Events Updates

Event: Tactical urbanism and the right to the con/temporary city

For the second time, the Demosspace team organises “Urban voices”, an arena aimed to give voice to different and often silent groups in Oslo’s development.

On December 7, member of Demosspace’ expert group, Don Mitchell, will present ideas on con/temporary urban development, followed by six talks about three places in Oslo. We wish to discuss if and how new forms of temporary, small-scale and street projects contribute to a truly creative city, to an inclusive urban development, and to more evenly distributed powers among citizens and small entrepreneurs.

The event takes place at Litteraturhuset , 7 December 2017, 7-9 pm. Room: Nedjma

“Tactical urbanism” was initially a community- and activist-based approach to temporary and grassroots urban initiatives, and to contribute to more affordable and accessible offers in the city. Centred on the citizen, tactical urbanism aims to make cities more liveable. Guerrilla gardening and pop-up events and parks are examples of the approach. As urban scholars such as Ouli Mould have observed, tactical urbanism has been adopted and used by both public and private developers as a strategy to increase attractiveness in new, as well as in established, city districts.

Initiatives of tactical urbanism have come to flourish in Oslo in later years. We wish to explore initiatives that are temporary and connected to public space in Oslo – those engaged by both small and large city developers – in three different areas: Oslo centre, Tøyen, and Bjørvika. Torggata and similar central streets are developed with new offers of special stores and creative spaces. At Tøyen, there is a buzz of small neighbourhood-grounded projects. In Bjørvika, temporary spaces have been filled with activities such as art, bread baking, and allotment gardening.

Our questions to be addressed by “voices” from these three areas are:
– What do temporary events and small-scale offers give to the city’s development and inhabitants?
– Are these urban redevelopment strategies targeting the population broadly or just particular groups?
– To what extent do the strategies include actual bottom-up participation and influence?

Welcome/introduction, Heidi Bergsli (NIBR) and Melissa Murphy (NMBU)

Don Mitchell: Tactical urbanism – or strategic appropriation?

Oslo’s centre developed: Sverre Landmark, Communications & community manager, Aspelin Ramm Eiendom AS

Torggata researched: master student Lars Petter Klem (UiB/NIBR)

Tøyen developed: Sarah Prosser, Advicer in social entrepreneurship and innovation, Områdeløft Tøyen (area-based initiative for the neighbourhood of Tøyen), City district of Gamle Oslo

Tøyen researched: Ingar Brattbakk (AFI HiOA)

Short break

Bjørvika developed: Anne Beate Hovind, Project director Art, Bjørvika Utvikling AS

Bjørvika explored: antipodes café: Tuva Langfeld and Felipe Ridao

Debate, monitored by Gro Sandkjær Hanssen (NIBR)


Events Updates

Demosspace team organises panel at the Changing city conference

The research group of Demosspace assembled for a week at the Changing cities conference held at Syros, Greece, 26-30 June 2017, organising the panel Democratic public space as well as project meetings. The panel and the abstracts of the papers are presented below.

Democratic public space panel on June 27

Matthew Carmona and Heidi Bergsli

Paper 1 Public space in an age of austerity
Matthew Carmona, Bettina Lamm, Anne Tjetjen, Katharina Nylund, Inger Lise Saglie, Gro Sandkjær Hanssen

Paper 2 Towards a framework for assessing democratic qualities of public space design: The case of Superkilen, Denmark
Anne Tjetjen, Bettina Lamm, Peter Parker, Beata Sirowy

Paper 3 Pedestrian paths as an index and strategy for urban integration
Peter Parker, Heidi Bergsli, Inger Marie Lid, Matthew Carmona, Bettina Lamm

Paper 4 Social sustainability dilemmas in urban development – effects on public space
Hege Hofstad

Final discussion
Moderator: Don Mitchell


Carmona, M., Nylund, K., Sandkjaer Hansen, G., Saglie, I.L., Lamm, B., Tjetjen, A.: Public space in the age of austerity

Following the financial crisis of 2008, governments, municipalities, developers and ultimately communities have had to rapidly adapt to a new reality.  This new reality variously encompasses: fewer public sector resources, cuts in capital expenditure programmes, the hollowing out and de-skilling of local government, a greater reliance on the private sector as the driver of development decision-making, a watering down of public policy demands in order to attract investment, and less emphasis on engaging communities in decision-making.

Through an overview of the period 2009 to 2016, and looking comparatively across four northern European cities: Copenhagen, London, Malmo and Oslo, this paper will trace the impact of these austerity years on the provision and management of public space.  This is a dimension of public policy that is rarely at the forefront of public debate and where, consequentially, cuts have been both fast and deep.  In doing so the paper will journey across the place-shaping continuum from processes of design, through development, to how space is used and its on-going management.  The intention is to track what has changed and what are the implications for the way we design, develop, use and manage public space today and in the future.

Tietjen, A, Lamm, B.,  Sirowy, B. and P. Parker: Towards a framework for assessing democratic qualities of public space design: The case of Superkilen, Denmark

Public spaces are increasingly being designed to create, communicate and sustain urban democracy. But we lack a framework for assessing democratic qualities of public space design. This paper aims to contribute to substantiating an analytical framework for the assessment of democratic qualities in public space both theoretically and empirically. Based on Nussbaum’s capabilities approach we propose a preliminary understanding of democratic qualities of public space design as central human capabilities, that is, individual doings and beings, which are enabled or sustained by a particular aesthetic and programmatic design. This requires looking for what public space design does, how people relate to particular objects and environments and to each other in public space. Guided by three well tested concepts for relational spatial analysis – affordance, affect, and assemblage – we studied a pertinent case which explicitly aimed at nurturing urban democracy, the internationally acclaimed public park Superkilen in Copenhagen, Denmark. In this paper, we outline the applied theoretical framework and relational case study method, present and discuss our findings at Superkilen and conclude with a critical reflection of the proposed analytical framework along with some preliminary suggestions for how public space design can enable and sustain urban democracy.

Keywords: public space; democracy; capabilities; urban design, aesthetics.

Parker, P., Bergsli, H., Lid, I.M, Carmona, M. Lamm, B.: Pedestrian paths as an index and strategy for urban integration

Pedestrian interaction in public space has long been held to be a central aspect of urban life and a critical site for the development mutual awareness, acceptance and basic civic coordination. The inclusion of different groups in public space is consequently understood to reflect democratic norms. Research on inclusion in public space has most often addressed these issues in relation to specific public spaces. This approach however entails a risk that connections with the broader urban context are lost.

In this paper we focus on paths of pedestrian connectivity as continuous public space and in particular focus on how such paths connect, or fail to connect, differently socio-economically endowed areas in the city. Specific efforts to develop such continuous public spaces provide opportunities to explore democratic aspects of public space while maintaining a connection with the broader urban context.

The research uses comparative case studies from Malmo, Copenhagen, Oslo and London in order to delineate different understandings that underpin urban planning efforts to develop continuous public space. The paper also aims to explore the challenges to enabling pedestrian connectivity in practice in these cases.

Based on comparative analysis we argue that development of pedestrian pathways provides a simple but powerful means of exploring democratic aspects of urban public space that we term urban integration. Moreover, we argue that an urban planning informed by this perspective would be better equipped to undertake significant but incremental developments along such pathways over time and thereby strengthening a democratic development of public space.

Keywords: public space, pedestrian paths, bicycle paths, streets

Hofstad. H. & M. Millstein: Social sustainability dilemmas in urban development –  effects on public space

In recent years, the social and health effects of urban development has received increased attention. Social sustainability was for long the forgotten part of the sustainability agenda. While economic and environmental sustainability is now a taken for granted part of the urban agenda, questions regarding social sustainability tends to be forgotten or overlooked. Until now. The last couple of years, social sustainability factors is in demand by health and planning authorities driven not least by the strong focus on population health during the first decade(s) of 2000.

In the same period, compact urban development has had a definitive break-through as the dominant model for urban development. Ideally, this model attain the aims of all three sustainability dimensions through densification around traffic nodes that pave the way for intensification of plot development, sustainable mobility, preservation of green landscapes outside developmental nodes, and development of social networks and social activities. However, this is a terrain for wishful thinking and idealistic notions on social and population health effects of compact city development.

Hence, there is a need for inquiries that dig deeper into the relations between social sustainability/population health on the one side, and densification on the other. This paper aims to fill in this gap through a literature study of the social/population health effects of densification. Furthermore, as the paper is part of the roundtable discussion on democratic public space, the paper will pay special attention to implications for public space.

This is a highly complex field where exact causal relationships is hard to identify. More than giving exact policy recommendations, the paper will identify topical dilemmas and core questions to be aware of when developing compact cities.

Keywords: social sustainability, urban population health, compact city development, public space

Events Updates

Melissa Murphy defended her PhD thesis “Marking space: Negotiating room for user efficacy in residential urban spaces”

On May 3, researcher at Demosspace Melissa Murphy defended her thesis at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at NMBU. Her thesis “Marking space: Negotiating room for user efficacy in residential urban spaces” addresses users’ ability to mark and change their environment as a basic need of everyday dwelling, under the conditions of negotiation with other users and the managers of urban space. The thesis discusses how user efficacy can be safeguarded and how users are served by the spaces that they frequent.



New NIBR-based project on co-creation and the green shift in Oslo, Gothenburg and Copenhagen, coordinated by Hege Hofstad

the NIBR-based project Governing the green shift in Oslo, Gothenburg and Copenhagen through leadership of co-creation (GREENGOV) is among the projects that have been awarded funding under the Norwegian research council’s new BYFORSK initiative.

Cities are currently taking the lead in pursuing goals of sustainable, low carbon urban development – the “green shift”- a transformation towards sustainable, low carbon cities. The most pressing challenge for cities to this end is to find new ways of governing the transformation towards climate smart, energy efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable futures. However, the conventional structures and systems of the public sector are not scoped to address the tasks of conceptualizing, mapping and responding to problems of such a high degree of complexity. Emerging theories of co-creation in the public sector underscore the critical importance of leadership for successful co-creation. Leadership gives direction to, creates arenas for and sponsors co-creation. The dynamic interplay between leadership on the one side, and arenas of learning and co-creation on the other, will be addressed in GREENGOV.

The project’s purpose is to create new and cutting edge knowledge about the challenges and dilemmas public leaders face in promoting the green shift, how they cope with them, and how their coping strategies affect the outcomes of the endeavors to make cities more green and sustainable. How can cities build co-creation arenas and through these enhance their capacity for creating synergies between institutional layers of hierarchical, market-inspired and network measures, that together make up the governance mechanisms available to political and administrative leaders when striving for sustainable low carbon transformation? Which leadership strategies and mechanisms can effectively support co-creation, learning and innovation in favour of the green shift?

The project is a joint proposal by the research institutions NIBR-HiOA, Institute of Transport Economics (TOI) and and the City of Oslo (Oslo); University of Roskilde (Copenhagen); Energy Research Centre (ERC), University of Cape Town; and Mistra Urban Futures (Gothenburg).


New NMBU-based project about urban agriculture coordinated by Beata Sirowy

NMBU’s project Cultivating Public Spaces: Urban agriculture as a basis for human flourishing and sustainability transition in Norwegian cities is among the projects that have been awarded funding under the Norwegian research council’s new BYFORSK initiative. The project will explore how urban agriculture can contribute to a sustainability transition in contemporary Norwegian cities.

The compact city model, dominant in Norway and Europe elsewhere, typically creates a strong alliance between climate abatement objectives and urban economic development. However, the model and its implementation frequently overlook social concerns related to the quality of life and social justice. The project addresses this challenge by proposing a multidimensional strategy to enhance the quality of urban life based on a systematic integration of urban agriculture (UA) in public spaces.

Agricultural interventions integrated in urban public spaces can empower local communities and individuals by giving them an opportunity to directly influence their environments while providing access to green, inclusive public spaces. Furthermore, UA can make urban residents aware of their agency and establish opportunities for developing human capabilities and virtues (character traits crucial for living a good human life, e.g. solidarity, responsibility, patience, frugality) – both of which are essential for a sustainable community. It also enhances urban ecosystems by providing hands-on learning arenas that educate people about resource use and food production cycles, as well as encouraging environmentally-friendly consumption choices. UA-initiatives can be an important arena for health promotion, through increased physical, social and contemplative activity. UA can also enrich urban landscapes with innovative landscape architecture/urban design and functional solutions that urban residents contribute to. Its potentials for produce and entrepreneurship can strengthen urban economy by facilitating innovation and creating inclusive, environmentally-friendly working places.

In order to maximize the above mentioned benefits of UA, the opportunities to engage in UA practices should be widely accessible to all segments of urban population across the city. Integrating UA in already existing and planned public spaces seems to be an effective strategy to achieve this objective due to the potential for reaching many different, otherwise unorganized urban residents. However, no significant body of research exists on agriculture in urban public spaces. Addressing this knowledge gap, the project will investigate how to successfully integrate UA in public space development in Norway in terms of spatial planning, landscape architecture/urban design solutions, participatory processes for change, and innovative ICT solutions.

The project includes a wide international and interdisciplinary cooperation among researchers and actors from the private – and the public sector. The project team is led by senior researcher Beata Sirowy, the Department of Urban and Regional Planning/ NMBU and includes partners from the Department of Public Health/NMBU, the Department of Plant Science/NMBU, the Science Park Campus Ås, Eriksen and Skajaa Architects, Nabolagshager, University of Copenhagen, Malmö University, Coventry University, London Metropolitan University, Aachen University, the County Governor of Oslo and Akershus, The Oslo’s Municipality Agency for Urban Environment (Bymiljøetaten), and the Norwegian Farmers’ Union.

Events Updates

Theory seminar: Democratic public space

The Norwegian project team gathered for a theory seminar on 27 March 2017. Beata Sirowy initiated the discussion with a presentation of the deliberative democracy perspective and capabilities perspectives. These two perspectives  inform the analyses of democratic public spaces from a societal and individual level in the Demosspace project.

Beata Sirowy DEMOSSPACE theory seminar



Organisation of round table discussion at the Changing Cities conference: Democratic Public Space

The 3rd International Conference on “Changing Cities” Spatial, Design, Landscape & Socio-economic Dimensions will be held from 26to 30 June 2017. The conference venue is at the island of Syros in Greece.
Matthew Carmona is key note speaker at the conference, and is in this context invited to organise a round table discussion. The round table includes most of the Demosspace researchers in addition to the members of our expert committee, Don Mitchell and Inger Marie Lid. The title of the round table is Democratic Public Space.
Publications Updates

Byrom for alle? Urbane offentlige rom i et demokratiperspektiv

I europeisk sammenheng er det nå et sterkere fokus på at bypolitikk må sikre sosial integrasjon og samhørighet (EUs Urbane agenda, 2016). Har man et slikt mål, blir offentlig tilgjengelige byrom viktigere.

Samtidig må offentlige rom konkurrere med stadig flere interesser om stadig mindre areal. Særlig er grønne offentlige rom satt under press.

Urbane offentlige rom, som torg, møteplasser, parker og gater, er viktige i et demokratisk samfunn fordi de utgjør grenseflaten mellom den private og offentlige sfære. I et demokratiperspektiv har by- rommene alltid vært viktige.

Hva byrom betyr for demokratiet

I en slik situasjon er det viktig å diskutere de demokratiske dimensjonene av urbane offentlige rom. Særlig hva de betyr for utviklingen av bysamfunnet gjennom deres rolle for sosial inkludering, byliv og god og bærekraftig byutvikling (KMD 2016).

Det skriver NIBR-forskerne Heidi Bergsli og Gro Sandkjær Hanssen i artikkelen «Byrom for alle – urbane offentlige rom i et demokratiperspektiv». Artikkelen står i Plan 1/2017.

Innlegg skrevet av Jan-Tore Berghei, NIBR

Events Updates

Research seminar: Urban public space and the politics of social inclusion and exclusion in the attractive city

On November 11 2016, we organised a research seminar assembling some 60 participants interested in the theory of public space seen through the lenses of German cities and Oslo. The seminar was part of a Norwegian-German research exchange supported by Goethe-Institut Norwegen. Norwegian Institute of urban and regional research (NIBR) organised the seminar in collaboration with the Work Research Institute (AFI), with Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg University  and Actors of Urban Change.

Venue: Oslo and Akershus University College

Urban public space and the politics of social inclusion and exclusion in the attractive city

Urban public space is at stake in current politics of attractiveness where space is a scarce market resource and where public space is a vulnerable, contested but also shared and common value to urban society. In this research seminar, we aim to explore how urban theory on new urban policies and the concepts connected to social inclusion and exclusion resonate across national borders.

Scholars from Germany and Norway will present their research on public space by reflecting upon the following questions:

  • How can urban politics ensure inclusiveness in urban public space? Who are the dominant actors? What is required?
  • How does public space work as a concept and arena for the public sphere in the city/neighbourhood?
  • What is the main basis for conflicts over inclusion/exclusion mechanisms in public space, and to what extent does or could urban theory assist in clarifying the conflict lines?

The aim of the seminar is that these questions and topics will be discussed from different angles and with the possibility for comparative reflection.

Organsiers: NIBR and AFI, HiOA, in collaboration with Goethe-Institute Norwegen


12.00 – 12.05
Hilde Lorentzen, Institute director NIBR, HiOA: Welcome

Heidi Bergsli, NIBR, HiOA: Introduction – Urban public space in a democracy perspective

12.20 – 12.40
Thomas Bürk, Department of Geography, Universität Hamburg: Governing the Narcotic City – The struggle over the Görlitzer Park in Berlin/Kreuzberg

12.40 – 13.10
Simon Güntner, Department of social work, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences: Public Space and Societal Attachment – conceptual reflections illustrated by examples from Hamburg

13.10- 13.30
Martin Schwegmann, programme director of Actors of Urban Change: Actors of Urban Change – examples from the program for urban Development through Cultural Activities and Cross-Sector Collaboration in Europe

13.30 – 13.45
Ingar Brattbakk, Work Research Institute, HiOA: Urban spaces in the segregated city – examples from Oslo

Gro Sandkjær Hanssen, NIBR, HiOA (moderator): Discussion

Events Updates

Urban voices – Are the “we” at risk in “the attractive city”?

On November 11, 2016, we organised a public meeting discussing and learning about challenges of social inclusion and exclusion in the city. The need to debate  these questions in the public sphere was evident: some 70 people where gathered to listen to researchers talking about challenges in Hamburg and Berlin, and voices from Oslo sharing their experiences, followed by a discussion. Below you find the details about the meeting and the organisers. We plan to organise two Urban voices meeting in Oslo during 2017.   

Public meeting at OSLO PILOT

Place: OSLO PILOT, Prinsens gate 2, 0152 Oslo Date and time: Friday 11. November 2016 19:00 – 20.30


“The attractive city” is currently the vision of cities across the world, connected to the aim to be competitive, innovative and creative. On this background, we ask the question of what happens to urban society, that is, to the “we”, if urban redevelopment policies concern the polishing of the city rather than enhancing social inclusion.

In this event, two German researchers and the German leader of the programme Actors of urban change will present projects addressing these questions. Different Norwegian voices will also be raised about their experiences of social inclusion or exclusion in urban public space.

The questions they will address are:

  • What is your experience of being listened to or excluded in urban development, how would you like to be heard in the development of urban public space and living areas?
  • What role does public and urban space play for your city as an inclusive urban society, and which urban public spaces would you like your city to develop in the future?

The voices will be graphically recorded by Anette Haugen, leaving a “visual testimony” to the choir of voices. Haugen is graphical facilitator from VISFAS. Graphic recording provides a visual assemblage of the main points raised. It gives a common frame of reference and an overview of how social inclusion and exclusion are experienced.

In the first session, the German scholars will hold their presentations in English. In the second session the Norwegian presentations and the discussion will be in Norwegian. The meeting is finalized with a comment in English from Bürk, Güntner and Schwegmann.

This event is organised by Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Norwegen and OSLO PILOT.

OSLO PILOT is a two-year research-based project investigating the role of art in and for the public realm. OSLO PILOT is initiated and financed by the City of Oslo, Agency for Cultural Affairs, Norway.

The event on Facebook


  • Heidi Bergsli/Ingar Brattbakk NIBR/AFI HiOA,
    Introduction: Are the “we” at risk in “the attractive city”?
  • Thomas Bürk University of Hamburg, Berlin:
    Racial profiling as policing strategy in public spaces
  • Simon Güntner Hamburg University College,
    Conflicts about direct democracy in Hamburg
  • Martin Schwegmann Director of the programme Actors of Urban Change,
    Illustrations from a program for urban Development through Cultural Activities and Cross-Sector Collaboration in Europe
  • Ingar Brattbakk/ Bengt Andersen/Aina Landsverk Hagen Forskere ved AFI HiOA,
    Om prosjekter på Tøyen
  • Joakim Skaaja Skaaja/Eriksen Arkitekters,
    Om Hausmannia
  • Anne-Rita Andal Prosjektleder Leieboerforeningen,
    Om vanskeligstilte på boligmarkedet og Ormsundveien
  • Kari Veiteberg Bymisjonsprest, Kirkens bymisjon/ Bymisjonssenteret
  • Arild Knutsen
    Leder Human narkotikapolitikk
  • Ingrid Lønningsdal Billedkunstner,
    Om kunstnernes plass i byen
  • Faridah Shakoor
    Prosjektleder for Gjør det! Et Tøyen Unlimited prosjekt
  • Wenche Hansgaard
    Leder Eldrerådet
  • Gro Sandkjær Hansen (Moderator)
    Diskusjon: hvordan kan vi imøtegå problemet med sosial eksklusjon, og hvordan kan vi øke inkludering i byrom og byutviklingen?
  • Bürk/Güntner/Schwegmann

This event is part of a research exchange hosted by the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR), in collaboration with Work Research Institute (AFI) at the Oslo and Akershus University College for Applied Science. The exchange is supported by Goethe-Institut Norwegen.