Training School: Co-Creating Urban Spaces

December 27, 2015 in news by Network Administrator

Breidholt Winter School

29 March – 5 April 20161, Reykjavik, Iceland

Apply here by January 31, 2016

The international winter school “Co-Creating Urban Spaces: The Transformation of ‘The Given City’ gives participants the opportunity to explore why and how the Reykjavik commune of Breiðholt is currently being transformed from a disadvantaged suburb into a thriving community. With the help of a trans-disciplinary group of international experts and local practitioners, participants will gain new knowledge and develop new toolsets for addressing technological, social, cultural, and economic urban challenges in an interdisciplinary, people-centred manner.

Towards Co-Creating Urban Spaces

The nature of cities is complex, multi-layered, and open to interpretation. Cities are communities of individuals and families with different backgrounds, needs and aspirations. Cities need to focus on quality of life and the quality of amenities, places, governance, and neighbourhoods they have to offer. To this end, citizens need to be engaged in a dialogue about their cities. The People Friendly Cities in a Data Rich World COST Action acknowledges that the citizen tends to play a marginal role in the making of their cities. The city, or more aptly put ‘the given city’ – the city that sits before us – is largely the product of top-down expertise and of a process from which the citizen has been excluded. Despite this top-down approach – an approach which at times relies, and in some cases promotes the passive role of people living in urban contexts to achieve its ends – people, in their role as citizens have had to get on with life and build personal and collective biographies from the infrastructure of the city. However, the role of the citizen vis-à-vis the city has the potential to be a dynamic one, empowering individuals to make positive contributions to their cities. To this end, there is a fundamental change happening in the relationship between city and citizen. There is a deep questioning of the passive role of the citizen in terms of the given city. New ideas of how and who defines city identity are impacting how people live in cities and how they interact, engage with, and contribute to urban processes.

Breiðholt – The Transformation of ‘The Given City’

The Breiðholt neighbourhood in Reykjavik is uniquely diverse within the national context, both in income dispersion and nationalities of its inhabitants. Breidholt has the highest proportion in Reykjavik of low income households and immigrants, and traditional indices of performance in primary schools measure low achievement rates in many neighbourhood schools. Issues of language and social exclusion have been prevalent since the establishment of the neighbourhood in the late 70s and gang activities, violence and alcohol/drug related problems more prominent than in other Reykjavik neighbourhoods. Media discussions on most topics concerning Breidholt have been predominantly negative; to counter the stigmatization caused by negative associations with the neighbourhood and mitigate the local challenges, the city of Reykjavik, over the course of the last 10 years, has put high emphasis on various projects and programs aimed at tackling the issues in Breidholt, with surprisingly positive results. Participants in the Training School will have an opportunity to meet the people behind these initiatives; furthermore, these individuals will present their projects, thereby contributing to training school participants’ understanding of the neighbourhood, providing them with the necessary background and baseline to undertake practical assignments within the framework of Breidholt.

Approach and Learning Objectives

The course combines three learning methods:

  1. lectures by course faculty and local experts,
  2. self-directed case-study research and independent group work
  3. presentation of findings with detailed feedback by faculty, local experts and members of the international COST network during their annual symposium

Using the neighbourhood of Breiðholt as a site for in-situ exploration, course participants will work on a series of short group assignments that focus on analysing various approaches to people-friendly urban development and ideas to solving practical urban problems. Participants will have the chance to submit the results of their work for publication in a peer- reviewed special journal edition on ‘Smart and Liveable Cities’.

Key learning objectives are:

  • Insights into how/why actual Public Participation activities reap intended results and others not.
  • New viewpoints on how the software of a city can be combined with the hardware of a city to promote smart and liveable cities
  • Introduction to interdisciplinary viewpoints on public engagement and what makes a city people friendly.
  • Knowledge of actual novel approaches to public engagement in urban development and for increasing social cohesion
  • Understanding the Physical, Institutional, Communal and Personal Framework of Urban Spaces


  • The winter training school will take place from March 29th to April 2nd, 2016 with lectures in the morning (local and international experts, practitioners and academics) and field work with real case studies in Breidholdt in the afternoon.
  • Students will then refine their work on April 4th, 2016 and present it to the COST action Symposium on April 5th, 2016 as an output of the training school.
  • Sunday 3rd April, 2016 is intended as free time for leisure/cultural activities.

Application & Grants

Participation is possible only after successful application. To apply, please submit your profile, a CV, a letter of motivation (500 words) and a letter of recommendation by your supervisor/ manager via by 31 January 2016.
Successful applicants will be notified by 5 February 2016 and will have until 15 February to confirm their participation and register.
The participation to this training schools is free, but the local organiser may levy a small fee to cover onsite expenses such as materials, lunches and transportation (under EUR 300).
The COST Action TU1204 “People-Friendly Cities in a data-rich world” will offer a limited number of grants (up to a maximum of 800 euros) covering participation, and contributing to travel and accommodation. These grants are open to applicants from academic and non-profit organisations located in countries participating in this COST Action. To check whether your country is one of 31 members of the Action, please refer to:

About & Contact

  • Local Organiser: Fanney Frisbaek (
  • COST Action Management: Dimitra Xidous (

The Training School is organised by the COST Action ‘People Friendly Cities in a Data Rich World’ (TU1204). The COST Action co-ordinates a trans-disciplinary network of experts and non-experts that investigate the alignment of the “hardware” (e.g. technology sensors, infrastructures) and “software” (e.g. governance, data driven solutions) of a city with user needs to promote well-being, good health, and a sustainable use of resources, within an evolving people-centred consultation framework for economic, social and political development.

The concept of the ‘smart city’ as an emerging new stage of urbanisation has become an important topic for policy, industry, and research. However, the dominant focus on the role of energy, transport and ICT infrastructure, often neglects the ‘social’ and liveable elements that are essential for making cities attractive, healthy, and vibrant places for people to live in.

In a data rich world, ‘smart and liveable cities’ bring communities together and encourage social inclusion. Smart and liveable cities do not simply translate into larger, faster or more functional cities. A smart and liveable city can also mean providing city residents with more social connectivity, public spaces and buildings with character; access to cultural, sport, recreational, shopping, and green space amenities; safety from crime; and, public policies that meet human needs.