Through the introduction of innovative methods, the city of Zagreb is revitalising existing public spaces and improving recreation, leisure and social cohesion for citizens.
The Zagreb for Me project was launched in 2015 by the Zagreb Society of Architects, the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Zagreb and the City of Zagreb. The project fosters collaboration between city officers, citizens, academics and business, encourages discussion and the exchange of ideas, improves existing processes and creates new jobs. The project encompasses the revitalisation of public spaces through the realization of 17 urban interventions at the same time. This distributed approach will improve the general image of the city and raise the quality of life for citizens.
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Size and population development
779,145 (source: City og Zagreb, data for 2001)
90% Croats; other ethnic minorities Serbs, Albanians, Bosniaks, etc.
Capital and largest city of Croatia, transport hub
Main industries / business
electrical engineering, chemicals and pharmaceutics, textiles, food and beverages, and tourism
administrative seat of both Zagreb City and County, city assembly as representative body; mayor and city government as executive bodies
Background and objectives
The Zagreb For Me project evolved from the City Acupuncture initiative - the youth section of the Zagreb Society of Architects who ran interdisciplinary workshops with the aim to improve the quality of urban life by making small and precise spatial interventions in some neighbourhoods. The City Acupuncture initiative very quickly became well accepted and widely recognised and formed an international network with other cities of the Balkan region (Skopje, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Zagreb and Split). Together, they have developed similar initiatives in their respective cities and received funding from the European Union. The original methodology of City Acupuncture, which uses a participatory approach, served as a model to launch Zagreb For Me and the revitalisation of distributed public spaces across the city.
The Zagreb For Me project aims to decentralize designed public spaces and draw attention to some forgotten city spaces. At the same time, the project, created from a “bottom-up” initiative, establishes a new model of public participation as well as new forms of collaboration.
The Zagreb For Me project is based on an innovative methodology involving close collaboration between the city administration and its citizens, as well as professional and academic institutions, to develop ways of revitalising existing places, offer them a new life and return them to the citizens.
Selecting the location and range of intervention is carried out with the active participation of the public, to ensure acceptance and wide-spread comprehension of the project, aiming at involving the largest possible number of citizens, professional bodies, organisations and administrative bodies in the process.
The advantages of the practice are multiple: social development, achieved through participation in decision-making, innovation and a professional approach, and social cohesion of citizens through recreating public spaces based on their needs.
The second phase of the project is the study of the locations, considers each location. Once the location is selected, and the scope of interventions and budget are defined, the general expert programme of the interventions is drafted, and urban planning and architectural competition documents are finalised for each individual location. The design solutions for the selected locations are the result of architectural competitions to ensure high quality and a transparent implementation process.
For most of the selected locations, programmes will be developed which are planned to be tested against public opinion, thus looking to ensure citizens' participation in decision-making and the expression of real needs as a contribution to a quality programme. This bottom-up method, viewed from the perspective of citizens and associations, resulted in a better knowledge of needs in the public spaces of the city of Zagreb. A comprehensive study resulted in a quality analysis of the public space of the city.
The result is a series of interventions in 17 carefully selected public spaces throughout the city, providing design planning and improvement of public space with reasonable budgets.
Financing and resources
The lead agencies for the Zagreb For Me project are:
- Zagreb Society of Architects (implementing institution)
- Faculty of Architecture, University of Zagreb (implementing institution)
- City Office for Spatial Planning and Construction (implementing institution)
- City Acupuncture team
- Think Space team
- Neighbourhood councils, various civil society groups
The project is financed from EU funds and the city budget. Total budget to date is
€ 87,435 EUR.
Results and impacts
Social development has been achieved through participation in decision-making, cohesion, innovation and a professional approach. The acceptance of the city as “home” and improving citizens’ relation to public spaces as their personal ones has been a significant outcome of the project.
Additionally, environmental benefits have occurred. The quality of open spaces has encouraged people to walk or use bicycles. This in turn helps to reduce the number of vehicles within the city. Inserting small green areas in the city fabric may also improve biodiversity and decrease the urban heat island.
The project promotes the city and makes it more attractive for living, studying, work, and visiting and has bought back a positive atmosphere to the city.
Barriers and challenges
The challenge for the Zagreb For me project is to increase participation form stakeholder groups and citizens and secure an ongoing budget allocation from the city government.
Lessons learned and transferability
Zagreb For Me represents an innovative methodology that may be of interest to other cities. In contrast to the established practice of planning that relies fundamentally on professional planning attitudes, or those who consider space transformation on the basis of bottom-up initiatives, this method does not give preference to those approaches, but prefers an equal decision-making process. In this way, a fair, impartial and multi-founded solution to the problem of development of modern cities can be achieved.
- URBACT case study: Revitalisation of public spaces, how a city has decided to spot existing public spaces and improve them in the scope of housing, recreation, leisure and social cohesion: http://urbact.eu/revitalisation-public-spaces