LEARNING FROM the ‘BECOMING LOCAL’ MEETING SERIES: Overarching the divide between the current limits of planning and design research and the critical social practice

AESOP Conference Prague, 13th to 16th July 2015

Special Session(s) for TRACK 06: Urban Design Quality and its Social Dimension –

Organized by Burcu Yigit Turan (Ozyegin University, Istanbul), Sabine Knierbein (Technical University of Vienna) and Celia Ghyka (Ion Mincu University, Bucharest)



The AESOP Thematic Group for Public Spaces and Urban Cultures has been organizing a meeting series under the umbrella theme ‘Becoming Local’ designated for the period between 2013-2015. The series aims to explore the issue of public space in between global and local processes from different perspectives:

Firstly, BECOMING LOCAL is understood as a series of manifold enquiries into the set of practices and values that intermingle at the urban scale as facets of both global and local processes. The focus rests on the hypothesis that in urban public space, empirical enquiries into the palpable materiality of everyday life can be productively connected to the insights of abstract theory, thus rendering the latter relevant for practical endeavours. In this sense the palpable local scale itself is considered as a ‘relational space’ where global tendencies ‘sediment’ and are being ‘translated’ and ‘transformed’ in a particular local cultural, social and political context.

Secondly, by BECOMING LOCAL we refer to the processes of construction of meaningful ‘place’, which can be empirically observed, analysed and mapped in the material space of the lived streets, parks and squares of the city and beyond. Yet globalized design trends -accompanied by neoliberal “safe and clean” policies- often seek to provide sanitized and controlled urban spaces that lack any deeper notion of history, political struggle and social conflict. BECOMING LOCAL thus can be understood as a plea against such trends and stands in support of a critical investigation of the socio-historic ‘patina’ of relational public space as a very important mirror of changing patterns of everyday life, of collective memory and processes of shaping local identities.

Thirdly, by BECOMING LOCAL we investigate material and immaterial dimensions of public spaces and cultural practices thus paving the path towards critical understanding and interpretation of post-Fordist commodification strategies, and main actors who fuel them. The production of meaningful places is challenged by new rationales that strategically try to enhance the multiple immaterial layers of public spaces in the course of postFordist transformations, where symbolic, cultural and social capital is embraced by newly emerging economies. These changes carry certain impacts and call for revisiting the role of state, market and civil society actors, as well as the changing role of ‘experts’ involved in place making and in shaping the material arrangements of public space.

Each meeting developed its own sub-theme related to the umbrella theme on the one hand, and embedded into the local context on the other; however, despite of slight differences, most of the presented papers and discussions focused on new (material and immaterial) urban conditions created by neoliberal urbanism and its influences on public space considering the notions of history, life-style, culture, difference, civil rights, place and inclusion. Furthermore, beyond the explorations of new urban conditions framed by hegemonic practices, there were also valuable contributions considering counter planning, fair design and inclusive policy- making practices, many of them related to urban (scholarly) activism and social movements. Contributions not only brought insights in contextual differences, yet also highlighted the necessity of developing new epistemologies, research tactics, action-based methodologies and researcher identities overarching the divide between the current limits of academic research

and the critical social practice in the real world for advocating of democracy and justice in the making of city and public space. In this context, the proposed special session within track 06 “Urban Design Quality and its Social Dimension” (chairs: Ali Madanipour and Marion Roberts) aims to elaborate the outputs of organized meetings under as well as new contributions to the theme of ‘becoming local’ and to open debate on how to approach the underlined gaps and to imagine future of inclusive design research and practice for public spaces and urban cultures. In combination with a roundtable session that the thematic group is planning to host during the AESOP Annual Conference in Prague 2015, we plan to jointly develop the thematic agenda for the next years and welcome anyone interesting and motivated to contribute to this. The Becoming Local Series 2013-2015 will be continued and closed during forthcoming events in Glasgow (June 2015) and Oporto (September 2015).

Colleagues interested in participating in the special session(s) are requested to submit their abstract to us (celiaghyka@gmail.com, burcuyigitturan@gmail.com, sabine.knierbein@tuwien.ac.at) until latest 6th January AND to register for the conference with your abstract in track 06. The deadline for conference registration is 9th January and we will inform you within due course after your submission on the planned session(s).


Becoming Local Call 2013 – http://www.aesop-planning.eu/blogs/posts/en_GB/urban-cultures- and-public-spaces/2013/05/11/readabout/becoming-local-call-for-interest

Istanbul Meeting (November 20-23, 2013)


Bucharest Meeting (June 11-14, 2014)


Paris Meeting (October 23-25, 2014)


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