Planning the Port and City - Ideas and Trends

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Tijekom međunarodne konferencije gradova luka koja se od 15. do 19. studenog održava u Buenos Airesu, riječki gradonačelnik dao je intervju za glasilo AIVP-a, Međunardone asocijacije lučkih gradova

Four questions to… Vojko Obersnel, Mayor, Rijeka City, Croatia

AIVP : Can we talk about general architectural and urban planning trends for the port city, in particular concerning the port city interface?

V. Obersnel: Port cities can decide about their future appearance, which structure of the local economy and what type of tourists they would like to have. So, we can have projects either directed towards a complete commercialization or domination of public facilities, or we can choose compromise solutions. In the case of Rijeka, as a port city, I personally support a combined solution - balancing between attractive commercial facilities and humanized public spaces. Here I am fully aware that within the Rijeka Gateway Project we bring decisions about port and commercial activities, which will in the long term change our city, our local economy, and change position of our port in the EU and globally.

AIVP : The discussion on the port city relationship generally offers two points of view: the port community defending the importance to protect spaces for port developments and the others supporting the need for open waterfronts and leisure activities. What would you say to both of them?

V. Obersnel: I would say that both groups are right, but they have to find a compromise. In this matter, there’s no ideal solution. In the past “ports absorbed cities“, because they used to occupy the most attractive areas along the coast. Today the real threat is that “ cities would absorb ports“, because we mark strong development trends of tourism and services. We must think about tomorrow and about strategic goals. As for Rijeka, we have decided to have a modern, efficient and successful port supported by road, rail and air transport infrastructure as well as by logistics. At the same time tourism is increasing and citizens pursue their wish to enjoy public spaces by the sea. We have two goals which can be combined and I think this is exactly what should be seen as our traffic advantage and as a specificity of our tourism.

AIVP : As far as you are concerned, which planning tools would you use for a successful public discussion starting on the port city relationship?

V. Obersnel: Public discussion is always open through a variety of media: newspaper, electronic, seminars, public lectures, activities of local government and civil society and continual debates on the political level. I remember that once we had a presentation of the project on a boat and we took citizens for a ride around the port and surveyed them. Also we have our city ’ s Info-corner, where citizens can obtain all the information concerning development projects. Internet is a powerful tool, especially when using e- government services. We follow and summarize all the ideas we get and we seek to include them in the project. When we receive the offer from a developer once more we will go before citizens. The citizens must decide what kind of city they want, and the architectural and urban plan will make it happen with some professional corrections of all the ideas. If we support democratization and decentralization, which is our policy, we must not be afraid of the public. In my experience, citizens have understanding for development processes, but it is our responsibility to keep them informed and to be completely transparent in planning processes and decision making.

AIVP : What would look like the ideal port city for you? Does it exist?

V. Obersnel: It is rather difficult to say whether a perfect city even exists, but port cities certainly have charms due to their imperfections. As for Rijeka, I can only say that we know what we want and we think we will reach best solutions if we continue monitoring and analyzing what ’ s been done and what ’ s going to be done. Some will find these solutions perfect, and some stimulating for further redevelopment of the city. But our goal is, as I said, very clear. We want to create a balance in the development of the port and the city, and such major projects as our Gateway Project must be implemented combining reason and emotions. I am proud to be mayor of such a dynamic city like Rijeka, and that with my decisions I can contribute to the transformation of the port and the city to the mutual benefit, creating a new partnership for the 21st century.

Tekst: AIVP Preneseno s: www.citiesandports2010.com/pdf/day_to_day_journal/Day%20to%20Day%20journal%20n-1_couleur.pdf