Urban Ethics

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Berlin: Urban Ethics in an Area of Tension Between Homogenizing Models of Townscape and Demands for Heterogeneous Concepts of Space and Appropriation (Associate Project: 2015 - 2018)

In the two and a half decades since the fall of the Wall and the reunification of the city into a federal capital, the urban spatial future of Berlin has been persistently discussed and argued about. One question is central to these disputes, which urban actors answer in very different ways: How should the city’s spaces be architecturally best articulated and used, and which practices of urban life will promote this? Our research will focus on this linking of different ethics of a good and proper conduct of life in the city with various concepts for urban design and architecture.
Underpinned by discourses on two models of urban development, we investigate diverse urban spatial aims and ideals resulting from specific interpretations of the changing history of urban development and the existing urban structure of Berlin. We observe that the formulation of such objectives as models is always accompanied by attempts to establish specific subjects as guiding figures of the urban; whether these be tradition-conscious ‘urban dwellers’ or entrepreneurial ‘creative citizens’. Both subjects are expected to contribute to the success of urban design processes in Berlin and to the production of the cities’ spaces, as well as to embody the ‘ethos’ of the city through their way of life. However, we are interested not only in models of urban spaces and their ideal subjects, but also in the concrete translation of urban design concepts into physical urban spatial structure. Here we focus on the actors, which influence the architecture of these spaces, use them consciously or actively appropriate them. What is their idea of good urban living and what form of urban subjectivity do they develop? How do they connect this to heterogeneous concepts of urban spaces and their appropriation that might conflict with, call into question, break with or revaluate the normative ideas of models of townspace and urban development?
Using methods of discourse analysis and via urban spatial case studies, the research project aims to render the conflicts surrounding Berlin’s urban spatial development comprehensible in its dimension as ethical negotiation processes. The goal is to gain more precise knowledge about the mutual relationship between the ethics of a good and proper urban living and the architectural concepts and realities of urban spaces.