Research interests

Why do traditional planning instruments often fail to strengthen public spaces as social spaces? What exactly is “public” about public spaces and how can culture in cities contribute to stimulating processes of social exchange and social confrontation? How can varying research perspectives on public space be combined in a way that spurs insight and be made fruitful for theory and practice by means of cultural studies approaches? To what extent are everyday social life in the cities and the political expression of civil society’s protests on urban streets and squares linked to their built form and the planning visions and studies for cities?

International Visiting Professorship Scheme

By establishing the Visiting Professorship of Urban Culture and Public Space, the Faculty of Architecture and Spatial Planning at TU Wien has taken up these challenging issues at the interdisciplinary interface between planning and design disciplines and social sciences. This professorship has received material support from the City of Vienna between December 2008 and February 2018. Initially planned for three years, the program was successively extended two times over six years. In the year 2018, a guest professorship will be offered by the TU Wien in order to bridge between the previous funding scheme and a new programme that will likely come into being through the support of an international partner (starting approx. October 2018). Guest lecturers as well as local personnel within TU Wien have been supported with these funds in the total amount of 100,000 € per year. Since June 2015 an additional program exists to supplement the endeavors for accentuating the importance of public space at the faculty’s level: Future Lab Oeffentlicher Raum has been instigated to multiply the insights and impacts of City of Vienna Visiting Professorship for Urban Culture and Public Space between 2015 and 2017.

Horizontal institution

The purpose and mission of the Visiting Professorship is to develop a novel approach towards public spaces, thus contributing to enriching the current teaching and research spectrum at European universities. Thus, the current spectrum of research and teaching in European universities will be expanded and enriched, given the obvious relevance of the social and political significance of public space and different cultural practices.To this end, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space has been set up as a central platform for cooperation. This is supported by an internal TU working group of different colleagues in different disciplines, the dean, and the study deans of the Faculty of Architecture and Planning, as well as the Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre. This committee makes recommendations concerning the centre’s activities and advises on the appointment of visiting professors during the respective expression of interest process. On a project-by-project basis, small coalitions are formed based on current topics of research on urban and cultural approaches and knowledge alliances for the planning and design of public spaces.

Central questions

In what way exactly does the current interaction between civil-society players, state institutions and markets determine the social production of public space? Which are the tasks assumed by the planning and design disciplines in this context and where is there further future potential for students of architecture and spatial planning faculties to assume, above and beyond their traditional qualifications, an active design and steering function in these societal processes? To what extent can cross-cultural actions in planning and architecture be designed in a context-sensitive manner in light of the increasing internationalization of the spheres of action?

Special challenges

Public spaces are dynamic societal processes, and thus relational spaces with built expression, which only analytically can be divided into spatial “levels” in a very rigid understanding of space. Three areas of learning directly related to architecture and planning strategically intervene in these processes: urban design in the tensions surrounding the material production of space, urban planning in the context of the mental production of space, and urban research as a microcosm for the spatial understanding of societal practice, and in particular of the production of meaning. The areas of learning are deliberately defined broadly in order to pre-empt an undesirable narrowing of certain disciplines and subject areas of the same name. Because nowadays planners design just as much as designers plan; artists research, and researchers engage in creative activities. The triad thus corresponds less to disciplinary preconceptions, institutional boundaries, or actor-related self-perceptions, but rather shifts the focus to the actual behavior of individuals and groups in the areas of tension surrounding urban development. It is therefore the special task of the dialogue-oriented academic teams at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space to combine, in their research and teaching, the local view of the  Vienna context with the exchange of academic knowledge at the European level into two areas of learning that promote insight: know why (urban research, theory) and know how (urban planning, urban design, practice).