Projekt: Lost in „Transdanubia“ – Translating the global urban agenda through local urban action

Link: TISS 280.506

PR Project / Semester hours: 6.0 / ECTS 12.0

Aim of course

„Urban culture, public space and the future – Urban equity and the global agenda“

This project will focus on relations between housing and public space in „Transdanubia“, the designated „periphery“ of Vienna.

We will work in the context of a global political agenda, as developed by UN Habitat, which brings public spaces alongside housing to the forefront of urban development. The New Urban Agenda incorporates Global South and postcolonial perspectives into planning and design approaches while also including Lefebvre’s claim to „The Right to the City“, highlighting the importance of the everyday and lived dimension of urban space. Inspired by such a framework of thought and action (but nevertheless critical to its potential translation into local spatial praxis) we will investigate „Transdanubia“. The aim will be to de-colonise the bias inherent in the use of the concept of „Transdanubia“ by investigating the multiple relations between home, dwelling and public space and recentering Vienna’s 22nd district, Donaustadt.

We will investigate the physical and social associations between spaces and activities of dwelling/homes/housing and public spaces. In addition to understanding public spaces as sites of publicness we identify that public space is increasingly domesticated through daily actions, planning practices and perceptions. Vice versa, the home as the designated place of being-in-private increasingly bears more public activity evident in the use of digital social media at home. This course will direct and support students to investigate the dialectics between public spaces and housing activism, research and policy, inspired by discourses produced at the global level of UN Habitat, and will seek to explore and establish a necessary dialogue between the local and the global.

Working with different local NGOs, residents, planners, politicians and activists, we will engage in both research and local action. The course will involve methods of visual mapping and document surveys to explore the boundaries and intersections between housing and public space. Students will work in groups, with each group creating a blog entry on a shared platform that documents the places from which their investigation begins, the subject on which they will focus (see below) and the specific scales (such as street, neighbourhood, migratory route) that support their understanding of relations between public space and home. As the students collect information (through interviews with local residents or experts, ethnographic methods, interventions etc.) they will analyse, specifically through combining data in layered maps, collage and written descriptions, to form conclusions and jointly develop an intervention/ public work/ exhibition/ walk in collaboration with local groups. As working space, we will try to organize spaces in Donaustadt for the three intensive teaching blocks. Finally, the students will write up and edit their research into a designed and printed document.

Subject of course

The course will investigate a series of relations that relate to home/housing and public spaces set in a broader dialogue between local framings and the global urban agenda (both as regards the bilateral relations between global and local, as well as on an operational level of enabling equity in urban development). Taking the ordinary and action-based function of public space as lived space as a basis for political engagement and opening up „private“ issues of the home as social issues relevant for political debate we aim at addressing questions of urban equity and inequity (Verteilungsgerechtigkeit/-ungerechtigkeit). Within the palimpsest of Donaustadt’s dwellings and public spaces and in dialogue with existing local initiatives we aim to explore these private-public relations and develop ways of challenging these traditionally separated realms through research and action. Can homes become as global as public space has recently developed? Or are both rather very local and context-specific contexts in which the global only can interfere through general pleas to incorporate (Western) human rights perspectives, e.g. the right to decent housing and the right to free expression, as summed up in the right to the City?

The following aspects are a starting point for investigation.

Homes and public spaces: The relationship between housing and public space can be understood in several ways: through relations between private domestic space and public open spaces in addition to varying hybrids of public/private spaces; through urban development housing is often accompanied by new public spaces as either a requirement of the planning process or as a complimentary setting; through strategies of gentrification. We will discuss theories like the rent-gap and gentrification approaches (Smith, Slater, Madanipour, Dangschat) and how these phenomena unfold differently in home and public space, and where there connection lies.

Homelessness and public spaces: Public spaces are also essential spaces for individuals without a home. For many homeless people, whether their circumstances are the result of social, economic or political conditions (whether homeless, refugee, traveller), public spaces are the sites of many everyday activities and basic needs, such as sleeping and washing. How homeless people navigate public spaces and the regulations imposed upon them is highlighted during moments of increased homelessness (during global financial crisis) and through processes of urban redevelopment. The de-legitimisation of activities associated with homelessness often contrasts with other private activities as home lives extend into public spaces. These part focuses on both self-organized dwelling and issues of squatting public space or housing.

Homes extended into public spaces: The use of public spaces for activities commonly undertaken within private spheres of the home and work can be seen in eating and drinking, remote working, bathing and even gardening. In this sense, public spaces are less sites of politics defined by coming together around issues of concern, but are places used for activities of cooking, eating, washing and meeting in public. The objects of these activities, such as sofas on sidewalks and barbeques in parks, beings into close proximity contrasting cultural practices. Also, in this respect, the reality of young people and adolescents in Donaustadt seems of core importance, as there might be intergenerational differences between using public space and the home as space for individual and collective expression.

Gating homes: The embracing of gated developments in the Global North and Global South create new forms of quasi public space, themed for affluent populations whereas traditional and older lived spaces are increasingly denied, displaced or even destroyed. Discourses of safety and (perceived) crime are often arguments for gated homes, quasi-public space and increased (private) securitisation. To what extent are these phenomena visible at all in Donaustadt and how can, if applicable, such gated environments be opened up again through planning for homes and public spaces?

Mobile homes: Objects and ideas of home are transported as people holiday, travel, migrate and colonise through expressions of mobile or nomadic living. In these contexts what constitutes home? How can the suitcase, the mobile phone or family network come to define the essence of home?

Informal housing: Forms of informal housing, often designated as temporary, represent an increasing share of people’s homes worldwide and stand in tension with public space and create public spaces differently. Additionally, the informal use and adaptation of housing bring public and private lives together, where the home is also used as income generating space, as cultural or religious space.

What are the SDG’s: 

Provide basic services for all citizens
These services include: access to housing, safe drinking water and sanitation, nutritious food, healthcare and family planning, education, culture and access to communication technologies.

Ensure that all citizens have access to equal opportunities and face no discrimination
Everyone has the right to benefit from what their cities offer. The New Urban Agenda calls on city authorities to take into account the needs of women, youth and children, people with disabilities, marginalized groups, older persons, indigenous people, among other groups.

Promote measures that support cleaner cities
Tackling air pollution in cities is good both for people¿s health and for the planet. In the Agenda, leaders have committed to increase their use of renewable energy, provide better and greener public transport, and sustainably manage their natural resources.

Strengthen resilience in cities to reduce the risk and the impact of disasters
Many cities have felt the impact of natural disasters and leaders have now committed to implement mitigation and adaptation measures to minimize these impacts. Some of these measures include: better urban planning, quality infrastructure and improving local responses.

Take action to address climate change by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions
Leaders have committed to involve not just the local government but all actors of society to take climate action taking into account the Paris Agreement on climate change which seeks to limit the increase in global temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Sustainable cities that reduce emissions from energy  and build resilience can play a lead role.

Fully respect the rights of refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons regardless of their migration status
Leaders have recognized that migration poses challenges but it also brings significant contributions to urban life. Because of this, they have committed to establish measures that help migrants, refugees and IDPs make positive contributions to societies.

Improve connectivity and support innovative and green initiatives
This includes establishing partnerships with businesses and civil society to find sustainable solutions to urban challenges

Promote safe, accessible and green public spaces
Human interaction should be facilitated by urban planning, which is why the Agenda calls for an increase in public spaces such as sidewalks, cycling lanes, gardens, squares and parks. Sustainable urban design plays a key role in ensuring the liveability and prosperity of a city.

Additional Information

The course language is English. We encourage students‘ participation irrespective of their confidence in language proficiency.

The course is structured in three intensive teaching blocks (ITB), during which a student’s all-day presence is required. Attendance at the Kick-Off meeting is mandatory to confirm registration to the course.


Kick-Off: October 3, 2017, 11am

ITB 1 : 16 – 20 October 2017, 9am – 5.30pm (Friday until 3.30pm)
ITB 2 : 27 November – 1 Dezember 2017, 9am – 5.30pm (Friday until 3.30pm)
ITB 3 : 15 – 19 Januar  2018, 9am – 5.30pm (Friday until 3.30pm)

Please note that teaching will take place at the Alte WU building (Augasse 2-6, 1090 Wien) and/or at some venue directly in Donaustadt. Exact locations will be announced shortly.

Examination modalities

At least 80% of participation in the course is mandatory.

Course Registration

Deadline for binding registration is 31 August 2017 in TISS and with an email to