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  • Writer's picturePaul Dobraszczyk

Unmoored Cities

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

Tomás Saraceno, Observatory, Air-port City (2008). Psycho Buildings exhibition, Hayward Gallery, London, June 2008.

Friday 25 May 2018, 10am-6pm, Bartlett School of Architecture, 22 Gordon St, London, WC1H 0QB. Bookings (free) here

Together with UCL Urban Laboratory and Robin Wilson and Barbara Penner at the Bartlett, I’ve organised a day-long symposium Unmoored Cities: Radical Urban Futures and Climate Catastrophes. I’ll be introducing the event at 10am and chairing the plenary talk by CJ Lim. Here’s the details:

As countless studies have demonstrated, cities are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Indeed, many of the world’s cities are at risk of becoming ‘unmoored’, whether literally sunk beneath rising sea waters or tidal rivers or forced to relocate entirely. Such possible urban futures challenge our imaginations to think through the physical, social and cultural consequences of climate change; yet, on the whole, the current literature on climate change and cities focuses on the mitigation of rather than adaption to those consequences.

This symposium will redress this by exploring imaginative modes of thinking in relation to future cities and climate change, asking how we might think through radical and utopian possibilities for unmoored cities. How will cities continue to thrive if they are submerged; will they float or even lift off into the air; and what might it mean to move a city? Drawing together speakers from a wide range of disciplines – anthropology, architecture, art, fiction, and geography – this symposium explores multiple urban imaginaries that engage with future cities and climate change. The result will be to challenge and expand the narrow range of possibilities that currently characterise approaches to the subject.

Here’s the full programme:

10.00 – 10.10 Introduction by Paul Dobraszczyk

10.10 – 11.05 Opening lecture

Illustration from CJ Lim’s Inhabitable Infrastructures (2017)

• CJ Lim, ‘Science fiction or urban future?’

• Chair: Paul Dobraszczyk

11.15 – 12.45 SUNKEN CITIES

Rachel Armstrong, Living Infrastructure. Drawing by Simone Ferracina.

• Maggie Gee, ‘The Flood’

• Rachel Armstrong, ‘Living Infrastructure’

• Viktoria Walldin, ‘How to move a city…and more: An anthropologist among architects’

• Chair: Dean Sully

13.45 – 15.00 AIRBORNE CITIES

Thandi Loewenson, Melencolia City of Sadness

• Thandi Loewenson, ‘Digging down and dreaming up: stories from cities on the fringe’

• Rob La Frenais, ‘Bicycling on Mars – Thoughts on the Future of Transportation’

• Sasha Engelmann, ‘Elemental Experiments in the Aerocene’

• Chair: Jonathan Hill

15.15 – 16.45 FLOATING CITIES

Matthew Butcher, The Flood House, a floating weather station in the Thames Estuary, launched in 2016

• Shaun Murray, ‘Surrealist Thames-side Piers: Tellurian Relics’

• Matthew Butcher, ‘Postcards from the Edge: An architecture of Estuarial Mudflats’

• Robin Wilson, ‘Figures of the Débâcle: The Utopics of Whistler’s Wapping’

• Chair: Penelope Haralambidou

16.45 – 17.00 Response by Jennifer Gabrys

17.00 – 18.00 Drinks reception

To book your free place, please visit here:

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