VU Strategies and interventions of space production

Urban culture and public space – Strategies and interventions of space production

VU 280.038 by Ali Madanipour and Aglaée Degros

TUWIS: Link.

Download: Link.

General information

This lecture-exercise takes place in the course of module 11 “Urban culture, public space and the state: Politics of public space” which is offered during three three-days block events by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space (SKuOR). International students as well as students working interdisciplinarily are warmly welcome. This course is held in English language.

Participants of this course are highly recommended to take part in the other courses of module 11 “280.032, 280.038, 280.039, 280.040”.

Registration for module 11 is obligatory (See TUWIS registration VU 280.038 “Group 01”). Registration for just this course can be realized during the Module 11-Kick off Meeting (4th March 2 to 4pm, Karlsgasse 13/1) or personally when visiting the SKuOR office in Karlsgasse 13/2 by subscribing to the participant list.

80% minimum participation during the whole course as well as punctuality are obligatory!


1st Intensive Teaching Block: 16th – 19th of March 2010

2nd Intensive Teaching Block: 26th – 29th of April 2010

3rd Intensive Teaching Block: 14th – 17th of June 2010

Subject of the course

Learning field spatial research

The key themes include a critical understanding of the nature of public spaces in the city, different perspectives into urban space, and instrumental and expressive approaches to public space and urban culture. When it comes to bridge the crucial threshold between a descriptive-analytical understandings of how cities are ‘produced’ by societies in general and individuals and collectives in particular (e.g. ‘analytical governance’ conceptions) and of how planners and designers might try to formulate goals in a normative (e.g. ‘good governance’ conceptions) way to ‘improve’ existing problems, strategies and interventions to produce public spaces can be evaluated from very different critical perspectives. What is the difference between such positions and why is it necessary for planners, designers and architects to understand both rationalities?

Although some see spatial planning as a technical exercise, planning a city is an intensely political process, in which different groups may have different views on how to define the problems and what solutions to adopt. Public spaces are one of the key themes of spatial planning, which has political, economic and cultural dimensions. This series of lectures will help the students develop a socio-spatial appreciation of the role of public space in the city, develop a conceptual map of the different actors and processes involved in, and the skills of critical analysis into, the production of urban space. The lecture-exercise will be supported by other courses in the module, with the aim of helping the students develop a better grasp of the politics of public space.

Learning field spatial planning and design

In planning practice, city governments increasingly tackle public, space not only in historical city centers but also in neglected neighborhoods. The political ambition once focused on (iconic or social) buildings, nowadays shifts towards public space. One may think about many European postwar districts where the improvements concerning the public space are considered as a backbone of the restructuring of these neighborhoods.

The relationship between city, public space and politics is interesting for urban planners in the sense that they closely interact with each other. The concept of good governance that is largely accepted in the political world nowadays, is the art of finding ways to enable institutions and individuals to manage the issues and areas they have in common. Public space is actually one of these areas. It calls for planning processes that include both formal institutions and policies which can enforce compliance, as well as informal arrangements that people and institutions have agreed to or perceive to be in their interest. In developing the relationship between city politics and public space, the key question is not only why should we change our traditional approach towards the public domain by integrating the notion of good governance, but also how to find and define innovative planning tools via centralized planning and also through more organic processes of spontaneous development.

The lecture-exercise will have three subtopics each dealt with during one intensive teaching block. Each subtopic will host a series of related lecture-exercise units (see schedule below).

Structure of the course

Summer term: State of space

1. Strategies, plans and policies

The governance of public space: How is public space treated by the city government in Vienna? What are the issues, strategies, and tactics of dealing with public spaces? What is the City’s cultural policy? What are the plans and policies for public spaces in Vienna? How are they formed and what do they aim to achieve?: Who are the state and non-state actors involved in setting the conditions for public spaces? How are they organized and what are the relationships between different actors?

How to investigate the tangibly as well as non-tangibly aspects of public space How to represent public space? How to ‘collect’ and process the opinions of government, inhabitants (fundamentally different groups of people,) all communicating in very different ways? How to achieve a common basis for communication so that the different discussions can interlink, connect and dialog.

Topic 1 (AD, AM, further actors)

State actor’s input: Magistrat Vienna

Topic 2 (AD, AM, further actors)

State actor’s input: Magistrat Vienna

Topic 3 (AD)

The representation of the city’s public space: How to investigate the tangible as well as non-tangible aspects of public space? How to represent public space?

Topic 4 (AM)

Perspectives into urban space: Developing a theoretical foundation for the analysis of urban space. How to analyse the urban space; a critical evaluation of different approaches to understanding the urban space

Topic 5 (AD)

The representation of the 1st, 4th and 10th district: How to investigate the tangible as well as non-tangible aspects of the 1st, 4th and 10th district? How to represent the public space of these districts of the city of Vienna?

Topic 6 (AM)

Production of urban space: Developing a theoretical foundation for the analysis of urban space.How to analyse the production of the urban space; a critical evaluation of the models of development, who is involved an in what capacity

2. Performances and images

An investigation of public space as the space of sociability, display and performance, analysing who is involved and for what purpose. The relationship between power, planning, and expressive energies released in the public domain.

An overview of alternative ways of creating and using public space (by artists, guerrilla activists, groups or simply the inhabitants), by creatively interpreting rules and constraints.

Topic 7 (AM)

Spaces of sociability: Observing how people behave in public places, and how public places are used for personal performance and interpersonal exchange. Public space, performance, and sociability.

Topic 8 (AD)

The representation of the city’s public governance: How to ‘collect’ and ‘process’ the discourses of government and inhabitants – fundamentally different groups of people – communicating in fundamentally different ways? How to achieve a common basis for communication in a way that the different discourses can interlink, connect and get into a dialog with each other.

Topic 9 (AM)

Visual culture and the city: What are the images that line the public spaces of the city? Who creates them and for what purpose? Who regulates them and on what basis?

Topic 10 (AD)

Intervention in the 1st, 4th and 10th district: How could ‘creativity’ improve the policies of the 1st, 4th and 10th district of the city of Vienna?

Topic 11 (AM)

Art in public places: What is the city’s approach to art in public places; how does it select its public art, what images and identities does it promote? What do the Viennese think? What do the artists say?

3. Trajectories and experiences

Trajectories and experiences of people may or may not conform to the paths and strategies laid out by the spatial planning process and market operations. In what ways are these paths meeting or colliding?

Topic 12

Representation of the use of public space: How to record the way people truly use public space? How to process the discourse of the inhabitants?

The representation of the 1st, 4th and 10th district: How to challenge the policies of these districts based on the actual daily use of the inhabitants?

Topic 13

Who controls the crossroads? The intersection of different actors in the city. Boundaries between public and private space: How the boundaries between public and private are set, and how this affects people’s daily life. Public space is where power is displayed and behaviour regulated. How does this happen? The hidden norms and desires create masks for performance, while explicit instruments exert social control.

Besides theoretical inputs on “Urban culture, public space and the state: Politics and planning” from both learning field spatial research (Ali Madanipour) and spatial planning (Aglaée Degros), the teaching team aims at relating these theoretical background knowledge to current urban development processes in Vienna. That is why different representatives of political programs and planning conceptions will be invited to explain their approaches within the course of the lecture-exercise.

Aim of course

The lecture-exercise provides detailed background knowledge on the governance of public spaces, on their meaning as spaces of sociability, on trajectories in daily life (biographies, mobilities and rhythms) as well as on the question who controls the crossroads in the city, both in a practical and metaphorical sense.

The course aims at a multidimensional understanding of

–       different perspectives into and the dimensions of various demands and

claims over the urban space, and how they are managed

–       roles and approaches of the state and other stakeholders in production,

management and transformation of public spaces

–       dynamics of intervention for urban change

Skills to be provided during the course

The course will provide information and analysis about the ways in which public space is understood and shaped. The students will learn about the key theoretical debates and practical concerns about urban space in related disciplines, and how it is essential to develop a rich and multidimensional analysis of public space that can draw on the insights of different disciplines and professions. Owing to the complex nature of public spaces, which mirror the urban society in a number of important ways, the students can develop an understanding of other disciplines’ approaches, and their own interests in the subject.

The students will learn undertaking critical evaluation of the strategies, plans and policies which shape public space, how the City of Vienna approaches its public spaces, including the various actors involved in making and living in the city.

Learning field spatial research

Aims – development of:

– establish a critique of urban development processes backed up with theoretical positions

– gaining basic knowledge on the importance of topics related to ‘public spaces’ and ‘urban culture’ in current urban development processes especially as regards the interrelation between politics and planning

– showing relevance of these issues from the point of view of social science based research and from planning practice

Learning field spatial planning and design

Aims- development of:

– developing creativity by being put in the position of having to reinterpret constraints and rules

– gaining representation skills to homogenize different kinds of discourses in relation to public space

– enlarge the frame of references in terms of approach of public space and its politics

Teaching approach

The knowledge about the theories of public space and the politics of public space in Vienna will be supplemented by developing the skills of critical analysis. The lectures will be interactive, and are closely related with the seminars and workshops in other courses of the module.

The skills should be learned by reviewing examples and references projects. The participants will not only receive input but they will also be challenged by several exercises. They will make an attempt to graphically represent public space. They will learn how to translate the discourse of the public governance as well as the inhabitant by graphic means. They will get a notion of ‘creatively reading’ the policies of the city and ‘creatively intervening’ within public space in the form of an alternative manifestation.

Output, assessment, evaluation and criteria

There will be a single piece of assessment for this course, submitted at the end of the semester.

The course will be evaluated through an illustrated essay (about 3000 words), which will be a critical evaluation of Vienna’s approach to its public space, including an evaluation of its strategies and plans in the context of the theories studied and in the context of the everyday experiences of the city’s residents.

The essay will be assessed on the basis of the clarity of its focus, the depth and quality of analysis, the clarity and quality of its graphic and verbal expression, and the accuracy of using references.

Requirements during the process of essay writing

1. A representation (sketches and report) of the governance of public spaces of the 1st, 4th and 10th district.

2. An intervention (presented by sketches and a report) within the public spaces of the 1st, 4th and 10th


3. A representation (sketches and report) of the use of the public spaces of the 1st, 4th and 10th district by

the inhabitants.


Learning field spatial research

Arendt, Hannah, 1998, The Human Condition, Second Edition, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Bourdieu, Pierre, 2000, Pascalian Meditations, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Cuthbert, Alexander R., 2006, ed, Designing Cities: Critical Readings in Urban Design, Blackwell, Oxford.

Habermas, Jürgen, 1989, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, MIT Press, Cambridge.

Lefebvre, Henri, 1991, The Production of Space, Blackwell, Oxford.

LeGates, R. & F.Stout, 2007, eds, The City Reader, Routledge, London.

Madanipour, Ali, 1996, Design of Urban Space, Wiley, Chichester.

Madanipour, Ali, 2003, Public and private spaces of the city, Routledge. London.

Madanipour, Ali, 2010, Whose public space? International case studies in urban design and development, Routledge, London.

Sennett, Richard, 2000, Reflections on the public realm, in Gary Bridge and Sophie Watson, eds, A Companion to the City, Blackwell, Oxford, pp.380-87.

Taylor, Charles, 1995, Liberal politics and the public sphere, in Amitai Etzioni, ed, New Communitarian Thinking: Persons, virtues, institutions and communities, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, pp.183-217.

Urban Task Force, 1999, Towards Urban Renaissance, E&F Spon, London

Weintraub, J. and Kumar, K., 1997, eds, Public and Private in thought and Action: Perspectives on a grand dichotomy, Chicago University Press, Chicago.

Learning field spatial planning and design

Artgineering, N4 Towards a Living Infrastucture!. Brussel: A16 Editions, 2007

Artgineering, Bergilez, J.D., Brunetta, V., Patteeuw, V., Artgineering, Territoires équivoques /

Blurred Boudaries. Brussels: A16 Editions, 2006

Bielanka, J., Birne, T., Ecktardt, F., Fraueneder, H., Kálmán, R., Mennicke, C., Meijer zu

Schlochtern, T. (Urban Potentials). Berlin: Jovis, 2008

Borasi, G., Zardini, M., Actions: Comment s’approprier la ville. Amsterdam: SUN, 2008

Certeau, M. de, L’invention du quatidien 1. Arts de faire. Paris: ADAGP, 2002

Chase, J. Crawford, M., Kaliski, J., Everyday Urbanism. New York: The Monacelli Press, 1999

Haydn, F., Temel, R., Temporary Urban Spaces. Basel: Birkhäuser, 2006

Koolhaas, R., Boeri, S., Kwinter, S., Mutations. Barcelona: Actar, 2001

Lash, S, Another modernity, a different rationality, Blackwell, Oxford 1999.

Miessem, M., Basar, S., did someone say participate, MIT, 2006


Petterson, J., Huiskamers en bolwerken, portrayed the inhabitants and politics of the

bulbgrowing area in Holland . This documentary contributed to the Cutural project “ Geeste and grond”


Project for Public Spaces:

Commission for Architecture and Built Environment (CABE):

CABE’s Sustainable City’s ideas about public spaces

Resource for Urban Design Information:

London’s vision for public spaces:

Arts in public space

General Comments

The students from architectural and spatial planning backgrounds, or from the social science or humanities backgrounds with an interest in the relationship between society and space would benefit from this lecture series.