Urban sustainability between spatial, social and data justice

Thursday 28.4 at 15.15–16.45

Space, justice and everyday democracy: Conceptual starting points for advancing urban sustainability

Päivi Rannila, Tampere University & Miriam Tedeschi, University of Turku / Tampere University

The inspiration for this presentation is our newest research project Space, Justice and Everyday Democracy (Kone Foundation, 2022–2025). The presentation introduces two theoretical starting points of the project – the questions of justice and everyday democracy – and discusses their potential in the advancement of urban sustainability in urban margins or peripheries. Our reading of justice combines the elements of spatial, social and data justice, all of which are constantly negotiated in everyday urban life. One of the aims of the project is to identify and conceptualize small, mundane practices that have potential to advance more sustainable, democratic and equitable urban futures. The focus on the everyday justice and democracy serves as an alternative for the conception of active citizenship that is not enough to analyse the potential political agency of the more disadvantaged. Addressing these issues is significant in order to understand more about the limited possibilities for participation of those facing social, bodily or cultural restrictions (due to structural inequality, ageing, illnesses, difficulties in communication etc.).

Urban space and collective action – What is in the relationship?

Paul Tiensuu, University of Helsinki & Aino Hirvola, Aalto University

The justice or injustice of the way the space is inhabited, organised and distributed depends on the norms that reign in the space. What is the origin of these norms? Justice and injustice are always in practice defined from a perspective, which raises the question: Who gets to decide how the space is justly arranged? And how does the space itself affect this? This can be seen as a vicious circle, where the way the space is normatively organised affects who gets to organise the space normatively. Our research addresses particularly this latter effect by asking does the urban planning itself affect the capacity of the people to participate in the normative determination of the space that they live in, that is, planning decision-making about their own neighbourhood. More precisely, does the way that urban planning arranges housing, working, transport, shopping, recreation etc. affect this capacity? Our hypothesis is that the distribution of different activities in urban planning can influence the number and strength of the relations that the people can form within their neighbourhood, and thus the formation of the network between them. This could affect their capacity to collective action, and consequently their capacity to activate to advocate their own interests in urban planning. In this presentation we discuss two underpinning theoretical questions: whether a relation exists between the collective action capacity and effective political participation; and how modernist urban planning affects the space for forming of relations needed to collective action.

Spatial justice in your dreams

Maiju Loukola, UNIARTS Helsinki

The City as Space of Rules and Dreaming research project analyses the relation of spatial practices through arts and law in cities. The project aims to further the discursive and practical articulation of how norms, spatial arrangements and citizens’ desires interwtine. City space is created and contested in a polemical relationship between different, often conflictual forces and actors. It is not a predetermined order, but a space that evolves and becomes re-structured in political and artistic activity.  

This proposal figures out how can art and law put practice-based interrogations of more just urban space into work. Art can liberate urban space and create alternative scenarios for it, but how could the law respond to a demand of reinforcing the visions of more just city? Urban space is saturated with a number of administrative institutional practices, but it also includes a variety of ”soft” legal instruments and practices. Urban law, like public space art and urban artistic interventions, manifests itself in material dimensions – in how traffic is organized, in city planning, in architecture, walls, squares and thoroughfares. It is both in the material and discursive dimensions that art and urban law are brought in collision to find new tangential points between the two dissenting orders, with the aim to add more holistic understanding of the citizens’ sense of belonging to “their city”. (Lefebvre 2003 and 1968; Harvey 2008 and 2000) I am looking at the question ”whose city, whose dreams” also through another project, ”City for all” by Diakonissalaitos (Daconness Foundation Helsinki), as I am asking whose dreams do we talk about while dreaming of a more just city?

An age-friendly suburb?

Virve Repo, University of Turku

The demographic changes in (western) cities are constantly under discussion. The urbanization and ageing population challenge the governments and organizations to create the ways all inhabitants could take part of the life in the city and utilize the services available. Age-friendly cities are defined as communities that offer a possibility to residents to grow older actively with their families, neighbourhoods and take part to the actions of the community. This requires positive environment, which is related to built environment, social system, participation, health and safety (Fitzgerald & Caro 2014). The global network of WHO connects age-friendly cities globally. In Finland, Turku and Tampere are part of the network. In addition, a quality recommendation for age-friendly life was given in 2020 by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.  The recommendation does not specifically mention suburban areas. Yet, it has been acknowledged in studies that suburbs have rapidly changed during the last decades in many ways, for example to multicultural milieus (Huttunen and Juntunen 2020). Thus, there is a need for studies connected to age-friendly suburbs.  The age-friendliness has been a popular topic among (Finnish) scholars in last couple of years. This paper seeks out, how the possibilities of participation has been taken into account in the previous studies. I am especially interested in the role of spatial limitations concerning elderly citizens and their abilities to be active citizens. The spatial aspects are not limited to only physical environments but include also official and unofficial norms, relationships and perceptions of risks.

Local actors in sustainable urban brownfield redevelopment: a case from Hiedanranta area in Tampere

Jonas Sjöblom, Sanna Rikala & Antti Wallin, Tampere University

In recent years, social sustainability has become one of the most widely used word pairs in urban development. In our presentation, we approach social sustainability from the perspective of opportunities for participation and influence. Our presentation is based on a study in which we examine temporary users’, associations’ and grassroots actors’, opportunities for participation and influence in the development of Hiedanranta area in ​​Tampere.  The research material consists of interviews with local actors and policy documents on regional planning. The development of the area is declared to link ecological, economic, and social sustainability. However, the definition of social sustainability in planning documents is unclear and local actors feel uncertain about their position in the area in the future. The aim of the study is to examine how local actors seek to strengthen the social sustainability of the area through their own activities and how the actors’ opportunities to influence appear in the development of the area.