Annual Report for 2020

Organized by Christine Mady and Ceren Sezer, in collaboration with further TG PSUC 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 (Architect and urban planner, TU Delft) and Chiara Tornaghi (Reader, Coventry University, United Kingdom). The main aim of the group is to generate an international and interdisciplinary exchange between the research and practices on public spaces and urban cultures. By doing so, it aims to support research, planning and a design agenda within the AESOP community, and beyond. 

Despite logistical difficulties due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the Group continued its endeavors to involve practitioners, academics, governmental and non-governmental professionals, and further interest groups into the TG’s activities and exchange of knowledge across disciplines and domains of action through meetings, workshops, conferences and roundtables mainly conducted online. During 2020, the group’s membership rose to over 120 professionals working with public space, including practitioners and researchers, from both Europe and beyond.

Internal organization of the group 

A collective made up of group members organizes the activities of the PSUC. Some of the tasks of the core group are: to establish the Group’s agenda (working topics, calls, meetings); to manage communication via various media (homepage, blog, Facebook, mailing list, newsletter) among the Group’s members; to prepare meeting and annual reports; to disseminate scientific results; to promote a strong involvement into research and publication affairs; as well as towards a broader audience and the AESOP Secretary General. 

The internal organization of the group is structured as follows: 

Group Coordination: 2019-2021 Ceren Sezer (Main Coordinator, The Netherlands), Christine Mady (Second Coordinator, Lebanon). 

Active members: Patricia Aelbrecht (UK), Nadia Charalambous (UK), Gabriella Esposito De Vita (Italy), Sabine Knierbein (Austria), Christine Mady (Lebanon), Matej Niksic (Slovenia), Stefania Ragozino (Italy), Nikolai Roskamm (Germany), Mohamed Saleh (The Netherlands), Sara Santos Cruz (Portugal), Ceren Sezer (The Netherlands), Socrates Stratis (Cyprus), Tihomir Viderman (Germany), 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).

The list of members who (co-)organized meetings in 2020 

Sabine Knierbein (Austria), Webinar ‘Power to co-produce: Careful power distribution in collaborative city-making Practices/Pedagogies/Policies’, 14th September 2020, TU Vienna, Austria. 

Ceren Sezer (Germany), Christine Mady (Lebanon), Roundtables (1) Public Spaces - Knowledge Transition Between Research, Policy and Practice and (2) Moving Around our Cities in the Times of Epidemics – the Changed Demand for Public Spaces, 23rd-24th September 2020, Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia as a part of City Street Conference Series, Slovenia. 

Gabriella Esposito De Vita (Italy), Nadia Charalambous (UK), Roundtable Making Room, Social innovation in urban planning, 22nd October 2020, IUAV of Venice, Italy


Group’s activities in 2020 

This year was entirely dedicated to the working theme Public Spaces: Knowledge transition between Research, Policy and Practice. 


Developing the umbrella topic “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 poses 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 develop 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



Productive steps in 2020 

14th September 2020

AESOP TG PSUC Webinar, TU Vienna, Austria

Power to co-produce: Careful power distribution in collaborative city-making Practices/Pedagogies/Policies


Power to co-produce is a collective attempt to widen up the debate on collaborative city-making. The basic premise of the webinar is that power is immanent in urban development processes, also in those procedures that rely on participatory and inclusive, so-called 'co-productive' forms of collaboratively shaping the city (city-making). Therefore, a fairer distribution of power requires first a deep analytical understanding of how power works in co-production processes. The webinar-type symposium follows a multidimensional approach, distinguishing between (1) practices, (2) pedagogies and (3) policies, while articulating their interrelations. The webinar brings these often separated dimensions of city-making together. Participatory collaboration in city-making encompasses co-production of place and knowledge developed by local groups, means of legitimacy created to get their voice heard and the process of achieving the co-governance of local urban commons. Co-production may also be considered as a collaborative research method, challenging the existing distribution of power in science and scientific institutions, and presenting other possibilities to subvert the processes through which ideas get generated, and knowledge is associated. Recognising the process of co-production of urban space as a process in which power relations are negotiated requires a multidimensional approach that goes beyond considering co-production simply as a form of practice. 

This open webinar is an attempt to establish a dialogical relationship between different perspectives on the interplay of power relations and collaborative city-making processes focusing on local processes of co-production and civic engagement, particularly of the marginalised communities. By recognising (1) practices, (2) pedagogies and (3) policies, and interrelations among the involved actors and institutions, it is expected to broaden debates on participatory collaboration in city-making processes. Specifically, it is expected to reveal the democratic aspects of city-making by revisiting existing power discrepancies that shape urban development processes. To achieve this, the organisers of the webinar aim at distinguishing possibilities, limitations and also pitfalls of urban co-production.

The webinar in particular aims at exploring and discussing urban co-production processes to amplify the voices of the unheard, see how they themselves manoeuvre within the dynamics of power relations enmeshed in participatory planning and inclusive urbanism, thereby seeking to decolonise the processes of the social production of space, by revisiting the role of the most marginalised participants within the existing set of power relations. If power is ubiquitous in city-making processes, then urban scholars have to understand how and to what extent power distribution in urban development can be rearranged in a context-specific setting, and in a careful and socially just way. The webinar will therefore critically explore urban co-production processes considering spatial justice, alongside southern and feminist approaches in city-making.

By inviting scholars and practitioners from corresponding fields, this POWER TO CO-PRODUCE webinar addresses how local communities struggle for power (power over, power to, power from…) in reaching their goals; in what way urban professionals can provide space, methods and tools for marginalised voices to be heard and for vulnerable populations to empower themselves; to what extent policy-makers can enable processes of co-production in city-making to ensure the constant democratisation of city-making processes.

The webinar seeks to bring together planning and urbanism researchers, activists, critical spatial practitioners alongside with urban scholars, and others to reflect and discuss potentials, possibilities as well as limitations and pitfalls of urban co-production processes. Structured in three sessions, the webinar focus on learning from urban co-production processes between policy-makers, professionals and local communities, and ask: How can urban co-production of space and knowledge go beyond contemporary pitfalls in the collaborative city making? How can communities on the one hand and urban professionals on the other enable the accompanied experience and knowledge to circulate among and between these actors in more context-specific, careful and socially just ways?



23rd-24th September 2020

AESOP TG PSUC Roundtables, Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia

Roundtables (1) Public Spaces - Knowledge Transition Between Research, Policy and Practice 

Roundtable (2) Moving Around our Cities in the Times of Epidemics – the Changed Demand for Public Spaces


Local organization committee: Matej Niksic and Alenka Fikfak, Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia, Ljubljana. 

Roundtable1: Public Spaces - Knowledge Transition Between Research, Policy and Practice 

Moderators: Matej Nikšič, Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia, Ljubljana and Ceren Sezer, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen 


Patricia Aelbrecht, Geography and Planning School, Cardiff University

Cecilia Andersson, UN Habitat, Global Public Space Programme

Enzhe Dusaeva, Tamga Institute of urban studies, Kazan

Zeynep Gunay,  ISOCARP Board, Director of Young Planning Professionals Programme

Alenka Korenjak, prostoRož, Ljubljana, Slovenia 

Tadej Žaucer, Ministry of infrastructure of the Republic of Slovenia, Sustainable Mobility and Transport Policy Division 

Public space has received an increasing attention in urban research, policy, and practice. 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 among others. The 2016 UN Habitat Conference, Habitat III, adopted The New Urban Agenda, which focused on public space as a promoter of ‘inclusive, connected, safe and accessible’ cities (UN Habitat, 2016). NGOs worldwide have developed a place-making approach to improve public spaces, which has been adopted in many cities. Neighbourhood organizations, local interest groups, cultural minorities, or politically oriented pressure groups manifested their needs and interests and reclaimed public spaces specifically in the context of profit-oriented urban developments. This complexity requires transdisciplinary methods to analyse and conceptualise public spaces to be able to engage knowledge, approaches and theories of public spaces from various perspectives to inform and influence policy-making and practice in different contexts.

This roundtable aims to promote a vivid discussion between the speakers and participants from academia, international institutions, practitioners and governments on the challenges and opportunities of knowledge transition between public space research, policy and practice. 

Roundtable 2: Moving Around our Cities in the Times of Epidemics – the Changed Demand for Public Spaces

Moderators: Alenka Fikfak, Faculty of Architecture, Ljubljana and Christine Mady, Notre Dame University-Louaize, Beirut. 


Jose Chong, UN Habitat, United Nations Human Settlements Programme

Marko Peterlin, Institute for Spatial Policies, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Janez Černe, Deputy Mayor of The City Municipality of Kranj, Slovenia

Stefano Ragazzo, AMAT - Agency of the Mobility, Envrionment and Territory of Milan Municipality, Italy 

The recent Covid-19 pandemic crisis have affected mobility, social practices and other forms of life that are part of public spaces in our cities. While the public transport usage is decreasing, some other forms of mobility such as walking and cycling are gaining popularity. At the same time new social distancing measurements are challenging the design and management of the open public spaces. On one hand public spaces must stay the places of the social exchanges and democratic practices, on the other hand the epidemiologic measures demand the changed behavioural patterns and practices in open public spaces. Can this be an opportunity for re-conceptualising public spaces as we know them and turn them into more democratic and sustainable places?

This roundtable focuses on the following questions: Which technical solutions can contribute to a responsible usage of open public spaces during the epidemics so that the transportation, socialisation and other normative functions of streets can be kept while the public health standards not endangered? Which interdisciplinary approaches are needed to address the issue in a holistic way at the crossroad of health, IT, urban planning, social and other sciences and disciplines to allow streets and other public spaces stay alive during the epidemics? How can individuals, communities and local authorities equally engage in circumscribing epidemics and mitigating their impact on the everyday lives of commuters, cyclists, pedestrians and other users of city streets? How can data be shared in epidemics situations and the transmittal of viruses controlled in streets and public transport?



22nd October 2020

AESOP TG PSUC Roundtable, IUAV of Venice, Italy

Making Room, Social innovation in urban planning


Social innovation has widely been regarded both by the academic and policy discourses as a positive tool that could enhance the socio-political capabilities of local societies to improve the distribution of disadvantages and to sustain innovative assets of multilevel governance for territorial development. The webinar aims at comprehending how social innovation has changed urban planning theory and practice, by repositioning the role of public institutions in social innovation debate. The seminar’s intended contribution is to provide a reframed concept of social innovation able to reposition public support in the analysis. It is intended also to understand how public space is a tool we can use to maximize the production of public value in regeneration processes; finally, it is aimed to understand how the role of the urban planner is changing in the contemporary cities. 

Participants: Alessandro Balducci, Cecilia Bertozzi, Nadia Charalambous, Gabriella Esposito De Vita, Laura Fregolent, Christine Mady, Ezio Micelli, Francesco Musco, Valentina Orioli, Elena Ostanel, Federico Savini, Ceren Sezer, Carla Tedesco. 

The workshop was free of charge for participants and was supported in the framework of the Marie Curie Project NEIGHBOURCHANGE (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view and in partnership with Master U-Rise (