Symposium: Drawing the Urban / Call for Papers

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

Academy of Architecture

7 February 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.

The symposium will pursue three tracks, namely

  1. Drawing urban conditions and processes
  2. Drawing as a (legal) tool of transformation
  3. Drawing marginal spaces and alternative agencies

Keynote Speakers

  • Kristiaan Borret (Bouwmeester-Maitre Architecte of the Brussels-Capital Region)
  • Julian Lewis (East architecture, landscape urban design ltd)
  • Huda Tayob (Manchester School of Architecture).

Scientific Committee Tom Avermaete (gta, Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture ETH Zurich), Irina Davidovici (gta Archives, ETH Zurich), Giulia Scotto (Institute of Urban and Landscape Studies, Accademia Architettura Mendrisio), Jonathan Sergison (Institute of Urban and Landscape Studies, Accademia Architettura Mendrisio)

Abstracts (300 words, 1-2 images, and a short bio) can be uploaded at this link: by the 31st of March 2023.

Two scholarships (travel and accommodation in Mendrisio) will be offered to people who can’t have their expenses covered by their institutions (see application form).