Hotspots - a bottom-up approach to urban heat
Prostorož is a non-profit urban design studio, dedicated to exploring public space and reviving public space. We aim to address environmental and social challenges faced by cities in Slovenia and abroad. Formed in 2004, the interdisciplinary team consists of architects, social scientists and technical staff. Recent awards and exhibitions: Top 20 selection - European Prize for Public Space, 2022; BIO Ljubljana, 2022; New Praxes, New Tools, 2022; Golden pencil award - ZAPS, 2017
On average, every summer in Ljubljana will be hotter than the previous one. We need to ease the summer heat and adapt the city to higher temperatures as soon as possible. Hotspots project is an ongoing research, advocacy and solution prototyping project focused on mitigating urban heat.
As regular users of public space, pedestrians and cyclists have the best insight into which parts of the city get too hot. In 2020 we invited them to vote for locations they experience as hot. In three weeks, they cast around 700 votes. The data was consistent with the locations of heat islands measured by satellite thermal imaging. The responses showed that people change routes and habits in the summer or avoid certain locations in the city altogether due to the heat. Respondents also suggested their own cooling measures - they want more and bigger trees, less asphalt, less concrete, and less parking spaces.
One worrying cluster of hotspot entries was the area of University medical centre (UMC), the largest medical institution in Slovenia. The area is densely built with few green spaces and the highest density of vulnerable users. In 2022 we focused on this area. We have managed to engage both local residents and healthcare workers in the process of participatory placemaking, install new urban furniture in shady locations and are currently advocating for protection of existing green spaces and renovation of several micro public spaces where access to shade, greenery and subsequent lower temperatures can be quickly improved.
Currently, we are exploring the complex social and psychological needs of patients and medical staff related to public space, and at the same time advocating for cooling measures at the City Municipality of Ljubljana and the UMC. We are focusing on more (diverse) greenery, water-permeable areas, better maintenance, user involvement, more comfort for pedestrians and cyclists, attractive public transportation, and fewer cars.