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Living Lab Experiment Graz

The Living Lab experiment in short: The Living Lab experiment engages local stakeholders in the ‘smart’ redesign of Griesplatz, an important square in the urban centre of Graz that is especially important for its function as a traffic hub.

Context of experiment: The Griesplatz is an important traffic hub in the urban area of Graz, which serves various purposes: private vehicle mobility, public transportation, pedestrian and cyclist zones, local goods supply, housing and many services and institutions of all sorts. While over the last decade the Griesplatz has been an important subject of district development and urban renewal, it still suffers from low quality of the living environment for pedestrians and cyclists due to the high levels of motorized traffic.

Governance context: The City of Graz follows a long-term “Smart City Strategy” which includes mobility measures prioritizing public transport, investments in e-mobility and city logistics. For the redesign of the Griesplatz interrelations with other city projects close-by  need to be anticipated, such as the renovation of the “Rösselmühlpark”, traffic calming measures for the area of the “Griesgasse” and plans for redevelopment of the adjacent “Griesviertel”.

In the context of social inclusion and upscaling, the Living Lab Griesplatz will support the implementation of this redesign project by organising a participatory planning process that focuses on the inclusion of technology, people and institutions. This process is based on the city-internal guidelines for participation, which have been developed and applied in a couple of projects over the recent years and will be evaluated in the Griesplatz Living Lab with regards to institutional upscaling.

The participatory approach should reduce the risk of a socio-technical ‘misfit’ of the new square (i.e. technical solutions that do not fit the demand and concerns of stakeholders), as well as the risk of excluding certain social groups (especially marginalised groups, by approaching them ‘on street’ and inviting them in the participatory activities), and it will also increase the legitimacy of the final design. To facilitate the Living Lab, a “city district office” was installed at Griesplatz, which hosts the project coordinators from the city’s Executive Directorate for Urban Planning. The office serves as venue for diverse activities and as a public space in general for people to get informed or bring in their opinions and desires.  

The Living Lab experiment – aim & organization: The Living Lab experiment for the “Griesplatz” consists of five phases. In Phase 1, the most important stakeholders are identified including entrepreneurs, existing civil society organization (PRO Gries, Unser Griesplatz), district leaders and district council, residents and interested inhabitants, associations and institutions, companies and traders as well as their representation of interests, landowners and investors on Griesplatz and its environment. In Phase 2, a diverse set of stakeholder assumptions, interests and expectations regarding “Griesplatz” is collected in various ways: stakeholder oriented events with a workshop character, events in public space, online platforms, and being locally present as information point or a “Stadtteilbüro” (temporary, during the participative process). The goal of the workshops with different stakeholders is to understand their expectations, needs and the functions required on the “Griesplatz” and its environment. In Phase 3, a design competition for the “Griesplatz” area is organized. Citizens and civil society organisations are challenged to propose a design. The smartest design receives a prize, although there is no promise that it will be implemented integrally, but useful elements will be applied. In Phase 4, the results of the design competition (Phase 3) and the stakeholder perspectives and suggestions for the renovation plan (Phase 2) will feed into the final architectural (re)design of Griesplatz. In Phase 5 the effects of the Living Lab are evaluated through a survey and a joint reflection workshop.

The participatory activities, both ‘on street’ and ‘online’, will focus on exchange and joint engagement of the stakeholders. Through internet and digital media, information will be provided to the wider public, Emails and letters are also part of the information. There will be special attention for local actors, groups as well as individuals frequenting the “Griesplatz”.

Expected Results: The Living Lab experiment will effectively build in additional reflexivity in the “Griesplatz” renovation project through the broader involvement of key stakeholders into a co-design process. This will increase the chances of a successful renovation of the “Griesplatz”. Most notably it will reduce the risk of a socio-technical ‘misfit’ of the new square (i.e. technical solutions that do not fit the demand and concerns of stakeholders), as well as the risk of excluding certain social Groups (especially non-smart groups, by approaching them ‘on street’ and inviting them in the participative activities). It will also increase legitimacy of the final design.

Partners: City of Graz, University of Graz (Karl-Franzens-University), University of Technology Graz

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