Venice Biennale for Architecture, 2018
27 – 28 May 2018
Palazzo Rossini, Venice, Italy

Ideal city: Functional City by Leonardo da Vinci

Artificial Natures

The topic for this year’s symposium is Artificial Natures, ranging from classical ones, such as parks and ideal cities, to garden cities, to new “natural “ environments like social media spaces as new public place. The symposium will take place as a combination of short panels and work groups. The general questions are:

  • What are artificial natures (AN)

  • Why they are so important today

  • What has been the history = development of these natures, and why

  • What have been the common intentions of the approaches

  • Which forms are emerging today, leaving all “naturality” behind them

  • What chances AN are offering – for whom, in which directions

Further information on the theme of Artificial Natures can be found here.

Call Out for Abstracts

We invite people from different fields of interest and professional background to collaborate with us on that topic. Please submit abstracts of no more the 3,000 words around this topic of Artificial Natures to with the subject line ‘Abstract Submission’. We will be accepting submissions until 17th May.

Symposium Registration

To register your attendance for the symposium please fill in the registration form via the link here. Please note that you will need to complete the registration form in addition to sending your abstract submission.


Artificial Natures, Palazzo Mora, Room 7 ,  26 May – 28 Nov 2018

The symposium is paralleled by our exhibition of Artificial Natures presented at the Venice Biennale for Architecture, 2018.

In this exhibition, we show an evolution of the idea of creating new ‘natural’ environments, serving both as a space to live and to engage socially. The spaces are designed as multiple immersive, explorable ‘worlds’ that fulfill these criteria.

The visitor has the possibility to enter these worlds both virtually and in the physical exhibition, in order to experience their spaces, to gain a deeper comprehension of them, as if they would be real worlds to live in. This allows to make a comparison to the world we live in. Thus, by making the presented worlds to appear real, we want to elicit a critical and pro-active perspective, also in terms of sustainable social participation. By that, we can contribute in shaping existing spaces which become our common and therefore ‘natural’ environments. 

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.


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