[urban interfaces] research group at Utrecht University


21 March 2024
16:00 - 18:00
Utrecht City Centre (room for second half will be announced as soon as possible)

Open Dialogue: Science and the City

The Open Cities Platform, with input from the UU Descartes Centre for the history and philosophy of the sciences and humanities, is hosting an Open Dialogue around questions of science and the city. Quite a lot of science takes place in cities. But what does “take place” mean here? And what is the specific role of cities for science? If we consider, for the moment, the place of the university in the city, it becomes obvious that this leads to intriguing questions: there used to be conflict between cities and universities because of the independent legal status of universities – but cities and their facilities are also of key relevance for universities and their practices. The university can be intermingled with the city being practically invisible (see the Trans and the Drift in Utrecht) – but there also is impressive architecture for university buildings surrounding the old city centre, in the Uithof, and before that in the Veeartsenijterrein.

These questions all concern the topic of openness for cities just as well as for science, and they concern openness in its complex and challenging aspects. Such questions raise the issue of what characterizes the city as opposed to, for instance, the countryside estates or the monasteries that were so important for 17th– and 18th-century science. Furthermore, looking at concrete locations can also help us understand the typical metaphors used in talking about science – from the “ivory tower” to the “trading zones” discussed by Peter Galison. There are quite some places that call themselves a “Science city”, whereas Utrecht has a “Science Park” – what does that tell us about science, cities, and parks?

The OCP Team wants to organize this event as much as possible on location in the city, and therefore invites you to contribute ideas as to what you might want to present at a particular location in the city. To make it workable, we intend to use the area around the Domkerk/Academiegebouw as our focus. They want to try to arrange some site visits in this area that they can combine into a walk of circa one hour. This walk will be followed by an indoor meeting from 17:00-18:00 during which you can share our observations and all ideas that came up during these site visits. During this meeting, you can also include brief presentations concerning places that we could not visit during the walk.

If you want to contribute, please send a very brief sketch of your idea in one paragraph – this should contain two elements:

  • a reference to a specific location (either a location that we can visit, or a location that you want to present during the indoor meeting)
  • a brief indication which feature of “Science and the city” you want to highlight at this particular location.

The OCP Team shall then try to select and arrange the submissions so as to make them walkable (but they will very gratefully collect all your ideas and make them available for further discussions and more walks!). Please send your ideas to the Open Cities Platform opencities@uu.nl by February 29th, 2024. They will notify you about the places to visit as soon as possible.