The first edition is dedicated to Mikrorayons – officially named Microdistricts or Microraions – have been designed as self-sustained districts with multifunctional residential units, made of prefabricated building elements, and have frequently been referred to as 'sleeping districts'. The severe housing shortage in the wake of WWII led to the emergence of large-scale planning which in effect rapidly increased the Soviet state's housing stock. By the end of its implementation, around 75% of all the population of Eastern Countries were living in large housing estates. Today, despite the disintegration of the union, the housing estates still fill the cityscape of most post-socialist states and the scale of their existence, indeed, does not allow us to ignore them.
The fundamental idea of a self-sustained district – access to everyday activities and green recreational areas within walking distance of the living unit to reduce time for daily commute – align with contemporary urban planning principles. The provision of socio-cultural infrastructures in the neighbourhood, pedestrianised access to public transport as well as safe distance to kindergartens and primary schools highlight their prevalence in contemporary spatial design. Arguably then, current practices for urban design have remained the same, regardless of a transforming political system or a change in governance. Furthermore, despite the recurring problems arising out of low quality of construction Soviet housing estates are still characterised by having a high social mix – a wide diversity of levels of income, tenure and social class living in the same neighbourhood. In other words, Mikrorayons have not deteriorated into places of social decline, demand for Large Housing Estates remains relatively high.
This approach in planning begets the following line of questions: does a change in governing bodies display a transformation in the basic needs of a society, especially how we live and form communities? Has the abandonment of these urban planning principles succeeded in creating more adequate, inclusive and liveable neighbourhoods in contemporary times?
Each edition is guided and curated by a Chief Editor and a specially invited Editorial Board, which consists of leading experts on relevant topics.