Faculty of Earth Sciences, Geography, and Astronomy
Institute for Geography and Regional Research
Universitätsstraße 7, D519
1010 Vienna, Austria
Joshua Grigsby, MSc.
+43 699 10912698
24 May 2016, Vienna
To whom it may concern,
my name is Joshua Grigsby. I am the assistant programme coordinator for the 4CITIES Erasmus Mundus Master Course in Urban Studies and a lecturer at the University of Vienna. One of my responsibilities is to develop the itinerary for an annual university excursion to Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Belgrade. This year we visited Tovarna Rog in Ljubljana, which proved to be one of the highlights of the entire trip.
Sociologist and urban planner Richard Sennett, borrowing from Jane Jacobs, distinguishes between open cities and brittle cities. The former embrace flexibility and open systems, while the latter are characterised by closed systems and over-determination. Open systems recognise the value of “in-between” spaces of democratic “becoming.” These are the places, like Tovarna Rog, where residents become active citizens instead of passive consumers, where new approaches to urban issues can be experimented with, where new narratives of urbanistic and cultural development emerge. Open cities are dynamic, resilient, they endure. Brittle cities die. Cities are complex adaptive systems that require openness and a wide spectrum of possibilities in order to thrive. Alternative social centers like Tovarna Rog are not a threat to the establishment; on the contrary, they support vibrant urbanity precisely by providing alternative opportunities, perspectives, and approaches. Cities, if they are allowed to function properly, are defined more by diversity than similarity. There is no surer way to kill a city than to stamp out “alternative” cultural spaces. As Ljubljana continues to transform itself, it should be careful not to become overdetermined, homogeneous, and brittle. The city would be wise to not only allow places like Rog to exist but to collaborate with them as partners and value them as the assets they are. Without such initiatives, Ljubljana would be a lesser city.
Sincerely, Joshua Grigsby, MSc.