member CALL FOR ABSTRACTS // ‘CITIES TO BE TAMED?’ // Politecnico di Milano // 15-17 November

Spazicontesi | Contestedspaces (Francesco Chiodelli, Beatrice De Carli, Maddalena Falletti, Lina Scavuzzo)

with the support of
Department of Architecture and Planning (DiAP)/ Politecnico di Milano

in collaboration with
Laboratory of International Cooperation/ DiAP Coordinator: Paola Bellaviti

are pleased to announce:


Standards and alternatives in the transformation of the urban South




CITIES TO BE TAMED? is an international conference aimed at simultaneously exploring and questioning the role played by urban planning, design, and policies in the continuous urbanisation processes affecting the so-called ‘global South’.

Under the purposefully vague label of ‘urban South’, a nuanced variety of urban environments scattered across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America share: (1) the prominence of informal settlements, (2) the tension between imported and endogenous paths to modernisation and (3) exacerbated social conflicts related to the use of the urban space. In addressing one or more of the three above mentioned topics, the Conference aims to explore the difference between ‘standard’ and ‘alternative’ strategies of transformation – especially investigating the relationships between the visions of policy-making, and the transformative agency of everyday urbanity.
As such, the Conference targets urban researchers coming from the backgrounds of planning and urbanism, architecture, design theory, and geography – and welcomes both theoretical reflections and academic perspectives, and case-study related practices and insights.



As a growing number of regions are presently embroiled in the process of urbanisation, informal settlements develop unabated in the territories of the ‘global South’. In the last fifty years, design-related disciplines have informed a multitude of practices and conceptual frameworks exploring ways to qualitatively transform these sites. An enduring and highly disputed problem, however, has remained the difficulty in assessing within which processes, and to which extent, the production of design strategies can acquire agency and have significant leverage effects within the informal sectors of contemporary cities – thus effectively contributing toward the feasible amelioration of living conditions for their inhabitants.

What role do design-related disciplines currently play, in relation to the self-produced transformative logics that shape informal cities across the world? What place might be accorded to design products and processes, at the crossroad between the social and spatial dimensions of urban poverty and inequality? Under which conditions and at which scales can design have a strategic function, and contribute to producing structural modifications on the longer term?


Characterised by wealth concentration and social polarisation, cities in the South of the world are also typically subject to a dual mode of transformation. On the one side, we assist to the everyday reshaping of the urban environment, spontaneously performed by a number of inhabitants and in most cases referring to long-lasting conceptualisations of space, nature, society; on the other side, governmental institutions display planning discourses – namely visions and programmes – which tend to rely on stereotypical notions of development and sustainability, fixed at the supranational level and often detached from cultural milieus in terms of problem assessments, objectives and solutions.

By whom and for whom are visions conceived? How do global agendas affect local territorial transformation? Can different rationalities converge in setting priorities and excogitating ways to improve the quality of life in urban environments? Can vernacular rules of transformation provide valid alternatives for addressing the challenges posed by contemporary urban growth?


As Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber remind us, “Planning is a component of politics. There is no escaping that truism”. Although this is true everywhere, it is made more evident in many contexts of the ‘urban South’, where ethnic and social conflicts are often exacerbated. In these situations, planning and urban policies often act as a ‘veil of Maya’ hiding by a ‘technical cover’ the underlying political aims pursued by the design of space.

Which are the different articulations of the relationship between spatial transformation, power, social conflicts, popular resistance in different ‘urban South’ contexts? How is it possible to fight back the ‘dark side’ of planning? Is it really feasible to empower citizens by participation in planning, urban policies, architecture?


Paper proposals are now being accepted. The official language for the Conference is English. Submissions in other languages will not be accepted.

Paper proposals intended for presentation within the Conference should be via the abstract form which can be downloaded from the website, no later than June 15, 2012.

Submissions should include the following information:

  • Author(s) – In case of multiple authors, please indicate presenter with an asterix (*)
    • name and contact information (phone number, email and postal address);
    • institutional affiliation;
    • biography: indication of educational and professional background, and research interests, in a single paragraph up to 100 words.
  • Paper
    • title of the paper;
    • main topic addressed;
    • 3 keywords;
    • highlights: see for some examples;
    • abstract: outlining the aims, scope and conclusions of the paper in maximum 500 words;
    • 5 key bibliographical references.

On receipt of a submission, the Conference curators will make a first decision on its suitability for presentation. The final selection of papers to be presented during the Conference will be agreed on by the Scientific committee. Successful applicants will be notified by July 15, 2012 and must register by September 1 (fee 100 Euros).

The selected papers will be submitted in a final version (4000 to 5000 words in length) before October 15, 2012 via the paper form which will be uploaded on the website in due time.

Full papers will be presented during the Conference for interactive discussion among a small group of people including a moderator, and will be published on ‘Planum. The Journal of Urbanism’ (ISSN 1723-0993). Avenues for further publication of a selection of the Conference papers will also be explored.

For more information please send an email to this address.

  • Call for papers launch: 1 March 2012
  • Deadline for Proposals: 15 June 2012
  • Notification of acceptance: 15 July 2012
  • Deadline for registration: 1 September 2012
  • Deadline for Papers: 15 October 2012
  • Conference: 15/17 November 2012
  • Bruno De Meulder (University of Leuven)
  • Jorge Fiori (A.A. School of Architecture)
  • Nabeel Hamdi (Oxford Brookes University)
  • Further Keynote Speakers will be announced upon confirmation.
  • Francesco Chiodelli
  • Beatrice De Carli
  • Maddalena Falletti
  • Lina Scavuzzo
  • Alessandro Balducci (Politecnico di Milano)
  • Camillo Boano (University College of London)
  • Bruno De Meulder (University of Leuven)
  • Jorge Fiori (A.A. School of Architecture)
  • Nabeel Hamdi (Oxford Brookes University)
  • Agostino Petrillo (Politecnico di Milano)
  • Antonio Tosi (Politecnico di Milano)