Annual Report for 2022
Prepared by Stefania Ragozino, Christine Mady, and Tihomir Viderman, supported by TG members
Public Spaces and Urban Cultures (PSUC) is a thematic group established in April 2010 with the initiative of Sabine Knierbein (Associate Professor, TU Vienna, Austria), Ceren Sezer (Chair of Urban Design and Institute for Urban Design and European Urbanism, RWTH Aachen University, Germany) and Chiara Tornaghi (Associate Professor, Coventry University, UK). The main aim of the group is promoting an international and interdisciplinary exchange on public spaces and urban cultures across research and practices. For more than 10 years, this thematic group has informed research, planning and design agendas within and beyond the AESOP community.
In 2022, the Thematic Group continued its endeavours to involve practitioners, academics, governmental and non-governmental professionals, and further interest groups into the TG’s activities and exchange knowledge across disciplines and domains of action through meetings, workshops, conferences and roundtables. During 2022, the group’s membership increased to over 140 professionals from research, practice, and urban activism, working with public space and engaging in urban cultures. The membership is steadily growing both in Europe and beyond.
Internal organization of the group
The thematic group’s activities are discussed and organized by a collective made up of group members who continuously attend to the tasks that are central to the success of the thematic group:
- establishing and promoting the Group’s agenda (working topics, calls, publications, events);
- managing communication with the thematic group’s members, broader audiences and the AESOP Secretary General (AESOP TG blog, Facebook page, mailing list, newsletter);
- preparing meetings and annual reports;
- disseminating scientific results;
- online social events to cover periods in which face-to-face meetings were not possible
- achieving and using synergies of group’s membership to promote research, exchange and publications.
The internal organization of the group is structured as follows:
Group Coordination: Stefania Ragozino (Main Coordinator, Italy), Christine Mady (Finland) and Tihomir Viderman (Germany)
Core Working Group: Patricia Aelbrecht (UK), Chiara Belingardi (independent research), Nadia Charalambous (Cyprus), Gabriella Esposito De Vita (Italy), Ebba Högström (Sweden), Sabine Knierbein (Austria), Matej Nikšič (Slovenia), Nikolai Roskamm (Germany), Mohamed Saleh (The Netherlands), Sara Santos Cruz (Portugal), Ceren Sezer (Germany), Socrates Stratis (Cyprus), Burcu Yigit Turan (Sweden).
Advisory Board: Ali Madanipour (University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK); Sophie Watson (Open University, UK); Sabine Knierbein (TU Vienna, Austria); Gabriella Esposito De Vita (CNR-IRISS National Research Council of Italy); Ceren Sezer (RWTH Aachen University, Germany).
The list of members who (co-)organized meetings in 2022:
Stefania Ragozino (Italy), AESOP Annual Congress Tartu Space for Species: Redefining Spatial Justice, TRACK #2 CULTURE: Reinterpreting the spatial value of culture, heritage and tourism, Estonian University of Life Sciences, 25-29/07/2022
Group’s activities 2022
This year was dedicated to the conclusion of activities related to the working umbrella theme “Public Spaces: Knowledge transition between Research, Policy and Practice” (2019-2022;
https://aesop-planning.eu/resources/news-archive/thematic-groups/public-spaces-and-urban-cultures/call-for-interest-public-spaces-knowledge-transition-between-research-policy-and-practice-deadline-15-february-2020) and the preparation, dissemination, and programming of the working umbrella theme “Public Spaces, Urban Cultures and Constructing Peace” (2022-2024; https://aesop-planning.eu/resources/news-archive/thematic-groups/public-spaces-and-urban-cultures/call-for-expressions-of-interest-to-host-the-thematic-group-s-meetings-2022-2024).
The first meeting for the theme “Public Spaces: Knowledge transition between Research, Policy and Practice” (2019-2022) took place in May 2019 in Cardiff, UK, and the second in July 2019 in Venice, Italy. During 2020 and 2021, due to the pandemic the meetings took place online, in September 2020 in Vienna, Austria, and in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in July 2021, in Gdańsk, Poland, in October 2021 in Vienna, Austria, and in October 2021 in Thessaloniki, Greece. During the AESOP Annual Congress Tartu 2022, the TG PSUC was involved in co-chairing Track #2 “CULTURE: Reinterpreting the spatial value of culture, heritage and tourism” (https://aesop2022.publicon.ee/en/tracks/track-2/) and organized the TG PSUC Meeting, during which the theme “Public Spaces: Knowledge transition between Research, Policy and Practice” was concluded and the new theme “Public Spaces, Urban Cultures and Constructing Peace” was launched through a call for events 2022-2024.
In the second part of 2022, TG PSUC successfully prepared and submitted a proposal for an event series to the Seminar Series Awards of the Urban Studies Foundation
The TG supported the project “Hands-on Famagusta” (http://www.handsonfamagusta.org/home) by contributing to the solidarity network for Famagusta, Cyprus. The solidarity network supports collective activities of Famagustians to claim their common infrastructures in a reunified island. The solidarity network consists of Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot residents of Famagusta as well as Cypriots from all over the island and active citizens from all over the world. On Friday, January 14th 2022, 18.00 Cyprus time (CET+1) Hands-on Famagusta (HoF) Open Doors event took place online, in this occasion the TG PSUC officialised its solidarity to the project and availability to program joint activities.
The coordination group actively participated in the preparatory and monitoring meetings for the construction of the new thematic group microsite (https://aesop-planning.eu/thematic-groups/public-spaces-and-urban-cultures). This was an opportunity to collect and systematise all the material produced by the group to make it more visible.
Working theme 2019-2022 - “Public Spaces: Knowledge transition between Research, Policy and Practice”
Public space has received increasing attention in urban research, policy and public debate. This is evident in the growing academic literature on the themes related to public space, including accessibility, healthy living, inclusiveness, democracy, urban justice, self-organization, social movements and other. The 2016 UN Habitat Conference, Habitat III, adopted what is called The New Urban Agenda, which focused on public space as a promoter of ‘inclusive, connected, safe and accessible’ cities (UN Habitat, 2016). UN Habitat’s public space programme operates in various countries to promote the design and management of public spaces through participatory approaches engaging different stakeholders. Other initiatives include the Project for Public Space (PPS) Placemaking approach, which has been adopted in several cities. The contributors to public space provision go beyond state actors to include panoply of residents, activists and different combinations of interest groups.
Within this context, one realises the shifting boundaries and roles of public spaces that include: self-organization in reclaiming public spaces on the one hand and market-led celebration for economic attractiveness as well as political manipulation of the public realm for undemocratic purposes on the other hand, with several shades in the middle. This complexity requires relational perspectives to analyse these spaces as well as further proposals for transdisciplinary methods, which are very much needed to engage knowledge, concepts and theories from various disciplines, allowing them to permeate policy-making and practice processes in different contexts.
To this end, the working theme posed the question: which actors and which transdisciplinary methods can engage knowledge on public spaces in a transformative manner that directly influences public space policy and practice processes towards meeting the role of promoter of ‘inclusive, connected, safe and accessible’ cities?
The AESOP Thematic Group Public Spaces and Urban Cultures developed this working theme addressing the following topics:
- Changing typologies and roles of players and actors: multiplicity of publics and public space cultures, arenas for rebuilding participation;
- Public spaces and changes: climate change, social movements, circular economy;
- Changing needs and roles: homelessness, refugees, immigrants and integration, age, gender, social, cultural, ethnic and religious considerations and urban justice;
- Questioning the global north-south divide and public space dynamics;
- Changing environmental awareness: public space as a buffer zone, contribution to public health (mental and physical well-being);
- Changing intangible cultural heritage: adapting the genius loci to multiple and dynamic cultural identities.
Working Theme 2022-2024 - “Public Spaces, Urban Cultures, and Constructing Peace”
The construction of peace - the urge to understand how we arrive at peace
The world’s struggle to cope with health, ecological and economic crises, coupled with conflicts across multiple scales – from acquiring geo-political dominion to often invisible struggles that permeate spaces of homes – make the construction of peace the central theme in securing better urban futures. While debates on divides and conflicts in urban societies often shift focus in the range from social polarisation and political exclusion (e.g. political economy or post-foundational theories), over the negotiation of the private-public boundary in everyday life struggles (e.g. feminist critique), struggles over appropriation of public space (urban activism and literature on insurgencies), to insights into spaces of enduring conflicts and divides (Belfast, Baghdad, Istanbul, Nicosia or Beirut), they introduce the ‘securing of’ peace as a normative goal. However, the institutionalisation of peace across the binary of peace and conflict creates a conceptual gap, in which conflicts across the world are described as increasingly pervasive and complex, while peace is offered as rather a one-dimensional goal. Such an abstraction of a complex set of values, symbols, experiences and practices that amalgamate into peace, carries the danger of instrumentalising peace in the construction of hegemonic social, cultural and symbolic spaces. Achieving peace through political and other peace-making processes, too often preserves and produces disparities in power relations, be it at the level of global peacemaking or at the level of the home. The projected image of peace must conform with certain imaginaries of peace and peaceful living together, even when this means casting a veil of silence over past injustices, daily struggles and potential paths of change. Every day individuals, collectives and societies go about their lives, often unaware that the choices they make continuously negotiate between peace and conflict, and, moreover, negotiate what kind of peace is desired. This is why we ask how peace is constructed. How do we arrive at peace in everyday life, and how does urban space mould the understanding of what kind of peace we aim to arrive at?
From a broader perspective, one might challenge the very understanding of peace, starting with the dialectics between what is perceived as peace and the invisible struggles that such an image might disguise. We ask if urbanisation processes ever aimed at peace. As post-colonial debates or debates on settler colonialism indicate, even within settings, which are perceived as peaceful, (histories) of violence might be permeated. This raises the question of not only peace as a normative goal, but rather how we arrive at peace.
Urban studies, the focus on conflict versus focusing on everyday peace
Urban studies rather focus on conflict, war and divides. But we are interested in how we negotiate peace on a daily basis. At what price is everyday peace constructed in the urban context? It does not come at the same price for everyone, and does not have the same impact on everyone’s daily life. Think of poverty, discrimination across differences, heritage of violent pasts and how these struggles are passed onto later generations. Moreover, negotiating peace could include actions or non-actions, the decision to be a in place, or avoid that place; the acceptance to abide by norms (such as COVID-19 health and safety measures) or not. These choices could lead to inclusion or exclusion from what is considered as the expected norm/ behaviour.
Peace and public space
The first reflection of conflict and ironically its dissolution, occur in urban public spaces. These spaces reflect the discourses and practices of tolerance towards differences and display or disguise the tensions immanent in encounters and exchange across diverse urban cultures. From the mundane acts of conviviality to demonstrations, public space accommodates different expressions of demands and claims for spatial and social justice. These struggles can materialise in various forms, from peaceful to violent in a panoply of endeavours that try to belong and partake in democracy.
Peace, scale and levels of personal/social arrivals
Peace has a transformative power. While considering public spaces as the catalyst for arriving at/ constructing peace and spatial justice, several aspects come to mind. The ‘construction of peace’, or being at peace comes at different scales of experiencing peace. Focus on peace is simultaneously a personal and social endeavour. It includes different scales, from personal space to groups with close bonds, over city, society to global normative goals. It also transgresses the boundary between (industrialised) societies and nature, as humans seek peace in connection to nature, and declaratively seek to resolve the lost peace with nature and the planet. It starts with the individual feeling at peace with oneself and extends to the environment. One could feel at peace when surrounded by crowds, or when isolated in their private dwelling. Peace facilitates inclusion, also for vulnerable groups who feel at peace in public space (gender, age, special needs, cultural and other backgrounds...).
Addressing the call for proposals
The AESOP Thematic Group Public Spaces and Urban Cultures invites proposals that explore the construction of peace at different scales and through diverse disciplines, to reflect the position of urban studies within this process and build on observations, experimentation, and narration of the transformative power of peace within public spaces. The proposals would address the following topics in relation to the construction of peace:
- Diversity and tolerance towards differences (community engagement, participation and Co-creation, enabling and establishing possibilities for dialogue)
- Inclusion (age, gender, special needs, backgrounds, ethnicities and so on)
- The Political and Urban Space
- Human-centred spaces
- Spatial justice
- Urban transformation
Note: Apart from the general AESOP Annual Congress, the AESOP TG PSUC has established the policy that all meetings should be free of cost to AESOP TG members and that affordable accommodation proposals are provided by the local host.
In times of open call for hosting an AESOP TG PSUC, group members and other interested parties could submit a proposal for hosting a TG event (conference/call for abstract/call for paper/workshop/meeting) about current themes of the PSUC Thematic Group. This proposal should include information about timing, place, host institution, concept note, issues to deepen, and other information about the event’s organisation.
Once the event has been accepted and scheduled, the working group, including local members and TG representatives, will work on the call that will be shared with active TG members prior to dissemination in order to start the discussion of themes of relevance and to promote the participation to the event. A final version of the call will be shared with local and disseminated through the AESOP central and the TG PSUC network.
Productive steps in 2022
AESOP Annual Congress Tartu 2022
SPACE FOR SPECIES: REDEFINING SPATIAL JUSTICE
The AESOP 2022 Congress 'Space for Species: Redefining Spatial Justice' (https://aesop2022.publicon.ee/en/welcome/) took place in Tartu, Estonia on July 25-29, 2022. It is organized with 15 session structured to explore space in terms of all species, the environment in general as well as various territories and habitats, including different kinds of spaces as well, such as cultural spaces, for example. This title unites the aspects of legislation and justice, technological solutions and developments, the concept of a smart city, considering the smart city infrastructure as a method for inclusion or exclusion. Although Estonia is small, the country and its landscape and cityscape are very versatile. The low population density has given rise to scattered urbanisation and planning also focuses on scattered areas. The title would enable to find a balance between the track topics that have remained throughout the congresses and new thematic sessions in order to promote interdisciplinarity and enable people from narrower planning research fields to come together to see the big picture, co-operation, the interrelations between areas and how things affect each other.
The AESOP TG PSUC co-chaired, in the person of Stefania Ragozino (National Research Council of Italy, University of Naples, Italy), the Track #2 CULTURE “Reinterpreting the spatial value of culture, heritage and tourism” (https://aesop2022.publicon.ee/en/tracks/track-2/) together with Antonio Jose Salvador (Polytechnic of Milan, Italy) and Anastasia Sinitsyna (University of Tartu, Estonia).
The Track #2 CULTURE argued that culture, heritage and tourism can play a relevant role in planning. This is demonstrated in a high number of policies, practices, European projects, theoretical and methodological approaches recognizing these elements as resources for sustainable development of territories.
While encouraging experiences demonstrate that culture can be a perfect driver for regeneration, sustainable development and economic prosperity, a marked plurality of failures, contradictions and knowledge gaps were reported. The latter are related to different and complex issues in which various themes overlap such as diversity, cultural and social inclusion, territorial imbalances, economic and environmental sustainability, governance, and education.
Along the transitional current moment that we are living in terms of ecology, technology, competitiveness and growth, the challenges and crises posed – health or climate hazards, interruptions in economic growth, political upheavals and social transformations – are emphasising the necessity of reinterpreting spatial values of culture, heritage and tourism, which are able to go beyond conventional visions. Also, revisiting the public realm in light of recent global events is necessary to support both urban residents as well as tourists through resilient approaches.
Track #2 CULTURE received more than seventy abstracts whose review process resulted in 17 in-person presentations and 10 online presentations. These contributions were divided in five parallel sessions:
- Everyday Life and Public Spaces
- Heritage as social action
- Tourism for spatial development 1
- Tourism for spatial development 2
- Tourism and the city
and spanned several disciplines crossing this slippery slope from theoretical, methodological, empirical (qualitative and/or quantitative) perspectives and addressing multiple topics presented in the TRACK#2 description:
- Actors and engagement tools to promote culture and (material and immaterial) heritage for planning
- Heritage-led regeneration initiatives and Heritage communities
- Culture, public space and spatial justice
- Newly emerged cultural practices and business models as response to pandemic
- Transition towards online: traditional vs new locational patterns of arts and culture
- Revisiting tourism and its management in relation to planning
- Inclusive governance and management models for traditional, marginalized, and non-touristic heritage sites
- New digital tools, transferable, interdisciplinary and transversal competences to cope with culture, heritage and tourism challenges.
On 26 July, the AESOP TG PSUC organized the AESOP TG PSUC Meeting to present and diffuse the activity of the group, to present the working theme 2022-2024 “Public Spaces, Urban Cultures and Constructing Peace”, to launch the correspondent call for events (https://aesop-planning.eu/resources/news-archive/thematic-groups/public-spaces-and-urban-cultures/call-for-expressions-of-interest-to-host-the-thematic-group-s-meetings-2022-2024), and to launch the Call for Paper “Social Change and Everyday Life in The Spatial Arts” on the journal “Architecture” (MDPI).
Call for Papers launch
SOCIAL CHANGE AND EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE SPATIAL ARTS
Prof. Dr. Sabine Knierbein (TU Wien, Austria) and Dr. Stefania Ragozino (CNR-IRISS, Italy) are editing the special issue "Social Change and Everyday Life in the Spatial Arts" (https://www.mdpi.com/journal/architecture/special_issues/social_change_everyday_life) of Architecture (ISSN 2673-8945).
Architecture, landscape planning and urban design, like many other disciplines pertaining to the spatial arts, have witnessed a decade of unsettling events: the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, the global insurgent movement of 2011, the refugee crisis (since 2015), new authoritarian state leadership (since 2016), climate crisis protests (since 2018), the COVID-19 pandemic (since 2019/20), and now, the political and civic upheaval of undemocratic and democratic character in many cities and countries worldwide, including a new aggressive war in the Northern hemisphere. While the city and the urban public realm are considered key arenas to overcome these bifurcations, the potential of deep critique and the social, cultural, and political theorization of everyday life and of lived space to decipher the complexities, ambivalences and deep potentialities of social change have not yet been unlocked in the field of architecture and planning, in terms of theory and praxis. This Special Issue aims to address key concerns to realign architecture theory, planning theory, and deeper conceptual insights on everyday life and lived space to begin deciphering massive shifts in contemporary everyday life, particularly with regard to the social, cultural and political dimensions of the built environment. It invites international contributions which seek to critically reflect or overcome Eurocentric or Anglocentric perspectives, and invites contributions theorizing on the manifold relations between urban life and urban form, their politics, cultures and social aspects, in close relation to intersectional empirical field research on public spaces, urban cultures and everyday life in the fields of architecture, planning and urban design.
Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 May 2024
TG PSUC at the 58th Isocarp World Planning Congress
SPECIAL SESSION "RESILIENT PUBLIC SPACES FOR HEALTHY LIVING"
The International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) annual World Planning Congresses bring planners, urbanists, allied professionals in the building professions, and place-makers from all over the world together in inclusive dialogue to facilitate knowledge exchange.
The ISOCARP and the Brussels-Capital Region hosted the 58th World Planning Congress (https://brussels2022.isocarp.org/) under the theme: "From Wealthy to Healthy Cities" through virtual and in-person presentations. The Virtual Congress was on 22-23 September 2022, and the in-person Congress took place from 3rd October to 6th October 2022 in Brussels, in the historic resorted venue which received the Europa Nostra Heritage award in 2021.
The Special Session "Resilient Public Spaces for Healthy Living" was co-organized by Prof. Dr. Sebnem Hoskara (Urban Research and Development Center, Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus) and Dr. Luisa Bravo (City Space Architecture, Italy), both TG PSUC members. Dr. Ceren Sezer (RWTH Aachen University) holds the role of AESOP TG PSUC Representative.
Cities are made up of people and places, often experiencing rapid change. Planning for a resilient urban future requires tackling challenges and creating solutions place-based, integrated, inclusive, risk-aware, and forward-looking.
Sustainable Development Goal 11, with the title "sustainable cities and communities," is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. The official mission of SDG 11 is to "make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable." According to SDG11 of the New Urban Agenda, by 2030, everyone - particularly women and children, older persons, and persons with disabilities - will have access to safe, inclusive, and accessible green areas and public spaces.
Public spaces play an essential role in building resilience in cities. Public spaces are crucial for urban life to flourish. We need public spaces for good times and bad times. Public spaces represent an opportunity for comprehensive climate adaptation and improved resilience. According to Katherine Peinhardt of the German Development Institute, ‘to successfully work toward a resilient public realm, cities must evolve their practice relating to public spaces in four areas: the ways public spaces are subject to the outcomes of community engagement and how public spaces are designed, programmed, and managed. It is increasingly clear that the unique role of public spaces in civic life positions them to enhance physical resilience and support the types of interpersonal connections essential to addressing shared challenges like the climate crisis.’ Thus, as a vital part of a city’s physical infrastructure and public realm, public spaces can be physically reinforced to absorb or weather the climate crisis's shocks while contributing to the community's human health.
Short Description of the session
This special session included scholars/experts representing international organizations - AESOP, ISOCARP and CSA, sharing their experiences about ‘Resilient Public Spaces for Healthy Living’ from their perspectives. Accordingly, this special session intends to search for answers to the following - but not limited to - questions:
- What is the role of public space in creating resilient cities?
- Can public spaces be designed in such a way that they support better resilience and healthy living in cities?
- What is the role of resilient public spaces for healthy living?
- How can we promote resiliency and healthy living through public spaces?
- Can we create positive transformation and better resilience in cities through the good design of public spaces?
- Can public spaces provide networks of resilience through our cities?
Objectives of the session
- Initiating international discussing questions on the Resilient Public Spaces for Healthy Living.
- Understanding the potential of public spaces for healthy living.
- Understanding the role of resilient public spaces in the positive transformation of cities.
- Learning from successful & unsuccessful examples of public spaces.
Introduction to the theme | Prof.Dr. Şebnem Hoşkara, EMU URDC & CSA | Dr. Luisa Bravo, CSA
“Rethinking Public Space for Climate Resilience and Action at University Campuses” | Dr. Ceren Sezer, RWTH Aachen University & AESOP TG PSUC
“Towards Inclusive, Integrated and Resilient Public Spaces: The Narratives of Gulf Cities Enhancing Healthy Living” | Prof.Dr. Ali A. Alraouf, HBKU, Education City & International Society of City Planners (ISOCARP)
“Public Libraries: Public Spaces in Plain Sight” | Anna Weng Ian Au, Ph.D. Candidate, Vienna University of Technology & City Space
Q & A / Discussion session
UNSETTLED URBAN SPACE. ROUTINES, TEMPORALITIES AND CONTESTATIONS
The book “Unsettled Urban Space. Routines, Temporalities and Contestations” is edited by Tihomir Viderman, Sabine Knierbein, Elina Kränzle, Sybille Frank, Nikolai Roskamm, Ed Wall, and published by Routledge in Open Access (https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/oa-edit/10.4324/9780429290237/unsettled-urban-space-sabine-knierbein-tihomir-viderman-elina-kr%C3%A4nzle-sybille-frank-ed-wall-nikolai-roskamm?refId=a22ee4d1-8d7f-45e6-ad98-93f8e2c4ca7c&context=ubx).
While urban life can be characterized by endeavors to settle stable and safe environments, for many people, urban space is rarely stable or safe; it is uncertain, troubled, imbued with challenges and perpetually under pressure. As the concept of unsettled appears to define the contemporary urban experience, this multidisciplinary book investigates the conflicts and possibilities of settling and unsettling through open and speculative analysis.
The analytical prism of unsettled renders urban space an indeterminate ground unfolding through routines, temporalities and contestations in constant tension between settling and unsettling. Such contrasting experiences are contingent on how urban societies confront, undergo and overcome turbulence and difficulties in time and space. Contributions drawing on theoretical reflections and empirical accounts—from Argentina, Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, the UAE, the UK, the USA and Vietnam—give insights into plural occurrences of the unsettled, which might tie down or unleash transformative, liberatory and emancipatory potentials.
This book is for students, professionals and researchers interested in the uncertainties, foundations, disturbances, inconsistencies, residuals and blind fields, which constitute the urban both as lived space and as social, cultural and political ideal.