Degree of well-being. How to measure the temperature of cities

/ Urbanism /

Social distance is a term that came into circulation in 2020 with new paradoxical connotations. Now meters determine the level of social responsibility of residents and planners. The comparison of a city with a living organism is not new. But every new disease and epidemic reminds humanity how poorly we understand the principles of our own body. And every new urban problem demonstrates the incompleteness of experience in planning. We repeatedly measure the temperature of the city and anxiously look at the thermometer. PRAGMATIKA.MEDIA was assisted in this by architects, urban planners, as well as students of Kyiv National University of Construction and Architecture, Kharkiv National University of Construction and Architecture, Kharkiv School of Architecture.

Wishes for health

The great Corbus, designing his ideal Radiant City, was inspired by the structure and functions of the human body. And... without a shadow of a doubt, he suggested demolishing the historic center of Paris. Today, it seems quite obvious that symmetry and standardization of architecture are the main enemies of urban well-being. And even a century ago, the idea of ​​Corbett unleashed an instinctive rejection from the majority of even the most insensitive city officials. After all, earlier Paris experienced Ottomanization, an unprecedented complex of sanitary measures that improved the city's atmosphere and destroyed part of its valuable heritage. Baron Haussmann, the bulldozer man, mercilessly demolished Le Boulevard du Crime, medieval buildings on the Isle of Cité, spent 2,5 billion francs and turned Paris into a construction site for two decades. All is well.

Exit to the high-speed tram station "Starovokzalnaya", Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: Yury Ferendovych

Two years ago, the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) published the study "Five keys to healthier cities". The scientists called the reduction of air pollution, noise, quality natural spaces, conditions for physical activity of residents and prevention of the appearance of "heat islands" in the summertime as such keys.

According to the definition of the WHO, a healthy city is one in which the health of citizens is at the top of the political and social agenda. This motivated the widespread and undemocratic introduction of lockdowns at the beginning of the pandemic, which paralyzed urban life.

It reduced the rate of spread of the virus, the lockdown reduced urban activity to zero, but did not have a favorable effect on the environment. Air pollution by exhaust gases has not decreased. Citizens use private cars more often than before. Noise pollution also did not decrease. Residents of Kyiv who were forced to stay at home complained en masse that they suffered from neighborly renovations or parties. The spring ban on visiting parks and gyms affected physical activity, and as for preventing the appearance of "heat islands", this topic is often mentioned in one of the last places in Ukrainian society.

The fight for the health of city dwellers is often conducted by unhealthy methods

In a word, paradoxically, the struggle for the health of urban residents is often conducted by unhealthy methods. And the criteria for the development and degradation of the urban environment are so blurred that obvious signs of urban diseases often go unnoticed. Moreover, popular methods of activating urban spaces suddenly begin to work "in the negative".


If the medicine is too much

As a self-sufficient science, urban planning made itself known at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, when departments of urban planning were opened one after another in European and American universities. Since then, thousands of recipes and scenarios have been developed, which are designed to stimulate the development of cities not just as technological factories, but also as places for comfortable living and well-being of residents. Among these scenarios were successful, unsuccessful and controversial. And the new quarantine reality has generally mixed up all the cards.

Amsterdam is a city with priority for cyclists and pedestrians. Photo: Victor He / Unsplash

For example, we take it as an axiom that tourism revitalizes the economy, stimulates the appearance of such cheerful elements as street cafes and shops with craft goods, develops trade and local crafts. But the invasion of tourists annoys local residents, who consider the behavior of foreigners destructive and deviant. Even such terms as touristophobia and "disneyization of the city" appeared. Sellers of Chinese souvenirs and fake bags have displaced artisans and artists from La Rambla and the Seine embankment. In Barcelona, ​​residents went to protest actions, and local authorities blocked services such as Airbnb. In Amsterdam, which is considered a symbol of freedom and even some debauchery, fines for revelers were sharply tightened a couple of years ago: for a cigarette butt thrown on the sidewalk, you will have to pay a fine of 140 euros. Back in 2017, the director of Amsterdam Marketing, Frans van der Awert, said that European "cities are dying from tourism" and that people will no longer live in historic centers. The quarantine of 2020 practically killed the tourism industry. Has it gotten better? Or worse?

We perceive the maximization of night lighting as a vital necessity: if the urban landscape is immersed in darkness, it causes anxiety and longing. But, having destroyed the darkness, in the struggle for light and 24-hour activity, the inhabitants of megacities were left with a starry sky and are experiencing health problems due to the violation of circadian rhythms.

When the dose of "medicine for the city" is exceeded, it turns into poison

Many confuse the active development of suburbs, which leads to an increase in the size and sprawl of the city, with development. But this is just a marker of the fact that people are running away from the city center, which has become uncomfortable and unfit for life. Too crowded or, on the contrary, too empty. But with the advent of the coronavirus, the attractiveness of life outside the city increased many times, and the theory about the benefits of high urban density was called into question.

Any activities to revitalize the urban environment, including gentrification, which we wrote about earlier in the article "No Gentry? Gentrification: pros and cons", act on the urban organism as medicine. But when the dose is exceeded too much, the medicine turns into poison.


Will they rise from the dead easily?

American Detroit, English Sheffield, Dutch Eindhoven, German Leipzig, Spanish Bilbao, French Lille — all these cities in the 80s, during the crisis of heavy industry, were on the verge of disappearing. The words "bankruptcy" and "death" were perceived as synonyms. But bold urban ideas and the willingness of governments to reinvest in the salvation of fallen titans contributed to their revival. Not as fast and problem-free as the ideologues of creative theory promised. But today, when it comes to the potential of architectural heritage and its creative reinterpretation, examples from the recent history of these cities are illustrative.

The worst times for Detroit, 1985 Russ Marshall's photo was exhibited at the exhibition Russ Marshall: Detroit Photographs, 1958—2008

Sometimes cities demonstrate simply supernatural examples of survival. Everyone has heard that Rome is an eternal city. But sometimes even small towns demonstrate a phenomenal will to live. We previously wrote about how the Spanish Cartagena rose from the ashes like a phoenix dozens of times in the article "Carthage must be restored! Architectural palimpsest of the Spanish Cartagena».

In the era of COVID, cities cannot count on solid investments from state budgets


Pedestrian streets and townhouses of modern Detroit — demand will overcome urban decay. Photo: Jameson Draper on Unsplash


In the era of COVID, some of the reliable and proven recipes for the revitalization of a degraded urban environment lose their relevance. Now suffering cities cannot count on solid investments from state budgets. And it is possible that many governments will turn to the concept of "tactical retreat" or "managed decline." This term comes from the same 80s. In parallel with projects to maintain post-industrial English cities, Margaret Thatcher's government considered proposals for urban autonomy — cutting off irreparably marginalized areas from relatively prosperous ones, encouraging migration or even evacuating residents. Sometimes it was about whole cities, for example, such a scenario was considered for Liverpool. By the way, now Liverpool, which survived the depressed 80s, is again on the verge of bankruptcy, because Boris Johnson's cabinet refused to compensate the municipality for the millions spent on supporting small and medium-sized businesses during the spring lockdown.

The crumbling facade of a historical building in the center of Odessa. Photo:

"Managed decline" is one of the harshest and most criticized urban policies. It is also often called "social murder". But it jumps out like a devil from a snuffbox precisely at the most critical moments, when the cynicism and pragmatism of the elites, their struggle for power prevails over the desire to continue the game of democracy. "Leave Democrat cities, Let them rot," — in August, Donald Trump retweeted the post of a far-right radical who called on people to leave their cities in response to rallies and mass riots.

"Managed decline" is one of the most brutal urban policies

The start of the cruise season in the port of Liverpool, Great Britain. Construction of Liverpool's new cruise terminal has been frozen indefinitely due to the pandemic. The implementation of a large-scale project by the architectural studio Stride Treglown, worth more than £50 million, should have given the city a powerful impetus for development. Photo source:

In the recent history of Ukraine, this concept was developed in the zero years, disguised under the brand name "restructuring". Restructuring involved the closure of unprofitable coal mines in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, but did not offer real scenarios for the employment of unemployed miners, and even more scenarios for the maintenance of cities that remained city-forming enterprises. The second wave mentioned about the autonomy of the occupied territories rose from the first months of the war in the east of Ukraine, and until now this idea remains popular in certain political circles. On a micro scale, "managed decline" is successfully practiced by the owners of dilapidated old buildings in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Odessa. Valuable heritage is allowed to be destroyed to the emergency line, beyond which the only solution will be demolition and clearing of the site for new development. Who will guarantee that the Ukrainian cities that suffered the most from the pandemic and lost a critical share of business will not be subjected to "social murder"?


When to start worrying?

The decline of settlements is a complex problem. Errors in urban planning, bad architecture (more details in the article "Architectural copy paste kills. Why is diversity considered the key to a city's vitality?"), the economic climate is only part of the reasons that provoke the ego.

To a certain extent, decay remains a natural consequence of urban metabolism. But at some point, an experienced urban planner, passing through a familiar route, must be alert and identify a sign of a dangerous urban disease from the motley street detritus.

The condition of the main city streets is the most informative. Few people begin their acquaintance with a new city by studying the outskirts. It is necessary to look behind the scenes, but first of all, it is worth looking at the state of the center, which logically is the focus of creative efforts on the part of the authorities and the community.

The state of the city's main streets is one of the main markers of well-being

Cardiff University researchers believe that central streets perform four main functions: shopping, business, leisure and everyday use by local residents. Field studies similar to those carried out in Ukrainian cities by urban planners "Agents of Change" (read about the study of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi's capital street in the article "Operation "Adaptation". Principles of renovation of socially significant buildings"), make it possible to identify imbalances and ecological niches - deficit or surplus of services and services. Such information is essential for developers, as well as property owners and tenants, if they want their investment in a new business or rebranding of an old one to be justified. Otherwise, it is possible that already at the finish line, the developer will suddenly discover that he has built real estate with zero demand.

In the summer of 2020, The New Yorker and ProPublica published the results of a joint study in which discount supermarkets were called dangerous markers of urban decline. Netizens ruined the owners of small private shops without creating a large number of jobs. And they also inculcated marginal habits in residents - they do not cook food from fresh products or visit cafes, but use semi-finished products, use cheap and non-ecological chemicals for cleaning the house, clothes and toys of poor quality, produced in factories using cheap labor or illegally, and so on.

In Ukraine, supermarkets are considered almost city-forming objects. At the same time, the centers of regional cities and the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital are littered with "Pawnshop", "Second-hand", and "Currency Exchange" signs, which simply shout that an economic crisis has loomed in the city and the country.

Khreshchatyk, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: Ivan Zakharenko / Unsplash

The external rapid growth of the Ukrainian capital is due to deprivation — the outflow of the population from regional cities. The difference in the level of wages between the capital and the provinces forces young people to leave their cities, despite the fact that they are often more comfortable to live in: their roads are not congested, the air is clean, and hospitals, kindergartens and schools are close to home. This is a game without rules, monocentric processes that no one at the state level even tries to understand and regulate. As noted by architect Dmitry Vasiliev during the discussion about the peculiarities of Ukrainian urbanization: "We will have four cities in Ukraine, maximum five, let's argue and see in 10 years. Five regional centers — Lviv, Odesa, Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Donetsk." (Read more in the article "Build fight love The first steps to a better garden. ")

However, money does not always talk, money does not always solve everything. Such an ephemeral feeling as the love of residents for their city can be more creative and influential than the economy. Sometimes white-painted swans made of car tires are not a symbol of bad taste, but a sign of naive but sincere love for a place and an honest attempt to make it better.

The improvement of the city is a stylistic function that requires planners not only to react, but first to consider, perhaps, a more philosophical attitude to urban processes. The most common mistake of modern Ukrainian urban planners — formal and informal — is that they approach the solution of every problem as a dilemma that excludes the third, fourth, or second way. But is it not by chance that black and white thinking is considered a cognitive distortion?


Julian Chaplinsky

Architect, urban planner

Comfortable streets are the most important thing!

Julian Chaplinskyi, architect, urban planner

The phrase that a city's investment climate is measured by the number of cranes on its skyline is true to some extent. But it happens that the very construction leads to the murder of the city. So for his life, it is not so much the question of the availability of construction that is important, but its quality.

When I get to Europe or other cities of Ukraine, I measure the well-being of the city by its parks. In what condition are they in - this is approximately the whole city. Public spaces are a mandatory sign of the extent to which society communicates with each other. When I lived in Kyiv, I encountered the fact that there is very weak communication between people. They are sitting either on Facebook, or on the phone, or in the car. And live communication is reduced to a country barbecue, a trip out of town. In my opinion, this is already a sign of the death of this city.

I must say that the presence of people on the streets and comfortable public transport is an undeniable measure of city life. After all, when all the streets and squares are in cars, it is difficult to call it people's life. They are unhappy, embittered and often feel like they are wasting their time.

A typical comfortable city through the eyes of XNUMXst century architects. Sketch from the East Baltimore revitalization project, USA. Authors of the project: Ayers Saint Gross


The most important indicator of well-being is comfortable streets. It does not matter, or rather, the facade, the design of the facade or its shop windows has an indirect meaning. If the street is parked and you can't walk or run, cycling is an uncomfortable city that will degrade. Walking through Manhattan with its dense buildings, I constantly walked on wide sidewalks on very comfortable, well-designed streets. And the height of buildings does not put pressure on a person at all, does not destroy him emotionally. I can say the same about Chicago - the analog to which our capital can refer. Unfortunately, very little attention is paid to streets in Ukraine, and even those reconstructions that are taking place are aimed primarily at pleasing cars, not pedestrians.


Alexander Popov

Co-founder and director of the archimatika company

Kyiv is a living organism that has less brain than energy for growth

Alexander Popov, co-founder and director of the archimatika company

Markers of degradation, like viruses or bacteria, are our constant companions. But they start to worry when they multiply uncontrollably. For example, broken glass. The windows are constantly broken, but somewhere they are quickly changed, and somewhere not. Everyone has probably heard about the theory of broken windows. And this is a marker. Graffiti is a creative energy that is directed not in a positive direction, not in crowdfunding, not in subbotniks, but in the marginalization of the environment. Graffiti can be perceived as an aesthetic protest against a dull, soulless environment that rejects a person and rejects a person, or perhaps as art. Everything can be turned into a chip, you can find art in everything. And to find beauty in degradation, because even ruins can be majestic. But there are manifestations of life and manifestations of death. So graffiti is a manifestation of the death of space.

Active construction, on the contrary, is life. Any construction. After all, development also happens with a plus sign and a minus sign. There is also mindless development — growth that creates more problems than it solves. But disharmony is a marker of extinction. For me, this is Kyiv's Northern Bridge. And every time I move from the left bank to the right, I look at the Dnieper Towers. Once upon a time, this project was considered progressive and experimental. But for 20 years now, this residential complex has been conserved, it has become a marker of the withering of the entire area. These towers must be demolished and the site will be freed for something new, so that Troeshchyna does not degrade, but develops.

The theory of broken windows, formulated in 1982 by American sociologists James Wilson and George Kelling, despite the fact that it has been criticized many times, remains popular. It implies that the authorities' tolerance of minor offenses provokes people to commit more serious ones and leads to the degradation of the urban environment. Photo:

When I arrive in a new city, I pay attention to the facades and how well-kept they are. If we continue the analogy with a person, then a twenty-year-old suit, covered in patches, looking unkempt, turns a person into a marginal. But the same vintage suit in a preserved state is already perceived as a kind of art gesture: yes, it is not fashionable, not modern, but interesting. Even simple clothes can be worn neatly and stylishly, but in an unfortunate combination it looks tasteless or boring. A city, like a person, must take care of itself, be tidy. As one of the manifestations of untidiness are air conditioners, which disfigure the architecture of the facade, like warts on the face. Or glazed balconies. In Madrid, as well as in Kyiv, people often glass their balconies. Why the Spaniards do this is difficult to understand, in their climate a small space works like a greenhouse, it is incredibly hot there... However, there is such a tradition. And when you drive around Madrid, you notice that on the outskirts of the city, the city has "killed" its appearance, and the closer to the center, the neater and cleaner the facades.

In the cities of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, which are the personification of order, on the contrary, everything that can be put in order is neatly arranged. And there are cities where there is a certain border between order and chaos. For example, in Lviv, the relatively small territory of the center looks decent, but then you get off at some stop on the outskirts — and it's as if you've crossed some kind of border, like between West and East Berlin.

Kyiv is a living, undeniably developing city with an impressive number of construction cranes, which can also be considered an indicator of growth. But he develops stupidly, like a living organism that has less brain than growth energy.

New buildings on the left bank of Kyiv. Photo: Valyk Chernetsky / Unsplash

I can cite Minsk as a vital example. Imagine yourself a respectable pensioner of the old rules, who, nevertheless, takes care of himself. He is combed, friendly and smiling. Yes, he is not modern. And the energy of youth is much greater in Kyiv than in Minsk. And we have more of the energy of private entrepreneurship, of the middle cultural class. In Minsk, the state system restrains growth and does not allow people to express themselves. But when, even during protests, people take off their shoes before standing on the bench - this is a manifestation of a very cultural city - one that people love.

Or Tbilisi. It has a completely different story, there is no rigid centralization of power. In the external environment, it is manifested only by the cultural center, built according to the project of Maximilian Fuksas, and the architecture of the presidential palace, which is actually a remake of the Reichstag. And the Ivanyshvili business complex is a clear horizon on the mountain above the garden, designed by Son Takamatsu, like the palace of a prince who watches over his vassals from above. But Tbilisi itself is clean, cultural, enlightened. Poor city, because there are not enough funds to put the facades in order. At the same time, new buildings are being built - worthy and good. And in general, the city is very lively and positive.

The diverse architecture of Podol largely forms a unique image of Kyiv. Photo: Viktor Talashuk / Unsplash

"Alive" does not always equal "rich". The category of vitality is not so much in the economic plane as in the cultural one. If you compare the city not with a person, but with a sculpture, then you can say this: there is a form and this form is culture. And the material that is poured into it is the economy. There is money - cast from bronze, little money - from plaster. But if the form is good, then the plaster sculpture will look quite noble.

Getting carried away by comparisons, we sometimes forget that the city itself is inanimate. Artificial, dead. And only people revive the ego. And if people do not enliven this environment enough, the result is not a human environment, but a degrading, dying, withered space.

Anna Cooper

Architect, People's Deputy of Ukraine

The best markers are accurate data

Anna Bondar, architect, People's Deputy of Ukraine

For me, the degree of well-being of a city is, first of all, its safety. I remember how back in 2011, CANactions, commissioned by the city, held an international competition for the design of routes along the banks of the Dnieper, the winners of which were young Colombian architects who came to Kyiv for the award. I organized their arrival in Kyiv, and when they arrived from Bogotá, while checking in at the President Hotel in Pechersk, they asked: "Is it safe for us to go out in the evening?" I was very surprised, because this is the center of the capital... Then, when I read about Bogotá, I understood why they asked about it. Well, today the safety of the environment for me is the most important condition for the comfort of life. The safety of children who go to school, cross the road themselves, walk in the park is important to me.

From the point of view of a woman, a mother, our city is not as safe as it might seem to a young healthy white man. This concept — security — includes everything! The dark courtyard is already uncomfortable. And we have whole neighborhoods in Kyiv where the streets are not lit. For example, there is still no street lighting in the Windy Mountains. Overpasses are dangerous because of crazy traffic and road accidents, underground ones are uncomfortable, and if the light bulb has burned out there, they are also dangerous. Garbage on the streets - landfills around the city are in a terrible condition. All the toxic filth gets into the underground waters and further into the Dnieper. And air?... That complex of mayors, which is included in the concept of "safety" is the most important criterion for the well-being of the city.

After all, cities arose as places where it is safer behind a fortress wall than in a field, in a forest, on a small farm. A fenced place, in which it is safe, is its original meaning. And today, his second main quality is the variety of choices he gives. It can be very safe in a small town, but it will not provide the same opportunities as a metropolis. And the accumulation of a large number of different people with different interests is already unsafe. Therefore, balance is important. And keeping security at a high level is just a sign of a healthy, developed city.


Druzhby Narodov Boulevard, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: Alexander Zhabin / Unsplash


While Kyiv is not the safest. But in what direction it develops - it's still difficult for me to say. Kyiv has already grown to such a size that it is impossible to solve its problems by "manual management". Until we have complete data about the city, there will be no effective solutions either. Example: several streets of the private sector in the Windy Mountains do not even have an asphalt surface. But a large residential complex was built nearby. And since the subway is currently under construction nearby, the entrance to the residential complex was blocked, and the entire flow was redirected through this private sector, where there are not even sidewalks for pedestrians, no traffic lights. Of course, people are outraged. Then the authorities installed 16 prohibitory signs and blocked the exit for the residents of the residential complex. That is, officials are simply exasperating people with their illiterate situational decisions. Was it possible to solve this tactical problem in such a way as not to create danger and discomfort for residents? It was necessary to simply collect data and study how traffic moves in this area.

In the draft "Law on the Capital" we laid down a principle that was not clearly spelled out in the legislation until now. This is a mandatory connection of three levels of decision-making. The first, strategic level is where the city is going, is it about parks or factories? — should be connected with urban documentation and budgeting. Today, due to the fact that the city does not have city documentation, and the existing one does not correspond to the strategy, the budget is completely disconnected from these concepts. And all our "wishes" - communities, deputies, the mayor - have nothing to do with planning. Our idea is that the citizens should decide on a strategy, it should be included in the city documentation and based on it, a program of social and economic development should be formed. We strictly prescribed this principle in the law. They also prescribed many requirements for the collection of city data — registers and cadastres. Including the obligation of transport modeling for any planning. We are confident: the more data, the more material for analysis and the more accurate the forecast. And the diagnosis.

Maria Commandant

Student of Kyiv National University of Construction and Architecture

Let the vegetable garden breathe!

Maria Komendant, student of Kyiv National University of Construction and Architecture

Do you notice how hard it is to breathe in cities? And how easy is it to breathe outside the garden? And this is in the XNUMXst century, when most of the existing industry has already been moved outside the city limits or is completely closed, prohibited within the pedestrian radius of accessibility. The reason is the huge number of cars, which is growing like a fractal, and the lack of ethics in the interaction between industry and the surrounding world.

According to WHO statistics, ischemic heart disease leads the top 10 main causes of death. This is a pathological condition characterized by an absolute or relative violation of the blood supply to the myocardium due to damage to the coronary arteries. Too many cars cause city roads to burst at the seams, affecting city arteries. So that the symptoms of IBS can be observed by every resident of a large city during peak hours, stuck in a traffic jam in a private car or in public transport.

In the post-quarantine city, our main criterion will be social distance. The work of public transport should be reviewed and the space of streets that need to be modified should be re-planned.

Back in May, I thought that the usual functioning of public transport (clogged trolleybuses and minibuses) would return to us soon. But it doesn't seem like that to me in the fall. However, walking and alternative means of transport - bicycles, unicycles, etc. - are becoming more and more popular, which also requires the expansion of bicycle lanes and sidewalks (especially in crowded commercial and business areas). In this case, a bicycle can serve as an excellent substitute for public transport.

It is possible to draw parallels between the imperfection of one's own appearance and the shape of the city. Skin irregularities, pimples and rashes - an endless number of stalls piled up on the sidewalks. Bright, tasteless, screaming signs are like inflammations that appear the day before an important meeting. After all, everyone has known for a long time that problem skin is the result of improper care and improper nutrition. We are what we eat. What is so harmful that we consume today? Excessive information, neglecting access to world culture and aesthetics?

When I notice the implementation of design codes in outdoor advertising, my girlish heart rejoices. The point is not that the city has funds for more expensive skin care cosmetics, but that the problem has been recognized and now attention is being paid to the cleanliness of the "city's skin".

Free bicycle track on ul. Vyacheslav Lipinsky in Kyiv. Photo: Yevgeny Chistyakov / Unsplash

So for me, an obvious marker of the death of space is city traffic jams, when the streets on Google maps are colored burgundy, like bleeding wounds. And also — loss of identity, architectural design code, philosophy of space, turning into a gray concrete jungle. Everyone remembers that Kyiv is the city of chestnuts. Chestnuts are dying. Is the highlight of Kyiv only in chestnuts? Where are the new symbols? Each new residential complex tries to stand out from the rest: for this, dozens of facade, color and spatial solutions are developed. But does it help Kyiv in the formation of a unified style? Modern Kyiv is a fashion-addicted child who wants everything at once, losing his own self.

I would refer to the main markers of the well-being of the city space as the tendency to return the city space to pedestrians. The street is one of the most valuable resources. The recent history of New York or Copenhagen teaches us how this resource can be "pumped up". Most of the streets are designed in such a way as to reduce the distance of traffic from point A to point B. Is it comfortable for pedestrians? Is it safe? For progressive modern city planners and urbanists, the concept of walkability is a measure and even a standard of modern urban structure.

The degree of well-being for me is in the rethinking of the city and its main functions, where the car is an additional instrument of freedom, not a prosthetic device. A city is not an eternal engine of technological progress, but a place where a person likes to live.


Natalia Kozub

A student of the Kharkiv School of Architecture

The market and power are bad urban planners

Natalya Kozub, a student at the Kharkiv School of Architecture

We associate development with growth, with progressive movement forward. And the development of the city is traditionally associated with the growth of the population, territory, and economy. Urban development is the answer to changes that begin with demography, economy, politics, climate, and culture. The urban environment simultaneously manifests these changes and is itself a factor of influence.

Development requires resources: economic (city budget), social (availability of competent specialists), natural (natural territories, rivers, forests). But illiterate city management can lead to ego depression in the future, even if resources are available. Representatives of the authorities are recognized as providers of urban changes; the market represented by private developers and investors; as well as civil initiatives. In Ukraine, the weakness of civil society and the low level of knowledge in the field of urban development lead to the insignificance of requests for changes and initiatives from below. Effective changes require the cooperation of all three parties: the city, business and civil society.

The goal of the city's development is adaptation to current and future conditions for the well-being of its residents. And all changes either meet the real needs of residents in the present and future, or they don't. If the formal planners guessed wrong, then such development can be replaced by depression. The depression of the city is a stalemate, the lack of opportunities for change, the lack of room for maneuver. Therefore, the next stage — development or decline — depends on the extent to which the current changes correspond to the real trends and needs of residents.

Urban planning policy should be based on existing trends, for example, population decline, climate change

For example, developers have been actively renting out a large amount of low-quality housing in Kharkiv in recent years. Construction boom — jobs and new apartments. And today it looks like development. But the population of Kharkiv (unlike Kyiv) is not growing quantitatively, new apartments are purchased more often as investment ones, so new buildings are slowly settling down. The environment around them does not change qualitatively for the better. There is no real landscaping, yards are illiterately planned and turned into spontaneous parking lots. Due to insufficient population density, small and medium-sized businesses and the service sector are not developing. These new buildings, most likely, will fall into decline, passing the flowering phase. They only have a negative impact on the garden due to the destruction of the green areas where they grow, due to their aesthetic unattractiveness and monotony. The market is a bad city planner. What is currently profitable may turn into a disaster or deterioration of the quality of the urban environment in the near future.

Another example is the "reconstruction" of central parks by city authorities. It does not take into account the ecological agenda, the proven fact that the climate is becoming hotter and drier. With titanically expensive leaves, the lawns under the trees look safe, but it is worth investing a little less resources in them - they quickly become bald. And the concrete ponds in Shevchenko Park will turn into desolate troughs. And after all, the natural ravines that were on the site of the "new green zones" did not require removal. At the same time, every hectare of forest gave the garden clean air and coolness.

Another "green" example of visible development, which will turn into a collapse, is the destruction of large, supposedly emergency trees: maples, poplars, chestnuts. They are mercilessly cut down, replacing them with small breeds - weeping forms of ash, rowan, willow, etc. The tragedy is that the renewal of landscaping is formally taking place, but in fact, the ecology and urban environment are being harmed. The city authorities do not take into account that at the age of 50 a tree enters its prime of "usefulness" and almost does not require care - it only needs competent pruning, removal of emergency branches. And young trees require a lot of care - watering, fencing, protection from pests. And due to their dwarf sizes, they are not so useful: they provide little shade, catch little dust and CO2, and absorb little harmful substances. A widespread assessment of the city authorities' activity in Kharkiv is "at least they are doing something, and thanks for that." But what they are doing in terms of greening the city looks like development only at first, superficial glance. This is "development" that destroys the resources necessary for future growth.

The pride of Kharkiv: the building of Gosprom is a monument of constructivist architecture. Photo: Anna Hunko / Unsplash

Urban planning policy should be based on existing trends, for example, population decline, climate change, and for this, an expert community should be involved in planning. Markers and stimulators of the future well-being of cities will be:

  • Emergence of new ecological and innovative industries, business clusters, development of circular economy.
  • Development of green and blue infrastructure: landscaping of streets with large-sized trees; competent reconstruction of existing parks and maintenance of natural green areas; the use of eco-solutions to combat flooding; river cleaning; connectedness of green territories; accessibility for all residents.
  • Investments in sustainable mobility: creation of bicycle-pedestrian routes; reliability, availability and convenience of public transport; denser transport network; the comfort of the urban environment for pedestrians.
  • Development of social, educational and medical functions. It is important to improve the quality of conditions in hospitals, schools, universities and their availability.
  • Creation of comfortable conditions for local producers of goods — farmers, producers of clothes, shoes, and furniture.
  • Revitalization of post-industrial territories, containment of the city within its borders, and not sprawl with the destruction of natural green zones.


Anna Pylypenko

Student of Kharkiv National University of Construction and Architecture

The city is our reflection

Anna Pylypenko, a student of Kharkiv National University of Construction and Architecture

A developed city is a complex structure that is influenced by many factors. Quality infrastructure is the first and most noticeable manifestation of a developed city. This is not only an impeccable road surface and public transport. Although here everything should be logical and simple, as well as fast. I consider brevity, accessibility, equality, safety, innovation to be the main principles of the city's developed infrastructure.

Another marker of development is activity in all parts of the city, in all its districts. Every person should have the opportunity to go for a walk in the evening in a comfortable and well-kept park in his area, and for this he does not need to go to another part of the city. And in the morning he will be able to safely ride his bicycle from home to work.

An important manifestation of a developed city is its neat appearance. The appearance of the city is the state of historical districts, the number of abandoned buildings, and the amount of garbage on the sidewalks. It is necessary to renew the facades of old buildings so that they fit into the image of the modern city and do not pose a danger of crumbling plaster or tiles, destruction of load-bearing structures. The cure for abandoned buildings is their renovation, which will bring historic houses back to life and change the appearance of the streets.

Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photo: Sonia Kardash / Unsplash

All these factors affect our garden and our sense of comfort. But the most important factor remains people who value their garden and care for it. People who do not engage in vandalism, do not paint facades, do not throw garbage directly on the street, do not destroy flowers planted by municipal services, and additionally plant them in their own yard.
The city is a reflection of the people who live in it.


Kirill Vatralyk

Student of Kharkiv National University of Construction and Architecture

The city is like an organism. Train!

Kirill Vatralyk, student of Kharkiv National University of Construction and Architecture

Cities by themselves cannot be considered animated in the literal sense. But, like living organisms, healthy cities actually have a collective consciousness, identity and ability to adapt. The townspeople recognize some kind of cells in these organisms. And the foundation of health is based on the interrelationships between all its elements and mutual support. It is communications that give birth to new ideas and projects, contributing to the formation of strong ties and a sense of community, happiness and harmony of all city residents.

The lifestyle of the city, its development or death are interconnected with the inner emotional and physical state of the citizens, with their actions and culture of life. Therefore, working on ourselves, thinking about what happiness is, we work on creating a living city in which time is spent not on the road, not on transit between home and work, but on communication with family, friends, and colleagues. We are beginning to realize that public spaces stimulate new acquaintances. Having felt their importance and participation in the life of the city as a whole, the citizens thereby take responsibility for its development.

Everyone chooses his own path to a good life, so it is difficult to give a clear answer to the question of what happiness is, because it is quite individual, the prisms of our perception are far from identical. But I would formulate that happiness is a free flow of energy. The absence of borders and barriers in the city ensures the free circulation of the creative energy of the citizens. Such a garden allows a person to relieve tension and feel his true nature. A properly organized public space always gives a feeling of happiness - be it a park, a bicycle path or a sidewalk.


Kharkiv, railway station area. Photo: Yaroslav Romanenko / Unsplash


A prosperous city must provide for the basic needs of a person. Based on this, it is possible to single out a case that "stimulates" the urban environment. So, what do we want from the big city? A healthy city gives us the following:

  • real freedom of life - as the townspeople want it;
  • fair distribution of space;
  • development of stability in the conditions of economic and environmental fluctuations;
  • maintaining health, not provoking diseases;
  • maximum joy and minimum life difficulties;
  • a sense of control, comfort and independence;
  • contributes to the development of a sense of the meaning of life and integrity.

But first of all, the urban environment should strengthen social ties, because it is they that fill our lives. A city that promotes cooperation between people will successfully cope with all the challenges of the XNUMXst century. What next? Increasingly, it seems that the factors that affect the future of cities are beyond control. And it is all the more wrong to think that the future of the city is the concern of officials who have been given power by the state.


Alisa Alexandrova

A student of the Kharkiv School of Architecture

The most valuable resource is the conflict of urban spaces

Alisa Alexandrova, a student of the Kharkiv School of Architecture

Synoikismos is an ancient Greek word describing the process of fusion of different communities into poleis. In his "Politics" Aristotle wrote that the city manifests itself through cohabitation (syn) and the interaction of different people in one house (oikos). Louis Wirth emphasized heterogeneity as one of the key characteristics in defining a city along with its size, population and density. As a meeting place with the Other, the city is actualized in confrontations between various interests that inevitably collide when entering the common space.

Pascal Guillen begins his article Performing the Common City: On the Crossroads of Art, Politics and Public Life with a quote from Richard Sennett: "Certain kinds of disorder should be increased in the city life, so that men can pass into a full adulthood." Speaking about the fact that criticism produced by the "common city" serves as the most important catalyst for cultural transformations in society. Thus, the conflict of urban spaces can be called the most valuable resource, the deficit of which indicates the stagnation of the city. The absence of conflicts of interests indicates that the citizens do not identify themselves with their place of residence and find the choreography of the daily sidewalk ballet insufficiently entertaining.

The largest space in my city intended for protests and demonstrations — Kharkiv's Freedom Square — has recently been difficult to distinguish from the parking lot of a large shopping center. There was only one dry fountain left from the shopping center itself, which replaced the square, the existence of which no one even guessed until it was hidden behind the bosom of Lenin, traditional for such places. It turns out that now in the very center of the city there is a square with an expired shelf life, which, having fulfilled its function in 2014, no longer represents anyone's interests and, in the light of evening advertising, looks more like the ruins of Las Vegas from "Blade Runner" than the center millionaire
The fluffy lawn of Shevchenko Park turned out to be a more suitable place for protest actions, after a couple of months ago, disputes about the future of Kharkiv's urbanism led to the excess of the park's full-fledged security. Hundreds of students joined the picnic, having previously left their shoes outside the lawn to request permission to rest on the grass. Unfortunately, we had to reach the boiling point in order to assert our rights to a quality and comfortable urban environment.

The value of wall paintings and mosaics of the Soviet period is one of the most controversial topics in the city. Painting on one of the old Kharkiv mansions. Photo: Julia Rekamie / Unsplash

Despite the many nuances of urban politics, the city itself creates fluctuations in the fabric in an effort to restore the missing energy. After the first wave of quarantine, new points of attraction appeared on the map of the city, gathering a record number of visitors. These turned out to be tandems from new fashionable establishments and city "powerhouses" - small parks and squares appropriated by marginal groups due to the proximity of XNUMX-hour grocery stores. The line between the cafe summer areas and the first empty alcohol bottles near the park bins created the very "border" that Richard Sennett spoke about in the concept of the "open" city, to which two diametrically opposed communities of urban space users approach, feeling unexpected joy interaction Citizens starved for social interaction after months of self-isolation have found unexpected value in places where you can observe other people and be visible. After the lockdown, the potential for conflict between cafe patrons and drinking youth is perceived as the value of urban life.

If, according to Rem Koolhaas, "Manhattan is a cluster of many possible, but never happened, disasters," then the pandemic has taught us that the city is the joy of experiencing the fact that these disasters could happen. The prevention of the death of cities should be the illusion of an impending catastrophe: the presence of public spaces that gather the most dissimilar people as close as possible to each other, creating a good overview for them. Visibility of the Other — opposing opinions, interests, views — is a valuable characteristic of a living city, the importance of which is only amplified by the pandemic. Synoikismos cannot be virtualized and transferred to the homepage. All the magic of urban interaction is in the mutual vulnerability that we remain in our information bubbles.