The Public Space Research Group, international research group founded by Professor Setha Low (CUNY), welcomed Valentina Gulin Zrnić and Saša Poljak Istenič on October 15, 2021. During an online session they presented a lecture titled “Urban planning and interventions into green spaces: Zagreb and Ljubljana’s imaginings of the future”.
The project “Urban Futures: Imagining and Activating Possibilities in Unsettled Times”, which this presentation derives from, is dedicated to researching future-making in selected Slovenian and Croatian cities. Future-making refers to an understanding of elements combined in imagining, anticipating, and perceiving futures – cognitively, discursively, and affectively – as well as in modalities of everyday life and engagement that contain a particular relationship towards futures. Urban planning and interventions into public spaces – top-down and bottom-up – are inherently future-oriented practices the analysis relies on. They reveal often contested conceptions of “a static future of the imagination and a dynamic trajectory between now and then” (Abram 2017: 61). Using a comparative analysis of such practices in the capitals Zagreb (Croatia) and Ljubljana (Slovenia), the presentation focuses on public green spaces and discusses what kind of futures they have inspired through the last century. After the brief introduction of the cities’ design, it reveals how green spaces were planned and understood in socialism and how their perception and usage changed during the post-socialist period, especially regarding land denationalisation and restitution, constructions and commercialisation, citizen participation, and urban branding. The pandemic, however, has brought a new awareness of the significance of public green spaces and pokes us to speculate on the (different) futures public green spaces have and could potentially provide to the citizens and their cities.