Mythologizing urban project: case of Barona Street in Riga


Authors: Helena Gutmane

Volume/Issue: Volume 25: Issue 1

Published online: 14 Jun 2022

Pages: 81 - 91



The paper attempts to deconstruct the production of the myth associated with a street renovation project in Riga’s historical centre. During and after the reconstruction of Barona Street, it was widely used as a public image of street renovation failure. Professional and civil society blamed ad hoc planning, wrong traffic organisation, inappropriate design, and poor construction quality. It is this association of solely spatial aspects with the failure to create qualitative public space that constitutes the core of the Barona Street Myth of Failed design. The article postulates that interaction of social identity and social emotions underline communicative landscapes when significant public spaces are being transformed and induce mythologizing of urban projects. Built on the analysis of the related reflections and criticism in media and public discussions, the thick description of the Barona Street project’s events attempts to show how socially and emotionally shaped perception of design and implementation process by involved social groups has contributed to the mythologising the renovation of Barona Street. The conclusions emphasize socio-psychological framing of urban analysis. The emotional implication of the Barona Street myth induces reattribution of the responsibility for Failed Design to individual political leaders, designers, and involved municipal workers, shifting public attention away from structural and governance inability to engage with public spaces and creating preconditions for involving urban project as a tool in political power games.

Keywords: public space, myth, emotions, social identity



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