Rapid Cities - people, social justice and design in the age of spectacle

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Call for Publications
November 22, 2020
United Arab Emirates
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Demographic History / Studies, Geography

The American University in Dubai seeks papers for publication from this conference examining issues of design, people and planning in an age of spectacle. The backdrop to the conference is the global spectacle par excellence, The World Expo.


Rapid Cities – Responsive Architectures

Place: American University in Dubai
Dates: 22-24 November, 2020

Abstracts: 30th June 2020 (Round One)   |  01st October 2020 (Round Two)





DISCIPLINES  History | Culture | Sociology |.Human Geography | Urban Design | Architecture | Sustainability | Engineering | Housing | Public Health |  Business | Technology |

PUBLISHERS: Routledge | UCL Press | Cambridge Scholars Publishing | Vernon Press | Libri Publishing | Intellect Books

FORMATS: In-person, pre-recorded presentations, skype, written papers.

THEMES: Heritage, Tourism, Urbanization, Global Cities, Spectacle architecture, Construction, Right to the City, Resilience, Climate-responsive architecture, Real Estate and Development and more.


SPECIAL STRANDS:  Social Justice | Migration | Identity | Housing


Organizers: The American University in Dubai | AMPS | PARADE | UCL Press | Routledge


Submit to the Dubai 2020 CONFERENCE:



While at the conference, we encourage all delegates to visit EXPO 2020 Dubai.


Full Conference Call:


In 1975 the World EXPO opened in Okinawa, Japan. Its centerpiece was ‘Aquapolis’, a floating city designed by the leading ‘metabolist’ architect Kiyonori Kikutake. By the time it closed one year later, Reyner Banham had published Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past. Paul Virilio had also coined the term dromology to explain the impact of speed and technology on contemporary culture. For all, speed and technology were not only central to architectural and urban design, but also the mediated culture of spectacle around them. The debates they instigated were not one dimensional however. Virilio’s interest in technology was matched by concerns for social justice. Banham’s focus on megastructures was nuanced by ideas on responsive environments. Kikutake’s interest in ‘spectacle’ was tied to an interest in ecology as manifest in the 1975 EXPO itself.

The event that this conference aligns with, EXPO 2020, addresses the dichotomies found in the work of these theorists. For many, the phenomenon of the EXPO is the epitome of contemporary fast-paced design and development. Commercially driven, built at break neck speed, led by star architects and premised on instant urban planning. EXPO 2020 has all these traits and addresses them in the context of the Middle East. It also presents itself as responsive to social and environmental concerns. It emphasizes the role of cultural and design heritage and touts its long term plan for housing and mixed-use development post EXPO. It is powered by solar arrays, recycles wastewater and monitors its carbon footprint. It is themed around opportunity, mobility and sustainability. As with the city of Dubai itself – the poster-child of rapid development in the Gulf – EXPO 2020 is the perfect backdrop to this conference.

Rapid Cities – Responsive Architectures seeks to examine the dialectic, tensions, problems and possibilities of architecture and urbanism as technologically imbued, fast-paced commercial exercises in the Middle East and open our interpretation of it to the lessons of other regions. Can the design and construction of the built environment be fully profit-driven, remain responsive to the cultural heritage of a particular region? What are the particularities of the Middle East that inform development of modern cities in the region? Is spectacle architecture consistent with vernacular design and communities? How do rapidly planned cities ensure social integration, urban health and produce affordable housing? Should we embrace speed and technology as motors of globalized design, construction and development as ends in themselves? If we do, what are the advantages and likely results? What does the history of these issues tell us about future trends?


Contact Info: 

Lorraine Gess