Concepts and critique of the production of space

Link: TISS 280.394

SE Seminar / Semester hours: 2.0 / ECTS 4.0

**This course will be offered by City of Vienna Visiting Professor 2015 Dr. Nikolai Roskamm (TU Berlin) and by Ass. Prof. Sabine Knierbein**

Aim of the course

Module 11 addresses the 2015 SKuOR annual issue of Urban culture, public space and the past – Urban peace and national welfare. The seminar course is one of three courses related to this module. This seminar shall provide students with the ability to transfer findings from theory into practice, and vice versa. Seminar units will consist of half an hour discussion per group to give ideas on the next unit’s group presentation, and will encourage students to trace concepts both from theory and practice perspectives in a dialectical fashion, with a focus on exploring the past. By the end of this course unit, you will be able to: Understand the link between urban planning, public space and the concept of welfare as well as the links between the urban past and urban cultures; understand that urban planning is not a natural or essential artefact but a produced and changeable object mediated e.g. through professional cultures (as urban cultures)

The seminar units offered by Nikolai Roskamm will emphasize a genealogical approach. For approaching public space and urban culture, it is advisable to undertake a historical enquiry regarding the ideas of its crucial concepts. One of these concepts is the concept of welfare. Modern urban planning as an institution with its own narratives, organizations, laws, techniques and discourses (and as a distinct form of knowledge, too) arises in the second half of 19th Century. On the brink, the concept of the welfare state emerges in the discourse about national economics and institutional law. As one might say, the result of thinking-the-welfare-state is the reality of modern urban planning. From that point of view the object of welfare is the bridge to analyzing the urban planning past – understanding the one is helpful (or even necessary) for understanding the other. Students will be encouraged to develop the following abilities and skills: Analytical and genealogical urban research methods.

Public space is where practice and theory are inseparably entwined, thus facilitating processes of transdisciplinary learning. The seminar units offered by Sabine Knierbein aim at offering you both insights into current strategies and interventions regarding public space, as well as concepts and critique of contemporary design and planning approaches to public space. We will seek to jointly discuss and reflect upon the new role of public space in the transition from fordist to postfordist modes of space production, and thus thematize the shift of scaling from national welfare systems (and urban policies within these systems) towards postfordist modes of European policies which affect current urban policies on public space.

Subject of the course

Aim of the seminar is on the one hand to become aquatinted with the metier of genealogical analysis and to get the opportunity to test it. On the other hand the purpose is to see behind the curtain of urban studies and its recent topics and debates. The procedure is to have working groups with two or three participants who prepare the issues of the seminar units with the proposed literature. The groups will give short presentations about the particular points and arrange a discussion with all students. The seminars are divided in two parts. In the first part the groups perform their presentation and execute the discussion. In the second part the workshop-character dominates. The groups work together on their topics. Part of the workshop is an intensive consultation with the teaching stuff about content and methods of the student performances.

Seminar units offered by Nikolai Roskamm comprise six topics: The seminar “Polizeiwissenschaft, welfare state and urbanism” (unit 2) focuses by reference to a lecture of Michel Foucault on the link between `police science´ and urbanism. Unit (4) “Criticism of the welfare state” (unit 4) has two historical texts as starting points for discussing the pros and cons of the welfare state concept. The seminar “The right to the city” (unit 6) studies the famous slogan of Henri Lefebvre and his not-so-famous conforming text. The issue of “spatial justice” (unit 9) is a possible bridge between the right to the city and the topic of the exercise of modul 11, where the partition of particular streets is object of study. Along the same lines the seminar “The car and the city” (unit 10) will give a frame for thinking about ancient and recent concepts of mobility. The unit “What is critique (in urban studies)?” discusses about two recent proposals emerging from the field of critical urban theory and give an outline about actual positions in this sphere.

Seminar units offered by Sabine Knierbein comprise six topics: The seminar “Introduction to Public Space” (relating to lecture unit 3) will comprise two seminar sessions, part 1 “Historical dilemmas” where the case of Warsow exhibiting a quite ambivalent politics of remembrance in public space with a complex understanding of different layers of urban history included (seminar unit 3), as well as part 2 “Political dilemmas” where a distinction between ‘politics’ and ‘the political’ will be developed by using two texts (seminar unit 5). One of these texts comes from radical anthropology dealing with student-led occupations, the other one taking Vienna as the case to show different nuances of public space policies for the city centre and the urban periphery. The “Introduction to urban cultures” (seminar unit 7), the notion of ‘urban cultures’ as it is used in central urban development documents (case Vienna) will be deconstructed as a stretched concept with an overload of imprecise meanings, and then reconstructed with a look at different theoretical strands relating to urban cultures. “Public space and European cities in transition” (seminar 8) offers a critical debate on the previous historical relation between the national state and urban policies for public spaces, and a current reorientation to European politics affecting urban politics of public space in many cities in Europe. Finally, the seminar addresses “Embodied space, urban resistance and human emancipation” (seminar 11) and “Public space and relational perspectives: New challenges for architecture and planning” (seminar 13) will offer an open sphere for discussions relating architects and planners’ positionality in public space, new approaches to planning education and the learning experiences that contributions from the spatial discplines and arts can gain from current global acts of urban resistance and social movements, while opening a controversy on the concept of human emancipation, urban cultures and public spaces.

Additional Information

The seminar (SE) “Concepts and critique of the production of space” is part of the module 11 “Urban culture, public space” of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space. Please register for the Module 11 until 2 March 2015 in the TISS registration system (registration at VO 280.392 Strategies and intervention of the production of space). Registrations for single courses of the Module 11 (VO 280.392, UE 280.393, SE 280.394) will be possible at the Module’s Kick-off taking place on 3 March 2014 at 12.30.

Dates for the Seminar Course Units within Module 11′s Intensive Teaching Blocks (ITBs)

Intensive Teaching Block I

Seminar Unit 1, Mon, 9th March, 13:15am-14:45am – Seminar kick off/Getting to know each other

After students have been volunteering for topics in groups of two to three (depending on number of participants) already during the obligatory module kick-off (3rd March 12:30am to 2pm, Karlsgasse 13/1, Seminar Room 1), this first seminar unit serves as an introduction to the seminar work and an explanation about the team-based dialogical way to organize a seminar in a different format. Each group will choose a seminar unit topic and prepare a 10minutes presentation on selected texts. While students have already started to snooze into these documents before this seminar kick-off meetings, instructors will offer help and supportive questions to those groups that will present in one of the next units.

Bibliography: two introductory texts that all students should have read by this unit

Roskamm, N. (2012) Der Begriff Dichte/The Concept of Density. In: U. Hirschberg (Hg.): GAM.08 Graz Architecture Magazine. Wien: Springer, S. 130-142.
Madanipour, A., Knierbein, S., and Degros, A. (2014) A moment of Transformation. In: Madanipour, A., Knierbein, S., and Degros, A. (eds) Public space and the challenges of urban transformation in Europe. New York/London: Routledge. Pp. 1-8.

Seminar Unit 2, Tue, 11th March, 11am-12:30am – Polizeiwissenschaft, welfare state and urbanism

In his gouvernmentality studies Michel Foucault links the issues of the welfare state and urbanism. Reading one of the crucial lectures of Foucault we will approach the cohesion between the positive Polizeiwissenschaft of the 18th Century and the birth of modern urbanism in the narrative of Foucault. We will learn who Foucault is and discuss the concept of `Polizeiwissenschaft´ as well as its coherence with urbanism.


Foucault, M (2007) Security, territory, population; pp. 311-332.
Kersten, J (2013):“Police Science“. A programmatic analysis of how police science stands in the German-speaking world. In: SIAK-Journal − Journal for Police Science and Practice (International Edition Vol. 3), 4-18.

Seminar Unit 3, Tue, 11th March, 2pm-3:30pm – Introduction to public space 1: Historical dilemmas


Theoretical introduction: Madanipour, A. (2011) Whose public space. Introduction and Conclusion. New York/London. Routledge. Pp. 1-16, 237-242.
Case: Elzanowski, J. (2014) Memorials and material dislocation: The politics of public space in Warsaw. In: Madanipour, A., Knierbein, S., and Degros, A. (eds) Public space and the challenges of urban transformation in Europe. New York/London: Routledge. Pp. 88-102.

Seminar Unit 4, Fr, 13th March, 9am-10:30am – Criticism of the welfare state

The welfare state is a concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. The general term may cover a variety of forms of economic and social organization. The modern welfare state has been criticized on economic and moral grounds from different sides. Classical liberals, libertarians and conservatives often argue that the provision of tax-funded services or transfer payments reduces the incentive for workers to seek employment, thereby by reducing the need to work, reducing the rewards of work, and exacerbating poverty. On the other hand, socialists and communists typically criticize the welfare state as an attempt to legitimize the economic system of capitalism by making it appear more equitable. With two classical texts we will approach own opinions about the concept of the welfare state.


Belloc, H (1912) The servile state. London/Edinburgh.
Marx K and Engels F (1850) Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League. London, March 1850.

Seminar Unit 5, Fr, 13th March, 11am-12:30am – Introduction to public space 2 : Political dilemmas


Theoretical introduction: Low, S. and Smith, N. (2006) Introduction. Imperative of public space. New York/London, Routledge, pp. 1-16.
Case: Knierbein, S., Madanipour, A., and Degros, A. (2014) Vienna. (Re)Framing Public Policies, (Re)Shaping Public Spaces. In: Madanipour, A., Knierbein, S., and Degros, A. (eds) Public space and the challenges of urban transformation in Europe. New York/London: Routledge. Pp. 23-37.

Intensive Teaching Block II

Seminar Unit 6, Mon,18th May, 11am-12:30am – The right to the city

Henry Lefebvre wrote in 1967his polemic `right to the city´. While the slogan is well known, the content of the paper is not. In this unit we will learn about Lefebvre and what does the right to the city means in his mind. A crucial chapter of the book is starting point of our involvement with Lefebvre’s proposal to bring philosophy into the urban sphere. Aim of the discussion will be to find out, what the right to the city could mean today.


Lefebvre, Henri [1967] (1996): The right to the City. In: Kofmann, Elenore; Lebas, Elizabeth (1996): Writings on Cities, Oxford: Blackwell, S. 147-160.
Engels, Friedrich (1845): The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844;, (Chapter: “the great towns”)

Seminar Unit 7, Tue,19th May, 11am-12:30am – Introduction to urban cultures

Through the example of Vienna, the concept of urban culture will be positioned in reference to public space. The point here is to direct our view beyond high-cultural approaches towards an understanding of  urban culture that emphasizes everyday cultural practices in the city. Where the social structure of the city has changed considerably in recent decades due to migration, economic globalization, and the Europeanization of law (e.g., labor migration through the opening of national labor markets), new and changing lifestyles in urban society are formed (emergent urban cultures). It is worthwhile here to extend the rational and pragmatic view of cultural inscriptions in the living spaces of the city to the effect that, in addition to used and necessary public spaces, wider perspectives are integrated into urban planning and design: those of the loved and lived public spaces, an emotional-affective dimension of urban residents’ connectedness with those places in the city that enable them to have a positive urban experience. Yet urban culture, for sure, encompasses as well everyday struggles mediated through acts of urban resistance and social movements and more generally urban strives for human emancipation, which shall be addressed as well.


Theoretical introduction: Knierbein, S. (2011) Stadtkultur. Eine postdisziplinäre Positionierung in der Stadtforschung. In: Frey, O. und Koch, F. Positionen zur Urbanistik I. Stadtkultur und neue Methoden der Stadtforschung. LIT Verlag. Wien. S.79-103. (English Translation)
Case: Palumbo, M. (2014) Urban Transformation, Social Transition: Barbès, Paris, Where ‘Otherness’ Takes (Public) Place. In: Madanipour, A., Knierbein, S., and Degros, A. (eds) Public space and the challenges of urban transformation in Europe. New York/London: Routledge. Pp. 117-130.

Seminar Unit 8, Wed, 20th May, 11am-12:30am – Public space and European cities in transition

European cities are changing rapidly in part due to the process of de-industrialization, European integration and economic globalization. Within those cities public spaces are the meeting place of politics and culture, social and individual territories, instrumental and expressive concerns. Public Space and the Challenges of Urban Transformation in Europe investigates how European city authorities understand and deal with their public spaces, how this interacts with market forces, social norms and cultural expectations, whether and how this relates to the needs and experiences of their citizens, exploring new strategies and innovative practices for strengthening public spaces and urban culture.

These questions are explored by looking at 3 case studies from across Europe, written by active scholars in the area of public space and organized in three parts: 1. strategies, plans and policies; 2. multiple roles of public space; 3. and everyday life in the city.


Theoretical Introduction: Madanipour, Knierbein, S. and Degros, A. (2014) Public Space and the Challenges of Urban Transformation in Europe. London/New York: Routledge, Conclusion, pp. 183-190.
Case: Polyak, L. (2014) Exchange in the street. Rethinking open air markets in Budapest. London/New York: Routledge, Conclusion, pp. 63-77.

Seminar Unit 9, Thu, 19th May, 9:00pm-10:30pm – Spatial justice

In this session we will discuss the concept of spatial justice. Our particular object is a debate in the journal City about the same topic. Peter Marcuse and Edward Soja conceptualise the spatiality of justice and the right to the city. There are clear differences in their approaches; there are also points of convergence. In particular, both Marcuse and Soja insist that working towards the ‘right to the city’ is not only a matter of re-ordering urban spaces, it is also a matter of attacking the wider processes and relations which generate forms of injustice in cities.


Marucse, P. (2009) ‘From critical urban theory to the right to the city’, City 13(2–3), pp. 185–197.
Soja, E. (2010) ‘Spatializing the urban, Part I’, City 14(6), pp. 629–635.
Iveson K (2011) Social or spatial justice? Marcuse and Soja on the right to the city, City: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action, 15:2, 250-259, 

Intensive Teaching Block III

Seminar Unit 10, Tue, 16th June, 9:00pm-10:30pm – The car and the city 

Copenhagen is the capital of bicycles and bicycles-friendly-urban planning. Topic of the seminar is the recent history of transforming the urban space and of reorganizing the power of the participants in urban traffic. Topic of the common discussion is the question if copenhagenizing could be an option for Vienna, too.


Gehl, J (2010) Cities for people. Washington, Covelo, London: Island Press. Pp. 1-30; 182-219.
Reichow, Hans Bernhard (1959): Die autogerechte Stadt. Maier. Ravensburg.

Seminar Unit 11, Tue, 16th June, 2:00pm-3:30pm – Embodied space, urban resistance and human emancipation

The lecture gives an inside into a recently evolving stream of relational pedagogy of public space, where theory of space is informed by anthropological perspectives and abstractions taken from bodily encounters in space. Taking the example of embodied action in relation to the face-to-face politics of urban resistance and social movement in public space, this lecture provides a link between debates around embodied conceptions of space, contemporary urban resistance, the differentiation between urban resistance and social movements, as well as a general introduction to aspects of human emancipation in the city, with all its pitfalls, struggles and ambivalences.


Theoretical introduction: Tonkiss, F. (2005) Embodied spaces: Gender, Sexuality and the City. In: Tonkiss, F (ed) Space, the City and Social Theory. Social relations and urban forms. Cambridge/Malden: Politiy. Pp.94-112.
Case Study: Low, S. (2011) Spatializing culture. Embodied space in the city. In: Bridge, G. and Watson, S. (2011) The New Blackwell Companion to the City. Pp. 463-475

Seminar Unit 12, Thu, 18th June, 9:00pm-10:30pm – What is critique (in urban studies)?

Critique has different pasts and any critical attitudes grow in different contexts along diverse paths of conventions and traditions. A possible access to the famous question „what is critique“ is to consider such varied habitats. In this unit we take into account urbanism as a main project of modernity and urban studies as a specific laboratory of criticism. The knowledge clustering around the notion of the city is an arena with an own and distinctive heritage.


Brenner N (2009) What is critical urban theory?, City, 13:2-3, 198-207.
Gunder M (2010): Planning as the ideology of (neoliberal) space. Planning Theory 9(4): 298-314.

Seminar Unit 13, Thu, 18th June, 11:00pm-12:30pm – Public space and relational perspectives: New challenges for architecture and planning


Theoretical introduction: Knierbein, S. (2015)  Public space as relational counter space. Scholarly minefield or epistemological opportunity? IN: Tornaghi, C. and Knierbein, S. (eds) Public space and relational perspectives. New challenges for architecture and planning. New York/London, Routledge, pp. 42-64.
Case: Altrock, U und Huning, S (2015) Cultural interventions in urban public spaces and performative planning: insights from shrinking cities in Eastern Germany. IN: Tornaghi, C. and Knierbein, S. (eds) Public space and relational perspectives. New challenges for architecture and planning. New York/London, Routledge, pp. 148-166.