Conference : The Future of the Vernacular City

Asian Urbanisms in Theory and Practice: The Future of the Vernacular City

Date:  01 Jul 2013 – 02 Jul 2013
Venue:  ValueLab, Future Cities Laboratory, CREATE Building 6th Floor, U Town NUS @ Kent Ridge
Organisers:  Dr PADAWANGI Rita, Prof DOUGLASS Michael, Dr BUNNELL Tim

Co-organised by the FASS Cities Research Cluster, Urban Knowledge Network Asia (UKNA), ARI Asian Urbanisms Cluster, and the Future Cities Lab

This workshop will bring together scholars in the region to assert the relevance of urban theories in practice, followed by a special focus on the vernacular city. This workshop will work towards developing an urban theory that is grounded in the complexities, diversities, and richness of cities, particularly in Asia. The separation between social and cultural emphasis in urban theories and the practicality of financial and economic considerations in urban policies is problematic and needs to be addressed. This workshop taps into the resources and the network of the Urban Knowledge Network Asia (UKNA) that has recently started working on building urban knowledge in Asia (April 2012). In particular, this workshop will address the following three themes:

1. The Idea of the City
What is the city? The disconnect between urban theory and urban policies stems from different visions of what constitutes the city, what the city should be, and how it should function. This theme will come up with an epistemological approach to cities by looking at how knowledge of Asian cities is acquired and shaped, and by whom. The conscious move to represent Asian cities will provide updates to and will reshape urban theories to increase their relevance to broader sets of urban realities.

2. Cities by and for the People
The focus on economic growth in many developing cities has often left behind the people dimension. There have been efforts to promote participatory approaches, but eventually these approaches are secondary to financial considerations. To reassert the importance of the city as a social and cultural reality, there needs to be a thorough examination of urban residents’ opportunities and challenges in shaping Asian cities. Residents’ participation can be through various levels of participation in decision-making processes or hands-on actions in building their own spaces in the city. The objective is to integrate the theoretical importance of civil societies in determining their urban realities. This highlights the people’s role of in crafting urban places in the form of action, decision-making and policies in the actuality of Asian cities.

3. The Future of Cities
This theme will address the critical issues that define urban life and the future of urbanisation in Asia. The discourse on future cities has been much dominated by technological imaginations and utopias that confines humanities and social sciences approaches in projecting the future of cities to empirical statistics. However, technological developments are dependent upon how those technologies are socially derived, politically framed, and culturally accepted. It is important to revive the importance of urban theory to construct a holistic view of the future of cities that addresses the built environment, infrastructures, and the socio-cultural fabric.

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