European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Wolfgang Schmied's Analysis of Graz 2003



When Wolfgang Schmied from the University of Applied Sciences at the FH Joanneum in Graz gave his presentation "The significance of urban development and domestic architecture in the multicultural town development using the example of the city of Graz, Austria" at the conference organized by the University Network of European Capitals of Culture with the title Cultural Encounters: The Mosaic of Urban Identities in Marseille 17-18 October 2013, he high lighted one crucial point: for many years urban projects were delayed in Graz since the different political forces within the city blocked each other, and only when the ECoC title was designated to the city, then some crucial decisions could be taken.

As the title of his presentation underlines, once a city alters the dispostion of its destination, then it will be able to use the ECoC title to redesign itself and even become a city of design.

In order to be able to do that, he advocated as method 'cultural mapping', something enhanced and developed further by various ECoCs, including Valletta 2018 which will organize a conference on this topic in October 2015. However, he advises at the same time in order to do so, some crucial questions have to be clarified about the overall development strategy of the city.

Slide 1: Cultural maps



Slide 2: New Architecture / constructions


A closer look at the categories will reveal that design requires a new composition of the city ranging from new architectural buildings to alterations in the city lightening. The latter can add a lot to the atmosphere especially if the difference between day-time and night-time is taken into account. Naturally the major feat was the creation of the island in the river Mur. It joined the two sides till then separated and brought about another relationship to the environment in which the citz is embedded. It should be kept in mind that the city is physically and metaphorically related to the castle located on a steep slope overlooking the city. Once other features dominate, then the glance will be more local and horizontal. That is important for gaining alternative orientations often depending upon outstanding land marks even though local inhabitants will have their own maps and be thinking about that additional layer of experience when altering this with the cultural map. The planner Iris Reuther would say the best way to find out one's own map is to welcome a visitor to the city and then decide to where to take the visitor to show something of the city.

Slide 3: life cycle of events


It seems that in the case of Graz, it was very useful to do also a kind of mapping exercise when planning on how to prepare for the year 2003 when the city was European Capital of Culture. What this slide reveals is that there are peaks and declines in terms of intense moments when preparing or following up after the year is over. Also note should be taken of certain activities being empowered by the fact that the city is becoming ECoC, and that this has especially an impact upon long term strategies. The promotion of these unforeseen activities or sudden bursts of energies into the open would require an openness on the part of the organizational team. For it would help to secure the legacy of the year if new start ups and unexpected outcomes would be taken up, integrated and assimilated within the cultural year. The latter should be taken as a way to unfold and by creating receptive audiences allow for innovation and further going activities beyond the simple horizon of this one year.

HF 18.1.2015

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