Informal Construction


Legalising informal construction in Rijeka

“This presentation is an extension of the original research proposal which dealt with individual informal construction and its legalization process in the light of European Capital of Culture. Through it, I aimed to get better insight in Rijeka as a case of relatively high construction regulation, in historical terms and compared to the rest of former Yugoslavia. It also seemed convenient, considering the sensitivity of the European Capital of Culture project and potential investments it would attract, which are less state-dependent compared to large sports events. In particular, I was interested to observe whether will Rijeka 2020 affect finalization of legalization process, if its larger development projects will create space for more regulation or will cause new problems. However, in the presentation, I detour from this narrow focus, due to several conclusions I derived from initial field research. ECC project is too specific and developing too slowly to create visible results in five months of the fellowship and activities planned within ECC project are happening slower than I expected. But more importantly, particular dynamics of space regulation appear to be unaffected by the ECC, but only continued by historical relationship and failures/successes of legalization.

I found necessary to expand the research question to this relationship. What is a local history of legalization (individual informal construction regulation)? How is this process specific to Rijeka? What is given in this process (what developmental projects are presented as universal objectives with their values and hegemonies? Which actors are implementing/resisting these projects and what is their politics?
Local professionals frame legalization as unilateral, universal process. It is not mere space regulation, setting objectively existing construction in understandable terms (registries and databases) but also a highly normative implementing process. Legalisation advocators and the critique of informal construction often present the phenomenon in a specific mixture of orientalism (Balkanism), modernization and distinction. Even activists advocating better public space management and arguing re-evaluation of socialist modernism or against neoliberal thefts in large construction developments see individual construction as a problem.

Without arguing for or against this process, it is necessary to take a broader perspective and examine social dynamics of space governance and management; to see how the history of this process produced legitimization of power relationships of modernizers and those to be regulated (modernized). In the legalization process, working-class culture and heritage of Rijeka city are undermined and taken for granted. Further, I demonstrate how even socialist projects which indeed did plan and involve workers, deny workers voices. In legalization process, working-class culture is systematically delegitimized and rendered invisible in public space behind a heritage of historicist, imperial or modernist projects.”

Mišo Kapetanović holds a PhD in Balkan Studies from the University of Ljubljana. He studied Philosophy and Sociology at the University of Banja Luka and received a Joint Master degree in Global History and Global Studies from the University of Vienna and the University of Leipzig. His doctoral research dealt with the visual language of contemporary informal construction (title: “Roadside Architecture in Bosnia and Herzegovina Between Consumerism and Vernacularity”). He has written on representations in contemporary pornography, queer music experiences in the Balkans, and the history of urban planning in socialist Yugoslavia. Before Rijeka he was a research fellow at the Centre for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz and worked as a researcher on a project “Documenting Human Losses in Croatia 1991–1995” for Croatian NGO Documenta – Center for Dealing with the Past.