Knowledge Needs Space. Challenges and Perspectives of Future Living Environments

Conference on January 28–29, 2022

28. - 29. Januar 2022
Organisator: Karlsruher Institut für Technologie

The conference will focus on the current changes of working environments, social and societal interaction in what is often referred to as the knowledge society, and the resulting demands on private and public spaces. Currently observed developments will be discussed from different professional perspectives. What kind of social changes can be observed? What challenges arise from new working models and forms? How is education provided today and how will it be provided in the future? What demands do the current and expected transformations raise for the design of our urban spaces?


The growing importance of knowledge has reached almost all areas of life in our society and is changing the way we live, work and interact. Knowledge is now the productive factor of a growing economic sector. Complex and often abstract knowledge is gaining ever greater importance as a basis of technical innovations. These transformations are being driven by the increasing digitalization of economic, private and social life. The social changes represent a great opportunity, but also a danger of social groups will be left behind depending on their access to education. Creativity, innovation and participation of a wide range of users seem to be an important key for shaping the knowledge society of the future.

However, societal transformation is also changing cities, their spaces and architectures. Urban spaces are the venues of social processes. The production and application of knowledge are closely linked to the spatial structure of the city and its architecture. Even though the knowledge society increasingly operates in global contexts, knowledge, education and competence are ultimately tied to people and thus to places. Urban contexts, with their concentration of creative knowledge workers and knowledge-based uses, offer favorable conditions, the breeding ground for creative or innovative knowledge development.
Recently, not only in cities but also in rural areas, more and more open indoor and outdoor spaces are emerging that invite learning, interaction and experimentation and seek to foster chance encounters between diverse user groups.
How do these social transformations affect our coexistence and the need for spaces? What spaces are needed so that participation in knowledge can succeed for many parts of society? What role can urban spaces play in social coexistence?


The conference is divided into three content sessions and a subsequent workshop. In the sessions, different positions on the topics of society, work, education and competence will be presented by young researchers from different disciplines.
Special attention will be paid to the spatial relevance of these topics: How are social transformation processes reflected in the city? Where do new forms of work and models of knowledge transfer become visible in urban and rural areas? What developments can be expected for the future?
In the follow-up workshop, the spatial requirements from the individual topic areas will be elaborated in the form of intensive cross-disciplinary and cross-topic discussions.

Session 1: Society and Social Issues

The knowledge society combines an extremely heterogeneous population with very different lifestyles and cultural backgrounds. How will our lifestyles and life plans develop in the future, shaped by the increasing importance of knowledge? Will the increasing academization of society lead to social polarization and segregation? How will demographic change alter life in our cities? What are the creative milieus of the knowledge city, where and in what form do they become visible in urban space?
The knowledge society is controlled and planned by a whole range of actors. Who are the shaping actors in the knowledge society city, how do they interact, what are the social networks? Social exchange and interaction increasingly take place in digital space. What does this mean for the form and quality of social interaction? Is public space losing or gaining in importance?

Session 2: Work and Digitalization

The growing number of professions in the knowledge-intensive sector demands a high degree of creativity, flexibility and collaboration from knowledge workers to solve complex problems. The increasing individualization of working hours and the increased possibility of decentralized work, the home office, are also changing the nature, time and place of where, when and how we work.
What impact do the rise of the knowledge economy, technological developments and digitalization have on our working worlds? What influence do these developments have on our own working environment and what demands do they place on their environment? What do the new forms of work characterized by co-production and co-operation look like? What new spatial requirements arise from these transformations?

Session 3: Education and Culture

The academization of our society means that the acquisition of knowledge in the social and private spheres is becoming increasingly important. Access to education and skills is the central key to each individual's participation in social processes. Even today, the ways in which people learn have become highly differentiated. In addition to formal learning in traditional institutions, self-directed learning, educational processes and informal learning venues are emerging that impart social competences, personal skills and practical knowledge. Today, educational paths are no longer one-dimensional and limited in time. Lifelong learning is a requirement due to rapid technological developments and the resulting continuous adaptations.
What different forms of learning will be needed in the future? With which other uses will these places be linked and why?
The open and creative handling of knowledge is part of cultural practice. Already today, artists play a central role in a wide variety of “new kinds” of educational projects. What role does culture play in the process of knowledge development and exchange? Are creative milieus becoming increasingly important as innovation incubators?

Session 4: Workshop - Demands on Urban Space

During the workshop, the changes presented and considered in the sessions will be discussed against the context of urban space at different levels of scale. How is knowledge transfer accomplished in the regional network, how in co-working or public spaces? How must spaces be designed to facilitate chance encounters and exchange, what spatial conditions stimulate the generation of innovation and knowledge exchange? What are the requirements for future, self-determined learning and teaching spaces - beyond the classical educational situations? Which cooperations of actors and uses would be desirable? What conclusions are to be drawn when work and leisure time increasingly mix and the boundaries between private and public spheres shift? How must spaces be designed so that as many different social groups as possible participate in and benefit from social processes?
These questions will be discussed in working groups and the requirements for spatial planning will be worked out


  • Chair of International Urbanism
  • Prof. Dr. Barbara Engel
  • Sara Reichwein
  • Faculty of Architecture
    KIT Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

In Cooperation with:

  • Prof. Dr. Caroline Kramer, Human Geography, KIT
  • Prof. Dr. Michaela Pfadenhauer, Soziology, University of Vienna
  • Prof. Dr. Alexandra Den Heijer, Public Real Estate, TU Delft

CfP (Link)

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