How and why we decided to establish Rijecina Nature Park and send local councils on the way

By Marin Nižić

Our basic assumption is that every person possesses knowledge that can and should be harnessed in the development of the local environment. Such knowledge is tangible and grows within a place, and it is defined by specific social, institutional, natural and contextually given features – we call all these “communities”. Communities preserve, reproduce and change such knowledge. Their identities are lived, grown and learned.

Innovative use of existing knowledge and construction of new ones are in the nature of our practices. In doing so, we strongly rely on the construction of narratives, which talk about identities – values, problems, weaknesses, spatial and other potentials, as well as desires and needs. We believe that narratives are capable of designing the possibilities for the desired change to happen at all.

How do we translate all of the above into practice? By experimental participatory programs deeply rooted in the locality. We bring culture to places and communities where it is sorely lacking, revitalizing them with critical and innovative practices.

We have chosen two terms that we borrow from the legislation in order to put the above into practice: local councils and nature park. In the language of the law, the local councils represents a form of direct participation of citizens in deciding on local councils. A nature park, on the other hand, is defined as a cultivated area with the emphasized landscape, educational, cultural-historical and tourist-recreational values.

By conquering formal structures, we perform Narratives, whose main program lines are the Traveling Local Councils and the Rječina Nature Park.

TRAVELING LOCAL COUNCILS

Traveling local councils is the common name for six localities in Rijeka, with completely specific histories, characters, problems and potential. Neighborhoods that we have chosen together with the residents of Rijeka, are the itinerary of the year-long trip of the Urbani Separe Association, partners and audiences.

The traveling local councils is made up of 6 emerging communities that, through contemporary cultural, artistic and sustainable practices, make their immediate environment a better place to live. Through a series of activities and the production of new original works of art, along with the continuous networking of emerging communities, the foundations of a shared network of activities, knowledge and resources are created.

When organizing each of the public events, one per neighborhood, the Urbani Separe Association uses a curatorial approach, in cooperation with a network of partners, the neighbors themselves and the public, to point out the identity of a particular place and its potential, while creating tangible changes in the public space, using micro-local knowledge and resources.

RJECINA NATURE PARK

Rijeka’s only river, the neglected, once dirty and often dried-up Rječina, is becoming the newest nature park in the country! It becomes a cultivated area with the emphasized landscape, educational, cultural-historical and tourist-recreational values.

As every nature park strives to interpret and valorize its rich heritage, so does this one. The Rječina Nature Park is a new spatial entity made up of the entire course of the river, both natural and urban. Streets become hiking trails, resort sidewalks, and retaining walls lookout points. The specificities of Rječina become endemic species that are actively cared for.

We from the Urbani Separe Association are developing the visual and narrative identity of the fictitious Nature Park in our special nature park, along with large-scale public events, with the aim of pointing out the cultural, urban and other potentials of living by the river.