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Report of the Second International Expert Seminar
on Building Non-Handicapping Environments:
Renewal of Inner Cities

Prague, October 15-17, 1987

Download the Prague proceedings as a PDF file (420 KB)

Invited Papers

Bratko & Molek, Renewal of Inner Cities for Persons with Disabilities
Bull, The Flexibility of Kitchen Fittings
Champagne, Canadian Action on Handicapping Environments
Demao, Creating A Barrier-free Environment in Beijing’s Main Streets
Frederiksen, Renewal of Inner Cities: An Example from Århus, Denmark
Frehse, Public Transportation Is for Everyone
Fränti, Building Legislation and Norms: The (Only) Way to Achieve Non-Handicapping Environments
Golden, Jackson and Margen, Accessibility Law Enforcement: Common Problems and One City’s Success
Kuloglu and Gür, The Hidden Dimension in the Renewal of the Central Park in Trabzon: A Case Study
Hermanova, Importance of Environmental Assessment in Health Care of Old and Disabled Persons
Hurst, The Macro Approach to Design and Planning: A Barrier-Free Environment for Disabled People is Barrier Free for All
Kose, Nakaohji, Itoigawa and Yashiro, Development of Design Guidelines of Dwellings for An Aging Society: A Japanese Perspective
Kroon, Opportunities for Barrier-Free Inner City Renovation in The Hague
Köbsell and Hilbert, Personal Assistance Services for the Disabled and Elderly in Bremen
Loeper, Guidelines for an Environmental Design Suitable for Old and Disabled Citizens in the German Democratic Republic
Morris and Fisher, An Expert System for the Use of Occupational Therapists in Making Proposals for Adaptions to Existing Houses
Örnhall, Improved Accessibility in Bathrooms
Tiberi, Palumbo, Nesi and Bozzetti, Removing Architectural Barriers: The Example of the University of Rome
Paulsson, Careful Housing Renewal: Notes on Housing Renovation in Sweden with Special Respect to Old and Disabled People
Ratzka, Consumer-Run Personal Assistance Services: The Example of STIL
Roselius, Towards an Independent Life
Samova, Renewal of the Inner City of Bratislava: Creating Non-Handicapping Environments for Persons with Disabilities
Sthen, Better Housing! Now!
Strömberg, Improving Accessibility in Flats in Sweden: How Effective Are Policy Instruments?
Weiss-Lindencrona, From ’Barrierfication’ towards the ’Barrier-Freecation’ of Inner Cities
Wokoun, Aesthetic and Social Aspects of Architectural Barriers
Wrightson, Barrier Free Design: Safety for a Caring Community
Yang Shu-Qi and Zhao Tian-Wei, Environmental Design and Civil Engineering for Persons with Disabilities
Yoshida, Three Stage Housing for Old Persons

Renewal of Inner Cities for Persons with Disabilities
The Case of Krsko

Branka B. Bratko and Lenka Molek, Urban Planning Institute, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia


Slovenia is the northern and economically most developed republic of Yugoslavia, as a result of its political-geographic position and historical past. At a population of 1.9 million Slovenia has 6,000 settlements; 50 towns with a population of 2,000 40,000; only 2 towns with more than 100,000 inhabitants; more than two thirds of all settlements have up to 200 inhabitants. In the census year 1981, Slovenia had 585,780 dwellings of which 308,798 were in urban and 276,982 in rural settlements. From the entire housing stock, 184,254 dwellings were in social ownership and of these 86% were located in urban settlements. Approximately 20% of the housing stock is built before 1918 and an additional 10% before the year 1941.

Renewal Planning

Today, about 170,000 housing units require major renovation. The estimates refer to the housing stock built before 1918, to some units constructed shortly before World War II, and some dwellings erected during the period following the war up to 1960.

The specific system of socialist self management developed in Yugoslavia implies an active role of all planning processes, including those of urban planning, housing renewal, etc. within the overall system of societal planning. Societal planning is a process of simultaneous, continuous and integrated planning consisting of economic, social and physical aspects, each of which should play an equal part within the process.

Planning is organized on the local, republic and federal level. Principal objectives, criteria and policies of development are defined at the republic and federal level. Specific and detailed renewal programs are prepared at the local level where the specific situation of a town or neighborhood can be observed.

There are general long-term and more specific, intermediate-term development plans. Basic urban design guidelines for individual towns are part of municipal long-term plans. The proponents of planning, organized within self-managing entities enterprises and social organization are directly involved in the planning process. Some of the self-managing bodies are Self-Managing Communities and local governments.

It has become widely recognized that organized renewal should be accelerated in the period 1985-2000. More than 170,000 units call for such measures. This situation has resulted from years of lack of maintenance and modernization. The legal basis for renewal planning and its implementation stems from the last decade and needs revisions. A majority of already existing renewal programs are incompatible with the present institutional framework and are rather difficult to carry out in practice.

Research on creating an environment for people with disabilities through urban renewal is a wide field. It covers different environmental elements: physical, social, economic and cultural. One of the final results should be the elimination of architectural barriers to disabled people. The same priority should be given to the proper spatial organization of urban functions in correspondence with residential environments, and the participation of residents. The local and cultural identity of existing environments represents an important research element in the planning of barrier-free environments for inner city residents.

Urban renewal has to be planned in the wider context of Yugoslav "societal planning". At the same time local conditions have to be analyzed in detail. The essence of such an approach is to pursue the macro, medium and micro levels in a temporal, spatial and societal continuum. The unique aspect of renewal planning is that different levels and phases can be combined simultaneously which is generally not the case for other fields of planning.

Renewal planning aspects are not yet included in Yugoslav legislation. According to the legal requirements, professional planning work should begin and finish on a general level. General guidelines, however, do not offer sufficient information for detailed planning, simply because the planner is not able to investigate the areas nor their problems. Urban renovation and renewal are the key questions in urban planning on the local level. They are to be seen not only as technical or organizational but also as political and social questions.

In Yugoslavia comprehensive planning of economic, social and spatial development is used as basis for action, including urban renewal. The lack of proper guidelines, e.g. in the case of urban renewal, makes implementation difficult. Because present guidelines are too general, the responsibilities of the authorities, for example, for financing are not established. Urban renewal has to include several Self-Management Communities (for Housing, Health Service, Culture, Social Security, etc.). In implementation, the long and medium term role is not well defined which means in this particular case, that partial renewal might be possible, but not complete renewal. For example, it is possible to renovate an apartment house or historical building, but not the surroundings, nor an entire inner city area.

In principle, the adaptation of the physical environment to the needs of disabled people is intended, but this is only a long term planning goal. In inner city renewal, there are no legal requirements to meet the needs of people with disabilities who are more numerous in inner cities than elsewhere. In comparison to foreign legislation and practice, this is a constraint. From the budgetary point of view such urban renewal is cheaper but inhumane.

Another problem which arises in urban renewal practice is the need for rational land use in inner cities given the lack of arable land in surrounding rural areas. In order to achieve this goal, small apartments were built and the aims of upgrading the existing environment were not met, such as more efficient land use, the classical task of preserving the cultural heritage, and creating barrier-free environments, in particular, for people with disabilities.

Krsko: A Renewal Case Study

Krsko is a small town with a population of 8,500 located in the south eastern part of Slovenia along the Sava river. It is the administrative center for an area of 27,000 inhabitants. The town is an important industrial center of pulp and cellulose and has recently become the site of Yugoslavia’s first nuclear power plant. The surrounding area is a farming region in the lowlands, with vineyards in the hilly parts.

The town is a conurbation of a number of small urban and rural communities that merged in 1954. One of them is the old Krsko, the historical nucleus of the town, originally a Medieval settlement from the 15th century. Today, Krsko is an area of 23.5 ha with only 700 inhabitants, less than half of the former population. The town consists of 180 buildings with 270 dwellings - 72% of them were built prior to 1914, and 16% after 1945 - the local government administration, and some retail facilities including craft shops. Krsko is not on the official list of national cultural heritage objects.

Krsko has retained the characteristic open spaces of pre-industrial provincial towns. It has a compact complex of predominantly low-rise buildings. Recent renovation activity in the town core proved to be insufficient and was incongruous in design.

The objective of present renewal planning is primarily to improve the standard of housing and living, and to develop a new housing settlement within the constraints given by the lack of arable land and the proximity of the nuclear power plant. Approach, procedures and level of planning adopted in the renewal plans for Krsko differ to some extent from other projects. The renewal plan for the historical nucleus of Krsko was drawn up by the Urban Planning Institute of the Republic Slovenia.

The Problems

The following are significant problems that had to be dealt with:

Structural and functional shortcomings,
Shortage of suitable land for new development,
Negative attitude of the population towards the nuclear power plant, resulting in increased interest in the old urban core as a housing and living environment and as an area relatively distant from the plant,
Lack of adequate urban plans and designs,
Neglected and rapidly dilapidating urban core with substandard housing. The average population density is no more than 30 persons/ha and consists of a predominantly older population and lower income groups.
The large discrepancy in housing standards between the old and the new parts of town. A special requirement exists to adopt the living environment to the special needs of those groups.
There exists a difference between the official evaluation of cultural values and actual ones.
The need to link the historical core with other parts of the town in order to achieve better accessibility.

The Renewal Planning Process

The renewal planning of the historical urban core in Krsko is part of comprehensive plans of the town. They were drawn up in 1980-1982 as part of the plan for the Krsko commune for the period 1981-1986. Urban development plans and those relevant to renewal have the character of long-term plans (until the year 2000), in terms of their physical elements.

Renewal plans include both quantitative and qualitative elements, requirements and criteria regarding design and renewal of the core. The plans are compatible with the town’s physical, social and economic development programs and can serve as the basis for

decisions on priorities in renewal efforts and the ways and means to pool capital and labor (agreed upon between Self-Managing Local Governments, banks and enterprises),
detailed physical planning documents (designs, landscaping programs, etc.),
implementation of improvements.

The town inhabitants have taken part in the decision-making on the town’s development in all important stages of the planning process. The results of field work, surveys, exhibitions, interviews, etc. are incorporated in the plans. Long-term plans are based on a detailed analysis of the situation and opportunities for future development of the area. The plans provide a general basis that can be expanded or adjusted to new conditions and requirements.


The problems of a historical core are so complex and interconnected in cause and effect, that they have to be identified and solved on the same level of complexity. Even relatively insignificant spatial interventions call for the cooperation of the residents as well as a comprehensive professional inquiry into the problems and the broader social factors. Common planning methods could not be used, because the law prescribes the cooperation of residents at the end of the planning process only, but not at the starting point.

The urban core was analyzed in its physical, social and cultural aspects. Spatial and structural features were studied, their present function, primarily from the point of view of the present residents, and the spatial and functional relationships between the core and other parts of the town. The purpose of the studies was to achieve equal development of all parts of the town, an appropriate distribution of functions, and good transport links between different parts of the town in the future in order to reduce unnecessary traffic through the core.

In the following, the humanistic approach and cultural analysis as a new way of incorporating residents in the planning process is presented.

Cultural Analysis of Inner Cities

The main reasons for applying a humanistic approach and cultural analysis for planning purposes is to incorporate the needs of the inhabitants in the renewal project. From this starting point, and with the planning procedure described below, a special analysis rooted in ethnology was developed.

The cultural analysis for planning purposes involves horizontal, vertical and inter-temporal comparisons of the physical, spatial, social (including economic and political), and cultural factors of development. The relationship between man and space and man and environment are seen as the basis of culture in its anthropological sense. Cultural analysis has its regional and local implications. For the purpose of planning inner city renewal a regional approach was developed.

Among the cultural elements are
local, cultural and regional identity,
feasibility of development,
attitudes to present and future development,
attitudes and readiness for active participation,
attitudes towards changes in the physical, social and cultural environment.

A separate strategy of development was suggested for inner city renovation. Bearing in mind that 6% of inner city inhabitants are old persons and people with disabilities, programs to regenerate urban life and a physical, social and cultural renewal plan in the old town’s nucleus were proposed. The main point of the suggested strategies was to incorporate special groups of citizens: people with disabilities, old persons and children, meeting their special needs in making the environment free of architectural barriers and ensuring accessibility of public services and places. Suggestions were made as to which houses were suitable for people with disabilities and how they were to be renovated.

In evaluating their living environment people use their perception, personal values, attitudes to the physical, social, cultural environment, and personal models of life. On the basis of that evaluation a map with recommendations for redevelopment of the inner city residential city areas was made. The assessment of the living environment is a result of combining evaluations of professionals and non-professional users. It was made to provide insight into development problems of the area and to suggest strategies for the further planning. A detailed list of recommendations for planners and architects preparing the renewal project was made. Recommendations included

design standards adapted to local requirements,
designation of private, semi-private and public spaces in housing and other areas,
ratios of open space per household space by social and cultural group. Special
recommendations were made regarding the requirements of people with disabilities and old persons on housing quality,
location and standards for commercial and other services,
traffic arrangements including pedestrian zones.

The same evaluations and recommendations were also made for non-housing environments. The major fear of the residents is the problem of micro pollution by the nuclear power plant. In the recommendations special attention was paid to people with disabilities and old persons. It was agreed that they should live in the usual home environment. Their apartments and relevant services were to be made barrier-free and should be placed near to the people that can help and support them - next to the senior citizens’ home, as well as close to social and medical facilities.


The renewal plan arrived at the following results. The area can accommodate 1,550 people or 350 dwellings with an area of 34,000 m of housing space, whereby the following objectives are reached: restoration and preservation of quality of life and the environment of the area at an average population density of 66 persons/ha. 25%-30% of the town’s long-term housing requirements may be satisfied in the historical core. The entire population, present and future, must be ensured more or less equal housing and environment standards. Specific needs of some population groups, such as older persons, people with disabilities, large families, single persons, low-income families will be taken into account. In the renewal of old houses, accessibility for disabled people has to be considered to some rational extent.

All buildings, except those constructed after 1962, require renewal measures such as
seismic fortification of buildings,
modernization of plumbing and other utilities,
functional alterations for better utilization of available housing space such as adapting attics for housing.

New residential construction is feasible on specific locations along streets to round up blocks. In creating open areas, the ratio of 120 square meters of gardens and backyards to one apartment is applied. 130 new apartments can be built in new construction projects.

The plan also includes construction of a combined senior citizens’ home with the capacity of 100-120 persons and a day center for the older residents of the historical core who wish to retain their households or live with their families.

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