The assembly of the University of the Neighbourhoods (UoN). A documentation of making new forms of agencies available.


This paper explores what the project of running an experiment in urbanism as part of the International Building Exhibition 2013 (IBA Hamburg), called the University of the Neighbourhoods (UoN) (2007-2013), can teach professionals in urban design about urbanisation in general and about changing political conditions in urban design in particular. The materials and preliminary findings in this paper are from an on-going project archaeology for the publication »Tom Paints the Fence. Re-negotiating Urban Design«, which is to be published by the research and teaching programme Urban Design at HCU Hamburg in 2017.
To ground the arguments more concretely the authors use the documentation of what happened in one ‘take’, in retrospect named building a proposition for future activities, of the project University of the Neighbourhoods (UoN). The paper will meander between descriptive and conceptual paragraphs. The descriptive paragraphs function not so much as case studies, but rather as illustrative examples that are helpful in rehearsing an argument. The conceptual paragraphs assemble methods, tools and theories used in practice.
The paper reflects on how the UoN’s team processed uncertainties around the role of urban development and education in the process of making a beginning of the project with the simple question: what is it like to live, work and learn in the area where the project site is located and how does this relate to the neighbourhood and the city? And what are we actually doing when we live somewhere day-to-day? Sleeping, eating, recovering, maintaining private relationships, running the household, being a neighbour…? Shifting our focus from housing in terms of object-centred policies to dwelling-as-practice, we were interested in studying and pushing existing understandings of housing. The contemporary administrative, policy. development and architectural perspectives on housing in our view prove myopic if we consider the emerging schism between housing as form and housing as function. Our perspective and the UoN experiment aimed to problematize the seemingly set understandings of housing by traversing the discursive and disciplinary territory in order to unpack and bring into play the various agencies and inner logics or potencies contributing to ‘problem solving’ without debating the problem. In an attempt to unravel the production, management and usage of housing and dwelling as a complex set of practices, understandings, regulations, materials, situations and actors, our curriculum provided a framework within which to question what housing is, does and could be.



Kniess, B., Dell, C., Peck, D., Richter, A., 2017. The assembly of the University of the Neighbourhoods (UoN). A documentation of making new forms of agencies available. In: Cairns, G., Wroot, I., An, E., AMPS CONFERENCE 8 Government and Housing in a Time of Crisis: Policy, Planning, Design and Delivery. AMPS, Architecture_MPS; Liverpool John Moores University, 87-101.

ISSN 2398-9467 


Prof. Dr. habil. Christopher Dell


Professor, UFoK, OT and RFoP

Prof. Dipl. Ing. Bernd Kniess


Professor, Urban Design

M.Sc. Dominique Peck


Academic Staff, Ph.D. Candidate

Dr. Anna Richter


Post-doctoral Researcher