VU Strategies and interventions of space production


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

VU 280.038 by  Sophie Watson and Tore Dobberstein

Link: TISS.

Virtual seminar room: Link.


General information

This lecture-exercise (VU) “Urban culture and public space – strategies and interventions of space production” takes place in the course of module 11 “Urban culture, public spaces and markets: Economy and Innovation” which is offered during three three-to-four-days block events by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space (SKuOR) in Vienna and Budapest. The Budapest workshop will take place between 08th and 13th of May 2011. Financial support for travel and accomodation expenses (partly) will be granted by Vienna UT.

Master students (late Bachelor or early PhD), international students as well as students working interdisciplinarily are warmly welcome. This course is held in English language, therefore english language skills are required, readings will be groupwise in English and partly German. Participants of this course are highly recommended to take part in the other courses of module 11, namely 280.032, 280.033, 280.039, 280.040. Please register for module 11 via TISS registration (registration at this course VU 280.038) until 9th of March 2011 (2 pm) and send a short 1A4 page statement of motivation to Single-course registration directly at the Kick off Meeting on 8th of March (starting 4 pm) or personally at SKuOR office after 7th of March.


– Kick off Meeting: 8th of March 2011, 4-6 pm, Sem 268/1, Karlsgasse 13/1.

– 1st Intensive Teaching Block: 21st to 24th of March 2011

– 2nd Intensive Teaching Block: 09th to 13th of May 2011 (excursion to Budapest)

– 3rd Intensive Teaching Block: 27th to 30th of June 2011

– Final presentation: 30th of June 2011


Subject of the course

The lecture-exercise will offer sociological inputs (by Prof. Dr. Sophie Watson, Know why) and economics inputs with practical relevance (by Dipl.-Kfm. Tore Dobberstein, Know how):

When it comes to economic interests in public spaces, skepticism naturally occurs against possible motives of privatization, commodification and fragmentation of one of the most important social spheres in contemporary cities: public space.  The roles and effects of economic actors however, are many and various, ranging from informal to formal interventions, with both  intended and unintended consequences of market actions.  Public spaces in the city are produced in a myriad of complex and often unforeseen ways. In the context of growing social, cultural and ethnic diversity, increasing segregation and social segregation and/or exclusion in many cities of the world, it will be important here to consider new perspectives and approaches to thinking public spaces in the city and the roles of different players in constituting them.

The lecture is complemented with an introduction to theories of economic thinking. As public spaces attract critics and advocates of economic development alike, it is becoming more and more a necessity for planners, designers and architects to be able to participate in such debates, which is not always easy. While cities like Vienna and Budapest are deeply rooted in a capitalistic (European/Western) environment, the understanding of the market economy is limited. Moreover, economic growth seems to be still one very fundamental and driving precondition, town planners take for granted. A broad overview of economic sciences may help to understand why and how private individuals and companies relate or not relate to the public realm and to urban cultural aspects. This includes a critical understanding of different economic perspectives.


Aim of course

The lecture-exercise provides detailed background knowledge on the economic role and meaning of public spaces, on their meaning as spaces of sociability, on trajectories in daily life as well as on the question who provides which resources in each city, both in a practical and metaphorical sense.

Besides theoretical inputs on “Urban culture, public space and markets: Economy and Innovation” from both learning field critical urban studies (Sophie Watson) and exploratory planning (Tore Dobberstein) the teaching team aims at relating these theoretical background knowledge to current urban development processes in Budapest and Vienna. That is why different actors involved in economic processes (bottom-up and top-down) will be invited to explain their approaches within the course of the lecture-exercise.

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 market and other stakeholders in production, management and transformation of public spaces

– dynamics of intervention for urban change


Skills to be provided during the course

– 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 markets, economy and innovation

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

– gaining insights into pluralistic approaches to understanding central concepts such as “economy”, “economics”, “markets (market sphere)”, “institutions”, “extra-economic conditions”, “street markets”, and so forth



Obligatory bibliography

Jane Jacobs “The death and life of great American Cities” (chapter 29) In: Bridge, G. and Watson, S. (2010) Blackwell City Reader 2010

Gary S. Becker, Chapters 1-4, 6, in “The economic way of looking at life”, Nobel Lecture, December 9, 1992, Download at 


Voluntary bibliography

Bridge, G. and Watson, S. (2010) Blackwell City Reader 2010. Blackwell. Malden

Bridge, G. and Watson, S. (2003 (2000)) A Companion to the City. Blackwell. Malden

Madanipour, Ali (2010) Whose public space. International case studies in urban development. Routledge. London.

Watson, Sophie (2006) City publics. The (dis) enchantments of urban encounters. Routledge. London

Wise Amanda and Selvaraj Velayutham (2009) Everyday multiculturalism Palgrave Macmillan.