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Günter Gassner

Dr Günter Gassner

(he/him)

Senior Lecturer in Politics and Design

School of Geography and Planning

Email
GassnerG@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 29208 74640
Campuses
Glamorgan Building, Room 2.96, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA
Users
Available for postgraduate supervision

Overview

I am an interdisciplinary scholar interested in a critical and creative exploration of design, cities, and architecture. My research is at the intersection of spatial praxis, social theory, and political philosophy. I focus on relationships between politics and aesthetics, history and power, and antifascism and urbanism.

In my latest research monograph Ruined Skylines: Aesthetics, Politics and London's Towering Cityscape (Routledge, 2020; paperback 2021) I examine the urban skyline as a space for radical politics. Developing a critique of the construction of more and more speculative towers as well as a critique of the claim that these towers ruin the historic cityscape, I explore ruination as a political appropriation of the commodified and financialised cityscape and make a case for reanimating urban politics as an art of the possible.

In current projects I explore right-wing authoritarian space-times that subordinate difference to a central vision, the violence of urban beauty, and fascist urban imaginaries of a 'post-race city'. In addition, I work on a book project with the preliminary title Antifa Urbanism in which I explore militant antifascism in Germany, UK and US as an illiberal (as opposed to a liberal or an anti-liberal) and liberatory spatial pratice. Part of this project are investigations of queer antifascism in the 1970s and revolutionary antifascism in the 1990s.

I also collaborate with the Walter Benjamin Archive at the Academy of Arts Berlin, Poligonal–Office for Urban Communication, and the Museum Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf on the Benjamin in Berlin Project. This project commemorates Walter Benjamin in Berlin and explores alternative ways of public remembering. Developing an audio guide platform and curating public space interventions, it explores Benjamin's life and his work on modern cities to problematise the commodification of urban life and the role of creativity in counteracting fascist thought patterns in the contemporary city.

I am the interdisciplinary research lead in the School of Geography and Planning and a co-founder of CIRAF–Cardiff Interdisciplinary Research on Antifascism and the Far right, which is a research network that spans six schools in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. I joined the School in 2016 and previously taught at the University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins, in the Sociology Department at the London School of Economics. Before my academic career I practiced as an architect in Vienna, Barcelona, and London.

Publication

2023

2022

2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2012

2010

2009

Articles

Book sections

Books

Conferences

Websites

Research

My research cuts across disciplinary boundaries to investigate relationships between politics and design. My work contributes to three main areas.

Politics and Aesthetics: My work extends debates around the politics of aesthetics and the aesthetic dimension of radical politics. I am particularly interested in democratic aspects of aesthetic processes and forms and have studied the construction of speculative towers in London and, more recently, aesthetics of urban infrastructures. This research has been published in a monograph, Ruined Skylines: Aesthetics, Politics and London’s Towering Cityscape (reviewed in Urban Studies, LSE Review of Books, Cultural Geographies), as well as in several journal articles. I am currently working with colleagues on a project on the Violence of Urban Beauty.

Critical Urban Theory: I am contributing to new developments in critical theory through the lens of contemporary urban conditions. My focus has been on studying work of critical theorists who are associated with the Frankfurt School and Walter Benjamin in particular. I wrote on his ‘monadological approach’, and I examine commodified and financialised baroque cityscapes, relationships between literary montages and democratic cityscapes, and spaces of fragmentation and social alienation. This research has been published in several journal articles and in book chapters (e.g. The Detective of Modernity; Visualising a Sacred City). I am currently starting a new collaborative project on online flanerie.

Fascism, Race, and Materiality: In a time when the extreme right is on the rise, the far-right is becoming increasingly mainstream, and autocratic leaders appear unstoppable in many ‘democratic’ countries, this work explores right-wing spaces and authoritarian space-times that subordinate difference to a central vision. Taking Benjamin’s account of fascism as the ‘aestheticisation of politics’ and Deleuze and Guattari’s work on the art of living counter to all forms of fascism as starting points, I am particularly interested in exploring fascist imaginaries of a post-race city versus antifascism as an illiberal spatial practice and different types of (actual and virtual) urban spaces antifascists co-produce.

Teaching

My teaching addresses political, social, economic and cultural dimensions of design. It is both practice-informed and research-led with the aim to open a space for experimentation and political positioning. I currently teach on and lead modules across Human Geography and Urban Planning programmes and develop the new module 'Politics of Design'.

Biography

Previous academic positions:

  • 2021 - present: Senior Lecturer in Politics and Design, Cardiff University, School of Geography and Planning.
  • 2016 - 2021: Lecturer in Urban Design, Cardiff University, School of Geography and Planning.
  • 2015 - 2016: Course Tutor in Sociology and City Design, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Sociology.
  • 2008 - 2016: Associate Lecturer, University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins, Spatial Practices Programme.
  • 2011 - 2014: Guest Lecturer, London School of Economics and Political Science, Cities Programme.

Education:

  • 2013: PhD (Sociology) London School of Economics and Political Science, UK.
  • 2005: Master in Architecture, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria.

Non-academic appointments:

  • 2014 - 2015: Urban Researcher, LSE Cities, London, UK.
  • 2008 - 2009: Urban Researcher, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), London, UK.
  • 2005 - 2007: Project Architect, Foreign Office Architects (FOA), London, UK.
  • 2004 - 2005: Architect, F451 Arquitectura, Barcelona, Spain.
  • 2002 - 2004: Architect, Frötscher Lichtenwagner Architekten, Vienna, Austria.

Supervisions

I welcome expressions of interest for PhD supervision across the broad remit of my research specialisms. In particular, I am keen to hear from prospective PhD students interested in the following areas:

  • Politics of design and design of politics
  • Spaces and politics of aesthetics
  • Creative urban writing
  • Right-wing spaces
  • Fascist and antifascist movements
  • Race and space
  • Critical theory and critical race theory