Keynote: Jane Rendell

Context: Every generation of architects, urban designers, planners and artists engaged with the built environment face a set of seemingly intractable and isolated problems particular to their time. Mid 19th Century city planners addressed questions of public health while architects engaged in a ‘battle of the styles’. Early 20th century architects argued for a ‘contemporary style’ while architects / urban designers created visions of cities in the sky.  By the 1970s ecological forerunners argued for a future of sustainable living while post-modernists looked to the past for aesthetics.

Today, Donald Trump promises investment in infrastructure while simultaneously relaxing environmental regulations and targets. China continues to urbanise and pollute while industrial cities in the West continue to decline and ‘go green’. Internationally, global cities of commerce can be surrounded by slums and in many cities housing is unaffordable as a place of living while it functions as a major form of capital investment. This all happens against a backdrop of the arts and cultural industries seen as economic motors, conflicting media representations of urbanisation, and the emergence of new medias altering the experience our standard ways of living in cities.

To design in the middle of this complexity and contradiction requires reflection and vision. It also requires critique and multiple practices.

Critical Practice:

Jane Rendell defines ‘critical spatial practice’ as a form of self-critique; a questioning of the role designers  play in the status quo of social organisation and its typical urban forms. In this regard she echoes Manfredo Tafuri. For Tafuri the idea that architectural or urban practice under capitalism could produce anything radically different from standard typologies was simply impossible. Tafuri saw an escape through architectural criticism, for Rendell, it can come through art.

Setting these ideas in an early 21st century context, this conference asks whether in today’s increasingly complex world, practice can be ‘critical’ Can it understand the conditions it operates in? Can it challenge these conditions?  Can it change them? Can it make a difference?

Multiple Practice(S):

A premise underlying this conference is that a major barrier to critical practice is singular thinking. Every discipline develops its ways of working, its habits and standard practices. One way to break out of this is to critique our work from various angles, from multiple discipline perspectives.  To open up our understanding and practice to other possibilities and new approaches, the conference welcomes specialists from across disciplines: architects, urban designers, planners, artists, landscape architects, geographers, sociologists, media experts and more.

The variety of questions this dialogues seeks to provoke is wide: How do the arts impact on the design of architecture? Can we solve the economy of unaffordable housing through design? How are emerging technologies changing life and experiences in urban contexts? How do we deal with exploding city populations and create sustainable communities? How should we design in extreme environments in a time of climate change, and much more.

Themes & Formats:

Using various discipline perspectives as broad strands, conference presentations will be organised in several sub themes. The result will be a coherent but varied conference. To make the event as inclusive as possible, delegates can attend in-person but can also avoid travel costs by making their presentation as a pre-recorded film. It will be permanently available via the AMPS Youtube channel. Alternatively, they can present virtually via skype. In all cases, written papers are also acceptable.

Possible Formats include: Pre-recorded video (20 minutes)  |  Skype (20 minutes)  |  Conference Presentations (20 minutes)  |  Written Papers  (optional)  |  Exhibition via alternative formats accepted


This event forms part of the AMPS led research programme PARADE  (Publication & Research in Art, Architectures, Design and Environments). As part of PARADE, the event draws together multiple publishers and books series.

All delegates are given the option to present without a written paper. If written papers are submitted they should be 3000 word length. Formatting instructions will be available at the time of the conference. All papers will be include in the AMPS conference proceedings series, ISSN 2398-9467.

Subject to review, selected authors will be invited to develop longer versions of their papers for inclusion in the book series and journals collaborating with PARADE / AMPS.

Publishers involved include: UCL Press – seeking architectural and urban works related to social sustainability  |  Intellect Books – seeking works related to new technologies, medias and the city  |  Libri Publishing – seeking works connected to housing design  |  Architecture_MPS journal –  seeking works for journal special issues on a range urban and built environment issues  |  Vernon Press – seeking works on the role of the arts and cultural industries in the built environment  |  AMPS Conference Proceedings – collating papers in its varied conference publication series..


  • 05 Dec 2017: Final Abstract Submissions  
  • 15 Dec 2017:  Abstract Feedback  
  • 05 Feb 2018:  Registration closes
  • 22-23 Feb   2018.    Conference  
  • 01 May 2018: Full Paper Submissions (where applicable)  | 01 June 2018: Feedback for publication  |  15 October 2018: Full Publication

Nb. Early Abstract Submissions accepted in June 2017 (for delegates needing an early decision)

This event is organised by the University of Arizona, School of Architecture and AMPS. It forms part of the AMPS research and publication programme PARADE (Publication and Research in Art, Architectures, Design and Environments).

Images: Susannah Dickinson, Mark Hillary; Carbon Visuals; Chrishonduras, NASA, Eric Gonzalez-Payne