Pre-Organised Special Sessions

To be competed with more special sessions soon...

Prof. Alcestis Rodi

Title: Sensing cities, changing forms. On resilience and re-invention of smart city space



Prof. Alcestis Rodi

Assistant Professor of Urban Design and Planning, MAUD Harvard University, PhD TUDelft, MIT Visiting Scholar


The Smart City is often argued to remain invisible. In contrast to large-scale physical elements of the Industrial City, elements of digital technology are barely noticeable within the city and hardly affect the image of the built, and also the natural, landscape. At the same time, zooming out, purposefully designed and developed smart cities and districts like Masdar, Songdo and 22@Barcelona, are criticized for their formal conventionality rather than inventiveness or experimentation, while their “unconventional” counterparts, generated by designers on computer screens and storytellers on the media, are profoundly technophilic.

Smart Cities of C21 are inextricably technological and human, electronic and physical. This Janus-faces nurtures and augments the interplay of contrasts and contradictions, including the one of our inevitable dependence on technology and the ambition to dominate it. City intelligence becomes more widespread and more focused, more objective and more subjective, more controlled and more democratized.

In opposition to the apparent absence of any impact of “ubiquitous and real-time” information technology on urban form, the “spatialized character” of digital mapping evidences what is not yet visible and preludes potential transformations. No matter how minor or greater, real or narrative urbanism and development can be, objects/physical elements, actions and concepts related to Information and Communication technologies (ICTs) have a significant impact on space. Urban space is the meeting ground where all antitheses are amalgamated. Its form, produced by an urban intelligence accumulated from cities formation and transformation over time, is now injected with artificial intelligence that, as Condillac’s statue, successively unlocks its senses. The blue dot in geolocation does not need any grid plan so as to be functional.

Will urban form obstinately resist and remain morphologically inert allowing minor accretion as technology advances or will it even relent, as dictated by nostalgia, as e.g. in New Urbanism? Will it resiliently evolve and embrace all attributes of technological change and shock? Will it reinvent itself on the basis of a visionary, collective and symbiotic intelligence? Any reluctance of architecture, urban design and planning to promptly absorb experiments and changes, may be a missed opportunity, especially now, in the advent of Smart city movement, when ICT industry, markets, economies, politicians and networked citizens co-determine how cities look, evolve and are lived in.

In search of answers and in anticipation of a Forma Sapiens, the session will discuss the spatial/physical impact of new designs, applications and concepts interwoven with Smart City technologies from a variety of scales, perspectives and disciplines, on the existing Forma Urbis.

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