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URO Labs

Twice a year, URO will lead a three-day session for the core group and external stakeholders. Three URO Labs will involve national stakeholders and four URO Labs will be organized with stakeholders from three ’collaborator cities’ (Johannesburg, New Orleans and Berlin). At each URO Lab, an urban case will be identified from either the national context or from one of the collaborator cities that focuses on how urban rights are contested and negotiated through the seizure and ordering of urban spaces. During the three-day session, all members work towards addressing specific solutions to the case while also charting future issues arising from the particular problematic situation. Participants involve both academic and non-academic stakeholders and all participants will bring their particular expertise to bear on the case being discussed during the URO Labs.

The 1st URO Lab: Urban youth and outdoor spaces in Gellerup

The 1st UROLab was held in Aarhus 28-29 May 2015 and involved academics and practitioners from all collaborator cities except Johannesburg. The theme for the 1st UROLab was ‘Gellerup, youth and outdoor spaces’. Focusing on the ongoing upgrading of the Gellerup Park on the western outskirts of Aarhus (the largest urban upgrading project in Denmark), the aim of the 1st UROLab was for the participants to collectively discuss the contested status of the area’s urban youth in relation to the use of outdoor spaces and, on this basis, consider new ways of harnessing the Gellerup Park’s potentials for developing a more integrative urban environment.

Access the first URO Lab report here

The 2nd URO Lab: Governing the Narcotic City: discourses on drug use, dealers and migration around Görlitzer Park in Kreuzberg-Berlin

The second UroLab will focus on the contested urban orders of the Goerlitzer Park - a small local park in Berlin Kreuzberg. Located in a diverse and rapidly gentrifying quarter between two vibrant nightlife districts, the Park has traditionally been open for a wide variety of uses and groups, from tourists and drug dealers, to migrants, bohemians and local families. With the recent influx of refugees into the park and growing concerns of fear and violence, however, the site has become a focus for interventions of activists as well as the local government and the police. Eventually, in 2014, the park was declared a “danger zone” and saw a rapid increase of patrols, raids and arrests. With the marijuana trade and the protest against racial discrimination intensifying nonetheless, the Görlitzer Park is now the site of one of hottest conflicts of Berlin and a symbol for the ongoing struggle over public space and “the right to the city”. Access the second URO Lab report here.

The 3rd URO Lab: Governance, Urban Youth & Transformations

The 3rd URO Lab was held in Johannesburg 2-4 November 2016. It had a focus on Braamfontein, a neighbourhood in downtown, populated by a multiplicity of people, among whom the students of Wits, University of Witwatersrand, are a significant group. Simultaneously a vibrant shopping area, campus and Business Improvement District, Braamfontein is witnessing a tension of gentrifcation, student protest and remnants of the racial segregation from former times. Just recently, Braamfontein has witnessed a clash between police squads and the #FeesMustFall-movement, protesting government legislation on education fees. The conflict has involved, directly or indirectly, a cluster of actors and stakeholders such as the Developer firm Liberty, the property owners South Point, the university itself, students, urban planners, local politicians and corporate investors, who all contribute to keep the neighbourhood in a constant tense state, where access to public space has become a complex issue, among others. The report follows the context and preparation of the URO lab, conclude the main findings and their consequence for the URO concerns. Also, this lab prompted reflections on the role of the researcher in an intensively politicized situation. Access the third URO Lab here.

The 4th URO Lab: Occupying Urban Seams: Homelessness, community activism and culture & catastrophe profiteering in New Orleans

The 4th URO Lab was held in in New Orleans 10-12 April 2017. It explored liminal public spaces as a given condition overlaying New Orleans’ distinct urban neighborhoods. Focusing specifically on the Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. and the Central City neighborhood, the URO Lab used the socio-political and physical dynamics of the study area to investigate existing, changing, and potential ‘urban orders.’ The lab focused on the right to occupy public space, including use of ‘in-between’ spaces by the homeless and the intent of policing to facilitate conflicting use by ‘new users’ and encourage new development, alongside the use of public streets for traditional cultural practices such as music and performance associated with the Mardi Gras Indians in the face of the commodification of African American culture. The Lab explored how New Orleans are characterised by gentrification, ‘catastrophe profiteering’, race-related conflicts around space including policing, cultural production including music and performance, and ‘street culture.’ Throughout the workshop, the questions who governs(the city), who profits (from urban development) and who produces(the city and urbanity) emerged as central elements in understanding the urban context of New Orleans. These issues are classical questions asked in urban studies when trying to make sense of the urban order and power relations in particular urban contexts. This report describes the 4th URO Lab from its inception and planning to realization. It outlines the participants’ observations and findings, and suggests how the dynamics of this case study might add to or alter our understanding of urban orders. Access the fourth URO report here.