The collapse of the 20th-century socialist ideology has catalyzed a process of economic and social transition in post-Socialist republics. In the climate of transition, the responsibility of government is a pivotal question, and in this period individuals have struggled to gain agency for themselves because of the inability of governments to meet the needs of citizens. Issues of informality, however, span the world, and there are commonalities in questions of recognition and legitimization of informal conditions by local governments, financial and social freedoms of citizens, and opportunity for individuals to advance and improve their living standards.
What responsibility does a government have to its citizens in maintaining public space and infrastructure, and how can the responsible authorities become more cognizant in perpetuating the distinctive character of public and institutional space in cities? What economic implications can public space have for communities, is legitimacy or recognition by local governments necessary, and what processes should be implemented in formalizing spaces to maintain a distinctive local character? The emergence of informal economies is the result of an absence of governmental and economic structures, and the way which citizens become self-reliant; if governments do not develop infrastructure and public space which meet the needs of citizens, how can communities self-organize to gain public space for both communal use and economic benefit? Could the methodologies applied by individuals to reach economic freedom be implemented for the benefit of entire communities, how can the processes of self-organization be stimulated, and what role can architects and urbanists play in ‘grassroots’ development? What obstacles must individuals overcome to gain agency for themselves in different contexts, and how should governments respond to informal economic development and organic morphologies in urban landscapes?
These questions and more were discussed with Sarhat Petrosyan (UrbanLab Armenia), Lela Rekhviashvili and Wladimir Sgibnev (The Marshutka Project), Nutsa Kandelaki, Nutsa Nadareishvili, and Shotiko Sagalenidze (Urban Experiments Group), Charlotte Malterre-Barthes (ETH), Michal Murauski (University College London) and Ayham Dalal (Urban Habitat)