Social Encounter by Experiment? Potentials and Pitfalls of Real-World Labs for Urban Planning

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Social Encounter by Experiment? Potentials and Pitfalls of Real-World Labs for Urban Planning


  • Charlotte Räuchle Institute of Geographical Science, Department of Earth Science, Free University Berlin, Germany


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Abstract:  This article explores the potential of real-world labs (RWLs) and real-world experiments (RWEs) to be a fruitful addition to established approaches in urban planning in Germany. While transdisciplinary and transformative RWLs rooted in socio-ecological sustainability studies have become an important tool for experimenting with innovative solutions for environmental challenges in cities, RWLs aimed at improving social cohesion in neighbourhoods and fostering a communal life characterised by dialogue and solidarity are rare. To this latter aim, this article contributes with research experience from a transdisciplinary RWL on cooperative urban open space development seeking to foster social cohesion in super-diverse neighbourhoods in Germany. This article analyses the contradictory perceptions of the local stakeholders involved as regards the potentials of RWEs to be a meaningful addition to established planning practices. This article makes it clear that there is greater proximity between urban planning theory, practice, and RWEs than initially assumed. Nevertheless, RWEs have considerable potential as a positive complement to established approaches to urban planning and as a means of experimenting with open-ended encounter formats in neighbourhoods.

Keywords:  encounter; neighbourhoods; real-world experiment; real-world lab; social cohesion; urban planning

Published:   26 March 2021


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v6i1.3475


© Charlotte Räuchle. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.