Planning unplanned

_Towards a New Positioning of Art in the Context of Urban Development

Since the mid-1990s, many cities and regions in Europe (above all in Great Britain and Germany) have been strongly affected by the structural changes in the post-industrial situation (shrinking of cities, regeneration of former industrial regions). At the same time large-scale new urban developments (like in the Netherlands) continued to be constructed – both situations asking new questions how to deal with a shifted identity of a place/ a situation, or, in the latter case, how to create an identity of a place. Thus architects and urban planners found themselves confronted with new topics that the conventional method of the masterplan could no longer address – especially since being orientated towards long-term objectives and perspectives, which are difficult to predict in times of not only economic uncertainty. Along with architects and urbanists, it is increasingly artists who took a special interest in urban issues, and the new questions and challenges involved, like creating an identity, urbanity, and public-urban space, altogether building a community. Despite great ambitions, these urban artistic practices have hardly had the desired effects on urban space and its users, in terms of a durational “positively” recognized influence on urban development, since generally, artists are mostly activated to “solve” social or spatial problems in a short term project.

PLANNING UNPLANNED is an arts-based research project which seeks to investigate possibilities how to emancipate and integrate artistic-urbanistic practices as „equal urban players“ in the urban planning process. What is the “function” of art in the context of urban development processes? Could the involvement of these practices on a durational level lead to a new role, the role of the „new urban practitioner“?

PLANNING UNPLANNED uses the special chance to test the research questions (for example, how to define “success” or “failure” of urban processes) on site in the future Vienna “Aspern-Lake City,” the largest and most ambitious urban development project in Vienna in the next decades, using the concept of “research through practice.” Through a partner agreement with Aspern Development AG, the installation of a 1:1 test site in Vienna-Aspern has become possible, which can be carried out in parallel in different formats (case studies, workshops with stakeholders and experts from art and urbanism, think tanks, etc.). The planning process will thus be related to research, enabling a continual reflection and evaluation of the production of knowledge and the possible involvement of artistic practice. The question of whether and how the concept and implementation of a new role can be made useful in contemporary urban planning– that of the “new urban practitioner” – by utilizing the potential of both artist and urbanist approaches will be investigated.

PLANNING UNPLANNED offers a unique and at the same time urgent opportunity, to redefine the “function” of art in the context of urban developments and to develop new methods of how similar questions of urban issues can be addressed in other cities.

As major element of PLANNING UNPLANNED the project data base was installed: invites (public)art projects, programs and organizations of diverse cultural and geo-political backgrounds worldwide to contribute to this new platform for locating and connecting urgent urban issues and discussing critical and innovative approaches. is collecting information and data of public art organizations, institutions, biennials, as well as projects or initiatives by individuals, dealing with urban issues, in order to create a growing overview from the perspective of various and transdisciplinary backgrounds like artists, architects, urban designers, sociologists, theoreticians. The projects/ initiatives/ organizations are indicated on a map and linked through search aspects making the specific local context and issues visible, creating references to similar situations internationally and their current urban practices and approaches.

For more information see: 

PLANNING UNPLANNED is an artistic research project by Barbara Holub at the Institute for Art and Design/ Prof.Christine Hohenbüchler at the Faculty of Architecture/ University of Technology, Vienna. It was funded in the frame of „Innovative Ideas“/ Vienna University of Technology. Further events like the symposium in 2012 were additionally funded by Public Art Vienna.

Planning Unplanned_Darf Kunst eine Funktion haben? Towards a New Function of Art in Society
(eds. Barbara Holub and Christine Hohenbüchler), Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2015.

An excerpt of Planning Unplanned was published in Russian  in 2018.

Research Team: 

Univ.Lecturer Dipl.-Ing. Dr.Barbara Holub (Head of Research)
Univ.Prof. Christine Hohenbüchler 
Univ.Ass. Dipl.Ing. Inge Manka (2010-2012)
Ass.Prof. Dr.phil. Karin Harather (2010-2012)

Research Assistants:
Dipl.-Ing. Bernadette Krejs (2010-2012)
Dipl.-Ing. Karin Reisinger (2012-2016)