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Rethinking a City from the Grassroots

CHISINAU, Moldova – One of the semifinalists for the International Award for Public Art (highlighted in the new issue of Public Art Review) was an insouciant project called Flat Space, in which the artists and designers of the Oberliht Association [1] in Chisinau (formerly Kishinev), Moldova reconstructed a drab socialist apartment from the era when the small Eastern European country was the Soviet Republic of Moldavia.

They placed the freestanding flat on the street and christened it as a public space in which citizens are invited to discuss the future of the country.

One of the most recent Flat Space events was a gathering with the English title Participatory Urbanism in Chisinau: A City Made by You, for You, on the evening of May 2, 2017. The Oberliht-ites used the occasion to launch their “Urban Innovation Centre,” a campaign that centers on a mailbox in the city’s Bucuresti Square into which any citizen can deposit an idea for making Chisinau better.

Then, the organizers promise, “the Oberliht Association team will work with architectural groups, lawyers, architects, and other specialists to help you implement your idea.”

Other Flat Space events, held from April to November annually, have included political discussions, flea markets, open-air discothèques, sports competitions, and cooking and food sharing.

The Oberliht Young Artist Association (to give the group its full name) was founded in 2000 with the goal of promoting younger artists in Moldova and elsewhere in Europe, and building community among them, with a strong emphasis on the use and rethinking of what they dub “public space in post-socialism.” The group organizes symposia, pursues publishing projects, and collaborates with architects and urban planners.