How small Towns and Districts form new Economy

The plenary session "Deep Insight: Regional Development Strategy. Local Identity as New Economy" has become one of the key events of the section "Creative Environment and Urban Studies" of the VIII Saint Petersburg International Cultural Forum.

On November 14, the architects, officials, managers of the social foundations and festival curators met in The General Staff Building of the State Hermitage Museum to discuss how the cultural and educational initiatives develop the towns and settlements.

Sergey Kuznetsov, the chief architect of Moscow; Mikhail Zygar, writer and journalist; Edouard Moreau, urbanist, founder of Orchestra Design Studio and other experts spoke at the event.

Today relatively small towns and districts have found ways to experiment with creation of new economy models and achieve quick results. The cultural and educational projects, thanks to which tourists and skilled staff are ready and willing to come to and the investments are received by the non-capital areas, become such towns’ development drivers.

Edouard Moreau, urbanist and founder of Orchestra Design Studio, shared his experience of working in Russia and how the Octava Project - a new attraction point for residents and guests of Tula - was doing today.

"Culture is am amazing tool for development of small towns and regions. It's important to combine such development with tourism. For example, Tula is a very interesting city which is located not far from Moscow, with a direct railroad route between them. The problem is that young people leave the city. It's vital for the city to make the youth stay - that's what our Octava Project is about. Here's a library, a classroom, working spaces, a cafe, a laboratory with a special program for local schoolchildren. If it were only a museum, people would come here once, and they would never return, but since it's a full-fledged public space, people come here over and over again. Such spaces define the future of the city.

Even small Russian towns have a potential for creation of public spaces. The potential can be found anywhere - it's important to combine new spaces with the infrastructure and make it based on culture," Edouard Moreau noted.

Mikhail Zygar, writer and journalist, CEO of the History of the Future Creative Studio, told how the modern urban environment could attract tourists of a new generation using his project as an example.

"The important thing about urban studies is that it's not about architecture, art objects and physical objects only. The mythology is important as well. The mythology is focused on both tourists and locals. A myth is a story associated with a certain place. That's the field of work for the mobile art theatre. This project is local by nature, it's hardly a Moscow-scale initiative. It's an idea that should be fit in the urban environment. Every production is created specially for a certain region. It's always about an individually written play and well selected cast," Mikhail Zygar shared.

Dmitry Razumovsky, Mayor of Kaluga, spoke on the importance of a systematic approach and preservation of identity of small towns.

"Kaluga was lucky: it was hardly destroyed during the Great Patriotic War. Everything that was included in the master plan of the city development by architects in the 18th century was preserved. If you want to know what Russia in the times of Catherine II looked like, come to Kaluga. Our key point is stable development of the city and preservation of existing routines at the same time. There are many of them: history and culture of our city, the space topic we definitely count on, and a few quantitative indicators. This year a Chief Architect has appeared in the city who also makes significant efforts to reboot the work with both city communities and city projects. What is done for development of human capital and the new economy? 7 directions have been identified. The main one is creating a comfortable urban environment, development of urban spaces," Dmitry Razumovsky said.

The topic of support and development of city identities was continued by Sergey Kuznetsov, Chief Architect of Moscow.

"Identity that have been shaped for a long time in various cities - folklore and many other aspects of culture, architecture - are often in a sorry state. Pieces of architecture in a poor state do not have to be restored, they can also be capitalized. An example of identity is using local oddities. Such as a flooded belltower in Kalyazin. We can see a few prerequisites for development of such projects that are already actively used abroad. We can be proud of our superiority in space navigation due to several events, but our museums of cosmonautics hardly offer much interesting to see. However, this topic could become a powerful layer of identity," Sergey Kuznetsov noted.