Spatial Governance – AESOP YA conference

ISSSresearch&architecture was invited to give a talk at the AESOP YA conference “Spatial Governance – Bridging Theory and Practice” in March 2016 in Ghent, Belgium.

Spatial Governance Bridging Theory and Practice – AESOP YA conference


Self-organized and self-initiated production of urban space without the aim of profit-maximization and their impact on local urban planning structures | Case Study Berlin

Berlin has a very strong history of self-organized and self-initiated projects that actively produce urban space without the aim to maximize personal profit. What makes Berlin even more interesting for researchers and practitioners is the fact that these citizen engagements managed throughout several examples to generate an impact on formal planning structures in Berlin. The aim of the present research is to analyse such self-organized and self-initiated projects without the aim to maximize personal profit, throughout realized examples in Berlin and to try to understand their impact on the city’s planning structures.

The basis of this research is the hypothesis that urban crisis situations often provoke self-organized and self-initiated reactions as attempts to provide situational and individual solutions, which can unfold an influence on local formal planning structures. The process inscribed in this hypothesis can be observed in historic examples such as the squatting movement in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in West- Berlin. The squatting of over 150 buildings in the city at that time was a reaction to the lack of housing offers which correspond to an increasing demand for individualized and alternative living forms in inner city areas. This lack could arise because of a series of reasons appearing at the same time such as the exclusive production of standardised mass housing at the outskirts of the city and the vacancy of a large part of the historic inner city housing stock due to real-estate speculation. The squatter movement at that time was able to address the urban question of a renaissance of the urban centres which was beginning at that time and could therefore develop an important impact on the formal planning structures in Berlin. This impact can be observed in the participatory approaches to urban renewal implemented during the IBA 84/87, which still continue to have an impact today in Berlin. The same process with different spatial forms can be observed during the development of temporary uses and appropriations of open spaces during the late 1990’s and the beginning of the 2000’s.

The present research focuses on the investigation of these processes and their spatial forms in the present urban situation in Berlin focussing on four types of self-organized and self-initiated projects without the aim to maximize personal profit: protest movements against investor driven urban development projects, permanent temporary users active in inner city areas as pillars of non-commercial urban space, spatial appropriations of existing buildings to provide affordable space for arts and handicrafts, DIY project developers and spatial entrepreneurs producing experimental forms of productions of urban space. The main questions addressed are to come up with a definition of today’s urban crisis provoked by neoliberal urbanism, to analyse actual self-organized and self-initiated reactions to this crisis and the impact they develop on formal planning structures in Berlin today.

© Ingrid Sabatier & Stephan Schwarz | ISSSresearch&architecture | November 2015