Tove Frederiksen, CEO of Køge Kyst P/S, and Thea Mikkelsen, consultant and candidate in the Danish Psychoanalytical Association.
1-Day Professional Development Workshop, PDW 11

“The city is made for embracing, containing, and holding our thoughts without any constraints. Here our thoughts can find their place and time: it is a suspended time, an invitation, a wait. Here our thoughts can stay on the mind’s horizon: in it, they can continue the state of starting uncertainty and thus postpone the moments in which they will obliged to be defined and become thoughts of something… In fact, the city of thoughts does not suggest only a single kind of thoughts, does not force anyone to think about meetings and appearances occurring in it or to investigate its mysteries. Light, shadow, facades, monuments, human and animal beings, and objects are so arranged that the mind can divert its attention from emotions, passions, and external influences.”  Italo Calvino on Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical cityspaces

An Urban Dreaming Workshop

Our cities are the most dominating physical structures in contemporary lives of people living in them. City structures organise work, recreation, housing, education, transport, shopping and culture. All over the world city structures provide separation between rich and poor, between generations, cultures and religions and by doing that they help us create our identities and understand a past, establish rooms for living together in the present and spaces for dreams for the future.

Governments, municipalities and city planners organize infrastructure and infrastructure organize citizens. In this way arranging spaces is also always a battle about power and values and what kind of activities we want to engage in together. As Italian psychoanalyst Cosimo Chinaia writes in the book Psychoanalysis and Architecture “Cities become holding environments that offer inhabitants differing forms of psychic engagement with the object world.” (Chinaia, 2016)

Holding environments are circumstances that allow us to develop and experience what Donald Winnicott calls potential spaces. The potential space in Winnicott’s terms is the intermedial mental area between imagination and reality where we can be in a state of reverie, of creative thought and are able to sense our own presence as conscious and unconscious creatures that experience the world around and within us selves and develop mentally.

The question we have asked ourselves is how we can understand the city structure as a holding environment for its citizens to create room for potential spaces within and between them and how different holding environments create room for different inner mental landscapes and different inner landscapes can give birth to particular urban spaces.

In 2017 we designed this method we call “Urban dreaming” about the relation between inner and outer spaces and we tested it on a two day workshop in Copenhagen at the 17th ISPSO Annual Meeting. The method is inspired by professional methodologies of free association like the psychoanalytic setting, process study groups and social dreaming but includes the physical environment where the processes take place. Instead of reflecting on thoughts, feelings and phantasies in relation to a dyadic or group setting we wanted to create a method of working analytically with the physical environment and how it affects our relationship to our own inner life and to other people.

In Copenhagen the PDW group which consisted of both architects and designers and psychologists and therapists observed and reflected feelings and fantasies in both urban spaces and work spaces around the concepts of flow and fetish. Drawing from this we want to develop the method further by trying to explore urban spaces in Berlin together with colleagues in psychoanalytic thinking.

The Urban Dreaming process:

  1. Presentations of relevant theoretical concepts in order to create a common terminology and frame of mind
  2. Visiting urban spaces of relevance where participants have 20 min to experience the place and themselves and the group at sight
  3. Common reflection group where everyone is encouraged to share thoughts, feelings and phantasies.
  4. 2 and 3 are repeated according to the timeframe
  5. Final process group

The walls in inner and outer spaces – exploring the rooms they create and the rooms they destroy

The Berlin Wall separated families and friends for more than 30 years until it was torn down by the German public in 1989. For almost 40 years people were shot if they wanted to trespass the no man’s land surrounding the wall. Today walls are discussed again as a concrete possibility for separating people and defining identities and all over the world border controls are installed where there has not been any for years and new security systems are established in public spaces. Since 1989 Berlin have given priority to integration, development of the city’s recreational public spaces, pedestrians, sustainability and room for diversity and in this way the city has transformed its public spaces and organized rooms for people to meet. City planners and architects have been working on transforming the city back into a dynamic orbit by reorganising the flows and walls of the city so that contemporary activities can be supported and prioritized.

There is never a space without a boundary. “Boundaries are necessary in order for human beings to relate not only to each other but through their institutions. If there are no boundaries, relatedness and relationships are impossible because we become one; lost in each other, lost in institutions, lost in societies. At the same time it is readily recognized that boundaries can be used and experienced as impregnable barriers. Both the wish for no boundaries and the desire to remain totally imprisoned within a boundary is an expression of madness in that there is no desire to distinguish between fantasy and reality; to take authority for what one perceives, how one sees, and why one understands.” (Lawrence, 1979, p. 16) Up through history groups, organizations and individuals construct, deconstruct and destroy physical structures that provide protection, hierarchy and identity according to their dreams, conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings.

What role does walls play here? Both the visible and the invisible, the conscious and the unconscious? We want to engage colleagues in an inquiry process about how human creativity and wellbeing are being facilitated or held back by the organised city and its history with a special focus on how physical walls can help us find a deeper understanding of the meaning of walls within.

This PDW facilitates a process for exploring and discussing the relationship between walls and spaces by visiting four historically important urban spaces all adjacent to the Berlin Wall.

We will provide a theoretical framework for sharing experiences of how the construction of the outer world influences the inner world and how the inner life are given room to unfold individually and in groups in public spaces. We hope that this workshop will inspire free association on building and destroying walls inside and around us.


We meet and exit at the conference venue

9.30 -10.00      Introduction and presentation of the workshop and the research method we will use for this PDW at conference venue

10.00 – 13.00 Observation studies in Berlin. Possible stops include The Wall, Check Point Charly, Potzdamer Plats, Friedrich Strasse, Brandenburger Thor, Reichstag, Barnhoff Zoo, Radioturm.

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00 – 15.00 Observation studies.

15.30 – 16.30 Group refection at conference venue

Learning outcomes

Participants will learn how to use the Urban Dreaming method.

Participants participate in the double role as informants and co-researchers. Discussions will be recorded and used for psychodynamic informed research made by Tove Frederiksen and Thea Mikkelsen. All participants’ contributions will be anonymized. By participating you conform to these conditions.

Workshop designers and facilitators:

Thea Mikkelsen (left), Tove Skrumsager-Frederiksen (right)

Tove Skrumsager Frederiksen, MSc in Engeneering, MSc in Organizational Psychology. CEO of a public-private owned urban development partnership Køge Kyst P/S. Køge Kyst is transforming former harbour and industrial areas in Køge into a sustainable and dense town district for 2009 to 2030. She has 25 years of experience in strategic urban planning, infrastructure planning and construction and 15 years of experience with leadership. ISPSO member and NAPSO member.

Thea Mikkelsen, MSc, MA, is an international executive coach and freelance leadership program developer in the creative industries. Working in Copenhagen and Milan, she has more than a decade of experience in her field. She is also a NonExec board and advisory board member, a candidate in the Danish Psychoanalytical Association, a keynote speaker on the topics of creative leadership, innovation and professional creativity and a writer. She is based in Milan, Italy, with her husband and two daughters.