Interdisciplinary, international, interactive – GBS and AEMS Summer Universities 2021 closed with success

Aug 10, 2021 by

The summer universities “Green.Building.Solutions. (GBS)” and “Alternative Economic and Monetary Systems (AEMS)” have once again been held in an online-format and closed with 81 students from 41 countries last weekend!

This was not only a positive result in terms of increased participants numbers – GBS hosted 46 participants, the AEMS has 35 graduates this year - but also concerning the heart-warming feedback by the students who found those programs as a life-changing and excellent summer experience!

The public hybrid kick-off event took place online and in person at Kuppelsaal of TU Vienna on Monday, 19th July 2021. Panelists Helga Kromp-Kolb (climate expert), Anika Dafert (activist at Fridays for Future) and Gabu Heindl (architect and urban planner) captivated the audience of about 200 persons from all over the world. They spoke not only with passion, but also pointed out the urgency of the impeding climate crisis. After their keynote speeches, the experts moved to a panel discussion – also taking on questions from the on- and offline audience. There is also a recording of the event available! Read more here.

Foto 1: Screenshot during the AEMS 2021
Foto 2: AEMS organizing team and academic heads 2021 at BOKU University; (c) Carina Kamptner

Over the course of 3 weeks, the AEMS summer school followed a comprehensive approach to raise a deeper awareness on how economy, society and environment are directly intertwined: Going beyond mere problem awareness, 35 students of 22 nationalities and participating from 10 different time zones found themselves discussing limits to growth as well as the instabilities of the financial system. They learned about alternative approaches in order to reach the socio-ecological transformation towards a long-term sustainable way of life that we urgently need. Topics discussed were far-reaching - with the aim of giving an overall problem understanding: such as the role of international monetary institutions, as well as interest rates and their influence on inequality. Also underlying basic questions of values and the meaning of a good life came to the fore when discussing topics such as work, universal basic income/services or alternative ways of food production.

The program included not only (live-)lectures and discussions but also simulations, role-playing exercises and workshops, and concluded with an interdisciplinary group project work. With regards to tackling climate change, much importance lies on politics – especially on the global level, such as the COP-conferences. Therefore, during the UN Climate Negotiations Simulations, students got into the roles of delegates for their assigned nations to agree on measures with the aim of stabilizing the world climate at +2°C, or well below, which proved a new experience for many and additionally contributed to the overall problem understanding.

Foto 1: GBS 2021 at Otto Wagner Area in Vienna with some students; (c) Günter Lang
Foto 2: Site visit at a passive house flat with some students of GBS 2021; (c) Barbara Mayr

Highlights at the GBS summer university, taking place at the exact same time: 46 participants from 30 countries and located in 10 different time zones immersed themselves in current topics of architecture, planning and the building industry - circular economy approaches and resilience of cities, nature based solutions and urban heat islands but also how to decrease the energy demand in buildings and alternative building materials such as wood were discussed. Participatory processes, policies, and their implementation as well as economic aspects in sustainable building – such as the green deal – were introduced. Students also dived deeper into alternative construction methods and did simulations of renewable energy production and energy efficiency.

All the knowledge gained in the two first weeks of the program were applied in a final real-life design project: Divided into groups, the students put all their efforts and learnings into a design project for the Otto Wagner Area in Vienna. In detail, they were working on the renovation of a listed building (former prosecution) as a museum and the development & design of a new pavilion, including important functions for the students' quality of life on the new and attempted plus-energy campus. The outcomes were as holistic, as the program was in its lectures, and all the involved experts were highly satisfied with the final presentations.

Thank you to all our partners and supporters without whom these programs would not have been possible! We’re striving to welcome international changemakers to Vienna next year for AEMS and GBS 2022!