Public Space: Fights and Fictions

SOPHIE WOLFRUM

Urbanist and urban designer Sophie Wolfrum studied spatial planning at the University of Dortmund, and took the state examination in urban design. With Alban Janson she founded the award-winning architectural office Janson + Wolfrum Architektur + Stadtplanung. Since 2003, she has been Professor of Urban Design and Regional Planning at TU Munich. A member of the German Academy for Urban Regional Spatial Planning (DASL), she was the Dean of the Faculty of Architecture TUM from 2012 to 2014. Her main research areas include the city as architecture and performative urbanism.

Urbanity makes it possible to be alien, different, to abandon established roles. This coolness in proximity to one another is what makes tolerance possible and unfamiliarity endurable. It is against this backdrop that the city is also described as an ‘engine of tolerance’, a classical definition of urbanity in urban sociology since Simmel’s times. Today, apart from the site of tolerance, we also emphasise the site of solidarity as a crucial public sphere. As a result, the definition of urbanity also changes as the political aspect of social solidarity increasingly gains in importance. In this dialectic of solidarity and tolerance we see the power of cities to manage migration and social conflicts, establish debates and live democracy. The public sphere in cities is entirely linked to public space, the essential prerequisite in cities for practicing democracy.