Ileana Ion (2020)


Around the block – “În jurul blocului” : The transformation of value in neighbourhood public space in a post-socialist city


This thesis explores the public, open space surrounding multi-storey dwellings in Circumvalațiunii, a functionalist neighbourhood of Timișoara built during the 1970s. Half of the city’s population lives in multi-storey housing constructed after 1965. Designed according to the theories of the Athens Charter, the ‘verdant areas surrounding the dwellings’, were, during socialism, put into the care of the local residents. This is the context in which the thesis starts out in order to consider the value of non-central public space in neighbourhoods. The changes of the political, economic and social structures in post-socialism, transformed the open space surrounding the blocks, in both its material and social production.

Two questions are in the centre of the research: What value is produced in the open space around the block today? Is the global model of the ‘Non-Place’, as coined by Marc Augé (1995) and later Zygmunt Bauman (2000), observable in the open space surrounding the blocks? The first question is focusing on how value is produced in public space, through everyday practices nested in the political, economic and social determinants on the local and global level. The second question looks at the influence of the globally spreading non-place into the space of the local neighbourhood.

In addition to theory, the thesis is built on collected empirical evidence, including narrative interviews with long-term residents, expert interviews, participatory observation and observational walks. Around 10 on-site explorations were conducted in a time-spam of five years.

This research has shown that there is much more to consider than the physical appearance of the space surrounding the blocks. The transformative process towards the privatisation of public space in the post-socialist period included the de-legitimisation and re-definition of hands-on, self-sustenance practices in public space. In a city that has become part of global networks, where central public space has been commodified, the value of neighbourhood public space as a place for social and political empowerment, is all the more important to consider.

Submitted   at the Faculty of Architecture and Planning
Supervision   Dr. phil. DI (FH) Sabine Knierbein