Public space and life in the polis were from the beginning tightly connected, both in terms of city governance and shared actions of its inhabitants. Whether carefully designed or loosely articulated, public space shapes behavior, providing a frame for the norms and rules of society. At the same time, it implicitly invites transgression. From the agora of Athens to the central squares in the former Communist Bloc, from the streets of San Francisco to the paths in the favelas or other informal communities, public spaces are arenas of political expression, where official discourse and unofficial voices meet/overlap/come into conflict with each other.

If official channels of political discourse are well-documented and built into the socio-political structures of modern society, unofficial means of expression are less studied. From explicit forms of protest to furtive integration, we are particularly interested in scenarios where distinctions between official and unofficial political discourses become blurred. This symposium will examine how unofficial political voices are made manifest in the urban realm by focusing on one or more of the following questions: What tactics are used to make these unofficial voices “audible”? How does political expression turn the city into a space of dynamic visuality? What is the impact of ephemeral events on public space?

By questioning a certain normativity (but not only), we seek to stress the connections and the tensions between officially shaped (and designed) public spaces and unofficially used, occupied or appropriated places and/or itineraries. By viewing political expressions—be they official or unofficial—in this way, we also want to question the very meaning of “what is political”.

Scientific committee: Marion Hohlfeldt, EA 7472 PTAC, Université Rennes 2 —Flavia Marcello, Centre for Design Innovation at Swinburne University, Melbourne— Carmen Popescu, GRIEF, École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Bretagne, Rennes —Frédéric Sotinel, GRIEF, École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Bretagne, Rennes —Ian Woodcock, Centre for Urban Research RMIT University, Melbourne

International Symposium organized by 

  • the Laboratory of research GRIEF, ENSAB, Rennes; 
  • The Centre for Design Innovation at Swinburne University, Melbourne; 
  • The Centre for Urban Research RMIT University, Melbourne, and 
  • the Research Lab EA 7472 PTAC – Pratiques et Théories de l’Art Contemporain, Rennes 2 University, Rennes.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

ENSAB (45 boulevard de Chezy)
9H00 Welcome/Coffee

9H15 Introductory speech

9H30 Welcome Flavia Marcello, Swinburne University, Melbourne Framing the symposium


Chair: Hélène Jannière, Université Rennes 2

  • 10H00 Alexandra Biehler, École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Marseille Les conditions de l’émergence d’Espaces Publics : études de cas à Ouagadougou et Marseille
  • 10H20 Sahjabin Kapier, UNICEF, Dhaka & Papon Dev, Technische Universität Berlin, Correlation between Political Discourse and Public Space in Metropolis: A Case Study from Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • 10H40 Discussions 11H00 Coffee break 11H20 Nuno Grancho, Instituto Universitario de Lisboa: Space, ritual and display in the colonial city of Diu
  • 11H40 Maja Babic, (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor): Macedonia Square: negotiating the present 12H00 Discussion

12H30 Lunch Break


Chair: Lionel Prigent, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest

  • 14H00 Barbara Rief Vernay, (Technische Universität Wien): The Spittelberg quarter (Vienna) 1975 - 2018: From Contestation Zone to Touristic Showcase
  • 14H20 Pavel Kunysz, Université de Liège: Building (in) the void: Enquiry on the roles for architects faced with the multiplicity of imaginaries of an urban void
  • 14H40 Tracey Bowen, University of Toronto, Mississauga: Visualizing Gentrification: Marginalized voices speak through the writing on the walls

15H00 Discussion

15H30 Coffee break

16H00 Round table: What are the Rules about Breaking Rules?

Chair: Ian Woodcock, Centre for Urban Research RMIT University, Melbourne Panel: Marion Hohlfeldt, Flavia Marcello, Carmen Popescu, Frederic Sotinel.

17H30 Discussion

18H00 Closing

Friday, November 23, 2018

Maison des Sciences de l’Homme en Bretagne (Avenue Gaston Berger)

9H00 Welcome/Coffee


Chair: Marion Hohlfeldt, Université Rennes 2

  • 9H30 Francesca Romana Dell’aglio, Royal College of Art, London: Saint Paul’s Cathedral: The rise and fall of collective space in London
  • 9H50 Claudia Faraone & Giovanna Muzzi, (Università degli Studi di Padova & Università Ca’Foscari Venezia): Urban Space and Collective Practices as a Political Matter
  • 10H10 Daniel Talesnik, (Technische Universität, Munich): Sao Paulo’s Avenida Paulista

10H30 Discussion

11H00 Coffee break


  • 11H30 Colleen Kron, (Ohio State University, Columbus): Myth on the Wall: Classical Antiquity in Contemporary Street Art
  • 11H50 Catherine Grout, École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et de Paysage de Lille: Traces et monde commun
  • 12H10 Dimitri Szuter, (École nationale supérieure d’architecture Paris La Vilette): La transgression: un espace pour faire bouger les lignes de l’invention! 12H30 Discussions

13H00 Lunch Break

14H30 Final debate/ Carmen Popescu, ENSAB:

Wrap up 16H00 Closing