Symposium: Drawing the Urban

Julian Lewis, ‘Hairy drawing’ of Indische Buurt and Flevopark, 2012. Courtesy the author
Julian Lewis, ‘Hairy drawing’ of Indische Buurt and Flevopark, 2012. Courtesy the author
Julian Lewis, ‘U3 (East teaching unit)-Student drawing about life at edges and atmosphere
Julian Lewis, ‘U3 (East teaching unit)-Student drawing about life at edges and atmosphere

Academy of Architecture

26 September 2023

16th –17th November, 2023
ISUP (Istituto Studi Urbani e del Paesaggio)
USI, Accademia di architettura, Mendrisio, Switzerland

In the last decades, the notion of the city as a definable entity has been increasingly contested and reframed in relation to fluid and heterogenous urbanization processes. If the term still retains a collective intelligibility, this is because the urban imaginary is deeply rooted in individual lived experiences.

A key role in defining and reiterating urban imaginaries can be understood in relation to the way the city is depicted. The representation of the urban is not merely a descriptive operation, but one that deals with the epistemological challenges of how to know, understand, and study urban processes and conditions. At the same time, drawings are the instruments that allow urbanists, architects, and designers to envision and steer spatial and social transformations.

This symposium will investigate the multiple ways in which recent and current urban conditions are represented, analysed, and informed, through drawings. Among the multiplicity of urban processes constantly and simultaneously shaping the built environment, we are particularly interested in dynamics of urban expansion and densification (whether top-down and bottom-up), as well as shrinkage, exclusion, land speculation, and gentrification. We are similarly interested in the material and graphical analyses of social phenomena such as migration, demographic shifting, and intensive commuting.

We welcome contributions that investigate existing forms of urban representation – for example, institutional and administrative documentation, urban codes, maps, and construction drawings – as well as creative, subjective, situated, and propositional ways of visually depicting urban processes and conditions.


Zoom Webinar
The event will be in-person, but it will be possible to follow it online via zoom at this link
Passcode: 161123



Thursday 16 November 2023

14.00 - 14.10 Institutional welcome, Jonathan Sergison

14.10 - 14.20 Introduction to the symposium, Tom Avermaete and Giulia Scotto


14.20 – 16.40 Session I: Drawing urban conditions and processes.

  • 14.20 - 14.30  Introduction, Jonathan Sergison
  • 14.30 - 14.50 Hugh Campbell and Plattenbaustudio, Drawing Dublin Port and all that it Currently Contains
  • 14.50 - 15.10 Fatima Zahra Benhamza
    Heterotopia[s]_Casablanca layers of love
  • 15.10 - 15.30 Cheng-Chun Patrick HWANG and Peter W. Ferretto
    The Thick and Thin of Fragrant Harbor
  • 15.30 - 15.50 Elsa Despoix
    The Logbook Project, A Window into Hand Drawing by Next Generation Architects
  • 15.50 - 16.10 Dennis Häusler and Mathias Vollmer
    Drawing the Urban – Complexity and Specificity
  • 16.10 - 16.40 Discussion, moderated by Jonathan Sergison and Miriam Stierle

16.40 - 17.00 Coffee break
17.00 - 18.00 Keynote by Julian Lewis, East architecture, landscape urban design ltd. Reality Sandwiches


Friday 17 November 2023

09.00 – 11.20 Session II: Drawing histories

  • 09.00 - 09.10 Introduction, Tom Avermaete 
  • 09.10 - 09.30 Lorenzo De Chiffre, Reading Buildings as Metaspace – Reverse Engineering the Urban Theory of Chora Institute of Architecture and Urbanism.
  • 09.30 - 09.50 Yosuke Nakamoto, From fisher villages to the city: Design surveys by the Kōjiro Laboratory 1967-1976
  • 09.50 - 10.10 Amir Djalali, Making Everything Visible: the Archaeological Plan and the Open Secret of Urban Form
  • 10.10 - 10.30 Ilaria Maria Zedda, The IBA Berlin 1979–87 and its Rahmenpläne: Drawing the Urban as a Design Tool and a Trigger for Discussions on the City
  • 10.30 - 10.50 Lola Lozano Lara, Withdrawing Land. Graphic agency and land entitlement in colonial Mexico
  • 10.50 - 11.20 Discussion moderated by Tom Avermaete and Sanna Kattenbeck

11.20 -11.40 Coffee break
11.40 – 12.40 Keynote by Kristiaan Borret, Bouwmeester-Maitre Architecte of the Brussels-Capital Region Soft Power. The impact of a drawing in urban policy

12.40 - 13.40 Lunch break


Friday 17 November 2023

13.40 – 14.40 Keynote by Huda Tayob, Manchester School of Architecture
Opaque architectures: can drawing ‘tell’ a different story?

14.40 – 15.00 Coffee break (by osteria Vignetta)

15.00 – 17:00 Session III: Drawing marginal spaces and alternative agencies

  • 15.00 – 15.10 Introduction, Irina Davidovici 
  • 15.10 - 15.30 Xiang Ren
    Drawing Urban Imaginaries of Minorities and Margins
  • 15.30 - 15.50 Geraldine Borio
    Looking for the Voids and Drawing the Liminal
  • 15.50 - 16.10 Elettra Carnelli
    What the files do not reveal: self-constructed settlements and their drawings in postwar Milan’s periphery
  • 16.10 - 16.30 Lukas Fink, Seppe De Blust, Marica Castigliano, and Chloé Nachtergael
     A Map of Potentials
  • 16.30 -17.00 Discussion moderated by Irina Davidovici and Giulia Scotto

17.00-17.30 Conclusion, Jonathan Sergison, Tom Avermaete, and Irina Davidovici