Call for Participation

An Action Research Event in AMSTERDAM, as part of the series: “Unstable geographies, dislocated publics” AESOP Thematic Group Public Space and Urban Cultures
Re-learning public space through an alternative city guide: Unstable geographies of play, ownership and empowerment
28th – 30th June, 2018

For registrations and information:

Event Summary
The event involves tracing the stories behind innovative appropriations of public space, identifying related dilemmas and formulating research questions. Prior to the event, we will liaise with locals to design an alternative city guide inspired by a set of broad, yet timely themes. We will dwell on the challenges locals are confronted with, and the interventions they envision as potentially enriching the city. When presented with the opportunity to consult a broad, experienced and interested audience, what are the questions they would like to raise? The resulting city guide will enable the event participants to experience local everyday practices through thematic tours, which present alternative narratives of the city.
During the thematic tours, targeted interventions and exercises co-designed with local participants will provide opportunities for debate and reflection. How do these interventions ‘perform the place’ and alter/disrupt/enhance relationships? The combination of activities will shed light on questions of learning, ownership and empowerment, as well as setting the scene for future explorations and revisions of the alternative city guide. Here, public space is playground in a broad sense – we learn and reflect by seeking connections with locally active people and designed objects not just as ‘quick’ passers-by, but as observers and participants, and by conducting Action Research. The explorations performed during the conference aim to unpack the complex character of current and emergent urban challenges, to address those challenges both within community forums and plenary sessions, and to enable further learning and collaborative projects through the use of an open access data platform.
The programme in short
Day 1: Opening with keynote by Colin McFarlane, beginning of fieldwork and thematic tours
Day 2: Continuing thematic tours, with neighbourhood forums and local performances
Themes: 1. The city of mass tourism; 2. The circular city (of water, food, energy flows); 3. The ludic city (of play, sports, experimentation); 4. Urban densification and the informal city; 5. The city of alternative ecologies.
Day 3: Roundtables, consolidation for impact, looking into the future
Our website in the making with organisers, more elaborate explanations and developments:
Unlike in regular conferences, you will be actively involved in field activities and workshops. Thus, for the registration please submit no later than May 18th (a) short bio and (b) abstract of max 300 words, which indicates how your background, expertise, and research challenges align with your potential contribution to the event. Email:
To facilitate participation from a broad range of researchers and practitioners, there are no fees for the event. This is also the policy of the Public Space and Urban Cultures Working Group of AESOP.
Expectations from participants
Before the event: Submission of bio’s and abstracts (see under registration).
During the event: Sharing insights with local participants, based on own research, participate in neighborhood forums, participate in roundtables during the thematic tours, and the plenary session on the third day. Every participant will also gather insights during the event that will be shared to address the identified questions.
After the event: Submit a manuscript to the special issue/write a short post for the event blog.
Why Amsterdam?
The city of Amsterdam takes pride in emphasizing that it is owned by its citizens, even its visitors (IAmsterdam). As part of the “WeMakeTheCity” initiative, the ‘we’ is made up of creative entrepreneurs, an energetic society and a responsive government. There is an ongoing effort to develop inclusive solutions, and democratize decision-making and policy implementation. Amsterdam is therefore a salient case for exploring public space, learning together about questions of ownership and empowerment.
On the day of the event we will meet at the Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) Institute: Mauritskade 62, 1092 AD Amsterdam. The afternoon of the first day and the second day will be spent on our bicycles and in the neighborhoods. On the third day we will meet again at the AMS.
AESOP is the European Association of European Schools of Planning. AESOP is a large organization convening on a yearly basis. To organize its work throughout the year, it has a variety of thematic working groups. One of these groups focuses on “public space and urban cultures”. 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 and beyond the AESOP community. Our event is connected to the work performed in this thematic WG:
Organising partners:
Organising partners: AESOP Thematic Group Public Space and Urban Cultures, Municipality of Amsterdam, AMS-Advanced Metropolitan Solutions Institute, Wageningen University and Research, WASS Space, Place, Society
Organisers: Iulian Barba Lata and Marleen Buizer, Land Use Planning Wageningen University and AMS; Martijn Duineveld, Clemens Driessen Human Geography Wageningen University; Marlies Brinkhuijsen Landscape Architecture



Sapienza University of Rome, 2017 December 11th-13th

Italian Research Network TU – TRACCE URBANE
AESOP TG PS-UC, Thematic Group “Public Space and Urban Cultures”


In the contemporary city, we are witnessing different “practices of re-appropriation of space” and self-organization: regeneration of empty buildings, spaces of cultural production, urban gardens, renewed green areas given as well as public spaces re-shaped through practices of commoning; beside this, we could also mention experimentations that are activating new social services and welfare spaces, and squatting projects which are defining different modes of co-existence, housing and service provision.

This is a vast field of activity and experiences - both illegal and legal - with the widespread involvement and the leading role of the inhabitants, individually or in associations, and other local actors, challenging roles and meanings of the institutions.
We should consider in particular micro-practices that are able to broaden and transform the city and urban societies, alongside more stable forms of social production. A specific kind of “collaborative city making” built upon a mix of practices, social relations and modes of local activation.

As a consequence, the way we are looking at the city is radically changing: questioning the relationship between the State and the citizens, these processes of self-organization are re-configuring both the mechanism of place making as well as the organization of social relations and local services.

These practices of re-appropriation are representing different modes of city organization as well as different cultures of action/policy making in the contemporary city. They are also representing different modes of what ‘public’ means in the city: some practices of re-appropriation are acting as collective actions that take into consideration the mechanism of social inclusion, while others are acting in a way which could be described more as private, or specific only to some groups and thus quite often with exclusive impacts, rather than designing public/collective actions and open access.

Among these practices, many of them are re-opening spaces or re-activating some specific territories/neighbourhoods benefiting from very localized creativity and capitalizing on social relations that are fully embedded in local societies.

These experimentations are focused on action that is simultaneously redefining the modes of social conflict as well as the routines and spaces of citizenship. Sites where these practices may eventually unfold, that are produced by these practices can be considered as arenas where to experiment and shape political capacity, thus challenging the very functioning of local democracy.

Discussing the tension between the different models of local activation and cultural/political production and the problematic erosion of the capacity of institutions in answering local need, we consider whether practices of re-appropriation are de facto substituting the role of institutions as well as weakening the transformative impact of traditional social conflict; and so doing reinforcing neoliberalism, and, as a consequence, an unequal distribution of disadvantages and uneven geographies in unstable contexts.

The topic is fully in focus on the theme ‘Unstable Geographies - Dislocated Publics’ developed by the AESOP Thematic Group on Public Spaces and Urban Cultures. Urban life is characterized by diverse manifestations of instability which continuously stretch or redefine the processes of city making, the production of space and place, the sense of institutions and their relationship with the inhabitants (organized or not), the diverse “cultures of public”, the everyday struggles related to the capitalist system of production, the role of the politics.

October 10th, 2017 - Deadline for the abstracts (max 4.000 characters)
October 25th, 2017- Conclusion of abstract selection and communication to selected authors
December 5th, 2017 – Deadline for final papers (max 30.000 characters)
Abstracts and papers will be in English.
Please, send the abstracts and the final papers to
The conference is a joint event of the Italian research network “Tracce Urbane / Urban Traces” and Association of European School of Planning (AESOP) Thematic Group Public Spaces and Urban Cultures hosted by Sapienza University of Rome.
The conference will be held on December 11th-13th, 2017, at the Faculty of Engineering, Sapienza University of Rome, v. Eudossiana 18, Rome, in the centre of the city, near the Coliseum and the church of St. Peter in Vincula.
The conference will be free access.

All the relevant information to be found on the official AESOP blog.


AESOP event PIC beirut REPORT.jpg


AESOP Thematic Group for Public Spaces and Urban Cultures


First meeting, Beirut, 9-11 November 2016

Defragmenting and Activating Public Spaces in Unstable Urban Settings

Organized and hosted by:

Faculty of Architecture, Art and Design at the Notre Dame University – Louaize

Three case studies in Beirut were chosen for their manifestation of different public space initiatives that dealt with the problematic presented in the thematic group’s meeting. While one site visit had to be cancelled for logistical reasons, the other two were conducted successfully during the second meeting day.

A three days meeting of the AESOP Thematic Group for Public Spaces and Urban Cultures (AESOP TG PSUC) was organized and hosted by the Faculty of Architecture, Art and Design at the Notre Dame University – Louaize in Beirut, Lebanon. This meeting launched the new thematic series: Unstable Geographies – Dislocated Publics which aims at addressing current issues related to public spaces common to cities globally, from an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary perspective, while engaging a variety of actors and stakeholders through four themes:

 City, refugees, and migration

 Fragmented social fabric – individualised patterns of consumption

 The decline of national politics – Resurgence of the urban political

 Change of perspective – worlding urban studies

The purpose of the Beirut meeting, organized in parallel to the City Street2 Conference was to unfold themes under the title of the series within the local and unstable context of Beirut. Based on the characteristics and issues in Beirut that are also pertinent to other cities in the global South as well as the global North, this TG meeting focused on the two sub-themes: City, Refugees and Migration, and Fragmented Social Fabric: Individualised Patterns of Consumption.


Similar to other countries hosting immigrants and refugees, Lebanon is undergoing various dynamics related to refugees, migration and social fragmentation, which lead to changes in urban spaces and everyday social life, thus turning it to fertile ground for collaborative ideas among public space scholars and practitioners from different backgrounds. Beirut has a prolonged history of conflict that affected its public spaces, and therefore serves as a laboratory to explore, unravel, and question the lives of its public spaces, and their evolution through time. Despite the various obstacles, pockets of public spaces that are either managed by the local authorities or invented by urbanites emerge within the city. These signal the co-presence of contrasts on many levels including the social, economic, spatial, functional, and political. Within these contrasts, various ‘publics’ navigate through the city’s urban spaces, and generate social interactions, activities, and relations over time, despite the broader conflicts that the city keeps witnessing.

The purpose of the investigation during this meeting was to determine the roles of various stakeholders in providing further opportunities for the sustained accommodation of differences, encounter, and exposure to ‘the other’, in an attempt to defragment public spaces within turbulent and unpredictable contexts.

Please see the entire meeting report here:


FIRST MEETING, Beirut, 9-11 November 2016


Defragmenting and Activating Public Spaces in Unstable Urban Settings

The Faculty of Architecture, Art and Design at the Notre Dame University – Louaize will host the first meeting of the AESOP Thematic Group for Public Spaces and Urban Cultures (AESOP TG PSUC) in Beirut, Lebanon. This meeting launches the new thematic series: Unstable Geographies – Dislocated Publics, with its four sub-themes:

 City, refugees, and migration

 Fragmented social fabric – individualised patterns of consumption

 The decline of national politics – Resurgence of the urban political

 Change of perspective – worlding urban studies

Deadline for abstract submission is Monday 4 July 2016.
Please submit an abstract of 200 -250 words along with a max 100 words biography to 150 words Authors will receive notification regarding their abstracts by Friday 15 July 2016. Use the online submission on:
Deadline for paper submission is Monday 19 September 2016.


AESOP Thematic Group for Public Spaces and Urban Cultures NEW EVENT SERIES "Unstable Geographies - Dislocated Publics" IS LAUNCHING!

The AESOP Thematic Group for Public Spaces and Urban Cultures will host the following meetings under the theme of "Unstable Geographies - Dislocated Publics": Beirut, Lebanon (10th/11th November 16), Vienna, Austria (29/30th March 17), Ljubjljana, Slovenia (25th/26th May 17), Lisbon, Portugal (July 17), Rome, Italy (fall 2017), Wageningen, The Netherlands (fall 2017/spring 2018) and Nikosia, Cyprus (spring 2018).

Please check the details of upcoming events here:
AESOP TG PS-UC New Event Series- Contacts2.jpg

December 2012 - Lisbon - Public Spaces & Urban Cultures Conference
"Ambivalent Landscapes" Sorting out the present by designing the future
will be hosted by Technical University of Lisbon on the 6th and 7th of December. The conference is
organized and hosted by Technical University of Lisbon / Faculty of Architecture.
For the program of the conference, please visit website:

September 2012 - Vienna - A working meeting of the Thematic Group
took place within the framework of the EURA Conference, organized and moderated by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space (SKuOR) of the Vienna University of Technology.
The meeting was organized as a bridge between the group’s workshop held in Ankara in July 2012 and a workshop planned for December 2012 in Lisbon, which all conclude the group’s annual theme ‘Conviviality’. The meeting was open to all participiants of the conference and aimed in part at introducing the Thematic Group to the conference audience. It attracted more than twenty participants from various disciplines and cultural backgrounds.

July 2012 - Ankara - AESOP Annual Conference / Thematic Group Introduction Meeting
hosted by Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara Turkey

One of the coordinators of the thematic group, Ceren Sezer (TU Delft), made a presentation to introduce the group to the participants of the meeting.
For more information about the conference, please visit the following website:

November 2011 - Naples
Annual Meeting TG Public Spaces and Urban Cultures, Conference "Conviviality in Public Places. Planning for Security and Multculturalism", organized by Gabriella di Esposito, Massimo Clemente, Sabine Knierbein and Nikolai Roskamm.
- Programm:
- Report:

May 2011 - Ljubljana - Report on the workshop "Reclaiming public space"
hosted by Urban planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia
attended by Matej Nikšič, Biba Tominc, Nikolai Roskamm, Ceren Sezer, Aglaée Degros, Sabine Knierbein.

November 2010 - Vienna

July 2010 - Helsinki
The new Thematic Group on Public Spaces and Urban Cultures will realize a launching meeting for all people interest during the AESOP Helsinki Conference 2010 (Thursday, 8th July 2010, Finland, Helsinki, Conference Venue, 5:30pm to 7pm, Room 22. Additionally, we organize a Special Session on Public spaces and Urban Cultures (Friday, 9th July 2010, Finland, Helsinki, Conference Venue, 11:00pm to 12:30pm, Track 10). Please check the AESOP Helsinki Conference Homepage for detailed Place and Time Schedules (

April 2010 - Istanbul
A new thematic group on urban cultures and public spaces (proposed by Sabine Knierbein, Ceren Sezer and Chiara Tornaghi) has been approved at the last AESOP management board meeting, Istanbul.