SE Concepts and critique of space production


Urban culture and public space – Concepts and critique of space production

SE 280.039 by Ali Madanipour and Aglaée Degros

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General information

This seminar takes place in the course of module 11 „Urban culture, public space and the state: Politics of public space“ which is offered during three three-days teaching blocks offered by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space (SKuOR). International students as well as students working interdisciplinarily are warmly welcome. This course is held in English language.

Participants of this course are highly recommended to take part in the other courses of module 11 „280.032, 280.038, 280.039, 280.040“.

Registration for module 11 is obligatory (See TUWIS registration VU 280.038 „Group 01“).Registration for just this course can be realized during the Module 11-Kick off Meeting (4th March 2 to 4pm, Karlsgasse 13/1) or personally when visiting the SKuOR office in Karlsgasse 13/2 by subscribing to the participant list.

80% minimum participation during the whole course as well as punctuality are obligatory!


1st Intensive Teaching Block: 16th – 19th of March 2010

2nd Intensive Teaching Block: 26th – 29th of April 2010

3rd Intensive Teaching Block: 14th – 17th of June 2010

Subject of course

Public spaces are broadly defined as crossroads, where different paths and trajectories meet, sometimes overlapping and at other times colliding; they are the meeting place of politics and culture, social and individual territories, expressive and instrumental concerns. This seminar series is designed to provide a deeper inquiry into the notion of urban public space and to investigate how Vienna understands and deals with its public spaces, which could help the citizens to see the city through fresh eyes, the city to develop its strategy for public spaces and urban culture, and the students to learn new knowledge and skills.

When cities tackle the politics of public space, the recurring question is whether direct involvement of inhabitants actually improves the quality of any given space? Many city representatives struggle with the dilemma of ‘double representation’: the fact that they are democratically elected as representatives of the public and the fact that ,according to the principle of good governance, they should to a certain extent give the mandate back to these very inhabitants. They question whether the public isn’t actually involved twice under the name of good governance. Is the direct involvement of inhabitants in all projects useful and meaningful?

The question is after all, how do we develop criteria that allow us to compare inputs from government, collective groups and the public regarding public space policies. How do we develop a common language that enables collaboration between these parties? How do we develop public space policies where the inhabitant is not only a representative but also a participant? In order to gain a good grasp of the problems a city has, the citizens and their representative authorities are not so much seeking the best project for the city but rather the best discussion partner.

This seminar series aims at dealing with these ambiguities by investigating common discrepancies between conceived, perceived and lived spaces. If intersections and crossroads get busier and if the traditional role of the policeman organizing and regulating the crossroads is under transition – to further develop this metaphor – how do different social actors interact? How can the communication amongst state actors and other social players be improved when it comes to the implementation of policy programmes into planning proposals, and of planning proposals into concrete material and discursive interventions?

Besides theoretical inputs on “Urban culture, public space and the state: Politics and planning” from both fields of spatial research (Ali Madanipour) and spatial planning (Aglaée Degros) the teaching team aims at teaching critical reflection, analysis and evaluation of urban development processes within this seminar. How can students complement phenomenological knowledge with insights gained in scientific papers and book articles published in the field of critical urban studies to challenge common undiscussed problem definitions and normative strands within planning and design practice?


Aims of the course

The course involves reading and discussing texts from a variety of disciplines, architecture, urban design, town planning, urban studies, urban geography and urban sociology. The course emphasizes the theoretical debates and does not address the practical details of spatial planning, which are covered in lectures and workshops elsewhere in the programme. The outcome of the programme will consist of developing the students’ knowledge and skills in urban planning and design in addressing public space and urban culture.

Aims – a multidimensional understanding of

–  the nature of public spaces and their place in urban culture in Vienna

–  different perspectives into and the dimensions of various demands and claims

over the urban space, and how they are managed

–  roles and approaches of the state and other stakeholders in production,

management and transformation of public spaces

–  dynamics of intervention for urban change

–  formulating constructive critique for post- or interdisciplinary audiences

Skills to be provided during the course

The seminars are aimed at helping the student develop their skills in:

research and analysis skills in understanding the city as a social process

developing the capacity for critical evaluation and debate

written and verbal communication skills

Output, assessment, evaluation and criteria

Assessment of the course is through participating in seminars and writing short pieces on the papers we read. All participants are expected to have read the texts set for a session and produced a half-page summary of each piece set for the session. In the session, nominated students will present the set papers. The assessment will be based on all the summaries that each student has produced plus their seminar presentation and participation in discussions.

  1. Weekly short summaries of all the papers (40%),
  2. An individual seminar presentation and leading the session (50%),
  3. Participation in the discussions (10%)

Assessment criteria for the item 2 will be:

· Grasp and articulation of issues

· Evidence of broader research

· Quality of presentation (oral and visual)

· Leading small group discussions


Teaching approach

The knowledge of the range of themes and debates about urban space will be acquired through reading the pieces and becoming familiar with the intellectual landscape, which could be developed through further reading.

The skills of critical evaluation and debate, and of written and verbal communication skills, will be developed through writing short summary pieces, making an individual presentation, and engaging in seminar discussions.

Seminar presentation will be done by two students in each session, each presenting one paper, or part of a larger paper. At the end of presentations, the group will be split into smaller discussion groups, each led by one of the seminar presenters. Seminar presenters are expected to

· Present the main points of the paper in 5 minutes

· Do some broader research on their presentation, to include images, or additional material

· Prepare some questions for discussion

· Lead the discussion

· Submit their summaries at the end of the session

Each session’s time will be arranged as follows:

·       10 minutes presentations (two 5-minute presentations)

·       15 minutes small group discussion

·       5 minutes report from small group discussions (by a student other than the presenter)

·       15 minutes general discussion


The seminars are arranged in three intensive blocks, each with a distinctive theme, which together contribute to a richer understanding of public space in general, and Vienna’s public spaces in particular.

I. Strategies, plans and policies

What are the strategies and plans for Vienna’s public spaces? How do they compare to other contemporary cities’ strategies and plans, and what are the historic precedents for the city?

Seminar 1. Politics of public space: lessons from the past

Schorske, Carl, 1981, The Ringstrasse, the critics, and the birth of urban modernism, in C.Schorske, Fin-de-Siécle Vienna: Politics and culture, New York: Vintage Books, pp.24-115.

Seminar 2. Public space and the British urban renaissance

Urban Task Force, 1999, Designing the Urban Environment, in Urban Task Force, Towards an Urban Renaissance, London: Spon, pp.49-82.

London Government, 2009, London’s Great Outdoors: A Manifesto for Public Space,

Seminar 3. Vienna’s strategy for public space

City of Vienna, Mission Statement for Vienna’s Public Spaces

City of Vienna, Strategy Plan Vienna

II. Performances and images

Explorations into public spaces as places of sociability, performance, interpersonal communication, trade and visual culture.

Seminar 5. Approaching urban space

Norberg-Schulz, Christian, 2003, The phenomenon of place, in A.Cuthbert, ed, Designing Cities: Critical Readings in Urban Design, Oxford: Blackwell, pp.116-127.

Castells, Manuel, 2003, The new historical relationship between space and society, in A.Cuthbert, ed, Designing Cities: Critical Readings in Urban Design, Oxford: Blackwell, pp.59-68.

Seminar 6. Urban space as context

Hayden, Dolores, 2003, Urban landscape as public history, in A.Cuthbert, ed, Designing Cities: Critical Readings in Urban Design, Oxford: Blackwell, pp.69-75.

Wright, Gwyndolyn, 2003, Urban spaces as cultural settings, in A.Cuthbert, ed, Designing Cities: Critical Readings in Urban Design, Oxford: Blackwell, pp.171-76.

Seminar 4. Visual culture

Evans, Jessica, and Hall, Stuart, 1999, ‘What is Visual Culture?’, in J.Evans & S.Hall, eds, Visual Culture: The Reader, London: Sage, pp. 1-8.

Barthes, Rolland, 1999, Rhetoric of the image, in J.Evans & S.Hall, eds, Visual Culture: The Reader, London: Sage, pp. 33-40.

Seminar 7. Performance in public space

Sennett, Richard, 2000, Reflections on the public realm, in Gary Bridge and Sophie Watson, eds, A Companion to the City, Oxford: Blackwell, pp.380-87.

Goffman, Erving, 1997, Social life as drama, in C.Lemert and E.Branaman, eds, The Goffman Reader, Oxford: Blackwell, Chapter 9. (or Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, selective parts from pp.17-77).

Seminar 8. Objects and artefacts in the city

Rossi, Aldo, 2003, The urban artefact as a work of art, in A.Cuthbert, ed, Designing Cities: Critical Readings in Urban Design, Oxford: Blackwell, pp.285-89.

Whyte, William, 2007, Design of spaces, in R.LeGates & F.Stout, eds, The City Reader, London: Routledge, pp.448-455.

III. Trajectories and experiences

How different individuals experience the city, the tensions over controlling and commodifying this experience, and how these experiences may be different from the planned visual and spatial arrangements.

Seminar 9. Experiencing the city

De Certeu, Michel, 1993, ‘Walking in the City’, in Simon During, ed, The Cultural Studies Reader, London: Routledge, pp.151-60.

Zukin, S., 2009, Changing landscapes of power: Opulence and the urge for authenticity, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 33 (2), pp. 543-553

Seminar 10. Economic use of experience

Clarke, Paul Walter, 2003, The economic currency of architectural aesthetics, in A.Cuthbert, ed, Designing Cities: Critical Readings in Urban Design, Oxford: Blackwell, pp.28-44.

Lorentzen, A., 2009, Cities in the experience economy, European Planning Studies 17 (6), pp. 829-845

Seminar 11. Control over space

Foucault, Michel, 1999, Panopticism, in J.Evans & S.Hall, eds, Visual Culture: The Reader, London: Sage, pp. 61-71.

Fyfe, Nicholas & Jon Bannister, The eyes upon the street: Closed-circuit television surveillance and the city, in N.Fyfe, ed, Images of the Street: Planning, identity and control in public space, London: Routledge, pp.254-267.

Seminar 12. Diversity, community and space

Lees, L., 2008, Gentrification and social mixing: Towards an inclusive urban renaissance? Urban Studies 45 (12), pp. 2449-2470.

Taylor, Charles, 1995, Liberal politics and the public sphere, in Amitai Etzioni, ed, New Communitarian Thinking: Persons, virtues, institutions and communities, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, pp.183-217.

Seminar 13. Experience of vulnerability

Gleeson, Brendan, 1998, The social space of disability in colonial Melbourne, in N.Fyfe, ed, Images of the Street: Planning, identity and control in public space, London: Routledge, pp.92-110.

Daly, Gerald, 1998, Homelessness and the street: Observations from Britain, Canada and the United States, in N.Fyfe, ed, Images of the Street: Planning, identity and control in public space, London: Routledge, pp. 111-28.

Further reading

Block I

Miessem, M., Basar, S., did someone say participate, MIT, 2006

Artgineering, N4 Towards a Living Infrastucture!. Brussel: A16 Editions, 2007

Koolhaas, R., Boeri, S., Kwinter, S., Mutations. Barcelona: Actar, 2001

Film; Petterson, J., Huiskamers en bolwerken, portrayed the inhabitants and politics of the

bulbgrowing area in Holland . This documentary contributed to the Cutural project “ Geeste and grond”

Block II

Borasi, G., Zardini, M., Actions: Comment s’approprier la ville. Amsterdam: SUN, 2008

Artgineering, Bergilez, J.D., Brunetta, V., Patteeuw, V., Artgineering, Territoires équivoques /

Blurred Boudaries. Brussels: A16 Editions, 2006

Haydn, F., Temel, R., Temporary Urban Spaces. Basel: Birkhäuser, 2006

Bielanka, J., Birne, T., Ecktardt, F., Fraueneder, H., Kálmán, R., Mennicke, C., Meijer zu

Schlochtern, T. (Urban Potentials). Berlin: Jovis, 2008

Block III

Certeau, M. de, L’invention du quatidien 1. Arts de faire. Paris: ADAGP, 2002

Chase, J. Crawford, M., Kaliski, J., Everyday Urbanism. New York: The Monacelli Press, 1999


Project for Public Spaces:

Commission for Architecture and Built Environment (CABE):

CABE’s Sustainable City’s ideas about public spaces

Resource for Urban Design Information:

London’s vision for public spaces:

General Requirements

Open to Master’s degree students from related disciplines (late Bachelor and early PhD are also welcome)

English as working language