The Post-Socialist City and the Revaluation of Public Space. Case Study – Velenje

  • Abstract:

    This paper discusses how public space is revaluated under the premise of changed political and civic structures by the example of the city of Velenje in Slovenia. Being an important industrial hub, the site was turned into a modern city in the 1950s and 60s by the post-war communist leadership. Planned and built according to principles of modernist town planning and the garden city model, Velenje became a showpiece-city of socialist Yugoslavia. The town center was constituted as a built arrangement of administrative, educational, cultural and recreational facilities, supposedly representing the ideals of socialist-collectivism. The value of the built environment was considered in relation to its expression of a universal order that regulates the lives of the workers and creates a backdrop for mass gatherings and political rallies. How did the meaning of Velenje’s public space transform after Slovenia’s independence and in consequence of democratization processes? Currently, dichotomous acts of revaluation occur, which result in diverse ways of aestheticization and revitalization. On one hand, the architectural heritage of the socialist city is now foregrounded, made visible by stripping it from its political burden, and marketed as tourist experience. This is supported by EU programs like ATRIUM (Architecture of Totalitarian Regimes of the XX Century in Urban Management), which asks for new values of the built environment of former totalitarian regimes in democratic cities. On the other hand, Velenje successively reorganizes its public space. The effective redesign and reprogramming of a vast pedestrian zone serve the production of a different form of publicness in contradiction to socialist planning. Following these phenomena, the question remains how aestheticization and individualization contribute to a continuation of politicization of public space after democratization; and how does its meaning transform under the impact of market mechanisms and economic-liberal tendencies?