Universität der Nachbarschaften (UdN)

Lukas Grellmann

UdN - Live-Work Space

During the workshop in Hamburg, participants were confronted with their different perspectives and views on neighbourhood and with differing approaches and analytical tools, many of them for the first time, but they were also facing another challenge: They shared a house, they lived and worked under one roof. This situation included the need for arrangements of all sorts: sharing the room with four to seven other participants, organising shower schedules in the morning and arranging tables and chairs in the park for dinner in the evening, not to mention sharing the walls for presentations and the spaces of leisure. Yet, living together and sharing the facilities with all the responsibilities this entailed didn’t simply equal limited privacy and more housekeeping duties than expected, the UdN also offered a space that was not only allowing appropriation through its inhabitants, but was really asking for it.
Participants were in a position to negotiate their work, live and leisure spaces in the UdN; they could occupy areas for work, use them as galleries for their work, divide work and leisure spaces or combine them. Part of the experiment was to ask whether this building, besides the responsibilities and low standards, could offer as much freedom for appropriation and inspiration that it would play its own role in the research process by influencing the group work in a positive and constructive way.
By creating and reproducing everyday situations, the UdN made room for discussions in and on the neighbourhood. The 1:1 teaching, learning and practicing laboratory and model served to test ‘dwelling-as-practice’ as well as neighbourhood practices. Particularly important were thus common and routine activities such as cooking and dining together. Not only is the kitchen the very centrality that brings together people, food, recipes, energies and a complex set of cultural rules, information and knowledge, it is also the place where various forms of capital (in Bourdieu’s sense) can be accumulated, exchanged, shared and translated. Throughout the UdN project, cooking and eating activities and practices led to understanding the kitchen as a method, a means of literally putting everything on the table, preparing a coherent meal based on a conversation about what the participants like and consuming it together in an atmosphere of productive reflection.
The UdN did not only function as a hospitable and inviting place, it was also transformed into a vital urban laboratory where apart from the research into neighbourhoods, exchanges and discussions on more than urban issues were taking place. The UdN therefore became part of the methodological framework by bringing researchers and neighbours together and providing a fruitful environment for the collective development of research questions and interdisciplinary strategies for neighbourhood research in Hamburg. Apart from figuring as research station and temporary home for the workshop participants, the UdN also served to develop, tailor and pre-test the methods, research strategies and working routines for further research, not least the second leg of the workshop in Cairo. This research and development phase in Hamburg was very important in order to prepare especially the German working groups for research in a mega city like Cairo with its even more diverse and complex neighbourhoods and – in comparison to Hamburg – extremely challenging working conditions regarding heat, traffic and language. Conversely, such meta dimensions of cultural exchange of research practices and theoretical approaches alongside the integrated understanding of research and accommodation in the UdN was equally important to the Egyptian working groups.

  • UdN - isometric drawing of the UdN by Benjamin Becker

  • UdN - room occupation during the workshop

»The working, living and learning situation in Hamburg was quite different to the one in Cairo. For example, in Cairo only the participants and organisers from Germany lived together. In Hamburg, it was more like a residential community; one could observe the subject ‘neighbourhood’ almost two weeks for oneself while living it.« Prof. Bernd Kniess

  • UdN - Live/ Work Space

  • UdN - Live/ Work Space