MEETING OF IDEAS – Danube Design Lab

Commissioned by: The Collective Foundation

Client: European Parliament in Bulgaria

Brief: Leading a design workshop

Period: July – September 2022

The Collective Foundation, organiser of the widely popular Rivers of the City festivals (Sofia, Ruse and Gabrovo), invited Komplekt to lead a workshop on rethinking our connection with the river and challenging the given context. The seminar should mark the start of creating a plan for action for upgrading the Danube bank of Ruse. Transformation is a process and it takes time, so the first step is to gather ideas for the long-term development of the Danube coastline through the involvement of citizens and their active participation.

The half-day design marathon was held on September 30, 2022 in “Canetti House” Ruse and gathered 30 students, young people and active community representatives from Bulgaria and Romania. As leaders of the seminar, our task was to propose a work process, thematic challenges and an effective summary of the results. Divided into 6 groups, the participants collaborated in the following areas: SPACE (urbanism), SOCIETY (engagement of civil society) and RECREATION AND CULTURE (events). Everyone walked to the coastline of the Danube river, outlined the problems and potentials of the place, tested different ideas and came up with concrete proposals for the future development of the strip.

Several infrastructure issues were identified in relation to attracting citizens and visitors to the waterfront. Each of the groups proposed solutions in the three thematic groups. Some of these were, for example, the rerouting of freight trains that cut the urban fabric in two, the construction of an urban railway to connect the city to the river, more and better landscaping, offering a rich cultural and sports program, and a more enhanced and targeted communication like navigation system and site-specific promotion. It was also proposed to build public-private partnerships to use the neglected coastal warehouses.

The design seminar was followed by a public discussion with a focus on “New European Bauhaus”. Organised by the Bureaus of the European Parliament in Sofia and Bucharest, the event aimed to bring forward ways of civic participation in public life, so as to contribute to sustainable positive changes for the environment. Representatives from European institutions shared live online and in the hall their expertise on the topics of the Green Pact, the circular economy and various ways in which citizens and non-profit organizations can contribute to the development of their cities through successful civil interventions. Komplekt presented the results generated by the morning design seminar. In the most optimal case, the heritage of the workshop would serve as a basis for creating an action plan on how to transform and activate the river bank economically and socially by involving stakeholders like citizens, municipality, business, CCI, etc.

The recording of the discussion can be watched here.

We thank the European Parliament in Bulgaria and the Collective Foundation for inviting us to lead this most meaningful design seminar.