Three professors of KISD – Köln International School of Design joined forces in their research activities and established the research center »Real-Time City« at TH Köln. Dr. Carolin Höfler, Philipp Heidkamp, and Andreas Wrede are analyzing and developing visual systems, communication processes, and media spaces of the urban sphere in theory and practice. In doing so, new conclusions shall be drawn, elaborated on, and fortified with regard to design and its interrelations with the urban space and society.

The sensual experience of a city plays a key role for the construction of society and the public sphere. The development of a city and of society starts with the question on how perceptions of urban spaces and settings are structured. The way of how we perceive, understand, and reflect the urban sphere, is in particular characterized and shaped by the media-technological shifts of the 20th and 21st century.

By means of case studies, the researchers are investigating typified city configurations in order to illustrate and analyze the dense entanglement of sensual perceptions, communicative processes, and spatial-technological surroundings. How do new techniques of visualization and spatialization of data affect our perception, thinking, and acting? What kind of physical-digital spaces and structures can be developed in order to unveil yet unknown potentials of the urban sphere and in order to rethink the city as a model of life and civilization? What do approaches such as »Participatory Sensing« entail for the development of alternative ideas on social participation and diversity? These and some other questions will be addressed by the researchers from different perspectives.

»Real-Time City« is a joint research project consisting of scholars from the realm of design, architecture, and cultural and technological sciences. In an interdisciplinary context, theory and practice, basic scientific research and direct applicability will be programatically combined. The objective is to sharpen methodologies and to model tools through which sensory and semiotic linkages between the urban sphere, technology, and human action and perception can be captured and developed.

The research center will be oriented in particular to three thematic focal points:

1. Image operations in the public sphere

New practices of visualization shape and have an impact on perception, movement, and orientation in the physical space and do establish an altered relation between image and action. This focal point analyzes the structure of visual sight, operativity, and imagery with regard to urban spaces and diverse public spheres.

2. Mobile structures, digital spatial practices

The objective of this focal point is to grasp and develop the city by means of the analysis of altered mobile structures and processes. The framework for this investigation is based on a broad understanding of mobility as a flexibly maneuvering
structure consisting of people, goods, information, and energy units in the physical and digital space.

3. Urban systems, communication, and signs

In this focal point, priority is given to the research on and design of the relationship between urban identity constructions and language, of spatial semantics and sign complexes which are to be determined through semiotic, systemic, and cultural categories.

The research center »Real-Time City« was founded in 2018 at KISD – Köln International School of Design of TH Köln.

Among the contributing and participating persons at KISD are:

Prof. Dr. Carolin Höfler (Spokesperson)
Prof. Philipp Heidkamp
Prof. Andreas Wrede

Associated partners are:

Prof. Dr. Matthias Böhmer, Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering Science
Prof. Marco Hemmerling, Faculty of Architecture