EU funded research project and book publication on more than 10 years of research and practice in the field of temporary use as a catalyst of urban development.



In many cities, urban wastelands and vacant structures suddenly metamorphose in 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 took as its topic the various unplanned and informal uses of these spaces, which operate within informal economies and fall outside the remit of traditional urban planning. Together with 11 research partners from Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam, Helsinki and Napels as research sites, Urban Catalyst organised a series of events, exhibitions, publications and workshops, in order to develop strategies for integrating such processes into the urban design of contemporary cities. The research explored new forms of urban development where citizens would be the initiators rather than professional developers. Urban Catalyst examines various ways in which city planning can incorporate informal processes and describes important lessons architects and city planners can learn from temporary users.

As the most prominent case, Urban Catalyst was co-intiator oft the ZwischenPalastNutzung, which succeded 2004/2005 in realizing the cultural use oft he former Palace of the Republic in Berlin Mitte.

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

The results of the research were presented in the book publication Urban Catalyst in 2013.

Included are seminal contributions by Azra Akšamija, Kees Christiaanse, Margaret Crawford, Jesko Fezer, Florian Rötzer, Saskia Sassen, and others, as well as key projects from European cities such as Amsterdam, Basel, Berlin, London, Rome and Zagreb.

Philipp Oswalt, Klaus Overmeyer, Philipp Misselwitz Urban Catalyst - The power of temporary use , 384 pages and more than 200 illustrations DOM publishers Berlin, 978-3-86922-261-5 (English), EUR 38,00