Platz da! European Urban Public Space

Andrea Seidling

Public Space -this often addressed and sometimes overplayed topic is juxtaposed with new points of view to expand the breadth of the various levels of discussion, with questions posed concerning the significance and affiliation of public space, such as: What is public space? How does it arise and does it even still exist? Who does it belong to, and what does it represent? Who needs it and who is allowed to use it? Is the issue still between private and public, or more about exclusion and inclusion? In addition, all of the previous prize-winning projects as well as the complete archives of the European Prize for Urban Public Space are on show in this exhibition. Award-winning international projects are compared and contrasted with existing situations in Vienna, with current artistic, interventionist and architectural positions, theoretical analyses of urban development and representations showing the production and negotiable possibilities of and for public spaces to add depth to the visitor\\\\'s understanding of the topic. All of the above is displayed in a wide variety of forms, with video interviews, video contributions by filmmakers and architects, bands of photographs, models, passages of text, plans and audio stations. The exhibition does not pursue a linear progression, instead six autonomous stations cover individual topics while communicating with one another. The overall architectural concept for the exhibition by looping architecture (Christa Stürzlinger and Eva Becker) functions as an additional exponent that describes the blurred boundaries between public and private realms in a fragmentary urban landscape.


The tour of the exhibition begins with \\\\'Ambivalences\\\\' — the first station — and a view of the wide range of appraisals of public space which could not be more divergent: public space means something different for each of us, regardless of the role they find ascribed to him/herself. Video interviews with various protagonists in public life show the divergent opinions involved — e.g. a policeman, a municipal refuse collector, a lawyer and an \\\\'Augustin\\\\' (a Vienna-based self-help magazine for sale by the homeless) saleswoman talk about their own personal points-of-view and experiences on the subject of public space. Then on to the \\\\'Jungle\\\\' station, where two prominent Viennese examples from the recent past are compared and contrasted with one another: Praterstern and Schwarzenbergplatz. How intense the (public) debates have been surrounding these two projects can be read about in an archive of newspaper articles in the exhibition. However to also provide an uncontentious view of these controversial public locations the curator invited four photographers to document their own subjective views of the design of and life in the places concerned. The station dedicated to \\\\'Stages\\\\' focuses on the socio-political conditions and the representation of power in public space, displayed on the basis of a range of different models. Public space has served for centuries as a representative surface, i.e. a stage, for the demonstration of power as a reflection of current society and the political status quo. The fourth station shows award-winning projects from the last ten years as well as the complete European Prize for Urban Public Space archives. The penultimate station addresses \\\\'Occupations\\\\' by engaging primarily with process-supported planning strategies and planning concepts as well as private initiatives as building commissions. These focus mainly on cooperations with the users or residents concerned in developing strategies for the realisation of developments. An overview is provided by five architect\\\\'s offices and collectives, who have been invited to present their own initiatives for public space in the exhibition: fattinger, orso, rieper. (A) / feld72 (A) / transparadiso (A) / Raumlabor (D) / Recetas Urbanas (E). The tour concludes with the \\\\'Commons\\\\', most of which have involved a level of controversy and debate. As a term used to describe collectively owned resources, or resources shared between or among populations, \\\\'Commons\\\\' should, of course, also cover urban public space as a social and cultural resource that is governed by communal activity and administration by those it impacts on (commoning). One of the most famous quasi-historical figures and an early \\\\'commoner\\\\' of repute, in this sense, was Robin Hood — why he was a \\\\'commoner\\\\' and how he became one is explained, inter alia, in the exhibition on a listening station with audio contributions.

The Exhibition took place from 14. 10. 2010 to 31. 01. 2011 at Architekturzentrum Wien, curated by Andrea Seidling

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