Module 11

Module Urban Culture and Public Space 2014. New spaces of public concern

The master course module addresses the 2014 SKuOR annual topic of Urban Culture, Public Space, and Ways of Living —Everyday Life and Scientific Insights.  It will consider the role of public spaces in social encounters, with a particular focus on new technologies and scientific advances that change our relationship to the world and that also change the nature of the spatiality of public space. The module explores four facets of public space: the ways new insights and knowledges are not only creating new materials for city infrastructure (e.g. LED lighting) and new virtual spaces that offer forms of public display (e.g. Facebook, Instagram) and interaction (e.g. Twitter, blog comments), but are changing the ways we think of space and material and are introducing new issues of public concern. Three scales will be considered: the nanoscale, the human body and public places in cities and megacities.

The Module is structured in 3 different teaching formats: Lecture/Seminar/Workshop.

Lecture: Concepts and critique of the production of space

Rob Shields, City of Vienna Visiting Professor 2014
Sabine Knierbein, Head of SKuOR

Can the urban public square still be considered as the site of collectively lived experience, of the public sphere and of matters of concern?  Although we witness a repolitisation of public squares and streets in the last two decades, a completely new field of bio- and material science production processes and products challenges the ways public spaces are thought, built and lived. In this context, contemporary key ethical and legal concerns need to focus at the cellular and nano-scaled spaces of bio- and materials-science. It is the hypothesis of this years’ urban culture and public spaces module that we can grasp these new spaces of concern in urban everyday life of public space, acknowledging once again its changing and contested nature. These technologies depend on advances in computer-aided 3D visualization that present us miniature but manipulable ‘worlds’ using the visual conventions of everyday space and things.  However, the nano-scale introduces new ‘spaces of concern’ and issues that challenge the conventions of everyday 3D spatiality and materiality and embodied participation in and production of collective public spaces.

The lecture series offers both (a) specific insights and (b) introductory insights into international public space research as one facet in critical urban studies. Ad a) Here public spaces are seen as arenas where scientific nanotechnology advances come into play, where new spaces of public concern challenge the ethical aesthetics and theories of scaling and where collective interventions can help to frame new public spaces of concern; ad b) Here, public space is framed as place of public life and encounter, as embodied space and as realm of interventionist learning.

Seminar: Strategies and intervention of the production of space

Rob Shields, City of Vienna Visiting Professor 2014
Sabine Knierbein, Head of SKuOR
Elke Krasny, External Lecturer

These seminars will be the site of dialogues in which students debate questions such as: Can understandings, practices and notions of the stewardship of public space, property and materiality be extended from the city as a commons to the nano-scale?  What is the role of the design professions in innovation and in the face of new scales, materials, approaches to production and assembly?  What role and tools do planners have as societies negotiate the presence of new materials, technologies and lifeforms making up cities and landscapes? What are the spatial and professional implications of new scales for architecture and urban design — as well as new disciplines?   How is this changing ways of governing, maintaining and living in cities and in urban public space, from peri-urban research parks to city-centre public spaces and institutions – including universities as agents and sites for urban knowledge and understanding?

The seminar aims to improve qualitative skills for reading, interpreting and facilitating group reflection on the city and the production of space. Together with the lecture (VO 280.262) the students will reflect on changing understandings, practices and imaginations of time, space and the city. In groups of two to three volunteers, students first prepare assigned readings and present their analysis to the group. Students are secondly asked to critically reflect on the position offered by the author of the text, to break down the level of complexity to core findings of the author(s) and give an insight into the biography of the author, and her/his social context of writing the piece. Thirdly, students are encouraged to train their abilities to transfer abstract knowledge from theory into praxis, and vice versa, as they are invited to confront given theoretical contributions with other theoretical approaches or practical cases they are familiar with, and thus facilitate an expertiantial way of learning from their own experience in cities, and their public spaces. Finally, each student volunteers team will have a peer-to-peer team of colleagues who is in charge of commenting on their presentation and offering substantial feedback. That way, students learn soft skills of fair and constructive feedback.

Workshop: Paths and tools of the production of space

Rob Shields, City of Vienna Visiting Professor 2014
Elke Krasny, External Lecturer
Tihomir Viderman, University Assistant SKuOR

The workshop is based on self-organized student group work and serves as transdisciplinary vehicle between abstract theory and concrete spatial practice. Students will be offered introductions to performative and participatory ways of engaging with communities, corporate actors and scientists in the field of nanotechnology. The workshop is based on interventions and interventionist learning and includes actors walks and (ethnographical and action-research based) field research. How can public spaces engender exchange and sharing of cultures, knowledge, and understanding including technologies and scientific understanding? How can individuals and citizen groups engage in collective placemaking? How can understanding of scale, spatialisation, virtualities and new design approaches in science  inform the practice of planning and design of urban environments?


The main body of teaching will be delivered during three intensive teaching blocks:

  • Intensive Teaching Block 1 (ITB 1): 24th till 28th March 2014
  • Intensive Teaching Block 2 (ITB 2): 19th till 23rd May 2014
  • Intensive Teaching Block 3 (ITB 3): 23rd till 27th June 2014

Intermezzi will be offered during these teaching blocks

  • Wed, 9th of April 2014, 9-12am
  • Wed, 30th of April 2014, 9-12am
  • Wed, 14th of May, 9-12am
  • Wed, 4th of June, 9-12am
  • Wed, 18th of June, 9-12am

More Information

The courses mainly address master students (late Bachelor or early PhD) in spatial planning and architecture are invited to take part. Yet we explicitly welcome students coming from other Viennese universities in related disciplines, such as urban studies, urban design, geography, sociology, landscape architecture, cultural studies, … as well as ‘Mitbeleger’.  Just contact us ( International students as well as students working across disciplines are warmly welcome.

For further information and registration, please have a look at the module 11 courses via TISS (click on course number, table below). For data exchange and material related to the courses, please visit TUWEL via TISS.

Module 11 Urban culture and public space. New spaces of public concern.


SE 280.261 Concepts and critique of the production of space
VO 280.262 Strategies and intervention of the production of space
UE 280.263 Paths and tools of the production of space