Backcasting fossil-fuel-free urban mobility

[r+d] postcarbon Vienna

Format: Headline

Team: Joshua Grigsby, Florian Lorenz 
Design Team: Zeynep Aksoz, Mark Balzar, Yvonne Biering, Lei Feng, Jürgen Furchtlehner, Lukas Hartwig, Alex Hauff, Sander Hofstee, Masha Hupalo, Peraphan Jittrapirom, Christoph Köhler, Luis Lima, Julia Obleitner, Anne Porter, Roxelane Rahel, Lucia Varela, Andrea Weninger, Georg Wieser
Support Team: Taha Alshemäree, Florian Burmann, Emilie Kleinszig, Paris Tsitsos
Advisory Board: Peter Döllmann, Stefan Geier, Stefan Gruber, Yvonne Franz, Harald Frey, Hermann Knoflacher, Anna Mayerthaler, Vikas Mehta, Alexandra Millonig, Hans-Martin Neumann, Peter Norton, Volkmar Pamer, Matthew Passmore, John Urry, Dominic Weiss, Lukas Zeilbauer, Konrad-Otto Zimmermann
Sponsors: SRAM, Wiener Stadtwerke, klimaaktiv, zipcar Austria

As the world continues to urbanise and the effects of climate change and resource depletion intensify, the automotive age enters its twilight.

For VIENNA DESIGN WEEK’s 2015 Future Urban Mobility Initiative Smarter Than Car brought together an interdiciplinary team of researchers and designers to lay out a paradigm shift for fossil-fuel-free urban mobility. The team considered the systemic implications of such a transition and how the design challenge of future urban mobility might be approached. Vienna served as their laboratory and test case.

The [r+d] process involved the [r&d] team and an external advisory group of local and international stakeholders and experts. The [r&d] team engaged questions concerning the topics energy, space, and living, and how a transition to a postcarbon future can transform these three key elements of urban mobility.

The project included a week-long exhibition [r+d] Postcarbon Vienna and a public event Future Urban Mobility Lab during VIENNA DESIGN WEEK 2015.

Smarter Than Car has continued this work with the r&d project FUTURAMA REDUX – urban mobility after cars and oil and has published the FUTURAMA REDUX magazine series that both build on the work started with [r+d] Postcarbon Vienna. 


[r+d] postcarbon vienna exhibition

25 September - 04 October 2015
Ankerbrotfabrik, 1100 Wien

Building on the futuring approach of the original FUTURAMA, the [r+d] Postcarbon Vienna exhibition follows a best-case thought experiment that moves the present-day to 2050, when Vienna has become a leading city in postcarbon transition. But rather than providing a prescriptive vision of a simple solution to complex problems, the exhibition proposes a multifaceted loop of consideration, experimentation, participation, and adaptation.

[r+d] Postcarbon Vienna exhibition views. Future Urban Mobility within VIENNA DESIGN WEEK 2015. Images by Paris Tsitsos.

Exhibition details walkthrough

We begin the exhibition with a brief overview of the age of cheap energy, relating shifts in mobility and society to the energy subsidy of fossil fuels in general and oil in particular, and presenting peak oil as an opportunity for post-carbon transition. Then, a toolbox of urban strategies and employed by Vienna between 2015-2050 is sketched out for making the transition. Next, we pull back from planning and design for a moment to consider context, theory, worldviews, value systems, personal experience, the ubiquity of oil, and the role of mobility in increasing urban resilience. Finally, we step into a different sort of vision of the future, a Futurama redux, fluid and dynamic and urbane, not predefined but depending on our own choices.

Selected detail views of banners and picture boards from the 2015 [r+d] Postcarbon Vienna exhibition. 

future urban mobility lab

03 October 2015
Ankerbrotfabrik, 1100 Wien

The FUTURE URBAN MOBILITY LAB was held within the program of VIENNA DESIGN WEEK 2015 as a day of input and discussion with designers, researchers, professionals, and visitors about the future of urban mobility. 


expert talks, team inputs and panel discussion

The [r&d] team led a guided tour through the exhibition, experts gave talks on why the transition to postcarbon urban mobility systems is inevitable, and a panel of practitioners debated the challenges and impact of possible transition pathways and how designers can best contribute.

Transitions in Urban Mobility

Expert talk by Alexandra Millonig (AIT – Austrian Institute of Technology)

Why there is no Alternative to Decarbonisation

Expert talk by Adam Pawloff (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences & Greenpeace)

Mobilität der Zukunft in Wien

Panel discussion with: Adam Pawloff (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences & Greenpeace), Alexandra Millonig (AIT - Austrian Institute of Technology), Anna Mayerthaler (Wiener Stadtwerke), Christine Zopf-Renner (Austrian Energy Agency & klimaaktiv) Bernd Vogl (City of Vienna, MA 20 Energy Planning). Moderator: Florian Lorenz (Smarter Than Car)

Designing Future Urban Mobility

Introduction to the research and design project by members of the [r&d] team (Andrea Weninger, Christoph Köhler and Georg Wieser)

Curating Future Urban Mobility

The curators, STC's Joshua Grigsby and Florian Lorenz on the process of [r+d] Postcarbon Vienna. 

[r+d] Process

The [r&d] process included a kick-off meeting with expert inputs, expert workshops for productive feedback from the advisory group and continous workshops within the [r&d] team to further the design approaches.

input conversations & workshops

Throughout July-September 2015 the [r&d] team was holding workshops to evolve the project and received expert input from international experts. 

Expert input conversations with:

John Urry, University of Lancaster
Societies after cars + oil

Vikas Mehta; University of Cincinnati
The Ecology of the Street

Project crits with guest experts:
Lilli Hollein, Anna Mayerthaler, Alexandra Millonig, Volkmar Pamer, Lukas Zeilbauer


Kick-off event for designers 17&18 July

On 17 July the [r&d] process kicked off with a district tour through the focus district Favoriten.


Impressions from the district tour. Images: Taja Alshemäree & Florian Lorenz.

Kickoff Input Sessions 17 July

Local and international experts provided input for the [r+d] team reacting to curatorial questions about urban mobility, postcarbon transition and paradigms of mobility systems. 

Session #01 / Future Urban Mobility

How would you describe a post-carbon urban mobility system and how would such a thing change how we perceive, build, and experience cities?

Herrmann Knoflacher (TU Vienna)

If energy, space, and mobility are interdependent, what impact will climate change and peak oil have on all three?

Hans-Martin Neumann (Austrian Institute of Technology)

How would you describe a post-carbon urban mobility system and how would such a thing change how we perceive, build, and experience cities?

Volker Schaffler (Smart City Wien Initiative / TINA Vienna)

Session #02 / Planning for Postcarbon Transition

What is Vienna’s vision for future urban mobility, how does it compare to that of other cities, and how will that vision be realized?

Harald Frey (TU Vienna)

What does Vienna’s energy landscape currently look like and what role does mobility play in it?

Stefan Geier (City of Vienna, MA20 – Municipal Department for Spatial Energy Planning) 

What role will innovation play in the transition to post-carbon mobility in Vienna? New technology? New mindsets? New systems?

Anna Mayerthaler (Wiener Stadtwerke)

Session #03 / Designing Future Urban Mobility Paradigms

What can post-carbon mobility design learn from the rise of Motordom?

Peter Norton (University of Virginia)

How can design methodology help build adaptive capacity instead of rigidity?

Stefan Gruber (STUDIOGRUBER) 

Impressions from the first day of the [r+d] Postcarbon Vienna kick-off weekend. Images: Taja Alshemäree & Florian Lorenz.

Expert discussions 18 July

On the second day of the kick-off weekend the design teams debriefed the inputs from the first day, received more expert input and discussed the themes of the [r+d] process with Viennese experts. 

Group Discussion / energy, space, living + mobility systems


Alexandra Millonig > AIT – Austrian Institute of Technology

Yvonne Franz > Austrian Academy of Sciences

Peter Döllmann > Döllmann Design

Redesigning Streets

Matthew Passmore (morelab) 

Impressions from the expert inputs and group discussions during the [r+d] Postcarbon Vienna kick-off weekend. Images: Taja Alshemäree & Florian Lorenz.

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