CFP: "Making Do" in Urbanism and the Arts

Raechel Root's picture
May 30, 2020
Oregon, United States
Subject Fields: 
Architecture and Architectural History, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Geography, Urban Design and Planning, Urban History / Studies

Making-do in Urbanism and the Arts

Conference, May 30-31, 2020 Portland, Oregon, USA


“The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city.” David Harvey, 2008


A quotidian practice, 'making-do' refers to personalized modes of fixing and/or adapting urban spaces by those in precarious, marginalized or at-risk communities. Further, certain kinds of spaces seem to lend themselves to acts of 'making-do' — spaces between buildings, patches of urban wilderness, abandoned buildings, corner plots, stoops and stairwells — sites where vernacular life makes and makes itself felt. Making-do can be understood, therefore, as an act of staking claim to place


The elements of making-do take myriad forms, but they may often involve the re-use and re-purposing of inexpensive or free materials, and thereby the requalification of space: old calendars, bed frames and plastic sheets used to construct make-shift barriers or shelters; found objects used to redecorate or render a space homely, inviting or off-limits; ad-hoc furniture installations used to invite new means to gather; interruptive 'artistic' gestures to reappropriate the existing visual terrain of the built fabric.   


At this critical juncture in the social and environmental history of cities, it is crucial to interrogate 'making-do' from within a cultural studies framework; for the multiplicity of its practical solutions to everyday dilemmas, or its potential to be a subversive or, simply, a necessary act through which to claim the 'right to the city', in the sense that Henri Lefebvre described more than 50 years ago in Le Droit à la ville


This conference seeks, therefore, to examine the aesthetics, effects, and theoretical insights to be drawn from 'making-do'. It seeks to engage thought and discussion on questions such as: How do contemporary practices in urbanism, architecture, art and landscape architecture consider and inform making-do? In what ways might the aesthetics of making-do be defined and situated? How precisely can making-do be a form of claiming the right to the city? How does making-do intersect with creativity, with interruption and with growth? Do nature and non-human animals make-do? How might making-do help us challenge technocratic interpretations of 'creative' and 'creativity' in urban contexts?


 We seek contributions on topics including (but not limited to):

  • The apparatuses, materialities, and modes of making-do: adapting, building, accommodating, challenging, expanding…
  • The meaning of and need for making-do: ad-hoc solutions, the right to the city, informal settlements…
  • The processes and lifetimes of making-do: improvisation, tactical design, bricolage, assemblage…

We invite 20-minute paper presentations and creative work proposals. Interested contributors should submit abstracts of no more than 500 words, a paper/exhibit title, a current CV, and up to 5 accompanying images by Monday, January 6, 2020. Selected speakers will be notified by February 1, 2020 and are expected to accept or decline the offer within one week of notification.


Submission Portal: submissions



Dr. Gillian Jein, Senior Lecturer in French and Urban Humanities at Newcastle University in the UK. Her research seeks to tease out the interrelations between space, visual culture and power, and to map the aesthetics and politics of how human beings make and unmake meaningful places in which to live.



Professor Liska Chan is an Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture in the College of Design at University of Oregon (UO). Her scholarship and creative practice center on precarity and resilience in relation to visual culture and place.


Rae Root is a UO graduate student in Art History, studying the intersection of contemporary art and critical geography. Her current research examines the photography of Oregon’s lesbian land intentional communities.


Elizabeth Stapleton is a PhD candidate in landscape architecture at UO. Her work examines landscapes as social- ecological systems and she is currently studying equity in urban green infrastructure systems of the Pacific Northwestern USA.


This conference is hosted by the University of Oregon research group, Slow Lab, which fosters critical inquiry into environments of speed, mobility, and connectivity. You can follow SlowLab on Twitter and Instagram.

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