Performance at Palast der Republik, choreographed by Sasha Waltz, Source: David Baltzer, 2004.

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In many cities, urban wastelands and vacant structures suddenly metamorphose into exuberant places. After city planners and the real estate market have failed in their initial attempts to develop them, these sites become the setting for clubs and bars, start-up firms and art galleries, migrant economies and informal markets, recreational activities and nightlife. Indeed, it is often precisely here that innovative cultural production and a vibrant public sphere are to be found.

The Urban Catalyst project investigated the various unplanned and informal uses of these spaces, which fall outside the remit of traditional urban planning. Together with 11 research partners from the case study cities of Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam, Helsinki and Naples Urban Catalyst organised a series of events, exhibitions, publications and workshops, in order to develop strategies for addressing the link between unplanned and informal processes and the formal urban design of contemporary cities. The research explored the agency of citizens as initiators of urban development processes. Urban Catalyst revealed various ways in which city planning can incorporate informal processes and draws lessons that could inform alternative practices of architects and city planners.

Amongst the most prominent projects initiated by Urban Catalyst was the co-initiation and coordination of ZwischenPalastNutzung in 2004 and 2005: The temporary cultural use of the former Palace of the Republic in central Berlin triggered international attention and an intense debate questioning the reconstruction of the historic Berlin castle.

The results of the research project were published in the book “Urban Catalyst – The Power of Temporary Use” (DOM Publishers, 2013).


The initiators and partners oft he EU research project Urban Catalyst – Strategies for Temporary Use (2001-2003) were:

Idea and concept
Philipp Oswalt und Klaus Overmeyer

Direction and coordination
Philipp Oswalt, Klaus Overmeyer and Philipp Misselwitz with Ali Saad, Thomas Hauck, Melanie Humann, Jurij von Ortenberg as well as Penny Herscovitch, Tashy Endres, Christian Mika

Project director
Kees Christiaanse, TU Berlin, since 2004 ETH Zürich

Coordination EU
European Commission DG XII-D.1.4./ Vincent Favrel

Helsinki University of Technology – Christer Bengs, Helka-Liisa Hentilä, Timo Kopomaa, Kaisa Schmidt-Thome, Helsinki
Gallotta + Tischer - Marcella Gallotta, Stefan Tischer, Naples CPA Città Paesaggio Archeologia - Francesco Escalona, Claudio Finaldi-Russo, Fabrizia Ippolito, Pepe Maisto with Maria Ceretta, Franco Lancio, Naples
Florian Haydn Architekt – Florian Haydn, Robert Temel, Mirko Pogoreutz, Vienna
Magistrat Wien, Magistratsabteilung 18 – Brigitte Jilka, Ina Homeier, Jutta Kleedorfer, Micheal Mellauner
Nyenrode Business Universiteit – Annemieke Roobeek, Erik Mandresloot, Damian van der Bijl, Amsterdam
Stadsdeel Amsterdam Noord – Ted Zwietering, Rob Vooren, Con Vleugel
Stealth Group – Milicia Topalovic, Marc Neelen, Ana Dzokic, Rotterdam
Deadline – Britta Juergens, Matthew Griffin, Berlin/ London
Nexus – Hans Luidger Dienel, Malte Schophaus, Berlin
Berlin District Administration Friedrichhain-Kreuzberg – Matthias Peckskamp, Frank Vettel

Scientific advisory board
Joost Schrijnen, Rotterdam
Robert Mull, London
Arnold Reijndorp, Rotterdam

Law –Rudolf Schäfer, Petra Lau, Technische Universität Berlin
Tactics of Users – Peter Arlt, Berlin/ Linz
Economy – Rudi Kohoutek, Christa Kammleithner, Vienna