of "co-involvement and management".

For instance, the first stage of preparation for neighborhood city-planning projects is troubleshooting the area with local residents. There are seminars organized where people are taught to understand and pose issues for community development, followed by pilot studies of strengths and weaknesses, capabilities and restrictions of the development plans. Then, so-called "community centers" are established.

According to the scientist, the experience with microneighborhoods in the former GDR demonstrates that old Socialist-era buildings should not necessarily be demolished. "In contrast to the capital of Russia, where decisions were made to tear down Khrushchev-era apartments, German architects transform similar types of dwellings into new living areas. For example, they leave only the house’s skeletal framework untouched, but the rest is reconstructed.

That way, multi-entrance dwellings are changed into villas with the only one grand entrance. The ground floor can be turned into a landscape or front yard garden, while mansard rooftops, or attics can be added to the top of the building.

She believes that Siberia, in turn, might also offer an opportunity for foreign countries to learn from. One of the main advantages of the Siberian microneighborhoods is the walking distance to hospitals and facilities for retirees, children, teenagers, and adults. At the dawn of 21st century, the new microneighborhoods should be constructed based on the following basic principles: physical, social, and economic availability, mobility, respect for diversity and multi-functionality of areas, the interaction between the population’s professional and social groups, landscape-ecologically-based philosophy, and an open policy on city planning.

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