PR Urban culture and public space

Urban culture and public space – An introduction to urban studies


Links: TISS 280.295, TUWEL

PR Project (Bachelor) / Semester hours: 6.0 / ECTS 6.0

Aim of course

Cities around the world are currently undergoing profound changes as results of both global and local forces, including migration and economic restructuring. How do these changes influence the production of contemporary public spaces and urban culture? How do different cultural groups negotiate their identities and sense of place in the contemporary city? How can (the making of) public spaces serve as a vehicle for cross-cultural understanding? The aim of this bachelor elective project is to investigate ways through which public spaces and their production can engage diverse users and urban dwellers in negotiating and bridging their differences.

The course introduces interested and motivated students to the field of urban studies by placing its focus on public space as lived space, as place where public life unfolds. Public space as a theme in urban studies, planning and architecture opens valuable links to other disciplines, such as social sciences and the arts. How is knowledge generated from everyday experience in public space? What can planners and designers learn from a difference in public space, and its investigation? To what extend do we need to rethink planning when it comes to dealing with lived spaces in the city?

Subject of course

The course takes students to Vienna’s 5th district, placing a particular focus on the area around the Hundsturm. It consists of theoretical inputs and practical work carried out in groups. The participants of the course will be encouraged to explore and further enhance potentials of public space and everyday life for creating trans-cultural encounters and exchange points between various people and groups. Based upon theoretical inputs received in the format of lectures, seminars and workshops, each student group will explore specific methods, social practices and possibilities in order to address self-determined goals of a group’s project. The approach may also include partnering with community organisations or educational institutions.

The course is structured in three steps, which coincide with three intensive teaching blocks (ITB). As a first step (ITB 1), we will explore social realities in Vienna’s 5th district and articulate own ‘comfort zones’ in public space. The second step (ITB 2) provides an opportunity for expanding this personal comfort zone, as we will try to discover other comfort zones, different from our own. In the last step (ITB 3) we will combine these experiences in a search of points of contact and cross-cultural exchange.

The first Intensive Teaching Block (ITB 1) under the title “My Place: a public-space autobiography” takes place at the Hundsturm in cooperation with the Urbanize Festival organized by Derive Urban Magazine. It serves as an introduction into participatory action research. The second teaching block (ITB 2) under the title “Your place: public space interview(s)” engages with places of others. Learning about others’ comfort zones requires an effort to abstract from own experiences, reflections and comfort zones to facilitate an imagination of different social spaces in public space. The title of the third teaching block (ITB 3) is “Our place: Sites of Encounters and interactions”. Learning about cross-cultural points of exchange will be enhanced through the development of a presentation format which includes a short radio-play accompanied by formats of free choice.

Outcome (skills and products)

Students are encouraged to use a variety of media to interpret, articulate and present their findings (photos, videos, recordings, text, drawings, etc.). A special focus will be put on the radio production: with support of an artist experienced in the radio/podcast production all student groups will produce a radio piece for the Derive Radio Programme broadcasted in spring 2014. The radio program is meant to engage a broader audience in disseminating the results as well as catalysing discussion and debate through means of public broadcasting. It also serves as a means of empowerment of students in dealing with mass media as future planners and designers. Therefore, the final presentation will comprise a dual approach: all groups are asked to prepare and produce a short radio play and are also invited to supplement this radio production with accompanying formats of free choice.

Students will additionally acquire skills in observations, fieldwork, and representation of their findings. As the course will be held in English language, students have an opportunity to train their technical vocabulary in a playful way.

Additional Information

The course language is English. We invite all bachelor students to participate, including those who are unsure about their language proficiency: The level of English will be adjusted to the students’ language skills.

Participation in the KICK-OFF WORKSHOP on 2 October 2013 from 11.00 till 13.00 is mandatory.

Further dates:

First Intensive Teaching Block: Mo 07.10.2013 – Fr 11.10.2013
Second Intensive Teaching Block: Mo 25.11.2013 – Fr 29.11.2013
Third Intensive Teaching Block: Mo 20.01.2014 – Fr 24.01.2014

Intermezzi (Sessions between Teaching Blocks) wednesdays from 9 – 11am fortnighly