5-6 December 2019
Universidade Católica Portuguesa

Crossing the perspectives of urban studies, cultural theory and narrative, connecting the fundamentals of architectural thought with a contemporary take on the built environment as a net of infrastructures, interfaces and lived experience, the conference proposes the interdisciplinary reflection on a hybrid territory, where buildings and discourses, practices and ideas, urban texts and literature are retraced in order to stimulate a deeper awareness of cultural spaces and their narratives.

The two-days graduate conference will address a territory defined by the social spaces construction (Lefebvre) and its critical notions of interface (Nawratek), infrastructure in culture (Butler), readability and the experience of urban spaces (Certeau), as well as the city as discourse (Barthes), and the role and influence of spatial singularity by the intersection of all of the elements above (Massey).

Space needs to be occupied in order to be recognized, structures in it create also its own map and territory and it is from that point on that they are given their symbolic meanings, creating therefore, thus, their social function, as noticed by Lefebvre (1974): “(S)pace serves an intermediary or mediating role […]. This tends to turn social space into a transparent medium occupied solely by light, by ‘presences’ and influences.”

Regarding the legitimate demand for social well-being in public space, Krzysztof Nawratek (2012) writes: “Most of the emerging so-called public spaces keep their users in a limbo of indeterminacy. These spaces do not allow for intimacy and neither do they invite interaction.”

As suggested by Judith Butler (2014), public assembly and political action both contribute and depend on material conditions, inasmuch as “it seems that the space of appearance is not ever fully separable from questions of infrastructure and architecture”.

The relations between material spaces and their users are also mediated by the narratives that express the way they are experienced; whether they are collective or individual, they allow the spaces to be created and performed by those who walk in/into them, “whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban ’text’ they write without being able to read it.” (Certeau, 1984) Moreover, a well-designed built environment may become a carrier of stories and information.

Every aforementioned element will, then, when coming together, form the space both solid and conceptual, as a socially created discourse that will provide it with its own personality and singularity as Massey has already stated: “What gives a place its specificity is not some long internalized story but the face that it is constructed out of a particular constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus.”

The conference will discuss both theoretical insights, as well as concrete practices, case studies, experiences and experiments by architects, artists, designers, planners, project managers, curators and other cultural agents with an ongoing interest for the urban realm as medium and open-ended material reality, as well as a cultural and civilizational horizon. Aiming at the acknowledgement of the complexity of the urban scape as cultural product and workable-habitable context. The conference aims at fostering a cross-disciplinary debate, so that many and diverse aspects of the contemporary urban experience may be critically, productively and even poetically articulated. Research related to the understanding of the urban sensescape of today, to the rhetoric of space and its narrations, as well as spatial politics and policies in the city are welcome. The conference’s aim is to engage participants in a debate where narrative, architecture and urban theory meet in order to inspire the public to rediscover the care for the urban fabric as a crucial endeavor of contemporaneity.

In very concrete terms, the key question of the meeting is how to create a theoretical and ethical framework for emergent spaces and spatial practices where artistic, architectural and curatorial scopes engage in a dialogue in which the urban realms may become a more conceptually integrated and socially participated aesthetical experience.

Keynote Speakers:

Ana Margarida Abrantes is a senior researcher and a Professor of Languages and Linguistics at the Catholic University of Portugal in Lisbon. She studied German and English at the Universities of Aveiro, Essen and Innsbruck; completed her Master’s Degree in cognitive linguistics in 2001 and received her Doctoral Degree in German language and literature from the Catholic University of Portugal in 2008. Between 2006 and 2009, she was visiting scholar at the Center for Semiotics of Aarhus University, and at the Department of Cognitive Science of Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, USA.

Malcolm Miles is a writer and researcher on critical theory, art and urbanism. His writing spans the arts, humanities and social sciences, with a focus on the Frankfurt School as well as modern and contemporary art and architecture. His book on Herbert Marcuse (2011) investigates Marcuse’s aesthetic theory and links Marcuse’s critiques of specific areas of literature to more recent visual art practices. His book on eco-aesthetics (2014) reconsiders aesthetics as a branch of philosophy, setting this beside green political and social perspectives since the 1960s and a diverse range of contemporary art. Cities and Literature (2019) thematically examines key social theories and cultural theories.

Krzysztof Nawratek is an urban theorist. Defining himself as a ‘transhumanistic post-christian democrat’, he is a Senior Lecturer in Humanities and Architectural Design at the University of Sheffield. Author of City as a Political Idea (Plymouth, University of Plymouth Press, 2011), Holes in the Whole. Introduction to the Urban Revolutions (Winchester Zero Books, 2012) and Radical Inclusivity. Architecture and Urbanism (ed. DPR-Barcelona, 2015). His main research interest lays in urban theory in the context of post-secular philosophy, the crisis of the contemporary neoliberal city model and urban re- industrialisation.

Renato Rizzi is an architect and lecturer at the Instituto Universitario di Architettura in Venice. In his work he’s influenced by ancient and contemporary philosophy, literature and the history of religion. Rizzi investigates architecture’s communicative potential as a storyteller, addressing the complex task of designing monumental buildings in our time. He worked for over 10 years with another well-known architect – Peter Eisenman – a period which influenced his unique and powerful approach to the profession. Rizzi is the winner of many prestigious architectural competitions, one of his key-works is the iconic Shakespeare Theatre in Gdańsk.


Organizing Committee

Agata Wiórko (Lisbon Consortium/CECC-UCP)

Iyari Martínez (Lisbon Consortium/CECC-UCP)