Projekt: Iconic City

Iconic City – Dialectics between imaginary and materialities

Download: Flyer

TISS Course No. 280.209: Link


Approach and Questions

This project addresses SKuOR’s annual theme for 2012 ‘Urban culture, public space, and resources – Aesthetics and materiality’ under which the City of Vienna Visiting Professor Prof. Maria Kaika and SKuOR’s permanent team look at the many understandings of the materials from which public space is structurally arranged and built, as well as the materiality of urban-cultural interventions. The theme ‘Iconic City’ provokes us to link the theoretical argument to everyday urban experience in a debate on the shifted meaning, as well as the changing role that this concept plays in urban development. Iconic spaces and buildings are interpreted as totems which indicate to society what and how to desire, and are considered facets of the social production of space. Therefore they lie in the focus of this project, and serve as a means for exploring and understanding the full complexity of urban cultures and related material and social changes.The project concerns the very genesis of the meaning of the Iconic, by addressing the WHY and the WHAT of Iconic Change:

__WHY certain buildings, infrastructures, cultures, or spaces become iconic during specifi c historical moments?

__WHAT is perceived as Iconic changes over time?

The HOW component of Iconic Change and the production of Iconic Spaces will be addressed by questioning and reflecting on:

__The power and the strength of the visible MATERIALITIES: Where are the access points to perceive, to influence and to create these Icons?

__The interrelation between imaginaries and daily practices and the ROLE OF IMAGINARIES in space production: Which daily practices and planning related tools do guide to a living city?

__NEED and DESIRE for cities’ and societies’ future: How can we express that desire and need in daily practices and planning related tools?


Methods and Formats

The understanding, interpretation, communication and designing of the Iconic City, the production of its space and its change will rely on innovative ways devised by students, such as design or public performance interventions. Tracing the Iconic we will explore various cityscapes and cultures in Vienna such as Karl-Marx-Hof, Alt Erlaa, Donau-City, Gasometer, Donaukanal. The site-specifi c work provides possibilities to explore PRACTICES of perception, mediation and expression that can be linked to site-specifi c situations and realities. The project integrates studio work with other learning formats, which encompass lectures, seminars, city walks and training skills in academic reading, writing and presenting.


Skills and Products

The project aims to improve multiple qualitative skills for reading, interpreting and refl ecting Iconic Change, Production of Spaces and Materiality. The students will get an overview of multiple roles one can have in the process of perceiving, constructing and designing space, and gain an insight into how the view of materialities, imaginaries and communication depends on the person’s role in spatial processes. In doing so, the students will:

__explore the very existence, the production and the use of imagineries in urban research, urban design and urban practice,

__highlight the ‘making of’ cities’ materialities as an approach for understanding urban transformation / reality,

__emphasize the importance of imaginary and desire in urban research and practice,

__train how to transfer hidden social relations from research into urban practice and community space,

__question methods and practices of perception, mediation and expression in planning practice.

In accomplishing these teaching goals SKuOR hopes to initiate a collaboration between students, the local community and local authorities as well as between different thinkers and doers within the university that work in specific scientific spheres. The main body of teaching will be delivered during three intensive teaching blocks:



  • Kick Off (3rd October)
  • Iconic Imagineries & Materialities (Intensive Teaching Block (ITB) I, 6th  until 12th  October 2012, all day)
  • Perception & Desire (ITB II, 27th November until 30th November 2012, all day)
  • Re-Interpretation & Expression (ITB III, 22nd  January until 25th  January 2013, all day)

Students‘ works will peak in  a public exhibition accompanied by a 2-day-symposium during the Intensive Teaching Block III.