Symposium Ideal Space Venice 2016

Symposium Ideal Spaces

Palazzo Mora, Venice, September 19th -21st 2016

The symposium’s overall aim is to work out different perspectives of, and upon ideal spaces today, referring to the notion of ‘ideal’ as something both imagined and perfected. Seen in this respect, an ideal space is a one that we imagine, as a space, and on the other hand, a one that we are longing for, as a space ameliorated, optimized, if not utopian.

Taking these two dimensions of meaning belonging to the very notion of an ideal space, we can translate Lefebvre’s basic distinction in representations of space and representational spaces for our purposes of investigating perspectives. It is about the ways of how spaces desired for as ‘ideal’ ones get represented, as a space; and what these spaces represent, too in their symbolical terms of meaning. What they are standing for directly by intention – what they shall represent – and indirectly, so to say unwillingly: what they actually present. Which meanings they are also conveying next to their intended message, in terms of values, social practices, cultural codes and last but not least, in terms of a spatial understanding underlying all this.

To refer to another distinction, if space is both an issue imagined and constructed, in the final, it is about the relations between ‘inner’ images we have about ideal spaces, and their visible appearance, as ‘outer’ images presenting them as constructions. And in these regards, the main focus of attention should lie on the implicit, often hidden assumptions underlying both, in terms of an unthought known (Bollas) of what an ideal space is, or should be.

All of this is rooted in a long occidental tradition of conceiving such spaces as well as the representations of them, and in times of the technical reproduction and multiplication of space (e.g., the nowadays hype of a ‘virtual’ reality) the issue of an ideal space becomes important more than ever.

We, the Ideal Spaces Working Group, want to elaborate some major perspectives of this topic together with you, in a combination of presentations and discussion; to address perspectives of relevance for both future research and practical work in different domains. Our intention is to continue with what we started last year, in a symposium on Managed Spaces (as a particular perspective of ‘ideal’ spaces today), namely to develop a series of symposia related to the theme of spaces conceived and practiced, as being ideal ones.

Another background of the symposium for this year is our exhibition Ideal Spaces at the Venice Biennale for Architecture 2016, presented also in Palazzo Mora (

To elaborate perspectives in an open discussion and with a free state of mind, we did not want to have a traditional symposium order with keynote speakers, a strict protocol or something like that. Flexibility of approach is not equivalent with an ad libidum, and therefore, there are at least some major perspectives of relevance when approaching the field of spaces being ‘ideal’ in their above double meaning, perspectives addressed in the respective presentations.

September 19th, start 10 a.m., Palazzo Mora

First, an introduction to the theme shall be presented, referring to our exhibition in Pal. Mora and centering on two principal perspectives: the traditional conception of an ideal space as subject of utopia (Ulrich Gehmann), together with the cultural memories behind it; and the recent conceptions of ideal spaces as the subject of technical performance for individual use (Matthias Wölfel). These perspectives also refer to the mixtures recently pursued, of combining an ‘old’ analogous and a ‘new’ digital or virtual world.  

Based on this and on Lefebvre’s distinction of spatial representations mentioned, the question arises what we see today when we see an ‘ideal’ space; it is exemplified in case of our world disk presented (Michael Johansson). Here already, some important perspectives will emerge that wait for their elaboration later on, in the discussion.

Second, it is about the notion of space itself, primarily about its uses as a metaphor (Mathias Gutmann), a topic of crucial relevance when speaking about ‘ideal’ spaces as primarily imagined ones. An aspect related to this is our (mostly implicit) imagery of humans, or in traditional terms, about a conditio humana. We cannot speak about, let alone “make” ideal spaces for individual use without reflecting on that topic.

If needed, a discussion can already start after these first presentations, outlining perspectives seen as important for further investigation.

Some ideal spaces will be presented as exemplary cases, revealing the recent imagery of mixing worlds, together with the de facto-creation of new, artificial spaces (Matthias Wölfel, N.N.)

An ideal spatiality as a precursor of this, the worlds of Piranesi showing the paradigms of “making” such spaces as an arte-factum in its literal terms, will presented after this (Randolph Langenbach). To draw a comparison between the gestalt of these worlds, their underlying assumptions about space and a presumed conditio humana.

Followed by a presentation about ceiling and coelum (Joachim Krausse), realized assumptions on these topics in 20th century architecture.

Based on those developments belonging, meanwhile, to a ‘traditional’ sphere of architecture, examples of recent mixings of space will presented – as case examples that nevertheless reveal the whole. Taking the visual and the haptic as key components of a human condition, blending of both worlds, a so-called analogue and a digital one are will be shown. In case of haptics (Daniel Hepperle), as well as in case of the visual (Matthias Wölfel, Michael Johansson, N.N.) The key question is how virtual realities are shaping the perception of space regarding the ‘conditio humana’ for current and future generations.  

The topics presented so far will be discussed (moderation: U. Gehmann and M. Johansson), summing up the perspectives that emerged out of them. Primary emphasis is to look at different conceptions of space; and related, at a human condition. A one presumed to exist yet, opposed to a one reached for – in classical terms, the topic of utopia; in non-classical terms, the change of a conditio humana with the help of technical means. Which is also an old dream, but now re-occurring in new clothing.

We continue with critical perspectives, examining the close vicinity of ideal spaces and technically induced illusory spaces (Christopher Pollmann); taking up the imagery of an analogous and digital world again, together with their hybridizations.  Which can become utopian in the sense that there are no places for human beings; and going back to the topic of a conditio humana, examining their actual and potential anthropological effects. It is about the virtualization of space behind an anthropological reach, and the mentioned effects on a future or ‘virtual’ anthropology. Which surpasses the heterotopias of consumption and illusion Foucault was looking at.

In these respects, when speaking about ideal spaces one has to examine the mythic background of them, its embeddedness in an occidental tradition mainly molded by a Christian heritage (longing for redemption from matter), and its real outcomes. Therefore, the dead technical, material bodies of such attempts shall be looked at (Daniel Plöger), with all the consequences – not ideal, but actual – that this does elicit, in a world “as it is”, to use that mythological term.

Last but surely not least, a crucial topic of spaces conceived as ideal has to be addressed: the ideal spaces as a place for an ideal community (Gerd Stern), Living in supposedly ideal human conditions.

The comparison of real circumstances with ideal longings is a perspective that in itself, will unfold into many additional perspectives that will emerge during our discussion of these topics.  

For the rest of the time, we should take our time to do so carefully. In different working groups if needed, centering on the different perspectives that emerged.

To conclude, the topics presented so far serve as a general backbone only, by comprising perspectives that need examination at all.




Michael Johansson, Wanderlost. Book chapter, Smart Cities in the Mediterranean Springer Verlag 2018


Michael Johansson & Ulrich Gehmann,  Ideal Spaces (book chapter). About our exhibition at the
Venice Architectural Biennale 2016 Palazzo Mora, Venice Italy Springer Verlag 2018


Michael Johansson, SoundscapingBook Chapter. Enhancing Art, Culture, and Design with Technological Integration. IGI Global 2018


Michael Johansson & Ulrich Gehmann, Ideal spaces exhibition6th EAI International Conference: ArtsIT, Interactivity & Game Creation October 30–31, 2017 | Heraklion, Greece


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Johansson, Michael: Journey to Abadyl. The peoples smart Sculpture PS2 ISEA Hong Kong 2016


Johansson, Michael & Gehmann, Ulrich : Ideal spaces. Digital-cultural ecology and the medium-sized city. Red. S. Sparke & G. Cairns. AMPS Conference Publication 2016


Johansson, Michael. WanderlostInternational Journal of Art, Culture and Design Technologies. 2015. IGI Global Hersey, Pensylvania pp.81-87


Gehmann: Facets of Mobility. In: Sonnenburg, Stephan/Wee, Desmond, eds. (2015): Touring Consumption. Springer VS: pp. 77-95


Johansson, Michael & Åberg, Kristoffer. Against the self-evident. pp. 419-441. Real Virtuality. transcript publications + Columbia University Press


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Johansson, Michael. Bring the noise. International Journal of Art, Culture and Design Technologies. 2013. IGI Global Hersey, Pensylvania pp.26-35


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Johansson, Michael. The eight continentCyberworlds (CW), 2015 International Conference Yokohama, Japan. 2013. pp. 232-239


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Reiche, Martin/Gehmann, Ulrich: How virtual spaces re-render the perception of reality through playful augmentation. In: IEEE Xplore, Cyberworlds International Conference, Sept. 2012, pp. 304-307


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Ideal Spaces Symposium: “Managed Spaces” 2015

Ideal Spaces Symposium: “Managed Spaces”

24-26 September 2015


Karlsruhe, Germany

What does it mean to ‘manage’ space and time, as opposed to living in space and time? As a precondition for the ‘human condition’ of today, we need to reassert the following assumptions: that space and time are only managed – like everything else since the market has conquered every niche of human existence – and no longer lived. To live in space and time is also an unavoidable premise that begs the question if we are human at all. Or more precisely: what is this ‘human condition’ up to now?

Irrespective if we are consciously aware of it, we have all been living in managed spaces that encompass ‘natural’ refuges and new spaces of sociality provided for by diverse spatialities. Our aim is to establish a dialogue on the relations between management and space, their mental backgrounds in terms of the history of ideas and outcomes in terms of spatial practice. This could manifest in ways related to urban environments, city planning, conceptualizations of public space and the emergent phenomena encompassing hybrids of ‘old’ physical spaces with ‘new’ social ones. New formulation of the ‘human condition’ such as man-machine interfaces, world perception and mythologies need to be reconsidered, especially through the proliferation of global online platforms such as social media that influence the concepts of hybrid cities, smart city applications and gamification of historical contents within the cityscape.

What is lacking so far is a synopsis of these different topics, now dispersed among different fields of research, and disciplines; and in-depth investigation into their mental background in terms of a history of ideas and practical outcomes. This symposium serves as a cooperation of ideas and practice in which we visualize such ideal spaces through various “artifacts” related to management and space. These artifacts in all its potential manifestations will showcase an evolution of various formats comprising of functionality, origins and characteristics in order to deepen our understanding of what the new human condition might entail. With this, we hope to create a symposium that would be interactive, integrate experiential insights with technologies and incorporate trans-medial and storytelling platforms, so that a collaborative authoring process will emerge.

Personal Statement

Please submit a personal statement of not more than 300 words, or in other formats such as images, film music, to The intent of this submission is to deviate from the traditional abstract, ie. the purpose is not to prove your eligibility, but to facilitate your involvement within the focus of the symposium. Hence, please feel free to be as creative as you deem fit.

Registration fee

100€: includes 2 lunches, 1 dinner and refreshments. Please make this payment to:

DE11 6605 0101 1021 3926 08

Account Owner: Ulrich Gehmann

Ideal Spaces Symposium Programme

Thursday 24 Sep 2015

1800: Welcome reception at Karlshochschule International University

1900: Welcome address by Conference chairs

Friday 25 Sep 2015

0900: Registration

0930: Opening ceremony by Conference chairs

0945: Presentations – Randolph Langenbach and Gerd Stern

1030: Coffee break

1045: Roundtable Introductions (showcasing latest projects for example)

1145: Topic selection and grouping

1230: Lunch

1400: Group Work

1530: Go for Walk

1600: Coffee Break  (Kaffee und Kuchen)

1900: Dinner

2100: Night walk

Saturday 26 Sep 2015

0900: Coffee

1000: Present and discuss findings

1300: Closing ceremony and lunch

Ideal Spaces Symposium Conference Chairs

Ulrich Gehmann: Editor-in-Chief of New Frontiers in Spatial Concepts ( KIT; head of working group Formatting of Social Spaces, KIT (University of Karlsruhe, Dep. of History)

Matthias Wölfel: Professor in Interactive Media, Furtwangen University

Desmond Wee: Professor of Tourism Sciences and Spatial Theories, Karlshochschule International University


Ideal Spaces, perspectives of investigation

Ideal Spaces,

preliminary draft: contents considered so far (compilation: U. Gehmann, based on our discussions)

(A), Mythology of Management

A series of scholars were involved in this topic already (e.g. Yannis Gabriel, Martin Bowles), but despite this, it would deserve far more investigation – last but not least according to own experiences in diverse management contexts.

You can re-think management, its basic assumptions and underlying rules of conduct only if you understand these very basic assumptions – which are of a quasi-mythological nature, finally, resting upon certain central beliefs (you may call them myths of management) about the human nature and out of this, the relevant world. These are assumptions embedded in a larger cultural context of self-understanding, rationality and the (assumed) nature of organizations, a context with a long occidental tradition out of which they emerged.

It is not the time to go deeper into this context – just to refer to classical works of scholars as Pribram, Weber, Sombart, Schumpeter – but its result, those assumptions, need to be understood in order to understand what management at all means; in peculiar when looking at its recent outcomes on a global scale.

Proposed topics inside (A) – draft, can be modified/adjusted any time:

  • major traits of recent management understanding, and central beliefs they rest upon
  • justifications/argumentations of what a
    • recent “proper” management is,
    • what the relevant world of a “proper” organization/ways of organizing is,

and why both have to be so – it is about those beliefs and their justification by an assumed ‘nature’ of the ‘relevant’ world management is confronted with

  • critical assessment of those justifications, and through that, of the beliefs they rest upon
  • assessment of the major instruments of implementation (e.g., value chain) and the relevant worlds generated by them
  • discussing alternatives to such a mainstream understanding of management

(B), Management and Space

Topic (B) interrelates with (A) in that a relevant world is created, resting on the assumptions tackled in (A); or posed even shorter, as a metaphor and basic process alike: the myth creates the reality suited to it, and this very reality justifies the myth in question.

At the top of such a self-referential, quasi-autopoietical system, new hybrid spaces of various kinds emerged, them the product as well as the subject of intensified management; see for instance all the Google-, Facebook- etc. discussions. Brought to its point: a certain way of management, based on a certain understanding – topic (A) – generates its relevant worlds, expressed as certain kinds of spatiality – topic (B) – or more precise, spatialities since we are living in a multiverse of such spaces today, not only in management. Related to the latter aspect, the human condition becomes affected, first of all by so-called mmis (man/machine interfaces) which begun to become marketed at full speed quite recently.

⇒ to realize the connection between the topics (A) and (B) could be a major benefit of this approach because such a connection hasn’t been clearly elaborated so far.

The relations between a prevailing mode of (global) management and the globalization and formatting of spaces hasn’t been investigated deeply so far, and surely deserves closest attention, in particular since it is technologically assisted in high, and increasing, degree. All in all, in the relationships between management and space a kind of ‘cybernetics of augmentation’ is taking place, with one factor assisting the other.   

Proposed topics inside (B):

  • managing space and time – what it concretely means to just manage them?
  • which systems of ‘relevant worlds’ are generated by it
  • which technological sets assist/enhance such processes – and understandings, see (A)
  • which new realities/hybrid spaces are generated, with
  • a special focus on mmis (Zampella)
  • what this all means for the classical occidental topic of a conditio humana?

(C), Ideal Spaces and Ideal Worlds

The relation between a classic occidental trope, namely an ideal environment for an ‘ideal’ conditio humana, is in the focus of attention here.

Proposed topics inside (C):

  • the constructed “ideal environment” (not matter which form) as an eidos of an ‘ideal’ human being
  • the mythic backgrounds and leading ideas for diverse emanations of ‘ideal’ worlds
  • lead metaphors for them, and their socio-cultural relations; historically, sociologically, and in their reverberation inside the realm of technological imagery
  • major developmental tendencies, expressed first and foremost as “longue duree”
  • recent forms of ideal worlds: how, and why with regard to the above
  • recent vistas, plus their historical backgrounds, of a conditio humana underlying these worlds
  • Functionalism and abstraction
  • Immaterialization of those worlds, alongside with their technification
  • Issues of system, abstraction, and Gestalt