Press Room

  • Jeff Davis, M.Arch '11, and Dane Zeiler, M.Arch '11

The Department of Architecture at PennDesign Presents 'City Futures'

PHILADELPHIA–According to a July 2014 United Nations report, 54% of the world's population lives in urban areas, and the proportion is expected to reach 66% by 2050. In celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Department of Architecture, the University of Pennsylvania School of Design presents “City Futures,” an international conference to investigate the critical relationship of city and architecture from November 12 - 13, 2015. The conference will bring together well-known architects, planners, journalists, writers, theorists and geographers to exchange ideas on the possible futures of cities and how they can be imagined. Reinier de Graaf, Partner, OMA, will deliver the keynote lecture on Thursday, November 12, at 6:00pm.

Winka Dubbeldam, organizer and Chair of the Department of Architecture, explains: “Rather than solutions to contemporary ills, ‘City Futures’ aims to produce visions, arguments, tactics and other provocations for the types of cities we want to inhabit.”

Architects have historically been prone to imagining future cities. The early 20th century is filled with visionary schemes—some realized, most not—for New York Tokyo, Paris, Algiers, Moscow, Rio, and countless other cities across the globe. Whether designed as a serious remedy to contemporary ills or simply as a ludic provocation, each of these proposals represents part of a perennial problem that is by no means architects’ alone.

The current impasse presents an opportunity to ask a number of questions: What form—civic, social, cultural, as well as physical—will the city of the future take? How will infrastructures hard and soft, define its contours? Will formal plans, information occupations, or some combination thereof shape its spaces? What role will speculation play in transforming cities? What new models have been produced by today's urban realities? What will the future challenges of the city be? What role will architects play in shaping the city of tomorrow?

“City Futures” is organized around three themes: Infrastructure + City Fabric, The Unplanned City, and The Imaginary/Speculative City.

The conference will take place at Meyerson Hall, 210 South 34th Street, Philadelphia. Admission is free with pre-registration; deadline is November 5, 2015.

“City Futures” is organized by Winka Dubbeldam, Chair of the Department of Architecture, with co-organizers Daniela Fabricius and Joseph Michael Watson.


Thursday, November 12
Introduction, 6:30pm: Marilyn Jordan Taylor, Dean and Paley Professor, PennDesign
Keynote speaker: Reinier de Graaf, Partner, OMA

Friday, November 13
Introduction, 9:45am: Winka Dubbeldam, Chair, Department of Architecture, PennDesign

Panel 1, 10:00am – 12:00pm: Infrastructure + City Fabric
This panel explores the role that infrastructures (hard and soft) and urban fabrics can play in redefining how cities function, whether the aging metropolises in the Global North or the burgeoning megacities in the Global South. Moderator: Daniela Fabricius. Confirmed speakers include James LimaThom MayneMarilyn Jordan Taylor, and Tom Verebes.

Panel 2, 2:00pm – 4:00pm: The Unplanned City
This panel examines the sometimes striking commonalities and the very stark differences between informal urbanisms, and how the new potential of bottom-up systems (planned and unplanned) will shape future cities. Moderator: Winka Dubbeldam. Confirmed speakers include Daniel D'Oca (Interboro), Selva Gurdogan and Gregers Thomsen (Superpool, Istanbul), Andrew HerscherLaila Iskandar, and Shohei Shigematsu.

Panel 3, 4:30pm – 6:30pm: The Imaginary/Speculative City
This panel intentionally, even provocatively, plays at a double meaning of “speculation”: as an act of gambling on the real estate market or as an act of visionary or utopian scheming. While the two types of speculation would seem to have little in common, or even to be fundamentally at odds with one another, both similarly envision alternatives to the city as it exists. Moderator: Joseph Watson. Confirmed speakers include Paul PreissnerVyjayanthi RaoAlfonso Vegara, and Liam Young.

7:00pm: Reception

In 1749 Benjamin Franklin published his famous essay, Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth, circulated it among Philadelphia’s leading citizens, and organized 24 trustees to form an institution of higher education based on his proposals. City Futures celebrates Franklin's visionary initiative and 125 years of architecture at PennDesign.

Media Contact: Michael Grant, director of communications, or 215.898.2539.