Explorations in Urban Practice tells the stories of an itinerant school

Published by DPR Barcelona, the book is the travel diary of the Urban School Ruhr organised by Raumlabor Berlin in the Ruhr Valley, Germany.

For the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (1921-1997), teaching and learning are political acts in themselves. “I teach because I search, because I question, and because I submit myself to questioning. I research because I notice things, take cognisance of them. And in so doing, I intervene. And intervening, I educate and educate myself,” he writes in Pedagogy of Freedom, 1996. In Freire’s thinking, theory and practice cannot be separated. Taking action is a fundamental phase of verification and is needed so that theory is not distanced too much from reality. The phase of critical reflection is just as important, to guide practice in a conscious way.

Urban School Ruhr (USR) stands in full accord with Freire’s principles, which are often quoted in the book. The “school” conceived by Raumlabor Berlin is at once a tool of learning and a tool of action for the urban territory. During 2016, Raumlabor organised a series of seminars, debates, field trips, workshops and collective installations. The product of these experiences was always different. The only constant factor of the learning cycle was the need to think about the urban territory and about the citizens’ role in the city’s complex and incessant transformation on levels that are physical, social, political and economic. USR’s structure is neither rigid nor institutionally imposed in form or bureaucracy.

Coherent with the dialogue-driven, work-in-progress approach proposed by Raumlabor, the book Explorations in Urban Practice is not only a report of past activities, but also an ulterior opportunity to continue and expand the research on urban practices through brainstorming, conversations and case studies. The relation between education and urban practices is explored in four chapters called Spaces of Learning, Practices of Commoning, Intervention as Strategy, and As/If Installation.

Img.6 Explorations in Urban Practice
Explorations in Urban Practice. Chapter 1 – Spaces of learning

One of the publication’s fundamentals is the conversation between two representatives of USR and the promoters of Civic University, a similar experiment in the UK. They discuss the link between formal and informal knowledge, between certified schooling and street knowledge. Recently, there has been increased acknowledgement of the value of spontaneous experiences. The designer’s task is to be a catalyst of interests, and somehow certify and give credibility to these small initiatives. Markus Baden, one of the book's authors, says, “It is necessary to build a bridge between universities and non-institutionalised spaces. At the same time, we need to create a network that functions as an independent learning environment.”

Another important dialogue is found in the chapter Practices of Commoning. Property that is used in common is not an existing entity in need of preservation, but an act to perpetuate in daily life, a constant effort. Therefore, it is more proper to speak of the process of making community-used property instead of just referring to “the common good” (meaning to use the verb instead of the noun), and to speak of relations instead of objects.

It is necessary to build a bridge between universities and non-institutionalised spaces. At the same time, we need to create a network that functions as an independent learning environment.

With this experience, Raumlabor plays at being an institution while remaining entirely free of formalised management systems. USR is open to unexpected events, and adapts to different contexts and requirements of the participants. USR is a peripatetic school. Like the school founded by Aristotle, learning is done while walking, and the viewpoint changes constantly. The book Explorations in Urban Practice does not aim to be a manifesto, but a travel diary and an invitation to travel together over the long, twisted, challenging road to Utopia.

Explorations in urban practice
raumlaborberlin, Urbane Künste Ruhr – Katya Aßmann, Markus Bader, Fiona Shipwright, Rosario Talevi
16.5 x 23.5 cm
With contribution from:
Juan Chacón, Dirk Baecker, Merve Bedir, Pablo Calderón Salazar, Bianca Elzenbaumer and Fabio Franz, Benjamin Foerster-Baldeniu
You can buy the book at:
25 €

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