Improvising the City Multiple: Working Through Uncertainty in Ekaterinburg

21 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2019

See all articles by Martin Müller

Martin Müller

University of Lausanne

Elena Trubina

Ural Federal University named after B. N. Yeltsin

Date Written: January 19, 2019

Abstract

This paper discusses improvisation as an urban practice in the face of uncertainty. It develops the notion of urban improvisation as situated and emergent action at the encounter of planning and event. To that end, it analyses the multiple mutations of what eventually became the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Centre in Ekaterinburg, a flagship cultural project in Russia’s third-largest city. Morphed from an office block into a memorial multi-purpose complex, the Yeltsin Centre is the product of acting under protracted uncertainty while mobilising the potentialities immanent in that very uncertainty. Based on documents, media reports, interviews and ethnographic research, the paper analyses three aspects of improvisation that made the Yeltsin Centre emerge in its current, precarious form: improvising a purpose, improvising uses, and improvising a public space. As a result of this improvisation, the Yeltsin Centre today is not just a presidential memorial, but one of the most popular public spaces in Ekaterinburg and a rare forum for controversial political debate in an authoritarian setting. The paper concludes to discuss uncertainty as a chance for the political openings it can create and improvisation as a form of uncertain acting in an uncertain world to actualize the potentialities of the city multiple.

Keywords: flagship projects, culture, improvisation, uncertainty, Russia, memorial

Suggested Citation

Müller, Martin and Trubina, Elena, Improvising the City Multiple: Working Through Uncertainty in Ekaterinburg (January 19, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3353751 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3353751

Martin Müller (Contact Author)

University of Lausanne ( email )

Quartier Chambronne
Lausanne, Vaud CH-1015
Switzerland

Elena Trubina

Ural Federal University named after B. N. Yeltsin ( email )

19 Mira street
Yekaterinburg, 620002
Russia

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