Hybrid Frameworks Case Study in Chisinau, Moldova – Post Soviet Planning Processes

Bojan Boric

Project Period:
Type: Affiliated PhD research
Program Area(s): Critical Historiography/Material Conditions


The global upsurge of unplanned urban developments and their various manifestations have challenged the norms and practices of the modernist planning model. Many of the principles of modernist planning practice, such as regulatory systems expressed through zoning regulations, land use and urban coding are often seen today as obsolete and are ignored. In the post-political realm of the neoliberal city, the new and perhaps radical departure from the established methods and norms, and the alternatives to conventional planning practices need to be developed that are based on learning from experiences from self-regulated and unplanned urban areas. In this context of the spatial politics that Erik Swyngedow calls “Post-Political City”, the roles and mode of practice of the policy makers, planning professionals and architects have been transformed, the democratic values of society subjected to the dominant laws of the flow of capital.

As a result of these transformations, the variety of new constalations between the formal and informal institutional frameworks are reflected in public space of cities. In the current discourse on planning practice and urbanisation, there is still a dominant notion of the duality of concepts between the welfare state and the market economy, reflected in the terminology used to describe practice in planning such as the top down planned city and non-planned or self-organised city. This is an oversimplification of terms that offers limited perspective on the actual models of planning practices in the contemporary city. However, if we preceive the processes of institutionalisation of formal and informal practices into diverse and complex integrated power structures, that are reflected in planning practice, than we can have another vantage point that offers an opportunity for new perspectives on examining the possibilties for the future development of planning practice.

With the City of Chisinau in former Soviet Union as a starting point this paper discusses processes of self-regulated urban transformations stemming from the shift from the Soviet central planning system to the extreme case of the neo-liberal market economic model. While the present planning practice in Chisinau maintaines the planning value systems and methodologies of the conventional Soviet planning, the social and economic forces have transformed the structure of the institutions within which the planning profession operates. Furthermore, the role and the identity of the planner itself is transformed and often marginalised. By seeying the formal and informal planning processes as the integrated institutional structures instead of parallel and separate processes, I will establish a vantage point that examins each case study from the perspective of the evolving institutional frameworks and their spatial outcomes. I found a valuable source of investigation in the very extreme case of Chisinau, where there is very little scientific research done so far about the current processes of planning and urban development. I see this study as an opportunity to cotribute to the fundamental reforms in current planning methodologies as well as in planning policy.

In this paper I have examined and compared the empirical evidence from Chisinau based on observation, site documentation in form of photographic evidence, official planning and legal documents, transcripts from recorded interviews, written materials by other scholars dealing with related field of research, etc. Parallel with this study I will juxtapose these findings and develop a critique of the top down modernist institutional framework in planning that includes the zoning and land use practices.

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