Project Laboratory on Public Space & Street Design

A podcast is born!

The project laboratory “Podcast on public space & street design” is an interdisciplinary student project with over 20 students and two tutors producing audio content about public space and other urban topics. Carolin Lichtenstein and Susanne Maaß, tutors in the project, discuss with Christina Camier where the idea for the podcast originated and how the project has since developed.

What kinds of topics can your listeners expect?

Susanne Maaß: Whether discussing the ecological, design, or social aspects of public space, we are interested in urban diversity. Each semester we produce several podcast episodes examining public space and urban topics and publish them on SoundCloud and Spotify. So far we've published 22 episodes on a wide range of topics, such as rooftop greening, sustainable mobility, insect friendliness, homelessness, advertising in public spaces, and sound art.  Our aim is to make information about urban issues as accessible and attractive as possible for different listener groups. We are currently focusing on science communication and are working together with different researchers and research projects at universities in Berlin.

How did the podcast come about?

Carolin Lichtenstein: The project was originally founded by Bjarne Lotze and Ana Burgueño Hopf shortly after meeting each other during an internship at the Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD). According to Ana and Bjarne, the story goes something like this:

“We have to do a podcast! We realized this after we found ourselves, yet again, discussing the use of public space from a sociological perspective versus that of transport planning. Even though we are both studying at TU Berlin, such discussions aren’t a regular part of our courses. Most of the time, students have these debates privately. A podcast was the perfect format for communicating and sharing these interests with others. Among our friends and fellow students, podcasts have been an important information source for a while now and one that has set itself apart from traditional lecture materials. We wanted to try it out for ourselves and in 2018 successfully applied for funding as a tu project. In winter semester 2020/21, we officially became a project laboratory and will continue to receive funding for another three semesters.”

I took over the role of tutor in 2019 from Bjarne, who has since completed his studies. Susanne Maaß is taking over for Ana this semester so she can concentrate on her bachelor’s thesis. Ana and Bjarne continue to provide support wherever they can though.

How is the project laboratory organized?

Susanne Maaß: Everything is of course digital right now. However, it is important to foster a relationship with our participants, which is why we usually hold the module synchronously. During the semester, we organize workshops and offer insight into topics like scientificity, interview techniques, and storytelling. With our support, the students independently produce their own content.

While we may be the tutors, it is important to us that everyone works as equals. We always try to include the participants in the development of the podcast. For instance, they are behind the website, jingle, and podcast logo. Students who know more about a particular topic or have experience with a certain tool are able to share this with others in the project laboratory. We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback about this. We are also really satisfied with our students’ work and dedication and look forward to every single podcast episode.

Carolin Lichtenstein: As a project laboratory, we are responsible for organizing everything ourselves and determining our own milestones. If we have organizational questions, we can reach out to Professor Dr. Oliver Schweder and his team at the Chair of Integrated Transport Planning, where the project laboratory is officially hosted. The Center for Scientific Continuing Education and Cooperation (ZEWK) at TU Berlin also provides valuable support in the form of technical equipment, know-how, and with the execution of the project. Additionally, our project partners like the DIY project of the Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD) and youpaN at the Stiftung Bildung help with technology and public relations.

Are you primarily interested in the discussions about shaping public space or is the project laboratory format also of special interest?

Carolin Lichtenstein: Our project laboratory brings together students from a wide array of disciplines to work together on a format that is new to many of them. As a result, the podcast topics as well as how they are produced are also quite varied. Students take part for a number of reasons. While some students are primarily interested in gaining experience with podcasting, interviewing, and audio editing, others are more interested in the respective urban phenomenon.

Susanne Maaß: As tutors, we are of course equally interested in both. Project laboratories allow us to think outside the box in a number of ways and to learn outside of the prescribed module content. The format offers a space for discussions that seminars don’t. And finally, we think it’s great that the podcast is a format that allows us to contribute to public discourse.

Where do you see the greatest challenges - what’s not working quite right yet?

Carolin Lichtenstein: Even though we are quite familiar with media and digital tools, the digital semesters still present a few hurdles. Online teaching makes it more difficult to form a close relationship with our participants and create a sense of community among the students. Despite this, we are still in good spirits. We are really impressed with everyone’s tenacity and enthusiasm despite the challenging conditions.

We still have funding for another two semesters. However, beyond that we unfortunately do not yet have a long-term plan. It’s unclear whether and how we will be able to continue. In the coming months we want to closely examine ways the project could be integrated into teaching at TU Berlin long term. If you’re reading this, we are open to your ideas and suggestions ;)

What’s been the greatest takeaway for you personally? What was new or unexpected for you?

Carolin Lichtenstein: Podcasts and audio in general could be given more attention at the University. Something like this is quite suitable as a form of examination. Our podcast is about the same amount of work as a term paper. Together with the head of the Historical Urban Studies master’s program, Professor Dr. Dagmar Thorau, and her students, we’ve already successfully tested the format as part of regular teaching. And this is actually the aim of the project laboratories, to introduce new formats into teaching at TU Berlin. I think podcasts could also become a more attractive way for researchers to share their own research.

Susanne Maaß: I personally have learned quite a bit about teaching in addition to gaining technical skills and learning more about my field. The interdisciplinary approach to the seminar allows us to really expand our personal horizons and gives us the opportunity to think outside our own professional box.

Interviewer: Christina Camier

Further information

All Raumcast episodes can be found on the podcast website www.raumcast.de, where you can also find a number of other interesting links and articles. The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and other podcast apps. Raumcast episodes are also broadcast on Freie Radios - Berlin Brandenburg every second Wednesday of the month at 16:00 on 88.4 MHz (Berlin) and 90.7 MHz (Potsdam) as well as streamed at https://fr-bb.org/. Follow the podcast on Instagram to keep up to date with new episodes!

Project partners: https://youpan.de/raumcast/ and https://diy.vcd.org/projekte/bildung/raumcast/