Marginal urbanities. The hidden face of planetary urbanisation / Symposium 10-11 July 2023

La Paz, Bolivia, photo © Alberto Canepa
La Paz, Bolivia, photo © Alberto Canepa

Academy of Architecture

22 June 2023

Marginal urbanities. The hidden face of planetary urbanisation
10-11 July 2023
Hall C061, Palazzo Canavèe
USI Accademia di architettura
Mendrisio, Switzerland


There is no need to resort to old cartographic binomials to describe the contemporary territory. In particular, the “city-countryside” pair shows all its limitations in describing the production of today's space. Although intuitively comprehensible, these terms are in fact polysemous and inaccurate (Angelo, 2017). This cartographic crisis calls for a rethink based on new criteria and categories. The planetary urbanisation hypothesis (Brenner & Schmid, 2015; Schmid & Brenner, 2011) responds to this challenge by emphasising, in close proximity to the assessments of political ecology and urban political ecology, the way in which different territories contribute to the maintenance of the global urban structure. This perspective is part of a trend that attempts to overcome paternalist, normative and Eurocentric paradigms. Today it is possible to discover the urban by talking about territories, processes and phenomena that occur in what would once have been excluded from the study of cities (Brenner, 2018; Reddy, 2018). Thanks to the introduction of these externalities, contemporary urban analysis can develop creative tools and interdisciplinary hybridities.

This symposium is interested precisely in these non-centralities that today are becoming one of the main assets of urban analysis. The aim of the event is to propose a series of heterogeneous interventions that can enrich contemporary urban analysis from original and innovative perspectives. The focus will be on case studies of marginal places and groups, as well as on innovative and original perspectives and modes of analysis that are able to enrich urban studies by reintegrating the externalities of the urban system that have long been ignored.


Angelo, H. (2017). From the city lens toward urbanisation as a way of seeing: Country/city binaries on an urbanising planet. Urban Studies, 54(1), 158–178.
Brenner, N. (2018). Debating planetary urbanization: For an engaged pluralism. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 36(3), 570–590.
Brenner, N., & Schmid, C. (2015). Towards a new epistemology of the urban? City, 19(2–3), 151–182.
Reddy, R. N. (2018). The urban under erasure: Towards a postcolonial critique of planetary urbanization. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 36(3), 529–539.
Schmid, C., & Brenner, N. (2011). Planetary urbanization. In M. Gandy (Ed.), Urban constellations (pp. 10–13). Jovis Verlag.




10:05 Institutional welcome (J. Sergison)

10:05-10:30 Opening speech (M. Cometta)

10:30-12:30 Session Inhabiting the margins (moderated by G. Scotto)

Eschatopolis. Migrant workers ghettos and the ‘dark side’ of rural accumulation (T. Raeymaekers)

Endless City (F. Kolsal)

The urbanisation of the Adriatic Sea: Emerging infrastructural systems, logistics platforms and productive sites in a maritime region (L. Ramondetti)

Appennino natura urbana (R. Ruggeri)

12:30-14:00 Lunch at Vignetta

14:00-16:00 Session Metabolisms and operational landscapes (moderated by S. Balzan)

The daily building of a capital city from its margins: the red brick supply chain and the urbanization processes in Cairo (C. Pérez-Houis)

Living on Unstable Ground: Marginality, Ruination, and Resilience in Datong’s Sinking Mining Settlements (J. Audin)

The incremental city. Embedded practices of incremental housing in Lima (N. Nowara)

16:00-16:30 Coffee break

16:30-17:30 Keynote lecture: Mega-events and marginality: Investigating the substance behind the spectacle (S.D. Wolfe)

17:30-18:30 Aperitif

Dinner at Cantine di Mendrisio



09:30-10:00 Opening speech (G. Scotto)

10:00-12:00 Session Alternative geographies (moderated by M. Cometta)

Marginal communities and the right to the city. Which Right to the City for Youth in Urban spaces? (A. Colombo & M. Colella)

Time, movement, urban space. The example of transit places: an urban asynchrony? (G. Buffoli)

Recycling Regimes, Scrapwork and Domination in Delhi’s E-Waste Sector (G. Rathore)

The foundations of prosperity (J. Herburger)

12:00-13:00 Lunch at Vignetta

13:00-14:00 Keynote lecture: Soils, genes & nitrates. Construction and Appropriation of Ecological Surplus across the US Cornbelt (N. Katsikis)

14:00-14:15 Coffee break

14:15-16:15 Session Alternative practices (moderated by C. Sinatra)

Bottom-up urbanity in Rome, or how to make the city livable through self-management (S. Ranocchiari)

Tracking the spatiality of ordinary phenomena, discovering terrae icognitae, mapping “urban infrageopolitics” and bringing to light unsuspected forms of inhabiting the contemporary world: what a critical geosophy approach of graffiti-trainwriting reveals (M. Tadorian)

Outdoor activities and the hypothesis of extra-urban centralities (V. Geffroy)

16:15-16:20 Closing speech (M. Cometta and G. Scotto)


For ecological reasons, the event will be organised in hybrid mode to favour the participation of those who cannot reach Mendrisio by train. A small financial support for those arriving from abroad can be arranged if needed.

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