WWTF International Summer School – Designing Places of Emancipation?

Vienna University of Technology 30 August – 5 September 2014, Vienna, Austria

WWTF International Summer School – Designing Places of Emancipation?

The summer school is conceived as a transdisciplinary dialogue, which will reflect on a changing role of planning professionals, volunteers and (empowered) local residents in creating new urban realities. The summer school offers different professional perspectives on the role of public spaces in contemporary urban transitions, including urban theory, urban intervention, planning and design disciplines, the humanities, economics, social sciences and cultural studies, and the arts. Keynote speakers from both urban theory and urban practice, international and local planning professionals, as well as members of the civil society will contribute to a debate on the emancipation of cultural practices and join collective practical work in the local neighbourhood. 

Multifaceted transformations of a city’s spaces that take shape through the interplay of discourses, imaginaries, the construction of materialities, and everyday life, reinforce the interpretation of public spaces as places where strategic and unintentional practices of producing meaning take place. The summer school puts specific emphasis on the importance of everyday (cultural) practices in both discursive and material appropriation of space, which aim at creating spatial assets for private benefits or at providing spaces for residents’ empowerment.

The summer school is designed as a real space-time laboratory aiming at delivering an action research project at a typical place of contemporary urban transformations. The summer school utilizes this place for the production of knowledge on (public) space in a dialogue between everyday life and scientific (planning) practices. Participants will be supported to critically reflect on the aspiration of diverse public and private actors, as well as their own professional practices, to harness less formal domains of society, such as everyday cultural practices, for open-source production of a city’s space. More frequently are these planned activities directed at creating spatial assets to “creativity” driven economies and societal groups, than at the provision of spaces for empowerment of residents’ diverse urban cultures. This is especially crucial, as Vienna is promoting a diversification of lifestyles due to increasing migration, and an urban design policy focused on an ambitious growth scenario for the years to come. The summer school will therefore explore potentials of planning as a non-dogmatic and non-determinist facilitator of processes of spatial learning and emancipation. What are the means and ways of emancipation of a collective (cultural practice) in a context determined by the discursive hegemony of creativity strategies?