CREATIVE STRATEGIES: PUBLIC SPACES

Theoretical research
october/november 2010, Zagreb, Croatia

TRAVNO PARK:

 

Katarina Peović Vuković (media theorist)

To the extent that it is possible to grade the potential of given physical spaces, Travno Park provided a broad spectrum of creative strategies, although the extent of public activity was very restricted. In comparison with Facebook, which according to number of participants would make up the fourth biggest nation in the world, Travno Park is a provisional autonomous zone. The concept of provision autonomous zone was defined by one of the theorists and ideologists of the anti-global movement, Hakim Bey, and here comes to life in everyday leisure, games, gardening, political debate and talks about cooking, knitting on the bench and cleaning the bowling green. In the very foundations of the fight for everyday is a practice that these practitioners form according to an Immediatist model (totally unaware of the context in which we place them). Modesty and temporariness are characteristic of practices the objective of which is to form an idea, an artistic artefact, or an ordinary everyday gesture and then to vanish before they are threatened with institutionalisation. Since Immediatism is not a movement in the sense of an aesthetic programme, and depends more on the situation than on the style, we are dealing with a real, unmediated act, the first and only rule in which is that all who watch must also take part. Good food and play are some of the most popular practices of the temporary autonomous zones that we find in a local form: growing vegetables and playing boules. Gardening on plots laid out without any ownership, with an agreement nevertheless arrived at as to the temporary users, is a form of do-it-yourself culture and a contribution to anarchist models of organisation. The establishment and maintenance of a bowling court, as in the case of the seed beds, is not a result of the institutionalised organisation of free time, rather the practice of local self-organisation. A woman whom we asked about the laid-out part of the park replied that it was "just a space fenced in by buildings". Still, this rich culture of everyday life that goes on in New Zagreb did not happen by accident in a space that, in the spirit of modernism, considers communal living a project. These forms of commonality are not found however in the parcelled post-modernist concepts. The space of privateness for which a battle has been waged since the Situationist movement against contemporary anti-globalist practices has been interestingly created in this park. What it is going to look like in the future, I wondered, while I watched a man cleaning the bowling area. You don't need all that much imagination for this task; I recalled Jarun and the number of paths laid out and directed and the users who subordinated leisure to consumption.

 

Ankica Čakardić (philosopher)

Travno Park can serve as a paradigm of a certain form of self-organisation; at issue in fact is a certain anarchist potential. And when we think about anarchism, this takes us in two ways. The first recalls how important it is in anarchy not to feel an-arch as mere non government but also as non-order. This kind of disorder has absolutely no connection with the usual kind of lawlessness and disorganised chaos that it is stereotypically imagined to be, rather with the negation of the socially assumed "order" as dichotomously, hierarchically, competitively and ordered life on the basis of classes. This is not the original idea of order, the element of the world, the arche, indeed, it is a mere illusion of the idea of order with all the cosmetic versions, where one has to recall that cosmetic is a derivation of the word cosmos, which represents order and orderliness, and is not a part of some natural groundedness.
Such a possibly anarchist vision of things can really be objectified in the concrete case seen in Travno Park. What I have in mind is the multifunctionality of the space, mainly used by the older, retired population. In a sense, it says that in the context of aging in an urban setting it is extremely possible to live creatively. The disciplinarian drill that as a whole teaches us that the place for old age is in stillness and being located in the private rooms of homes essentially tells us of the nature of the plan of the capitalist economy of life.
Certain bodies pay off, and it is important to organise society so as to follow such courses of production. In the subversion of this kind of capitalist production of existence in public spaces we essentially strategically evade the bad reproduction of the system.
Self organisation in the DIY manner, when it is to do with the gardens around the park that are most probably the relics of some other times, the men who independently put the bowling ground in order and the space that looks like cafes (there are tables and chairs) tell of a different more lively kind of everyday living. But one should point out that not even here can patriarchal standardisation be avoided. If we agree that in socialism the inhabitants to a greater extent devoted themselves to some activity that understood some life activity outside family life at home, and if there are some places that have managed to extend this form of public activity, I would ask why in both cases men are in the lead. It seems to me that the opening up of the potential of a given public space must certainly have been concerned with animating the local female population. This would, of course, bypass the model of the different female groups that for example in indoor spaces or clubs sew, sing or cook.

Since this space is fairly big, in some sense it ought to retain its public purpose with the extension and not the stifling of such potentialities. It is a question whether this unused space will have its purpose changed or be leased out. For example, the organisation of small music or cultural festivals and events, a skate park, some local self-organised fairs and exchanges of goods could be developed and expand the potentials of the space.

 

Tomislav Pletenac (anthropologist and ethnologist)

Travno along with other neighbourhoods in New Zagreb is perhaps the best demonstration of the extent to which modernist town planning founded on rationality and standardisation is at the same time replete with potentials and absolutely unusable. Ever since they started building the estates in New Zagreb there has been a constant glorification and a constant criticism of the project. On the one hand the shock-worker expansion of the city over the river that brought completely new forms of life in entirely new social circumstances. On the other hand it was pointed out that living does not mean only a place to sleep but a whole series of accompanying contents. For a long time the claim held true that New Zagreb was nothing but a vast dormitory for the Old. On the other hand the idea of big buildings with a mass of flats was in conflict with the inveterate cultural ideal of a house with a garden, the dominant idea of the time. Somehow both versions of the understanding of the new estates were accurate. If one looks at the narratives of the first arrivals into the buildings in Travno, at once there are conflicts of identical scenes contrasted with the state of today. At the beginning there was a just building site at which the workers had downed tools and gone, mud, no public transport and no shops, no public contents whatsoever, mere naked concrete in a desert. Travno was enfolded in maize fields and the croaking of frogs. Since at the beginning there were no schools, the schoolchildren were very rapidly classified according to coming from and going to school and so groups apt to delinquency and violence were created. A good number of the Bad Blue Boys (a supporters club) were recruited from the neighbourhoods of New Zagreb, in particular from Travno. A kind of identity was thus produced in which the population were condemned to each other, since the government had created no conditions for their lives. All in all, it seemed that New Zagreb was to turn into the kind of working class suburb that was being built all over Europe at that time.
But in spite of all the negative potentials that Travno presented, it seems that it was precisely this sense of belonging to the small Fortress New Zagreb that had as a consequence the construction of conditions for life. The self-organisation of the inhabitants started gradually to be inscribed into the wasteland of the surrounds of the buildings. The then local communities managed to get hold of resources to bring some kind of infrastructure to the neighbourhood - phones and public lighting. When a school and then a kindergarten were built, the estate was completely rounded off, and became a good place for life. Inhabitants who had children stressed the advantage of a neighbourhood in which the children even in the lower grades could go off to school without parental escort, and could spend their free time without fear of traffic. During the late eighties and early nineties, Travno underwent an economic flowering, and so fewer and fewer people were related to the everyday connection with the centre of Zagreb. This resulted in the normalisation of the state of affairs and a much lesser sense of inferiority with the neighbourhoods of Zagreb on the other side of the river. New Zagreb lost its stigma.
Two spaces connected with Travno have remained as monuments of the one-time state of affairs. These are the gardens that spontaneously came into being on city land across the way from Mamutica, which the inhabitants of Travno began to dig on their own initiative. It was not economic benefit that was crucial for the origins of these gardens, more the attempt to the inhabitants who had moved in from rural areas to give shape to the space in order to preserve the symbolic value of land. The second important space is the Travno park, a great green unit without any content at all. But it, like the gardens, is a symbolic monument of the origin of New Zagreb, a relict of an older state of abandonment, almost a monument. Perhaps this sense of setting is best defined by a mother who lives in Kopernikova ulica: "But then that meadow that actually irritates me because there is nothing in it is nevertheless a handy place, because from the floor on which I live I can see my child playing, and it gives me a feeling of safety, then I can supervise everything from on top, it's you might say handy, the kids can play in front of the house in the park without any great danger. On the other hand this grass is just not made sense of..." The question arises as to whether this meadow out to be made sense of in urban life or whether it should be left as a place for spontaneous inscription by the population. Is not the very idea of making sense in a sense actually making sense?

Emptiness
The meadowlands of New Zagreb, of which that is Travno is one, are places for the spontaneous evasion of the idea of absolute urbanism and are in themselves spaces of creative actions of the residents themselves. Even when nothing, ostensibly, is going on there. It seems to me that all of life is in this nothing's-going-on.

 

Dominko Blažević, Dafne Berc (architects)

A park in the centre of an integrally planned modernist residential estate is a an over-abstract green desert. The Travno park is uncommon inasmuch as it is a vast meadow, without any articulation of detail, content, without any urban equipment. Since it is surrounded by buildings, by hundreds of windows and eyes, it is a vast stage, and hence the feeling of relaxation is to an extent compromised.

The associated western plateau is an extension of the park, a promenade and square, a communications artery with contents, unlike the grass of the park. The plateau is a buffer zone between Mamutica and park, with its levelling, and the number of people who use it.


Opportunities for creativity
Since the park is minimally defined and articulated, it is open for various events, various interventions. Although public space is precious, the new parish church, for example, has taken part of the park and has almost not changed its character at all.

Improvisations and interventions of the neighbouring residents occur on the edge, people are to an extent concealed from view, within the privacy of the edge. The labyrinths of gardens are an extension of the sitting rooms and recreational facilities. This appropriation of public space shows the need for a human scale.

 

"EVERYDAY DIVERGENCES" exhibition view>

 

      | RESEARCH | PRESENTATION | HOME | EXHIBITION TIMELINE  | CONTACT |