29 postcards to the mayor

A set of 29 postcards addressed to the mayor and city administration of Cluj encourage the local authorities to undertake action in the urban development of the city. This sequence of postcards deal with three mayor topics: first, the critique and assets of the existing situation, second, an analysis of the opportunities for the development of the city and third, an urban vision or visionary concept for a better future of Cluj. The postcards are being distributed to the citizens who are encouraged to send them to the local politicians and the media.

The first part deals with the critique and assets of the existing situation in Cluj, mostly the lacking of a general urban vision and how to deal with the vacant areas on the industrial strip on one hand and with the economic crisis on the other. The industrial strip is isolated and vacant –the city is separated into two parts, a huge barrier with little possibilities to cross. Industrial buildings are empty and hundreds of hectares of industrial land are vacant and fragmented in terms of property titles. Some of the buildings are architectonical beauties reflecting the art of design throughout the last century. A long history of industrial production led to heavy pollution and contamination of the industrial sites, a fact which is a threat to the population and environment. Contamination in a way handicaps the further development of the sites. Another factor is the turbo-capitalist driven real estate market and economy, which led to uncritical decision-making in the planning process and fraud in urban planning policies. Individualism took over a sense of community, trust is hard to find these days. The economic crisis starting from 2008 led to a high unemployment rate; small industries and entrepreneurs lack of funding to start new businesses, although Cluj is a factory of talents – 100.000 students – one quarter of the population of Cluj – live and study currently in the city.

A set of eight postcards display the second part, the analysis of the opportunities of the development of Cluj. The economic crisis is as a starting point and an opportunity for a new business model: small businesses and activation of entrepreneurship. The diversity in culture (multi-linguistic, ethnics, etc.) a huge number of university students (know-why), a certain survival instinct and a talent for improvisation (know-how) on the one hand and heritage and rich history in buildings and monuments, the position and available areas in the of the industrial strip close to the central area and the beauties of industrial architecture on the other. The economy is already diverse and fragmented, but there is much more potential of human capital in the city – this is the start of a new working-model to encourage people to start their own businesses.

The third and final part is about an urban vision or visionary concept and proposals for the city development emphasizing on economic policies and spatial interventions. A new business model is being introduced for decentralized economic development including funding of start-up of innovative small businesses. These business incubators are business agencies that support the companies with networking activities, marketing assistance, help with accounting/financial management, access to bank loans, loan funds and guarantee programs, etc. The universities participate in bridging know-how and know-why. The local enterprise agency together with an  interdisciplinary technical expert team (planners, historians, etc) sets up a decentralized strategy along the industrial strip on crucial locations and important city nodes. They occupy strategic industrial buildings (and preserve their architectural quality) and transform these buildings into business centers on a small scale for entrepreneurs. The spatial impact is the activation of vacant former industrial sites which means a certain incentive for the multifunctional development zones and nodes which are presented in the current master plan for Cluj drafted by the urban planning company Planwerk. The activation of the strip is used as an urban model for the development of sequences of incubator projects, which are well located on the strip as a starting point or seeds for the further development of the neighborhoods. The accessibility of the central areas of the vacant strip is guaranteed by opening of the areas and decontamination for the necessary public areas to avoid harm and danger to the public. The spaces in between the nodes and clusters are naturally connected by rivers which river-banks serve as recreational areas. Cycle ways connect the innovative centers and enable a west-eastern connection as well north-south connection to the historic center. Former factory-halls are activated, remodeled and converted into sport facilities and support the economic facilities (work vs. recreation) on the strip. These initial projects which are embedded into urban development areas up to 10 hectares attract new residential projects or multifunctional residential and office buildings. As a new urban planning policy of the city of Cluj, the issuance of building permits for new (conversion and conventional new construction-) projects is conditioned to a conceptional design of the surrounding area and the public space in connection with the project. The Investor gets tax benefits for providing public services and space to the public.

The first incubator and seed project is a grass-root initiative of local architectural and planning entrepreneurs. The focus is the conversion of the “shoe” tower at the clujana factory – a landmark building on the former industrial strip. The area of clujana is meant to be public and open to the people of Cluj. A project which was initiated by motivated entrepreneurs with the funding of the city, the national council and the European Union.

The main goal of this urban initiative is to raise awareness of the community towards a sustainable and integral urban development of the City of Cluj. In a very short and dense way the postcards communicate that urban development is not limited to the built environment. It’s not only a spatial and architectural project, but also an integrative and contextual development linking social, educational and economic policies.

The process at the Cluj-workshop.


The postcards in Order

29 postcards to the mayor – an urban iniciative

critique / assets


Analysis / opportunities



Vision / proposal / rules

Project Team – September 2011: Istvan, Istvan, Zsolt, Bahanur, Yilmaz, Anna, Lydia, Erika, Yilmaz, Jonmar, Ronald, Roland, Levente, Gunar, Lorenz.


Possible Funding

City of Cluj

Romanian National Council

Austrian Development Agency (ADA) – http://www.entwicklung.at/en/

European Union Regional Development Fund – http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/thefunds/regional/index_en.cfm

UNO and Agenda 21 – http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21

World Bank

European Bank for reconstruction and development – http://www.ebrd.com/pages/homepage.shtml

9th of September of 2011
Urban Issues, Vienna/Budapest
Roland Krebs / Levente Polyak.