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Visuelle Kommunikation in partizipatorischen Stadtplanungsprozessen


In einer interdisziplinären Kooperation von praxisgeleiteter Designforschung (IVK HGK FHNW) und Kulturanthropologie (Universität Basel) widmet das Projekt dem Medium Bild besondere Aufmerksamkeit und untersucht die Auswirkung von Bilden in sozialen Aushandlungsprozessen der Stadtplanung. Dafür werden Varianten von Architekturvisualisierungen hergestellt und in konkreten partizipativen Prozessen der Stadtplanung erprobt. Das Vorgehen wird aus ethnographischer Perspektive begleitend beobachtet um festzustellen, welche Bilder die sozialen Aushandlungen in Mitwirkung fördern oder eher verhindern. Das Forschungsprojekt bezieht konkrete Mitwirkungsverfahren der Stadt Basel als Fallstudien ein. Ziel des Projekts ist es, Formen und Settings visueller Darstellungen zu untersuchen und mit den Beteiligten solche zu entwickeln, die Mitwirkung im Sinne demokratischer Legitimität explizit fördern.

Prof. Michael Renner und PD Dr. Ina Dietzsch

Susanne Käser, MA Visual Communication
Dr. Aylin Yildirim Tschoepe
Silvia Balzan, PhD Kandidatin

Imagin(eer)ing Klybeck: Visual Communication in Urban Planning Processes

Project Phase I

The Klybeck neighbourhood has largely been dominated by Novartis and BASF, both of which intend to vacate large areas of their properties in northern Basel in the next couple of years. The companies have partnered with the City of Basel and established the KlybeckPlus organization with the common goal of developing a future vision for the neighbourhood. One main objective is to create a sense of place in consideration of the particular location of the Klybeck area at the crossroads of three countries (France, Germany, and Switzerland) as part of the “Dreiland” or three-countries’ vision (
Faced with this large-scale urban transformation of Klybeck, our focus is on a targeted and reflective implementation of images in urban planning and development processes. Specifically, we are interested in how images can enable and/or change the communication and participation in such processes. As a research team of anthropologists and designers, we  focus on the the creation of images by professionals and non-professionals, as well as the role of images and their impact on social interaction. Observing various interactions, we have focused on social negotiation processes that take place in the context of “participatory images” and the setting within which these images create a socio-technical network.

Visual Communication Processes
During the first project phase (March–September 2018), the research team inquired into participatory practices and into notions of imagining and “urban imagineering” (Färber 2011) towards promised or desired visions of the future. The object of communicating such visions of a possible future, the image, is the “locus of constructed visibility” (Renggli 2005). Without critical self-reflection or reflection through others, images retain blind spots in the form of invisible messages within or between images. In the images collected so far, we have found blind spots of both a visual-aesthetic as well as a socio-cultural nature.


© MVRDV / Cabane / Josephy Vision Dreiland

MVRDV’s visualization of the “Entwicklungsvision Dreiland”, [the Three-Countries Corner Vision of Development] was chosen as a starting point for the image analysis, because it has triggered various reactions among the population of Basel. While the authors did not intend the image as a provocation, the visualization took on a new identity when the media renamed it “Rheinhattan”(1): it evoked so-called “imaginaries” of gentrification, displacement, and speculation. As a reaction, a fundamental mistrust against the administration arose (Huser 2015: 211), resistance against the planned project formed, and alternative visions for Klybeck were produced by contesting groups. This visual-communication process was fuelled by the fact that participatory events increasingly failed to promote a dialogue. This is why the City of Basel felt compelled to rethink its image practice and began to re-enter the imagin(eer)ing process with a different strategy. This development is the basis of our analysis of images that communicate various visions and aspects of a future Klybeck area – either building upon, relating to, or contradicting each other.

Participatory Images
We refer to an image as participatory if it triggers participation through means of visual communication and if it bears traces of participatory practices. The participatory image is primarily a processual object as it incorporates different moments in time and space in the form of traces or layers left by various participants. It is in the nature of the processual object to provoke productive reactions from various actors. Secondly, it is also a “boundary object” (Star 2010) in its capacity for interpretive flexibility across a range of actors while it maintains a robust identity in different social worlds. Thirdly, it is a promissory object, because it mediates the relationship between author and audience along the lines of potential futures.
One example for a participatory image can be found below (permanent marker on plexiglass in front of the Klybeck skyline): it is processual in that it has different authors and layers that have accumulated over time. It has a boundary character and is viewed and used in different social worlds: most literally on site, but also in architectural imaginaries, by the activists and by academics as course material. Lastly, it holds the promise to a possible future. (2)

Participation and Practice Communities
Concurrently with the image analysis, we have mapped the actors who have most actively partaken in imagining and imagineering work around the “participatory image”. Among the actors who produce such images are institutions, activists, artists, invested residents, and professional image creators. As we collected actors` efforts in image creation and categorized them according to different genres, several narratives among images over time could be identified. What is striking is the variation of definitions of participation in the given context, from the legal framework of the City of Basel defined in § 55 (Besmer & Dietzsch 2016) to various individual interpretations or the respective actor group`s ideological rule-making. This diversity is reflected in a variety of formats for events.

Although they have proven to hinder dialogue, events in a lecture format persist and turn the audience into a “PowerPoint-viewing community” (ibid). To avoid a passive audience, participatory events tend to be most productive and satisfactory if participants are integrated into a “community of practice” (Lave & Wenger 1991). This concept of learning breaks with a hierarchical, unidirectional production of knowledge and skill transferred from master to apprentice. As part of the role we take on as academics in co-organizing and documenting image-making events, we have revisited the “community of practice”: our aim is to integrate each participant into such a community, where individual members are considered to possess various skills that complement each other (at different levels and in various areas of expertise). In addition, a perspective that valorizes the knowledge of the practitioner of the everyday (as another expert) also enables participatory action that departs from powerful habits of image production. It does so, because it acknowledges the merit of different forms of expertise and ways of knowing beside those obtained by figures often referred to as “experts” (planners, policy-makers, politicians, academics, etc).

As we head into the next project phase, we shall keep reflecting on ourselves as we enter the imagin(eer)ing process, participatory images, as well as practice communities.


© ZukunftKlybeck 2018

(1) a portmanteau word that blends River Rhine and Manhattan
(2) As a side note, this image has in common with other images produced that it includes the River Rhine as an ordering element and identifying marker for the Klybeck neighborhood. It appeals to the desire of various actors to redefine Klybeck as a place on the River Rhine, instead of in the vicinity of it.

Besmer, Christina, and Dietzsch, Ina. 2016. “Superdiversität als Herausforderung für partizipative Stadtentwicklung”; in: Wie plant die Planung? Kultur- und planungswissenschaftliche Perspektiven auf die Praxis räumlicher Planungen, edited by Jan Lange, Jonas Müller, 163–173. Berlin: Panama Verlag.

Bürgin, Reto, and Petra Huser. 2015. Urbane Widerständigkeit am Beispiel des Basler Rheinhafen Areals. Basel: edition gesowip.

Färber, Alexa. 2011. “Constructing Successful Images of Failure: Urban Imagineering in Berlin After 1989”; in: Metropolis Desbordadas: Poder, Culturas y Memoria en el Espacio Urbano, edited by Alejandra Cerda, Anne Huffschmid, Ován Azuara Monter, Stefan Rinke, 303–341. Mexiko-Stadt.

Lave, Jean, and Etienne Wenger (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Renggli, Cornelia. 2005. “Blinde Flecke: methodologische Fragmente für eine Analyse von Bildern zur Behinderung”; in: Schweizerisches Archiv für Volkskunde 101, 39–48.

Star, Susan Leigh. 2010. “This Is Not a Boundary Object: Reflections on the Origin of a Concept”. Science, Technology, & Human Values 35, no. 5 (September 2010): 601–17.

Stay tuned for Phase 2! We will regularly update this page with progress reports.

To cite from this entry
Yildirim Tschoepe, Aylin, and Susanne Käser. 2018. “Imagin(eer)ing Klybeck: Visual Communication in Urban Planning Processes.”

Our thanks go to the whole team: PhD Student Silvia Balzan and our project advisers Professor Michael Renner und PD Dr. Ina Dietzsch. For joining the team and providing feedback during our Phase I Workshop, we also wish to thank the following scholars and professionals: Dr. Wendy Gunn, Dr. Linda Ludwig, Andreas Nütten, Dr Sarah Owens, Henrik Oxvig, David Rinderknecht, and Dr. Arno Schubbach. Our thanks also go to the Planungsamt Basel-Stadt, ZukunftKlybeck, Verein Unterdessen, the partners of KlybeckPlus and, last but not least, the great variety of image-makers we had the pleasure to encounter in person or through their work.

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