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Ideas and discussions – valuable takeaways from the Livable City Forum in Tartu
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Many thanks to our Estonian partners for the round of discussions at the Livable City Forum. These three days were worthwhile, inspirational and rich in valuable ideas for our future work, so we asked our experts to share their impressions and suggestions.

Guntars Ruskuls, director of the Strategic Planning division of the City Development Department at Riga Municipality, admits that the experience of other cities is the most valuable that can be taken into account, when planning the strategic development of Riga. One of take-away messages corresponds well to the situation in Latvia: “When starting the reorganisation of university premises, Tartu took into account the fact that students of natural sciences need a modern infrastructure – labs, specimens, equipment for tests. As a result, they are located in the newest building at the campus. Whereas, the students of social sciences that do not need modern labs can currently stay in the historical buildings at the city centre. As we plan to develop the knowledge hub or so-called Knowledge Mile in Riga on the left bank of river Daugava, this approach can be applied in Latvia, too.”

Aleksandrs Feļtins, representative of Office of Riga City Architect, tells that this was his first time at a Livable City Forum, and thus he was positively surprised by this valuable experience. He appreciates that finally the rather specific topic of developing student towns is viewed in a wider context – in the forum, the main topic was viewed in conjunction with trends in urban development research. Meanwhile, as the most important take-away Mr Feļtins considers that the principles of successfully developing an urban environment also apply in creating urban environment for a student town.

From his point of view, the research paper presented by Karl Samuelsson on an upcoming research project was the most memorable. In this paper, the author provides a critical evaluation of contemporary ideological trends in urban planning, by asking the rhetorical question, whether a sustainable city can also be appropriate for convenient living.

Whereas, Emīls Rode, expert from Riga Planning Region, is concise and practical with his impressions: “It was interesting to visit Tartu, a seemingly small yet international city. The connection between Riga and Tartu should be improved – we are neighbours with a shared history, so the 4-hour journey by bus is too long. Our take-away from Tartu campus development experience is that, no matter how great the architecture is, just like that of the impressive and cosy Physicum building, it is crucial to integrate the campus in the overall fabric of the city.”

Ilgvars Francis, Riga Planning Region representative, is convinced that the participation at this forum has increased the capacity of our representatives to apply innovative ideas and instruments to the planning of local urban development. He also points out that another valuable take-away is the new contacts made with representatives from other countries, cities or regions in the Baltic Sea region. Three days, yet so many exciting discussions and brilliant ideas for us to remember!

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