This summer we applied for the 13th edition of the Europan Europe competition. (jury excerpt)

The Europan competition has a tradition of more than twenty years and its intention is to develop ideas and promote discussion on spatial design. Application to the competition is limited to architects and landscape architects that have just started their professional work, and have not yet reached 40 years of age.

For this year’s edition of Europan, we could choose between 49 locations all over Europe – from Molefetta, the most southerly, to Trondheim all the way up north. Barreiro in Portugal was the most westerly choice of location, and Jyväskylä was the furthest east. Despite the range of choice, it was not difficult for us to decide on Vienna. The deciding factors in our choice were acquiescence with the location, the possibility of visiting it and the task itself.

And today we found out that the Viennese jury of Europan 13 decided to choose our proposal as the winning one.

The topic of this year’s Europan competition (each edition has its own topic) was “the adaptable city”. The competition’s authors decided on this topic because questions regarding city development in a time of omnipresent economic, environmental and social crisis are more and more difficult to answer.

The Europan assignment in Vienna was focused on how to restructure and redesign a 10 ha area around the largest shopping centre in Vienna, and that way bring closer the goal of Vienna becoming a polycentric city.

At the moment Kagran’s public centre is actualy Donauzentrum itself, a shopping centre where all of the activities are set in a controlled physical environment, separate from other urban activities and urban settings.

As a solution – to develop public space in the centre of Kagran – we proposed long-term and radical intervention in the structure of the whole of Kagran Centre in order to construct open space where there is the highest density of traffic and people, and where many of the users meet. We called the new centre, or part of the centre, PUBLICQUARTIER as it focuses on public use and participation.

For Kagran Centre to become a city centre in itself will be a long transformative process, but trajectories can be set today. Crucial are the changes that will engender a diverse, recognisable and accessible public space; a variety of uses and its democratic participatory administration; and goals set by Smart City strategies.

In strategic oversight it is necessary to think beyond the available open space in Schrödinger Platz as a place to develop public space, and to expect that the main public space should instead develop in a place that is at the moment occupied by the shopping centre and garages. The development of a diverse and accessible public space is possible by changing the built environment and offsetting current programmatic hierarchies. To ensure accessibility, open public space should have a position in the direct vicinity of a public transport node and in the centre of a network of pedestrian and cycling routes. It has to be structured in relation to its use and diverse users.

Publicquartier is proposed as a space that is focused on public activities and accessible programmes – an open space connected to green areas and open to be administered, organised and formed by the public itself. The new public space should be a rigorous testing ground for participatory politics. Technology and science can also be developed as communal and personal endeavours if there is an infrastructure to support such activities. In the Publicquartier there is space for such development in workshops, learning centres and co-working spaces.

We are not yet certain what awaits us after the winning ceremony in February 2016. The competition includes an opportunity for authors of the winning proposal to be actively involved in the development of the restructuring of Kagran Centre. Whatever the challenges will be, we keenly await them.