On March 6, 2024, the Vienna Legal Salon was held for the third time. The series of events takes place under the leadership of Univ.-Prof. Dr. Dragana Damjanovic (TU), Univ.-Prof. Dr. Iris Eisenberger (University of Vienna) and Univ.-Prof. Dr. Verena Madner (WU). The guest in this edition was Univ.-Prof. Dr. Angelika Siehr, LL.M. (Yale), professor of public law, international law and legal philosophy at Bielefeld University.

In her lecture on the topic “The right to public space” she devoted herself to the concept of public space and its functions (especially as a space for communication and the exercise of fundamental rights). She first looked at the development of the concepts of space and the public from an interdisciplinary perspective and showed how the relational social scientific concept of space can be made fruitful for legal scholarship. In order to clarify the specifically public nature of public space, Prof. Dr. Siehr discussed the old German idea of the commons in the sense of a space that belongs to everyone and to which everyone has a right. On the other hand, she examined the public as a specific category of political-social life, outlined Hannah Arendt's model of public space in connection with the 'agora' as a meeting place and, in the next step, Jürgen Habermas' understanding of the public. In addition to the important liberal and communicative function of urban public space, which justifies its high relevance for democracy, its function as a space of equality, diversity and urbanity - including the functional delimitation of uses, which is important for lived urbanity - and its cultural function were also examined addressed as the collective memory of the community.


The question of the right to and in public space then formed the core of the presentation. The right to public space should focus on equal and non-discriminatory access and equal participation in public space, while the right to public space covers all spatial dimensions of those fundamental rights whose enactment depends on the public space; above all the freedom of assembly. According to Prof. Dr. Siehr's considerations, usage ownership and the power of disposal over ownership of land in public hands fall apart. This represents the basis of the two rights mentioned: The commons character of public space is articulated in the right to public space as a right of access and use; It follows from the citizens' ownership of property in public hands in conjunction with the principle of equality. The right to public space, on the other hand, lives from the idea that the legislature and the executive only exercise their power to dispose of the use of public space in a fiduciary manner and are therefore accountable to the citizens. When it comes to the denial of the exercise of important fundamental rights such as freedom of assembly, the requirements for justification also increase, while they are much lower for activities within the scope of general freedom of action. But every ban on use fundamentally requires justification, in other words: the basic principle of general freedom of action is transferred to the spatial dimension of freedom of activity in public space. The right to public space therefore follows from the citizens' ownership of the property in public hands in conjunction with the general freedom of action.

The lecture was followed by an exciting discussion with the audience of lawyers and spatial planners, in which questions such as conflicts of use in public space, the existence of a transnational public space or the place of the fundamental right to freedom of movement in the concept of the right to public space were debated.