Project Terminology


Everything material that constitutes our cities. This includes walls, street layouts, parks, buildings, playgrounds, benches, bollards, flags, fences, the design of houses and even the orientation of windows, the plants in our garden, the curtains in our windows and much more.


This project is based on the assumption that the urban environment mirrors certain social or political conditions like conflict, polarisation, even radicalisation. Just like a critical look into a mirror can tell us a lot about ourselves, we think a critical look at a city’s materiality can tell us a lot about what is going on. We wanted to better understand what exactly happens when social and political conditions are manifested or translated into built “stuff” in the form of glass, steel, brick, mortar, asphalt, wood, paint and so on.


The verb to mediate has several meanings; ours is to intervene in something. The urban environment not only mirrors but can also influence social and political conditions. Material forms influence the ways in which daily lives are acted out which can include the destination of our Sunday walk, shopping habits, commuting routes and – that is what we wanted to find out – possibly also the perpetuation of stereotypes about other social, ethnic, religious, political groups and the (un-)likeliness of friendly encounters with them.


A hugely problematic expression – hence the question mark. What is radical for some is a legitimate struggle for freedom, human rights, historical justice, divine truths etc. for others. In order to make this term more manageable, we often took polarisation as a step towards radicalisation and thus looked for signs of (de-)polarisation in our four cities – although we realise the many problematic assumptions and implications of this move. In any case, we treated both phenomena as highly relative, context specific and emerging.