The urbanist in a context of crisis: Facing the different perceptions of the city
Keywords:urbanist, mediator, negociator, city model, public participation
The economic crisis has reinforced the need to cross information and seek new alternatives. How urban planners are going to deal with it is crucial. It is urgent to reactivate the profession’s social function and recognize that the right to the city for all is universal. Urban planning is the result of political and technical decisions. Cities are occupied by a group of non-homogeneous citizens. It is important to understand if the city ‘model’ representation by each group is convergent or divergent. While understanding public participation as the instrument to listen to people’s voices, it is worth to consider politicians’, technicians’ and citizens’ representations and perceptions about this issue. The case study used here was the Polis Programme - Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal. We asked politicians, technicians and citizens about the concept of urban life quality, the ideal city ‘model’ and the importance of public participation in urban planning decisions. We applied both quantitative and qualitative techniques. On the concept of urban quality of life, differences were found between technicians, politicians and citizens, and convergence occurred between genders and different academic profiles. When describing the ideal city, politicians and citizens share the same vision; however, there is a gender difference. Besides the consensus about the importance of participation, there is absence of citizen participation, which is justified by the lack of encouragement of authorities, parallel to the lack of interest on those issues by citizens. The results show the necessity for dialogue as a means to build more equitable and inclusive cities. In this context, the role of urban planners is to act as mediators and negotiators, committed and informed.
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