European November Conference

Public space and the challenges of urban transformation in Europe: politics and culture

EUROPEAN NOVEMBER CONFERENCE 2010, Vienna, Austria hosted by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space and the City of Vienna Visiting Professor for Urban Culture and Public Space 2010, TU Vienna


European cities are changing rapidly in partial response to the processes of de-industrialization, European integration and economic globalization. Public spaces of these cities, as essential ingredients of the urban image and experience, are increasingly playing an important part in this transition. A key question concerns the role that public spaces are expected to play in political, economic and cultural transformation of cities, and the impact of these transformations on the nature of public space as a shared resource. How are public authorities addressing the challenges of provision and maintenance of public space both as a catalyst for change and as a common good? Public spaces are broadly defined as crossroads, where different paths and trajectories meet, sometimes overlapping and at other times colliding; they are the meeting place of politics and culture, social and individual territories, instrumental and expressive concerns. The conference investigates how city authorities understand and deal with their public spaces, how this interacts with market forces, social norms and cultural expectations, whether and how this relates to the needs and experiences of their citizens, exploring new strategies and innovative practices for strengthening public spaces and urban culture. The questions that will be explored revolve around three sub-themes: strategies, plans and policies; multiple roles of public space; and everyday life in the city. Strategies, plans and policies: How do public authorities address a growing pressure on public spaces? What are the issues, strategies, and tactics of dealing with public spaces, 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 are policies initiated, formulated, implemented, reflected and finally, how do people perceive and react to such policies?How do design and planning professionals contribute with their projects to the changing conditions of public spaces? How can innovative practices contribute to redefine approaching public spaces? Multiple roles of public space: Public space is where public life unfolds: art works are displayed, commercial messages transmitted, political power is displayed and social norms affirmed or challenged. How do these different processes take place? How do public spaces accommodate these multiple roles? How are conflicts of interest addressed? Which new phenomena of social transformation do emerge in public spaces? How do contemporary design and planning interventions renegotiate the boundaries of public space? What is the (changing) position of arts within public space as an actor between politics and people? Everyday life and sharing the city Public space is the realm of sociability. How do public spaces address people’s everyday needs and expectations? How are the boundaries between public and private spheres set, and how does this affect people’s daily life? How are cultural differences and social inequalities addressed in public spaces? How is local everyday life knowledge taken into account by professional disciplines planning, developing and designing public spaces? Which latent social needs get visible in public spaces? How can a fair sharing of public spaces be arranged? How do designers deal with the involvement of people in the process of producing public space? How do city representatives handle the ‘voices of people’?

Reviews and Retrospectives   WTH Aachen – STARS journal vol.07/2010, p. 19-21.
Awards   Student Award Winners European November Conference 2010: During the European November Conference 2010 a committee consisting of 13 members granted student awards within 3 categories for outstanding performances.



Panajota Panotopoulou


TransUrban Strategies – The Production of Space in Luxembourg

Background   The concept of Transurbanism focuses on urban strategies that allow cities to organize as complex systems, where local structures contain the information of global flows. Transurban processes and strategies transcend the national borders connecting different actors and places to transnational networks.
Abstract   In the era of globalization and internationalization, build space and everyday urban experience in Luxembourg are more and more influenced by transnational flows and global networks.The institutions of the European Union and a wide range of international companies and financial institutes build an attractor for international labour force. The small size and the economic dynamic character of Luxembourg predestine the country for cross-border cooperation at an interregional level with its neighbouring countries Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate, Wallonia and Lorraine. About 40% of Luxembourg’s labour force consists of commuters from the border regions. More than 40 % of Luxembourg’s population are foreigners. The population growth is predicted to increase 22 % by 2020. Very high housing and office prices and a high rate of private transport cause tremendous impacts on the use and the production of space and have led Luxembourg to develop specific urban policies which aim at solving existing and expected problems. This paper introduces the impacts and challenges on urban and public space and architecture in Luxembourg caused by transnational networks . Using the example of Esch-Belval and Kirchberg it discusses further the existing spatial policy instruments and the urban strategies the authorities have developed in reaction of these transformations.

Noah Scott Billig


The everyday life and sharing of public space in Istanbul’s informal settlements

Background   Often the most dynamic and used public spaces in a community emerge from the actions of residents, not merely as the result of top-down master-planning. In order to encourage such well-loved places, designers and planners must engage with the processes that create and sustain these adaptive spaces.
Abstract   This paper evaluates the resident defined open spaces in Istanbul’s informal housing settlements (squatter settlements). Three Istanbul squatter settlements are analyzed in terms of how everyday public spaces on and near the street are formed, adapted, used and valued. For this paper, previous studies evaluating urban open space typologies and their use in Istanbul informal settlements are analyzed. Observations and a survey of residents (i.e., their thoughts about their open spaces) are also conducted in the settlements. The overlapping boundaries of the private and public spheres are examined. Additionally, this study evaluates how the public spaces on and near the street become flexible spaces of social, cultural and economic interaction and sharing. It is found that these flexible public spaces host heterogeneous gatherings in terms of age, sex and activity types. Finally, the way these public spaces are adapted and used is related to overlapping social constructs: The squatter neighborhoods and their historical roots in Anatolian village culture; and the modern community representation in Istanbul’s city government through the neighborhood delegate (muhtar). It is found that the everyday shared spaces in these neighborhoods are inextricably linked to the social structures and culture prevalent in Istanbul squatter neighborhoods.

Bernhard Gál


(Un)Wanted: Ear Lids. Sound Installations in Public Space.

Background   sound transforms space, sound transmits space, sound transcends space. there is no concept of architecture without the notion of time, and there’s no concept of music without the notion of space. sound creates space, as space creates sound.
Abstract   Sound interventions in public space often face strong oposition. This might be owed to the fact that the human physiognomy lacks ‘ear lids‘, thus making sound a non-stop,  allembracing sensorial experience that cannot be shut out without employing further (technical) means. The idea of presenting sound in a continuous, installative setting outside the traditional concert venues also defies well-established socio-cultural mechanisms, and therefore stirs irritation and uncertainty as to how to react to and interpret it. At the same time, sound installations in public space show great potential to blend art and the public in very successful ways. Artifical, ‘installed’ sound environments get combined with the preexisting acoustic properties of a ‘site’, often causing a productive sensorial confusion and leading to strong aesthetic experiences. Architectural, social and historical references can also be employed, as well as interactive systems which involve the public in the structural organization of the piece. Thus, many sound installations in public space are truly site-specific, and can not be reproduced the same way in other places. In my presentation I will discuss examples of recent sound installations in public space that deal with the addressed issue of urban transformation through cultural interventions.