Professor Hybrid Space

The research and seminars explore hybrid (fused physical and digital) space and how the urban can be read as a layered communication-sensitive membrane.

Prof. Frans Vogelaar established in April 1998 the worldwide first Department of Hybrid Space at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne.

Head of the Department of Hybrid Space, Prof. Frans Vogelaar @ Academy of Media Arts, Cologne, Germany, April 1998


Summer Term 1998

With a transdisciplinary focus on inter-human interaction and more-than-human relationality, design research and artistic speculations focus on how networks and nodes shape the ways in which humans and non-human components interrelate in and with specific places.

Networked architectural parasites and micro-staging practices, gamifying the urban, are conceived as hybrid (combined urban and media) communication nodes that expand, inform, invert space, becoming thriving laboratories for hybrid urban culture(s). Seeping through and pervading the city, they also constitute hybrid observatories of analog and digital communication unfolding. Such observations ultimately enrich, challenge, and nuance urban narratives as well as the way they are constructed, told, mediatized, and played with.

“Das ist die Aufgabe alles Raumgestaltens: Räume zu öffnen, innerhalb welcher etwas hingestellt wird, was vorher nicht vorgestellt werden konnte…

‘Zeitvertreib’ wird dann wohl bedeuten, die von allen Seiten heranstürmende Zukunft durch Raster zu sieben (ja die Zeit nicht mehr aus der Vergangenheit in Richtung Zukunft, sondern als Vergegenwärtigung der Zukunft, also räumlich, erkannt und erlebt werden wird), und Freizeitraum wird daher jener Raum zu sein haben, in welchem die Zukunft vorweggenommen wird (futuriert wird), um die Gegenwart zu informieren.”
Vilém Flusser: “Räume”

“This is the task of all spatial design: to open spaces within which something is placed that could not be imagined before…

‘Passing time’ will then probably mean sifting the future rushing in from all sides through grids (indeed, time will no longer be recognized and experienced from the past in the direction of the future, but as a realization of the future, i.e. spatially), and leisure space will therefore have to be that space in which the future is anticipated (futurized) in order to inform the present.”
Vilém Flusser: “Spaces”


Winter Term 1998/1999

For a week, from 8 till 15 October 1999, a boat descended the Rhine, the archetypal symbol of the connection between Germany and the Netherlands, as reBoot a floating media-laboratory, from Cologne on its way to Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

Along the way, reBoot will drop anchor in Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Emmerich, Arnhem, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

reBoot descended the Rhine opening an experimental hybrid platform for the exchange of positions and perspectives, the constant shifting of boundaries between the fields of art, media and sound and their connection to topics such as politics and economics, and urbanism.


Winter Term 1998/1999

As the prognosis and advent of the leisure-society are becoming reality, strategies for upgrading Forced Leisure into a meaningful experience are needed. Due to digitalization as work is increasingly automated, people may experience unthought-of leisure time and we are left wondering what to creatively and culturally accomplish with ourselves and with our unanticipated leisure time.

By investigating and speculating on the future of “leisure”, the seminar builds the framework for the design of networked and hybrid (physical/digital) environments: meta-worlds, communication spaces for the informal economy, clubs… Subsequent editions of the seminar also aimed at breeding Public Media Urban Interfaces for the coming Society of Forced Leisure.


Winter Term 1998/1999

This seminar focuses on the hollow box composing the skeleton of the Deutzer Brücke, as one of the most unusual and exciting places in Cologne. It is a particular challenge to develop artistic works for this 440-meter long, 8-meter-wide concrete space that address and creatively play with the atmosphere, architecture, and iconographic significance of the bridge. The seminar collaboratively investigates the spatial situation of the bridge, critically discusses relevant related works by other artists, and accompanies and supports the development of artistic proposals for the bridge’s interior space.

The most interesting projects are realized in the form of a one-week installation in winter 1999 in the interior of the Deutzer Brücke.

Spatial Masks
Masking Space

Summer Term 1999

With a process-oriented approach to spatial phenomena, the seminar explores space-related themes, such as space for social rituals, perception and projection of space, notations of space, spatial transformations and developing space.

Starting from sessions tackling the masking of the body, the seminar extends and transfers this methodological approach to study the masking of space. It addresses space-related subjects, such as public vs. private space, hybrid (combined physical-digital) spaces, meta-worlds, Virtual Reality and “real virtuality”, Spaces of Places and Spaces of Flows. It also explores space-related fields, such as urbanism and architectural design, exhibition design, film set design, and design of gaming environments. This creates a framework for introducing techniques for coding and generating spaces with the help of analog/digital drawings and models.


October 1999

Developed as part of the official cultural exchange and co-operation project with Nordrhein-Westfalia entitled “Kunst NRW.NL”, in October 1999 the floating Art and Media Lab reBoot descended down the Rhine river, from Cologne to Amsterdam. The symbolic strength of relying on one of the most historically iconic means of interrelation – waterways – is combined with the metaphor of an increasingly liquid and flowing communication back and forth between physical and hybrid entities, encounters, and connections.


Winter Term 1999/2000

The seminar researches, experiments with, and processes the increasing densities of space, immersing in materiality. By tapping into the exponential densities of communication, the seminar considers how these processes result in an inversion of identity, linking it to connectivity.

By studying increasing densities, the seminar investigates ‘skins’ in their (im)permeabilities and constructions, un-folding tissues of very different scales. Working with the flavors of charm/anticharm, the seminar investigates the tension field of the formal/un-formal, identity/un-dentity, density/un-density. Workshop-style notation sessions with analog/digital drawings and models create the framework to code and generate ‘idensities’.


Winter Term 2000/2001

By focusing on concepts and strategies for a ‘glocal’ and networked container/capsule infrastructure, the seminar researches, experiments and processes the increasing densities of communication, inverting identity.

Relying on the backbone of workshop-style notation sessions and hybrid design tools, the process-oriented seminar enables the development of networked trans-local container/capsule projects.


Winter Term 2002/2003

According to the anthropologist Marc Augè, the “non-places” of mobility are the opposite of utopia: they do exist, but they do not accommodate any sort of organic society. Is it still possible to develop, beyond Augè’s pessimistic point of view, islands of ‘you-topia’ within the flows of the mobility realm? Could „transit_bags“ serve as such nodes? What we navigate space and its currents with – whether willingly or unwillingly – shapes how equipped we are to negotiate our transit rights and obligations in an increasingly liquid society.

As we are confronted with and immersed in a mobile, nomadic culture, bags seem to gain traction. Equipped with lightweight “technical bags” that cling to the body and functional “outdoor equipment,” we move like islands through space and its currents. Bags and garments house portable technical devices that promise to keep us connected and accessible whilst on the move. In the field of fashion, bags resemble brands’ visible, outwardly hanging labels, signaling belonging. In contrast, how and where do the improvised bags of migrants living in a permanent state of transit become visible? How does the relationship between bag, clothing, and body present itself? What are the things that we always want to have with us? And where do we carry them? What forms can bags, pouches, and sacks take? Are “anti-bags” or inverse bags conceivable?

With these questions in mind, subsequent editions of the transit_bags seminar focus on the development of the tools for a mobile culture, designing “transit_bags” as islands floating within the space of flows, encapsulating the transfer, tracing the transit, navigating the routes.

The outcome of the seminar consists of the development of projects for the spaces, the objects, the services, and the users of the mobility networks.


Summer Term 2003

The seminar develops concepts and prototypes for networked architectural parasites. These temporary additional elements to existing buildings expand, inform, invert, and deform space.

Working on the critical potential of additional, superimposed elements, the seminar interrogates and explores the decorative and spatial potentialities of the Surface. The seminar also explores the ways in which architectural parasites can function as forts of urban piracy, engendering practices of spatial appropriation.

“As nearly three-quarters of Earth is covered by water, a vast amount of territory was relinquished to the pirates, who freely roamed the seas and spent their lives at sea. In fact, they were so independent of any regional affiliation that Fuller considered them the first global citizens. He later compared those pirates to others who chose to live outside the conventions of society as dictated by power structures. And, he suggested that such individuals are, in fact, essential for forging the new realities so valuable to human development.” Lloyd Steven Sieden: “Buckminster Fuller’s Universe”.


Summer Term 2004

The seminar focuses on sampling materials and researching their properties. What can be learned from new materials, forgotten materials, recycled materials, intelligent materials, adaptive materials, and materials with interactive qualities?

The seminar researches technical issues and aspects of tactility as well as emotional dimensions and material qualities and their connotations. This forms a basis for investigating the potential of materials for adaptation, modification, tinkering, re-coding, and inverse use.


Summer Term 2004

The seminar focuses on research on the perception of the cityscape. Time-based spatial notations are investigated and developed. Sprawl, suburban, redundant, neglected unoccupied spaces are processed.

Traditional techniques used in cartography, as for example the historical “itineraries” and “portulans” as well as contemporary instruments as GPS, remote sensing, ground observation techniques, or tracking systems are applied and critically tested, in light or how they might enrich, complement and hybridize each other.


Winter Term 2005/2006

The seminar explores urban narratives, sampling local stories, editing and developing urban clips, navigating the layers of the urban, addressing the hyper-conscious as well as the subconscious of the city.

By deploying locative media and networked hybrid urban games, the seminar aims at creating hybrid local spaces, enhancing the local context and place. Browsing within neighboring localities such as the Ruhr region and sub-urban Cologne the seminar focuses on urban sprawl as the contemporary urban condition.


Winter Term 2005/2006

The initial focus of the seminar revolves around the study of the dynamics of the cityscape. With the help of a series of case studies, the functions – the forces, the actors, the parameters – for the development of the hybrid cityscape are investigated. Urban theory feeds this research by inserting a meta-level of discourse and by addressing the sub-layers of the city.

Based on these observations and experiences scenarios for “urban games” are developed and designed together with their elements and building blocks. Relying on simulations, such as hybrid urban games with their functions and tools are tested.

In collaboration with Urban Drift, Berlin, the seminar develops projects for the international exhibition “ENTRY 2006 / Talking Cities” at the Zeche Zollverein in Essen.


Winter Term 2006/2007

In this seminar the processes of combined hybrid (physical/digital) design are developed and researched. Combining digital and analog design tools, formal experiments are conducted and research on repetitive patterns and folding structures is processed.

Experimentations with the chain of design machines from digital to analog and back to digital are carried out, ranging from 3D-scanning to Maya and other CAD-applications, to CNC milling and back to digital design tools and non-biased-renderers…


Summer Term 2007

The seminar develops concepts and prototypes for networked architectural parasites. These can be temporary additional elements to existing buildings, one person vending machines (micro-shops) or other micro-environments.

The developed design skills are expanded into research on materials. Materialization possibilities such as membranes, inflatables, deployables, and other mass customization techniques are investigated and tested.


Summer Term 2007

For the Yahoo! University Design Expo ’07, upon invitation by Yahoo! Research, the seminar consists of developing “concept ware” prototypes for hybrid architectural and urban networked environments.


Winter Term 2007/2008

The seminar develops concepts and prototypes for networked architectural micro-dwellings. These can be temporary additional elements to existing buildings, one person vending machines (micro-shops) or other micro-environments.

The developed design skills are expanded into research on materials. Materialization possibilities such as membranes, inflatables, and collapsible structures are investigated and tested.


Winter Term 2008/2009

The seminar concentrates on mapping and visualizing complex processes as tools for research and design. One of the starting points and case studies is the hybrid cityscape with its highly complex forces, actors, and parameters. Away from static representations, the focus is set on relationships, processes, and flows.

Static diagrams and maps are accelerated into time-based notations. A series of traditional techniques used in cartography, as for example the historical “itineraries” and “portulans”, are researched. Innovative digital mapping tools are introduced and tested.


Winter Term 2008/2009

The seminar develops concepts and prototypes for networked architectural micro-stages: mobile architectural elements enabling the staging of hybrid events in public space.

A series of “staging tools” are developed. Research on sustainable solutions, concerning energy and materials, form a driving force during the design process. Based on this research micro-stage prototypes are built and tested in public urban space, invading the city.


Winter Term 2008/2009

The seminar consists of a series of workshop sessions with invited guests, focusing on strategies for hybrid architectural/design/artistic professional practice. Integrating a variety of approaches and method from diverse art and research fields, the seminar aims at moving away from dogmatic disciplinary divisions to encourage students to craft their own professional paths.


Winter Term 2009/2010

The seminar envisions possible hybrids of architecture and nature within an urban context.

The range of issues and themes discussed within the seminar spans from ‘hybrid life’ to social and ecological sustainability, addressing practices such as guerilla gardening, urban farming, and locally-based food production and distribution networks.

Within the seminar local communities and events and hybrid networks are mapped and analyzed. Inspired by this empirical research a series of scenarios and projects for the fusing of nature and built environment are developed.

RepRap Hood

Summer Term 2010

The seminar develops prototypes for interfaces and sensor-driven devices in a hybrid spatial context. As a starting point, concepts of space and spatial technical interfaces are researched.

A ‚do-it-yourself’ strategy of self-building leads to the actual making of the machines and technical devices. Within the seminar a series of prototypes are developed and tested. Prototypes of spatial interfaces as well as the speculative business models for their actual implementation are developed.

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Summer Term 2011

Traditionally architecture provides, in a dynamic interplay between an active mind and its surrounding space, structures for organizing our experiences and fantasies, helping us construct (us in) our world. „The house is an instrument with which to confront the cosmos.“ (Gaston Bachelard).

Today, politics, economics, warfare, and culture are increasingly taking place in the spaces of information-communication, of media networks. Thus physical, media, and social space form new cognitive architectures. But who plans and designs these structures? What are the goals and methods involved in designing cognitive cities?

The joint seminar with the Art and Science Department addresses these questions in a twofold perspective: The historical and systematic discourse on the digital city (Telepolis, City of Bits, …) is enriched with practical experiments in designing knowledge spaces. The seminar includes cooperation with international partners from academia, business, and other organizations.


Summer Term 2012

The seminar investigates and applies methods of conceptual model making – as methods for building artistic ‘metaworlds’ as abstract materializations of ideas. It considers the making of model worlds in the field of architecture such, as Constant’s (Nieuwenhuys) “New Babylon” or Yona Friedman’s “Mobile Architectures”. It also researches “model making” in different fields: in art, architecture, and urbanism, in science and theory.

As case-studies the seminar focuses and researches different types of spaces such as ghost towns (f.e. “California City”), disconnected space (f.e. the Mapimí “Zona del Silencio”), autonomous/self-sufficient space, space of chaos and destruction, junk space or safe spaces… Theoretical research and analysis are combined with synthetic artistic methods, such as re-modeling of the spaces taken into account and researched.


Summer Term 2013

In the series of seminars exploring new directions in design, ‘Crisis Design’ is the logical next step in development.

Design originally defined itself as working for the better of the organized (designed) world. Design (as the tools for improving the way we live) has never considered crises, for example, huge and sudden shifts in the socio/economic conditions. It has also hardly addressed the needs within situations of natural or other catastrophes.

A vision of a reality that was based on the belief in stable systems is being shaken. The discontinuities and disruptions we are experiencing today, give rise to the need for a ‘Crisis Design’. Integrating (the concept of) disruption in our mental map is a prerequisite for developing an understanding of the discontinuities we are forced to address.

The seminar discusses contemporary research on unstable systems and dynamic structures. It focuses on visual research of crisis situations and investigates the ‘aesthetics of instability’. Within the seminar projects that address crisis- and catastrophes-related issues are developed.


Summer Term 2013

In an increasingly unpredictable world, what are the possibilities and relevance as well as the tools for dealing with the future?

There is a very long (and debatable) tradition of prediction practices – whose epic origins can be traced back to the ambiguous predications and statements of the Delphi oracle in ancient Greece. Developing predictions on future development has been the basis for traditional urban planning and for the “planned economy” and “planned society” practices. Methods for monitoring the future are part of strategic research of corporate organizations or public-funded institutes and governments.

Based on research on such “future-monitoring-systems” we compare traditional (closed) research environments with the upcoming open innovation platforms. We discuss what role the artist and the designer (as generalists) can play within strategic research and compare analytical research methods with the working methods of speculative artistic research. As an outcome, the seminar develops urban scenarios and rural visions.


Winter Term 2014/2015

Walkabout, wandering, the tradition of the Peripatetic philosophy, promenade architecturale, the Situationist’s dérive, Promenadologie and Spaziergangswissenschaft – all refer to walking as a creative practice.

The seminar addresses the (politics of) walking and the perception of the land- and cityscape. Walking is implemented as an enhancer of creativity and as an artistic research method.

Time-based spatial notations are investigated and tested. Traditional techniques used in cartography, as for example the historical “itineraries” and “portulans” as well as contemporary instruments as GPS, remote sensing, ground observation techniques, and tracking and sensing systems are examined.


Winter Term 2014/2015

The seminar focuses on direct (empathetic) observation and “acupuncture-like” actions in urban neighborhoods. It develops “mobile media platforms”, mobile infrastructures supporting the artistic research on social and sustainability issues in urban space.

The “mobile media platforms” are simple, easy to build as modified, and adapted transport-tricycles combined with “open source” sensor technology.

They are ‘hybrid’ (combined physical-digital) instruments, a technical media urban infrastructure. They encourage direct physical interaction and communication in the city through their physical presence in public urban space while connecting physical interactions with digital points of encounter, and exchange.

The “mobile media platforms” are mobile urban infrastructures, supporting innovative artistic research aiming to explore the desolate landscapes of the expanding megacities.


Summer Term 2015

The seminar explores the ‘civic potential’ already unleashed at an unprecedented scale in media (user-generated content, Youtube), in handmade and homemade items (Etsy), in hospitality (Airbnb) and in transport (UberPop).

The next decade citizens will take part in innumerable co-creation initiatives in the private and the public domains, and more importantly in the blur where the one can’t be separated from the other. These initiatives will make use of recent concepts and developments, such as prosumer, bottom-up, peer-to-peer, start-up, social design, open design, and design thinking.

From a city perspective, the well-established creative city will merge with the smart city into a new ‘Co-creative City’. From the citizen perspective, the creative city and the smart city will translate into the Creative & Smart Citizen, shaping a ‘New Civic’.

Winter Term 2015/2016

The seminar researches and develops models for spaces dedicated to artistic development.

These spaces include the traditional Academy of Arts as well as mobile hubs, such as the ‘floating art experiment’ reBoot. It also compares traditional (closed) research environments with the upcoming open innovation platforms. The seminar focuses therefore on micro-formats that embed artistic research in urban reality, such as the ‘mobile media platform-tricycle’. The research also includes in-between-spaces as collaborative environments that enable the interaction between the (lonely) artist and an active audience.


Winter Term 2016/2017

The last years have seen a rapid development of new design tools radically transforming the way we deal with contemporary spatial design issues.

Digital design tools, ranging from CAD and digital model making to parametric design and Artificial Intelligence, are emerging. Interfaces between analog and digital design such as 3D-printing, are becoming state of the art. New forms of production, such as Industrie 4.0, integrate robotics in the whole production line (robot-aided production).

Parallel, as the beliefs of the possibilities of planning are shaken, the focus of design is shifting from defining fixed spaces to developing process environments. Increasingly complex and dynamic systems are evolving, reacting, and adapting to multiple influences over time.

All these developments are transforming not only the design and production process. They are also demanding new approaches and paradigms in spatial design.

The seminar investigates a broad range of traditional and contemporary spatial tools and develops a toolkit for spatial design. With a hands-on approach, the seminar experiments with a broad range of model making processes. It also reflects on emerging new design approaches and unfolds new concepts of spatial design.


Winter Term 2016/2017

The seminar focuses on the connection between mood and creativity and analyses different ways of looking at creativity to create a shared conceptual framework.

Critically discussing research on creativity and how creativity can be examined in empirical research, the seminar integrates a workshop with inputs from Dr. Matthijs Baas of the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences of the University of Amsterdam who researches the cognitive, motivational, and affective foundations of creativity and interaction.

The seminar examines creativity as a process, a person’s property, as a product that is strongly influenced by the environment in which they operate. The relationship between mood and creativity is discussed, by explicitly eliciting the reliance on personal opinions, ideas, and experiences. The feasibility of creativity is considered, and creativity itself is emphasized as an outcome that is the result of several factors that people themselves can largely steer.


Summer Term 2018

The seminar focuses on worldbuilding. These constructed hypothetical imaginary worlds and fictional universes provide Meta Worlds as a frame and background to develop artistic work.

The seminar examines a series of historic world models as well as of future spaces and studies their parameters and dimensions. Based on these observations and experiences, scenarios are developed and elements designed, evoking new universes.

The seminar also expands into investigations of ‘world construction’ – as this has been documented in maps and in the reading of cityscapes. With a special focus on practices of ‘world construction’ that stemmed from colonialism and imperialism, the seminar also connects with the current, compelling, and heated debates on post-colonial discourse and processes and colonial repercussions. In this context, attention to the cityscape’s blindness to silenced memories is increasing, especially in relation to how different people experience the long-stratified urban environment.

We often, accustomed to our environments and not questioning them, have become blind to the multiple layers of the metropolitan territories we experience. The seminar aims at awakening the sensory apprehension of the city through the lenses of global, interconnected histories, to reckon with the cityscape’s past and present and its unvoiced, stratified traces in the spaces we cross every day. This includes re-contextualizing and re-reading the cityscape, exploring alternative systems that are capable of including other memories and stories, and other species, beyond the dominant ones.

Next to Cologne, the global city of Amsterdam serves as a main case study, as it provides a pertinent territory to start reading the cityscape in light of interactions that often bore colonial relations.


Summer Term 2018

The seminar critically reflects on examples of conceptual model making as methods for building artistic ‘metaworlds’ – as abstract materializations of ideas. A special focus is placed on insights from the field of architecture, such as Constant’s (Nieuwenhuys) “New Babylon” or Yona Friedman’s “Mobile Architectures”. It also researches “model making” in general, in the fields of art, science, and theory.

The seminar also investigates current and upcoming technological developments that support the design and modeling of spaces and worlds. It, therefore, examines the relationship of physical spaces with modeled worlds and focuses on processes of hybrid design, combining digital and physical modeling tools. Speculating about future environments, the seminar investigates the social and cultural dimensions of such modeled worlds.


Winter Term 2018/2019

In the seminar we explore and produce contemporary cultural spaces in the context of social, cultural, political, and climate change and technological acceleration. We investigate the future of art presentation spaces, such as the fusion of exhibition and performing spaces and speculate about future museums.

Based on this research, the seminar develops concepts and prototypes for “space generators”, for example, networked micro-stages as mobile architectural elements enabling the staging of hybrid events in public space.

Focusing on processes of hybrid design, combining digital and physical modeling and making tools, “space generator” prototypes are built and tested in public urban space.


Summer Term 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic forces us to rethink space in a “more-than-human” perspective as a networked interconnected multi-species habitat that considers the humans in their relationship to the global environment, including viruses.

The pandemic-induced lockdown creates the necessity to develop new digitally and social-distancing supported public communication spaces, as for large parts of the planetary population the ‘real’ world is and will stay un-accessible and cultural spaces such as exhibitions, museums, conferences, pop-up meetings, workshops, and academies are shut down.

In this critical situation, we have the chance to develop a spatial conceptual approach to support collaborative interactions in order to actively shape these future hybrid (digital and physical) explorative spaces – and not just the current main mode of collective social contact: the teleconferencing-formats that have been developed for other purposes.

By exploring contemporary cultural hybrid spaces in the context of socio-political, environmental, climate-related, and technological acceleration, this investigation questions the future of cultural space. Examining the relationship of physical spaces with digital and media networks enables us to explore the potential of hybrid space for artistic research and to develop new cultural formats.