In the joint project »Open Universities – City of Participatory Visions«, a multidisciplinary team from the Cologne University of Technology (TH) and the University of Cologne is researching possibilities for co-determination and participation in social decision-making processes. A form of collaborative and self-organized education is being developed across various disciplines.

Together with students, the scientists are engaged in an exchange with civil society initiatives, informal groups, art collectives and committed actors in the city of Cologne. The urban and local environment is consciously understood as an open learning space. Together, they ask how urban realities are perceived and reflected by citizens, residents and users of the city. What experiential knowledge do they possess? What knowledge do urban spaces convey, what new forms of shared learning do they open up? How can situational urban learning contribute to the genesis of new knowledge practices? Which circumstances, environments and (educational) offers can help to consciously perceive and actively use the urban living space? What influence do digital technologies have on the appropriation of urban spaces and the experience of learning?

The focus is on developing and testing experimental forms of teaching and learning that encourage creative co-design of the city, society and politics. This includes questioning conventional forms and practices of understanding the world in creative workshops and rethinking methods of recognizing, criticizing and designing. In particular, artistic-creative spaces of reflection are created and tested to the extent that other forms of practice and knowledge than those found in science find a connection in artistic spaces – and it is precisely in the artistic-creative field that contemporary social controversies are played out. In the examination of non-formal and informal forms of learning, the spatial and social conditions of different places of urban experiences and aesthetic experiences are investigated and elaborated. To this end, temporary laboratories for urban art & design, urban research and participatory visions are created at publicly accessible locations in Cologne (Ebertplatz, Hallen Kalk, the former Ehrenfeld freight station and the Severin II waterworks).

»Open Universities« are a temporary public campus, a place for learning from each other and a laboratory for urban experiments.

Prof. Dr. Carolin Höfler, TH Köln (Lead) and Prof. Dr. Stefan Kramer, University of Cologne

Daniela Meinhardt, Mario Frank and Julian Hoffmann, TH Köln & Dr. Martin Müller, University of Cologne

Project Partners
TH Köln and University of Cologne

Funded by
RheinEnergie Foundation

01.03.2021 – 28.02.2024

Seminar Glossar zu Praktiken des experimentellen Lernens, Summer Term 2021
Collaborative Project at former Güterbahnhof Ehrenfeld Open Universities – Open Stages, Summer Term 2022
Campus for one day at the Hallen Kalk Open Universities – Wie wollen wir lernen?, Summer Term 2022
Exhibition & Protest Lab at Ebertplatz »Chile Despertó« – Räume des Protests, Summer Term 2022
Photo Installation in Wasserwerk Severin II Infrastrukturen im Wartestand, Summer Term 2022
Collaborative Project »Schutz – Räume, Tiere, Objekte« with Kunsthaus KAT 18 Cologne, Winter Term 2022/23
Collaborative Project »Feminist City« with FrauenMediaTurm / Decolonize Cologne e.V. (Dr. Johanna Steindorf), Winter Term 2022/23
Artistic Leaning Lab »Learning by Drawing« (Dr. Meike Eckstein), Winter Term 23
Lab Exhibition »function draw () – About the Design of Drawing Programs«, Summer Term 2023
Artistic Learning Lab »Vice Versa – Try to Analogize« (Max Hoffmann, Nina Sieverding, Anton Rahlwes), Summer Term 2023

Intermediate Projects & Final Theses in the context of »Open Universities«
• Philip Lehmann, Raumaneignung – Der Schalker Markt in Gelsenkirchen, Intermediate, Supervision: Prof. Dr. Carolin Höfler, Summer Term 2022
• Lea Gründler, Gehen als Kulturtechnik, Intermediate, Supervision: Prof. Dr. Carolin Höfler, Summer Term 2022
• Jana Valentina Hortian, Wie sehen die Lernräume der Zukunft an Hochschulen und Universitäten aus? Potenziale informeller Lernräume in Zwischenräumen, Intermediate, Supervision: Prof. Dr. Carolin Höfler, Winter Term 2022/23
• David Sieverding & Martin Sistig, Refarm the City, BA Thesis, Supervision: Prof. Dr. Carolin Höfler, Summer Term 2023

RheinEnergie Foundation Annual Report 2022 (in German): Article about the »Open Universities«

Image: Urban Intervention in the project »The Invisible City« at the Ebertplatz of Cologne by Carolin Höfler