Post-Nuclear Urbanism 2020

The umbrella question for 6th EHU LCU Visaginas Summer School was – where empirically and with which conceptual tools to trace double effects of de- & re-industrialisation and of digitalisation in the modernist, top-down planned living environment, with its reducing dependence on the sole external employer (the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant)? Given the urban history of the CEE region in the second half of the 20th century, Visaginas is indeed a laboratory for situated urbanist work to make sense of these effects. The notion of ‘knowledge infrastructures’ is helpful for observing how some modes of living and knowing centered around 20th century welfare infrastructures become fragile when those welfare infrastructures are challenged by their digital alternatives.

In the frame of longer history and in a more abstract conceptual frame it is also exciting to confront the strategic role of nuclear infrastructures in the Cold War period with the now emerging discussions about digital sovereignty.

Focus on the existing Visaginas public library in these urbanist research and teaching productively grounds them in the town’s real life developmental strategies and visions, economic opportunities, political views, values and conflicts. Each year since 2016 the bigger aim of the School was specified depending on tutors and participants interests, skills and insecurities. Thus the results were always differently applied – “how to re-zone existing library building, but keep its modernist form?”, “what is specifically nuclear factor of Visaginas de-industrialization?”, “in which forms library can be present outdoors?”, “how to organize situated public consultations about a new urban project?”.

In 2020 the group focused on the scenario of opening a new library building (instead of existing two) in the oldest micro-district with an aging population and with a higher density of public cultural and knowledge institutions. This scenario is now actively discussed and contested in Visaginas. Thus the focus was on the possible resulting effects of this re-opening on micro-district scale, as well as on how these effects should determine the projected library’s functional program. This is continuation of the earlier identified ‘welfare town’ development horizon for Visaginas.

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