Projekt: Refugees and the City

Link: TISS 280.421

PR Project / Semester hours: 6.0 / ECTS 12.0

Aim of course

The current situation with refugees in Vienna and Austria (and other cities all over the Europe) can be considered as the results of many years of debates on refugees, where their fates as humans or groups of humans are being objected into numbers, regulations and statistics. The project „Refugees and the city“ seeks to construct a human dimension of planning and design for refugees and the city as a first step which takes the actions of those who flee as core point for reflection. In a second step, we will dive into the depth of socio-philosophic strands on „refugees“ and learn how debates on refugees are shaped. In this sense, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben claims to consider `the refugee´ as a border concept. In our project, we will approach the concept of the refugee with identifying exactly such (constructed) borders. Our aim is to explore: Where are these borders? How they are built? Who is the architect, who is the planner, and from which position do they bring their support to spatially address the precarious situations of many refugees in Europe in, if at all? In our project, we will combine the reframing of the debate for our professions with an analytical perspective and a design approach into the topic, and its past(s) and future(s). On the one hand, we will have an insight into a highly relevant issue of urban, regional and national politics with exploring the urban realities of refugees today as well as exploring the urban planning and design approaches to deal with the topic. On the other hand, we will use urban design and insurgent planning as instruments of a constructive critique and utopia, while dealing with the annual issue of urban culture, public space and urban peace.

Subject of course

The theoretical frame of the project is preliminary scheduled in three parts:

(1)   Refugees and the city. Learning about and from urban realities of refugees. Who is a refugee? In which locations do refugees live? Where do they come from? The aim is to put flesh on the numbers and to change the statistical point of view into one that is more interested in refugees¿ narratives and individual cases than in data and figures. How and why do media reports address the situation of refugees in different cities and countries? How can we as planners deal with the visualities produced by media and the society? To what extent does planning and design education address these issues? To what extent have you been in touch with refugees and or designing with/for refugees in a city? Which professional ethical steps do we need to consider when focussing on people who have left their countries out of need and in hope for a better future? We will discuss not only the concept of the refugee, but also the concept of the city, as opposed to the nation state, with a culture and identity less nationally coded and thus potentially better able to integrate „the other“ (e.g. immigrants of whatever status).

(2)   Make room. Exploring disciplinary action, discourses and positions. Which relations exist between refugees and urban planning or architecture? How do architects and planners contribute to „make room“ for those newly arriving parts of the population? Which are the recent urban planning and civic design instruments that come into play? How do these professions ethically deal with the temporal status and short-term social relations and the insecurity about future expectations when shaping space with and for refugees? How is professional action in this sense perceived by urban and national societies? While there are many people helping and working with refugees voluntarily, there are also those citizens who oppose refugee homes in their neighbourhood and there have been violent attacks on those homes or future refugee homes (at least in Germany). Our aim is to elaborate a reflection about the necessities, opportunities and impossibilities of urban planning in the context of dealing with refugees in the city. A historical perspective will help to put current debates on planning and designing for and with refugees into past and present societal contexts.

(3)   Shape space. Designing a new Viennese urban development utopia. Let’s start from thinking a new Viennese utopia: The city opens its doors and explicitly welcome refugees from all over the world as part of its narrative of most welcoming city on the planet. Our research question is: Is it possible to design a positive image of new urban peace where the spatial integration of migrants, particularly refugees, can become a central tool? Can we build a new part of the city or can we revisit and redesign vacant parts of the existing urban fabric? How could it look like, what is your idea?

The very focus of the project is, however, point of discussion. A main task for the students is to find and to define your own approach, your own design and your own idea of/for the project.

Additional Information

The project will be achieved through a series of 3 intensive teaching blocks (ITB):

ITB 1: 5.-9. October 2015

The first ITB is part of urbanize! Int. Festival for Urban Explorations, Oct, 2-11, Vienna

ITB 2: 9.-14. November 2015

ITB 3: 12.-16. January 2016

Course Registration

Please register via TISS by the 5th of October.
As the number of participants in the course is limited, applicants on the waiting list are requested to join the KickOff meeting on 5 October 2015, at 10.00 to receive information about the registration.
All the participants are reminded that participation in the KickOff meeting on 5 October 2015, at 10.00 is mandatory. Absence from this class might lead to losing a place in the course (cancelled registration). Please send an absence excuse email to ahead of the class taking place.