Phase II – 2013

2013 Urban culture, public space, and knowledge – Education and difference

It is a normative task of urban planners to link various fields of knowledge with the goal of managing spatial development sustainably and democratically. They continuously produce and utilize spatial knowledge (mental production of space). They outline ideas, projections, and visions based on data that will later be carved in stone and cast in steel in hopes of offering support – a robust backbone – for the dynamic changes in society. Space as a productive process “is considered here at one (…) level as a result of accumulated scientific insights that permeate the working process and thus are materially effective” (Schmid 2005, 207, translated by William Magruder). Given the current increasing relevance of knowledge per se it is also apparent that the altered meaning of knowledge as a resource in contemporary urban development can no longer be understood only physically. Access to education and the recognition of social difference need to become meaningful in the development and interconnection of different fields of academic knowledge, however, if present challenges such as migration, diversity, and the structural transformation of cities are to be handled well. This year’s theme of “Urban culture, public space, and knowledge – Education and difference” will thus be approached in a transdisciplinary manner. Public space is used here as a space of reflection and an arena for action for urban planners that serves the forging of knowledge alliances between theory and practice in the claiming of space, among universities, schools, and nursery schools, and all other organizations where cross-cultural learning takes place with an awareness of actually existing social difference.

The focus on education brings up the question of the social character of spatial innovation. Which forms of lifelong learning and dialogical knowledge transfer processes are formed spatially? How are current educational institutions organized spatially, and to what extent can public space play a more central role in the spatial organization of schools, community colleges, and universities than it did in the Fordist city? To what extent do current urban development projects in education represent a plea for the acceptance of difference in ways of living and cultures in Vienna, a city which, like many others, has historically been dominated by the influx of different population groups? If the forms of knowledge transfer between different areas and stocks of knowledge have changed rapidly due to shifts in media, is this expressed just as quickly through space? What is the role of public space in such transformations in the contemporary post-Fordist city?

Even the obvious opportunities that arise for urban planning action in the course of knowledge production in public space appear rudimentary, and are not yet sufficiently understood and made useful for the practice of dialogic learning and participatory action research. Thus the theme for 2013 is based on the theme of conceived spaces, on the projections and visions that are mentally (pre)produced, and thus de facto affect spatial development. What knowledge base do public space planning efforts draw upon, and how did this situation change with the advent of post-Fordist knowledge economies? Do scientific advances that bring urban-cultural and knowledge-related perspectives to bear on public space already exist?

In 2013 an approach is taken in which the Vienna University of Technology (Vienna UT) and its actors at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space (SKuOR) consciously cooperate with other educational institutions (schools, community colleges, nursery schools, etc.) regarding public space by creating learning alliances. In this way, the dialogical knowledge transfer about the unique local characteristics of certain places as well as how they are being reshaped globally can be conveyed by drawing upon academic knowledge, professional expertise, and local everyday knowledge (transdisciplinarity). Such a strong focus on education as a part of culture and the recognition of difference in urban society is per se inscribed in an urban-cultural approach to planning and architecture in democratic countries.