Nordic Urban Lab 2020 – Studio Athens

TIME: 9, 10, 11 October 2020
PLACE: Online & Athens


The 4th Nordic Urban Lab is taking place in Athens as a Greek-Nordic dialogue on cities and the role of culture and the arts in healing, energizing and creating our cities and experiences and practices we can learn from.

Nordic Urban Lab is a platform for artists and designers working in the public realm, architects and planners interested in alternative integrated approaches to urban development/re-generation, researchers, activists and community representatives.

Nordic Urban Lab ATHENS 2020-21 will be a two-step programme due to continued restrictions on international travel. We are now confirming an ONLINE Lab 9-11 October with a studio set up at Serafio, Athens.

All sessions are free.
If you wish to participate or have questions, please send an email to

We will reply with the final and detailed programme, and we will also send you the Zoom link to the Lab 24 hrs. before.




The Nordic Urban Lab is a forum for interdisciplinary perspectives around the issues of developing a more human and culturally rooted urban understanding and practice. After Nordic Labs in Copenhagen, Helsinki, Gothenburg and Kiel, NUL is now a loose network of some 400 architects, planners, anthropologists, designers, visual and performance artists, activists, researchers, community organisers and local authority representatives.

We are thrilled to have the opportunity to create a Greek-Nordic NUL in Athens, structured as a dialogue on many of the current challenges of the urban reality seen from a cultural and artistic perspective.

In the evolving dialogue between “cities, citizens and culture”, the rebalancing and renegotiating of key aspects of our urban community are in many ways similar in all cities. But given local realities, there are highly individual experiences and challenges as well as different dynamics, protagonists ans initiatives in each city.

In defining the most relevant topics for the NUL Athens, we have outlined 4 themes in collaboration with the many Athens based contacts we have worked with around this project.


Session 1: Culture and Urbanism

The opening session will take the form of an overview as an urban critique of the planning and management of contemporary city and urban society as the given context. It will touch on the signs of a growing understanding of the need for a socially and culturally based urban perspective. This goes one step further than event-based attractions and iconic architecture alone, and is also rooted in our relationship with the city on individual and community levels, the networked city and the creative city, which offer dynamic and relational models. We also look at the notion of cultural planning.


Session 2: Cities and Citizenship

This session will focus on how cities are looking to changing notions of citizenship. The question of the right to the city is the starting point for how to open up formal, representative democratic frameworks to include far more and question how power sharing in cities is taking place. Formal representative democracy is being replaced by action-based and participatory models and also by a surge of do-it-yourself initiatives and resource sharing on micro-scales outside the formal frameworks driven by activism and artivism and a sense of shared responsibility.

The sub theme of inclusive cities will be included here. The theme of inclusion is becoming more and more of a concern as social divisions are often compounding. Marginalization thrives in market-driven urbanism, and the public sector is challenged to define new models of how to “include” and how to support higher levels of social innovation and social sustainability.


Session 3: Reviving Communities and Neighbourhoods

In many ways, the local has re-asserted itself as the building block of the city, the natural stage for urban transformation where questions of local identity, local resources and local narratives are key. This key perspective of re-focusing the urban narrative questions issues of identity and also of strengthening engagement based on “a sense of place” as something everyone contributes to. Artists and creatives can of course have immense impact and play a key role in the re-configuration of the everyday.

At the core of many of these strategies and approaches are the public space and the public realm. From having been seen as spaces between buildings, the public space is now often seen as the turning point to create new and common realities of/in the city. Opening the public space as “free space” is a key factor for cities to visitors and citizens alike, the new cultural “space” where identities can be renegotiated and new relations built.


Session 4: Artistic Practice in the Urban Context

Artistic practice in the context of urban processes has been highly profiled increasingly since the 90s. The Cultural Capitals of Europe is just one of many interpretations of this approach. On a European level, the increasing cross-pollination between the performing arts, the visual arts, architecture and urbanism but also the potential of the digital has given a freedom of approach. This allows artists to work with methods that are often transgressing the realm of the arts and intruding into social and urban realities, often confronting and counterpointing reality and fiction but also offering an alternative with this cultural acupuncture approach. We look at how these changing perspectives open up for a new contract between the arts and society revolving around the urban. Here, we sense the city in all its layered emotional reality. 




Remark: Time is CET, for DK/NO/SE/FI

Friday 9 October
09.00-09.45: Introductory speeches
09.45-13.15: Culture and Urbanism
14.00-17.00: Cities and Citizenship

Saturday 10 October
09.00-12.00: Reviving Communities and Neighborhoods
13.00-18.30: Artistic Practice in the Urban Context

Sunday 11 October
10.00-19.00: Walking Athens

Download programme for more information:




Please provide us the following information:
Contact email
Contact mobile
Education / profession
Organisation / company
Sessions in which you want to participate

Online participation is free. Streaming will take place through Zoom.
Registration is required for each of the 4 sessions on 9 & 10 October.

The Walking Athens programme on 11 October can be followed online on Facebook. Further information will be announced.



Many of us know Athens as a huge cultural treasure chest. In recent decades, Athens has moved into the centre of culture with major events such as the 2004 Olympic Games, which brought the city’s infrastructure into the new century, and mega-investments in major cultural centres and museums such as The National Museum of Contemporary Art, which has, however, been closed for long periods due to lack of public funding.

This dilemma about frameworks and iconic buildings in contrast to the working conditions for artists and arts institutions is obvious. This was included in the theme for Dokumenta, which in 2017 symbolically relocated to Athens with the slogan “Learning from Athens”. It created an extensive critical debate about the legitimacy of art in challenging situations, where the aftermath of Europe’s greatest economic meltdown is still haunting, and where the handling of the refugee situation continuously creates debate.

The city’s creative forces are seeking radical solutions. A new generation of artists, activists and urbanists with enormous energy leaves clear traces in the many districts with new common, socio-cultural platforms, temporary galleries, etc. in the search for an alternative way. Athens is complex, overwhelming and without borders.



Magdalena Malm (SE) Former director Arts Council Sweden / Director Public Arts Agency, Ministry of Culture
Gry Worre Hallberg (DK) Artistic director Sisters Hope, presentation of the Sensuous Society
Trevor Davies (DK) Artistic director and urbanist, Metropolis (Nordic Urban Lab)
Ari-Veikko Anttiroiko (SE) Professor of Architecture & Urban Planning, University of Umeå
Tina Saaby (DK) Architect, Chief Architect City of Gladsaxe and former Chief Architect Copenhagen 2011-2020, focusing on the value of the public space
Matti Lucie Arentz & Ingvil Aaholt Hegna (NO) Norwegian Design and Architecture Centre alternative urban innovation and national programme for citizens’ engagement
Kirsi Verkka (FI) Head of Helsinki Public Participation Unit, City of Helsinki
Pasi Mäenpää (FI) Professor, University of Helsinki will present the research “urban civic activism as resourced for the metropolis – solutions for the governance of self-organising urban communities”
Rikke Lequick Larsen (DK) Architect, Copenhagen Planning Dpt., Head of strategy unit for neighbourhood regeneration & creating with citizens
Alexandra Szymanska (PL) Director, Gdansk Urban Culture Centre
Michail Galanakis (FI) Professor at Helsinki University, urban space research
Kjeld Khamina (SE) Professor Art History, Gothenburg University
Vivian Madsen / Jens Peter Madsen, Bureau Detours/Institute for X (DK) The largest independent collective of alternative architects and place makers in the Nordic countries
Kenneth Balfelt (DK) Visual artist, working in socially conflictual contexts with inclusive art-driven processes
Liva Kreislere (LV) Architect/Urbanist, working with URBcultural planning project
Marcus Mayer (NO) Prof. Bergen School of Architecture, member of Raumlabour Berlin
Karoline H. Larsen / Collective Strings (DK) Artist working in public space and in participatory collective creative processes



Panayotis Tournikiotis Dean of Athens School of Architecture NTUA
Μonica Tsiliberdi Head of the Directorate for the Development of Contemporary Creation, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports
Jenny Marketou Μultidisciplinary artist, lecturer, and author noted for her interventions and technology-based projects (Athens-New York)
Vasilis Avdikos Assistant Professor, Department of Economic and Regional Development, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences
Stelios Zerefos Architect, Professor at School of Applied Arts, Hellenic Open University
Andreas Giakoumakatos Professor Athens School of Fine Arts
Eleni Myrivili Atlantic Council Senior Fellow, AARF Resilience Center | Athens Chief Resilience Officer | Ass. Professor, University of the Aegean
Amalia Zepou Founder of SynAthina
Haris Biskos Architect and urbanist, Project manager of SynAthina
Plato’s Academy Athens Digital Museum creative team
Konstantinos-Alketas Oungrinis Director of the Transformable Intelligent Environments Laboratory (TIE Lab)- Associate Professor, School of Architectural Engineering, Technical University of Crete
The Design Ambassador editorial team
Filia Milidaki Curator – Cinesthesia / Eye’s Walk Festival
Evi Nakou Artistic Research and Audience Development Advisor, Athens & Epidaurus Festival
Maria-Thalia Carras Co-founder & co-director of Locus Athens & TAVROS
Eva Kekou Art historian, cultural theorist and curator
Stavros Alifragkis Adjunct Lecturer, Hellenic Open University, filmic representation of architecture and the urban landscape



NUL is initiated by Trevor Davies and is managed and curated by Metropolis – Københavns Internationale Teater, Denmark, with the support of The Danish Arts Council and The City of Copenhagen.

NUL ATHENS is organised by HeterArt, Athens, in collaboration with Serafio Complex, Synathina, School of Applied Arts Hellenic Open University, KROMA, International Contemporary Arts & Culture Platform, and Athens Digital Lab.

NUL ATHENS is supported by Nordic Culture Fund, Greek Ministry of Culture, City of Athens, and Nordic Embassies in Greece.

Trevor Davies, Metropolis: / +45 29404489

Elisavet Papageorgiou, Metropolis: / +30 6974 707161, +46 767523810

Anna Vafiadou, HeterArt: / +30 6944245719, +30 2102821909














Photos: Maja Nydal Eriksen (Johann Le Guillerm & Willi Dorner)