Urbanism | Monocle

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Animated future


Ethnic Serbs call it Pec; the ethnic-Albanian majority of this city of 50,000 people in western Kosovo prefer Peja. Either way, 24-year-old native Vullnet Sanaja is proud of its attractions. “It’s a small town, surrounded by mountains – it has a really good environment,” he says.

But Sanaja is at the centre of efforts to prove that there is more to the city than just serving as a base for hiking in the hills. In the days of Yugoslavia, when Kosovo was a province of Serbia, Pec was a cultural hub boasting a high school for the arts with a list of famous alumni. The school is still there but the conflict of the 1990s saw most ethnic Serbs leave and artistic life enfeebled. Spurred by their parents’ tales of the good times, Sanaja and his friends co-founded the Anibar International Animation Festival. They were still teenagers at the time – “We made sure people didn’t know our age,” he says, laughing – and now the event is onto its seventh edition.

International visitors to the festival have brought cultural exchange back to Pec, with Mike Reiss, the former showrunner of The Simpsons, among last year’s guests. “It’s important when people from abroad come and share different perspectives,” says Sanaja. The founders are using the festival as a springboard for grassroots redevelopment in Pec. Festival-goers boost the local economy, there have been infrastructure improvements to parks and public spaces, and “building locally”, as Sanaja puts it, is now seen as a viable alternative to leaving for the capital, Pristina. “Culture empowers people to do things beyond the routine,” she adds. Anibar is living proof.

Beyond the sea


The busiest sea route connecting Sweden and Finland runs over the Bothnian Sea, from Stockholm to Helsinki and Turku – but there is another, lesser-known route further north. The cities of Vaasa and Umeå also have a ferry running between them – albeit a small and old one. Now there are big plans to upgrade the connection with a new passenger and cargo vessel and surrounding rail infrastructure.

The regions want to amp up economic growth by providing a fast year-round transport route. The route would bypass more than 800km of existing roads, saving fuel and time. The residents of the two cities have been longing for an upgraded connection for years: it would allow access to a much larger area for work, shopping and leisure on both sides of the sea. A large part of the financing has already been secured and the new ferry is due to be completed in 2018.

Deep clean


Portland’s riverfront is the heart of the city’s industrial economy and the possible site of promising future residential developments. “We have 40,000 river-dependent jobs,” says Nick Fish, the city councillor in charge of the Oregon city’s environmental bureau. “All along the river are brownfields that could be converted into housing.”

Now the area’s rivers are set for a federally mandated pollution clean-up on a grand scale: plans should be set by the end of 2016, the ultimate cost could be $3bn (€2.6bn) and the project will take decades. Still in question is what kind of urban planning and development will be possible after environmental, municipal and commercial groups (which will have to fund the clean-up) have their say. “Uncertainty prevents companies from making further investments,” says Fish. “We need a practical plan. The last thing we want is 20 years of litigation.”


Kengo Kuma



After Zaha Hadid’s plans for Tokyo’s new National Olympic Stadium were rejected at the last minute, the job of coming up with a new vision went to architect Kengo Kuma. Now he has to deliver.

The new stadium in will be situated in Meiji Jingu Gaien park. How did you utilise the surroundings?
I wanted to integrate the nearby forest and shrines, which are special to Tokyo’s people, into the stadium’s design. My solution was to cover the façade with wooden lattice. It is a building that is warm, natural and pure.

Why is wood important in structures in the city?
In the 20th century cities were covered by concrete and steel, and most lost their sense of peace. The role of 21st-century urban design is to recover that peacefulness, even in the centre of the city.

Your aim is to have a stadium that’s as low and as flat as possible. Is that an aspect of bringing a sense of Japanese tradition to the project?
Yes, traditionally Japanese buildings had a low silhouette and cities were very low. That kind of tradition is still needed so we proposed the low-silhouette stadium for the Olympics. That kind of human scale is necessary for our city life. If everybody wants high ceilings and big volume, the quality of the city would be gone.

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