Design Task: Job Profiles

The following text recalls the process of designing, realizing and using job profiles during the enactment of Hotel?Wilhelmsburg. We give insight on the initiation of the experimental design to call the neighborhood into the project, the start of the design task job profiles and inputs coming from theorizing our own embedded practice. The text ends with a reflection of a poster campaign called "What's your deal?" we ran close to the end of the student project.

Source: Franck, G. (1998). Ökonomie der Aufmerksamkeit. Wien: Carl Hanser Verlag.

Hotel Practices

The design, realization and use of our first hotel night on October 20th 2012 has been documented in the presentation for Take One. To sum it up for this effort, we'd like to focus on the organization and execution of tasks. Three days before the actual experiment was held, we roughly organized ourselves in task oriented groups. We did not organize or design in a detailed manner, but rather trusted the ideas of each and every student's personal skills. This trust in ourselves, in the group, was especially interesting as most of the students got together at the meeting for the very first time. While also being presented with a new task, getting to know the site and the history of the Neighborhood's University.

What we'd like to focus on is that our experiment was not only informative for the quest of shaping a specific quality for our hotel, but also created a fabric of relations. Improvisation highly relies on interaction and learning from each other by performing a specific task in a specific situation; say, setting up a canopy as a common sleeping area or harvesting food, setting up a kitchen for cooking in order to have dinner together. We can say that: labor as a social process is a form of commoning and as such is part of the fundamental process by which we learn and become who we are. In the model of 'situated learning', which is based on the social theories of learning of the 1960s, the acquisition of knowledge involves a process of engagement in a 'community of practice' (CoP). 1

With this notion we were faced with the challenge of bringing people form the neighborhood into the project. People from the neighborhood should actually run the hotel operations in order to get them in the same situation as we were that first night and throughout the entire Hotel? Wilhelmsburg project.

It is people themselves who create knowledge, challenge existing structures, and produce free space for thoughts and actions through their intrinsically active design and acquisition of space. 2 The hotel was approached as a tool in our urban design practice as a living experience of negotiating meaning. Our teaching staff composed of Bernd Kniess, Benjamin Becker and Jan Holtmann introduced the term porosity: an approach towards a model of openness that interprets the neighborhood as 'communities of practice' implying the design of peripheral participation in broader communities beyond the walls of the university, while remaining within the secured environment of the university. 3 The effort that deals with the porosity of the hotel operations was called curating as a critical practice.

Dinner Experience

We now give insight into the enactment of this experience. By the time we started to think about possible collaborations for the hotel operations we had no fixed plan of the them. From the beginning, the design task of creating job profiles had to deal with an uncertainty of the outcome. A creative take on this uncertainty was, at the beginning to open our internal student meetings – which often ended with cooking and having dinner together at the Neighborhoods' University – into a public dinner night. The cornerstones of the constantly evolving experimental design was that the staff (cook and entertainer at the beginning, and later also barkeeper and dishwasher) had to be recruited from the neighborhood. Jan Holtmann gave out the experimental design that every student had to bring a guest from Wilhelmsburg to each and every dinner night. Also, in our effort to design job profiles we almost exclusively focused on Wilhelmsburg residents as people from the neighborhood. Before we addressed the design task of job profiles in theory, we had to do it in practice. With help from other local agents – people embedded in the social fabric of the neighborhood – we headed out to encounter potential collaborators in order to win them over to execute tasks necessary to host an open dinner.

The 7th dinner on January 30th, 2013 serves as a vibrant example of this practice here. The experimental design for the 7th dinner night at the Hotel was set up as an expert conference in order to question the UdN's kitchen situation – equipment, space, capacities.... We invited 8 cooks, who we had considered contacting for the previous dinners and set up a tour to show them around in the kitchen. In addition we bought groceries for a meal for about 40 people. The invitations were sent out by email and later telephone to confirm attendants. The open question in the experimental design was if, and how the invited cooks would take up the task of cooking without anyone giving them explicit directions. At first, we were surprised to realize that only 3 out of the 8 invited cooks showed up, and one also had to leave early. The remaining two, however, where motivated to test the UdN kitchen in practice. Both cooks initially stated that the groceries we bought would not be enough to feed the expected amount of people. We, the students, always struggled in finding the right amount of food for an abstract mass of people. As there was no booking or reservations, we simply did not know how many people would show up, and also how much they would eat. Our experts had a better feeling for that. Jörg Amelung and Bernd Hilgenbrink came up with recipes, organized students to go shopping for additional groceries and started working with the ingredients at hand. The task was clear, its execution was improvised.

Learning by Interaction

During the dinner preparation Amelung and Hilgenbrink talked about their previous experience as cooks. The Ausbildungsleitfaden Hotelfachmann (1999) states that the job as the basic element of the organizational structure of hotel operations consists of: a) task, b) expertise and c) accountability. The job – in this case preparing a dinner – consists of plenty of tasks, such as shopping for groceries, setting up tables, cooking different ingredients and so on. All those tasks require a certain amount of expertise. For example Amelung and Hilgenbrink allocated simple tasks such as cutting vegetables to students, who mostly had no previous experience in a professional kitchen. This allocation was possible because chopping vegetables does not require expertise, rather than commitment contributed to the realization of the dinner. 4
Most of the tasks can be understood ad hoc, and only need a certain amount of commitment to execute them properly. In the allocation of tasks the two professionals in the kitchen remained accountable. The situation though was always open. When there was somebody with a different thought on what to do than the professionals, a very brief and focused discussion was held simultaneously to the actual job. Due to the fact that this always happened immediately, everybody used a very clear language and at some point illustrated the consequences of actions by actually performing them — this experience was highly informative for all participants. The interesting dynamic here is that the community gets together for a job and then learns by doing. In action everybody contributing to the job constantly compares habits and tastes with others in the community. The possibility of learning lies not in the similarities, but in the peculiarities. To get along together, all have to attend to mutual differences and dissonances. 5 The space of learning is the space of the self in relation to others. 6

The Standards of Judging Actions

Of course, there have been plenty of situations were collaborators did not collaborate. Most people have internalized an individualistic attitude – it is in the process of dealing with people where we, as curators, have to make sure the place remains inclusive. Given the open situation of the UdN kitchen, all guests could clearly see who is responsible for the dinner. This transparency created a not to be underestimated amount of pressure on and also control over the cook. Proof for this strenuous situation are the smoking habits of Mr. Schnell and the vociferous tantrum of Mr. Hilgenbrink, when his souchef would not follow his instructions.

In these situations students often stepped in, saved the stew from scorching during cigarette breaks and calmed workers down. There have not been any further investigations on this, but it appears that those people, who really needed the job because of the money (we paid cash in hand, no taxes, no interests or whatsoever), were always more strained than those, who approached it as honorary work. We noticed a similar effect in plenty of other situations of curating cooks and entertainers. Those, who we had contacted to cook because of their skills or connections, often offered to work pro bono, but were hardly available. While often those, who delivered a rather questionable quality of food, always got paid and made extensive use of the free-for-staff-bar, seemed to be available all the time, and further imposed themselves by giving students phone calls and being around often. We write this here not to give you an idea on who to call to get a nice and quiet evening but to cover the entire spectrum of our practice of curating.

Also it is not our goal to create a situation were everything is transparent and so everybody can control everybody, but rather want to enable an understanding of the term porosity. Our finding in theory is that the porous undertaking of Hotel? Wilhelmsburg highly relies on negotiations – understanding through comprehension of contradictions. Above we stated that labor as a social process is a process of commoning. This remained true during the entire phase of the Wednesday dinners. Again Mr. Hilgenbrink is used as an example here. Standing in front of a crying, drunk and jobless 50 year old man and explaining to him that we cannot hire him anymore as a cook, because of the lousy quality of food he delivered, is definitely not a fun part of the curating practice.

However, when we had clarifying talks with actors, and we did more often not than we did, we could often figure out another way of collaboration leaving both sides sympathetic for each other. Mr. Hilgenbrink moved from the chef position to dishwasher (for the same amount of money) and is still part of the project. Later we also hired him as cook again. This also shows that a categorization of actors is rather limiting, as actors, of course, change. If we go back to the experience of Dinner 7 Amelung and Hilgenbrink also did not forget about the initial goal of the kitchen conference: evaluating the UdN kitchen in prospect of a future hotel. Amelung, in a responsive action, later organized a giant field kitchen crock pot (Gulaschkanone) and other smaller kitchen equipment for the hotel. He made use of his network and organized all things for free. All of them have small issues, which ended their life in another kitchen, but could be fixed so that they could be revived at Hotel?Wilhelmsburg.
Plenty of this equipment is up to this day in use. Furthermore Hilgenbrink saw that students are hopelessly overwhelmed with the dirty dishes after a night with about 80 guests. As a first help he bought a plunger, and later fixed the kitchen sink, so it would not become clogged during dinner service. Later in the project he could also hire other people for the job as a dish washer or switched from chef to dishwasher on different nights. In a similar situation later in the project we got dishes from the cafe Deichdiele, when their cook took over at the UdN. While preparing a stew and he noticed that there are not enough deep dishes. He remembered some out-of-use dishes at Deichdiele, used them for this dinner service and later gave them to the UdN. To learn from practice one needs to establish critical thinking – a reasonable, reflective thinking that is aimed at deciding what to believe or what to do. 7

Making Sense Of

Beyond recruiting collaborators through our agents in the neighborhood we also aimed towards people who come to the hotel as guests. The case of Philip Mauß serves as an example here. Philip Mauß, Wilhelmsburg resident and owner of drum school network drumlabor, spoke to Valeria Micara, an italian exchange student participating in the project Hotel?Wilhelmsburg, during a dinner in early January. Valeria forwarded Philip's question on the circumstances of the project and his potential of contributing to Viktoria Scheifers, a student responsible for organizing the following dinner and therefore looking for a musician.

Viktoria sat down with Philip and listened carefully to his backstory. Being visually impaired since age 9, Philip developed a strong sensitivity for music and rhythm, which pulled him into making music. Later in his life Philip studied pedagogy and soon explored the analogies between his hobby and his professional education. Today he is running a drum school based on a network of musicians in Wilhelmsburg. The drum school is currently emerging with a careful observation of the demand for teaching in respect to the capacities of teaching staff. Viktoria made sense of the common ground of Philip's practice and our undertaking. She explained circumstances of the project like funding, payment and the emergence of the hotel. At the end of the conversation they exchanged phone numbers. The next day we arranged final details, such as transport, time and duration of performance, necessary items for the performance and so on. Philip was very open in his interests: using the capital of attention the dinner nights gained in the neighborhood. By January the dinner nights became a buzz in the neighborhood and we also started using the UdN's Facebook account and had developed an email newsletter reaching about 130 people. This was not specifically addressed in the negotiations with Philip, but rather believed because he experienced this kind of centrality as a guest and news follower. It is this point where we would like to see that once people can make sense of the subjective potentialities of the hotel, a negotiation of things of- ten perceived standard becomes possible. As soon as the mindset of people is focused on "making stuff happen" it will happen in one way or another. Philip is up to this day still coming to almost every dinner – when they happen – and also helped students in further tasks, such as other research efforts, or finding new collaborators or even giving tips for the Wilhelmsburg housing market.

Design Task Job Profiles

The investigation of our own practice was one side of what constitutes our hotel research spectrum, the other was addressed in the live research effort of Take 2. We imagined this spectrum of what makes a hotel as a kind of slider, we constantly slide up and down in order to illustrate the specific quality, experience and situation of Hotel? Wilhelmsburg. In Take 2 we went on to examine what makes a five star hotel. The research conducted at the beginning of November 2012 is documented in detail in the final presentation of Take 2, the presentation given at the Zwischenkolloquium and the printed documentation of the international workshop 1. Here we'd rather focus on theory as a reflection of actions, that creates knowledge that in the moment of acting is not accessible.

Deconstructing Hierarchy

The organization of labour power at the five star hotels we observed was quite rigid. The observation of actions at the receptions only brought to fore the visible labour. Luckily, the cousin of one of our students works at the reception of five star Hotel Kempinski in Bremen, and so we got a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes. Detailed to-do lists show an intense precision at place in the production of a five star experience. Nothing is left to chance. Every wipe of something gold-plated is written down. In contrast to what we observed on site, we want to call this the effort to design out labour power. In order to give the five star hotel guest a pleasant stay, the hotel operation undertakes a huge effort to not let him/her see the production process of his/her experience. The almost army-like discipline in the five star hotel, undermines critical thinking as it dis- tributes accountability in its hierarchical system and motivates to not much more than work to rule. Hierarchy often goes along with a sacrifice of socio-structural questions.

The design task of creating job profiles was given to us very early in the project as the task to see what kind of people can work in the hotel and simultaneously also enter the performance of a hotel in order to enable to critically reflect urban transformation. During the second workshop we studied plenty of manuals, guidelines and rulebooks which are state of the art for hotel operations. We created a catalog with plenty of criteria such as working hours, payment, hygiene requirements, work clothing, tools and so on. Those tasks were then mapped on a time plan based on the schedule of hotel operations at Hotel Kempinski in Bremen. This mapping allowed us to identify overlaps in tasks, and therefore made a combination of different tasks into new job profiles possible. Creating a criteria catalogue and mapping jobs on a schedule was a first step to render the status quo visible and question conventions. Making this knowledge transparent beholds us as the designers of the hotel as an enactment to become some kind of avant-garde utopians. We believe that transparency in our approach is the underlying necessity to the process of commoning in the purposefully curated common ground: Hotel? Wilhelmsburg. The know-how and know-why of running a hotel cannot stay within the managerial board of our hotel, but needs to be transparent in order to enable a discussion about it. To make this clear here again: Transparency is needed in the organizational structure, but cannot be imposed in the execution of every single task, as this would be counterproductive for the process of commoning. Transparency at some point works against creativity. A certain amount of trust and with that soft focus proved necessary in Hotel?Wilhelmsburg.

On Architecture

Architectural critic Reyner Banham wrote about the Hunstanton School designed by Peter and Alison Smithson in the early 1950s that “... it appears to be made of glass, brick, steel and concrete, and is in fact made of glass, brick, steel and concrete. Water and electricity do not come out of unexplained holes in the wall, but are delivered to the point of use by visible pipes and manifest conduits. One can see what Hunstanton is made of, and how it works, and there is not another thing to see except the play of spaces. (...) The qualities of that object may be summarized as follows: 1, Formal legibility of plan; 2, clear exhibition of structure, and 3, valuation of materials for their inherent qualities ‘as found.“ 8 Banham's ideas were translated in the context of the UdN as a design meme, but got taken from the wall when the architectural operations gained momentum. Another prolific reference, this time a bit further away from architecture in its physical form, to the visibility and comprehension of the production of the hotel experience was made by Ton Matton in his opening mission statement for the third international workshop. By questioning our knowledge about the production of our clothes, our food and other products we use in everyday life, he illustrated capitalisms efforts to block thoughts about the production of goods and services so we can live guilt-free, although we are obviously not –only two people in the room that day wore clothing not produced by child labor. Later in the workshop Matton often questioned designs of everyday items, such as for example a shower by thinking in extremes between human and technology driven design approaches. As an example he said that we can either build a kinetic device in our shower or simply hire slaves who take care that the water constantly flows. The slave option gives the person in the shower the possibility to critically reflect on his/her actions, whereas the kinetic option, of course hidden behind ceramic tiles, is comfortable and leaves the person in the shower in the dark about the implications of his actions. It is a simple, almost naive, translation of Banham's and Matton's thought, if we state that, in order to enable reflective and critical thinking about people's practices in the hotel we have to keep all actions, as a part of a job, visible. Visibility here does not mean that everything has to be instantly comprehensible, but at least the processes of production should be questionable in action. Only if this is guaranteed, can ingenuity be emerge in the articulation of commoning arenas.


This article clearly points towards the overlap between the design task job profiles and the organizational structure of the hotel. If one only thinks about job profiles without the organizational structure of the hotel, one cannot identify any difference between our effort to design job profiles from any other. Public space is plastered with job calls similar to ours. The practice of dividing accountability between a small group of people and also the flexibility in jobs is common in the creative industries and from there trickles in plenty of other job markets. 9 On the one hand this has proven to foster innovation and productivity, but on the other hand opens the door for exploitation. The same effect is visible in the organizational structure of students in this project. Given complete freedom and flexibility in our work at the hotel, we, in the end, came to a point where we noticed that we self-organized our own exploitation. The efforts of reproduction (keeping the hotel running) were just too capacity consuming and eroded the scientific effort of the hotel as a performative tool during our university project.


It was almost 4 months after the task to think about job profiles was given to us that we finally reached out into the neighborhood to communicate offers for jobs not connected to the dinners. Although we were busy with other parts of running the hotel, we figured that knowledge in theory is not enough in this undertaking, it had to be tested. The hotel operations were never official or legal. So we could not use any official job platform. We wanted to enable a creation about a different job profile in imaginary.The situation where people could learn about the job profiles should be discovery based. An easy and accessible method was to address local shops and eateries, as we though that's a way to address a good variety of people. Also, we learned from previous research efforts in Wilhelmsburg that owners of eateries know the neighborhood like the back of their hand.

We created a small campaign built on posters and the interaction with people at the places we hung them up. In that way, we thought, we could make a concrete offer with the posters, but also were given the need to introduce ourselves and the offer. The bus 13 connects the two train stations Wilhelmsburg and Veddel. We chose to ride from one end of the line to the other just to check out some potential spots. During the project we only happened to be in the northern part of Wilhelmsburg and so the bus ride was an easy way to discover a bigger part of the island. Beginning from the southern part of Wilhelmsburg we did not know any shop owners or other people there. An ad hoc solution was to get into the pharmacies. In difference to small restaurants and junk shops, pharmacies presented themselves higher frequented and with less barriers to us. The hotel was not known in the south of the island, so we usually had to talk more about it than in the north, were our faces became familiar during the project, but we managed to hang a poster and introduce the project in every place we went to. Sometimes people seamed to not really care and other times we talked about 3-5 minutes about the project. The main area of interest, however, was the northern part of Wilhelmsburg known as the Reiherstiegviertel. There we went into shops we often bought groceries for the dinners and some small restaurants or hang-outs we thought are highly frequented by locals. One interaction in particular renders the nature of this campaign visible. Der Baguette Laden at Veringstraße 97 is only 5 minutes from the UdN and also located close to the IBA Energy Bunker, a World War II bunker transformed into a power plant. Although the owner stated that she is not a big a fan of a poster in her window, we could engage her in a conversation after all. Monika and Peter Flecke run this shop at the corner since 1988. Both are active members in the neighborhood and Mr. Flecke has also participated in previous projects at the Neighborhood's University, but hasn't come by recently because he had a stroke last summer and has to relax more. With a look at the poster she said "that it's shit; nobody will understand this" so we had to explain it to her. We told her about the hotel and its approach to do things. She understood and even supported the idea, her question was that if it's now her turn to explain this to other people. For us, here, we've got to a point where we could spark interest in a way that allows people to act as our agents. Although Monika was suspicious throughout the conversation she told us about her neighbor who just lost his job in a warehouse because he was too fussy. With the words, this might be something for him, he likes to organize himself and stuff, she promised to inform him about the offer. We'd like to see this as a success.

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  4. Sennett, R. (2013). The Community. Practising Commitment. In MONU Magazine on Urbanism. Communal Urbanism 2013 #18.
  5. ibid.
  6. Ellsworth, E. A. (2005). Places Of Learning: Media, Architecture, Pedagogy. New York: Routledge.
  7. Ennis, R. H. (1987). A taxonomy of critical thinking dispositions and abilities. In J. Baron & R. Sternberg (Eds.), Teaching thinking skills: Theory and practice. New York: W.H. Freeman. pp. 9-26.
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