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Aesthetics of Boredom in post-soviet neighborhoods. Multisensory experience of Laumas microdistrict in Liepaja, Latvia

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Title: Aesthetics of Boredom in post-soviet neighborhoods. Multisensory experience of Laumas microdistrict in Liepaja, Latvia
Author(s): Kuna, Kamilla
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science
Degree program: Master 's Programme in Urban Studies and Planning
Specialisation: USP Peoples
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2021
This research studies the environmental aesthetics of boredom in the light of post-soviet neighborhoods. While belonging to the grey zone in aesthetics, boredom is an integral part of mundane life that challenges us to notice the uniqueness of our everydayness. Even though mass housing provided an economically feasible solution for sheltering millions of people, it lacks the qualities that meet contemporary living and energy standards. Soviet mass housing architecture and microdistrict designs were led by the economic conditions in the first place. Mass housing was not meant to speak, whereas the residents should not be silenced because of it. We tend to preserve what we find aesthetically pleasing (Nassauer, 1997), yet, what is aesthetically pleasing and what about other values? In this project, preservation is essential for building a contemporary-oriented mindset that could lead to more sustainable and inclusive neighborhoods. The project aims to tackle the issue of Soviet districts through the eyes of its residents, contrasting the more often used top-down approach. Here I challenge the residents' perception of their neighborhood and create a moment for reflection. By offering this space, I amplify the voices of the real experts, the ones knowing their microdistrict inside out. Environmental aesthetics is a relatively new concept within the contemporary urban planning scholarship, giving a fresh take on subjective experiences of urban settings that unveil profoundly rooted and often disguised problems. The interdisciplinarity in the research is met by merging disciplines such as sociology, urban aesthetics, urban history, and philosophy. The term boredom belonging to positive or negative aesthetic values is questioned the same as the legacy of Soviet mass housing later in the research. The ideology behind Soviet blocks is discussed, creating a common ground for diverse readers. Inclusivity is brought with resident participation through the visual research method - photovoice. To avoid biased data, the resident experiences are supported with the city planner's point of view and secondary quantitative data. The findings include Laumas microdistrict resident photovoice analysis, putting the Laumas microdistrict residents as the primary information providers. Taking pictures of their everyday surroundings, residents are given space to show how they see their microdistrict, outlining the values they are proud of or giving perspective of what needs to be changed. Instead of one-sided creation, the curation is inclusive and more reflective of the urban environment's already existing residents' values of their neighborhood. Resident aesthetic preferences open broader discussion on the maintenance issues of microdistricts facing nowadays. Topics are various, but the primary outcomes discussed built environment aesthetics, renovation, communication, identity, resident initiative, automobile domination, and natural environment aesthetics. In the final part of the study, some possible directions for changing microdistrict are pointed out, and further research questions are presented. The project is incomplete until it reaches a broader audience and provides knowledge to politicians, city planners, and other residents.
Keyword(s): urban aesthetics boredom everydayness microdistricts photovoice resident inclusive planning Soviet mass housing

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