International Urbanists to Transform Industrial Heritage of St. Petersburg

Young urbanists from Germany and France came to ITMO University so as to take part in an international workshop. Organized by Institute of Design and Urban Studies the meeting brought together international Master students and representatives of European universities. Participants are going to design urban development plans of an industrial area nearby Baltiysky railway station.

Some 16 students of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and 19 young specialists of Strasbourg National Superior School of Architecture (ENSAS) came to St. Petersburg for 10 days in order to offer fresh ideas for so-called “industrial belt” development.

According to Arina Sender, tutor of Institute of Design and Urban Studies and head of International Collaborative Studio, before visiting workshops students followed a theoretical course at their universities. Students learned about industrial areas of St. Petersburg and its` history. Then they took part in an online conference focusing on problems connected with landscape of the “grey” belt, a territory full of old industrial buildings and open spaces that are not used.

This area can be transformed into housing or commercial areas but the reorganization can meet some difficulties. First of all some factories are impossible to be removed while owners of other are not motivated to replace them to outskirts. Moreover, housebreaking costs a lot of money. Currently the most effective method is to transform industrial buildings into office centers. However it doesn`t solve all problems.

Barbara Engel, head of International Planning and Urban Design Department of KIT, Walker Zigler, ENSAS`s professor as well as Arina Sender, headed the workshop. Having followed their lectures international student teams also explored the territory. They made a bus trip and walked this area around so as to design mental maps.

“The results of projects completely depend on students` ideas,” noted Ms. Engel. “They can offer not only small transformations that require a little time and can be an incentive to modernization, but also long term projects”.

According to Barbara Engel, St. Petersburg officials were informed about the workshop. Its` heads offered representatives of the Government to take part in projects` presentation. They are also plan to initiate an exhibition or a round table meeting connected with urban projects.

“For turning all ideas into reality it is necessary to attract officials, investors and public,” underlined Ms. Engel.

The workshop is one of short-term academic mobility`s activities of ITMO University. It`s planned to develop a new double degree program based on “Urban Ecosystems` Design” Master program of ITMO University and “Urban Design and Planning” KIT`s program. The universities started collaborating in January 2015. Then French University ENSAS joined this initiative. ITMO University and KIT`s officials also signed a cooperation memorandum so as to develop a variety of projects such as joint research, training and exchange programs. 

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