2012 Conference

2012 Writing Cities Conference
May 10-12, 2012 | Cambridge, MA

Limits and the Urban
The 2012 edition of the Writing Cities graduate student conference invited papers that engage the issue of limits. The conference operated under the initial position that the fluidity and volatility of contemporary urbanization necessarily foregrounds the notion of limits. With urban studies often focused on the identification of problems and the articulation of solutions, limits have historically shaped various research agendas. But today, these limits occupy an even more central place in contemporary intellectual discourse. To what degree do we as writers on the city perpetuate existing conceptual limits through our work, and to what extent do we question or define them? To what degree does the city exhibit physical or functional limits as a system? Do limits come from exogenous or endogenous sources? How do we recognize and come to terms with the limits to understanding and writing about these phenomena in the first place? The conference organizers assumed the notion of limits to have a multitude of meanings and interpretations, and to have resonance in several overlapping discourses related to the city. Reflecting the heterogeneity of participants in the Writing Cities cadre, the question of limits prompted rich investigations through a host of associations. Writing Cities 2012 aimed to shed light on limits through research addressing the issue from one of two primary perspectives. On the one hand, limits can imply a methodological question; crucial questions to this end explore notions of limits in writing, limits in urban research, or limits in knowledge. On the other hand, limits can imply specific urban phenomena; avenues of exploration here might include limits in relation to territory, legislation, growth, density, and many more potential directions. Papers addressed the conceptual frameworks that sponsor limitations, the recalibration of research and writing due to methodological limits, the articulation of alternative urban practices that limits have provoked, the exploitation of limits by various agents, arguments being advanced for and against limits, the historical evolution of the concept, as well as a number of spatial and material effects: density thresholds, systems capacities, resource allocation, size determination, etc. Ultimately, the conference tried to push, test, and interrogate limits as a working concept- writing that locates and unpacks instances of limits as a central goal. As in past years, individual authors did not present their papers. Rather, each participant was tasked as a respondent to raise questions, critiques and concerns coming from another paper. The chair ensured that discussions were balanced between those with an “insider” and an “outsider” perspective to each paper.

Organizing Committee
Cressica Brazier, MIT School of Architecture and Planning
Nikos Katsikis, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Dimitris Papanikolaou, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Lily Pollans, MIT School of Architecture and Planning
Karthik Rao Cavale, MIT School of Architecture and Planning
Jason Rebillot, Harvard Graduate School of Design

Advisory Committee
Gerald Frug, Harvard Law School
Michael Hooper, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Mark Jarzombek, MIT School of Architecture and Planning
Hashim Sarkis, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Richard Sennett, London School of Economics
Fran Tonkiss, London School of Economics
Larry Vale, MIT School of Architecture and Planning

Conference Abstracts | Conference Images | Publication

Conference Schedule

Thursday, May 10, 2012
Harvard GSD, Piper Auditorium

7:00pm Writing Cities 2012 Kickoff Event: Provocations on Limits and the Urban. Provocations and discussion by Fran Tonkiss, Larry Vale, Gerald Frug, Hashim Sarkis, Michael Hooper and Mark Jarzombek.

8:30pm Social Event: Drinks

Friday, May 11, 2012
Harvard GSD, Stubbins Room

10:00am Session 1: Territory
Aneesha Dharwadker: City of Edges (Presented by Aviva Rubin and Daniel Weissman)
Aviva Rubin and Daniel Weissman: The Walls Race / Walls of Informality (Presented by Jeannette Sordi)
Jeannette Sordi: Liquid Limit. The River Plata System (Presented by Aneesha Dharwadker)

11:30am Break

12:00pm Session 1: Territory
Nikola Bojic: Network Topography between Global and Site-Specific (Presented by James Clark Osborne)
James Clark Osborne: Producing Disability and Demanding Inclusion in Indian Cities (Presented by Nikola Bojic)

1:00pm Catered Lunch

2:00pm Session 2: Institutions
Sai Balakrishnan: Beyond the City: Urbanization and Land Conflicts along Highways in India (Presented by Naomi Stein)
Naomi Stein: Discontinuous Regions: High-Speed Rail and the Limits of Traditional Governance (Presented by Sai Balakrishnan)
Kian Goh: Island-City Limits: Singapore’s Urban Determinism (Presented by Mariel Villeré)

3:30pm Break

4:00pm Session 2: Institutions
Mariel Villeré: The Line as Territory. A theoretical reading of informal urbanism in Jakarta (Presented by Kian Goh)
Alpen Sheth: Under-writing Cities: the new limits to urbanization, insurance, and the circulation of risk (Presented by Benjamin Solomon-Schwartz)
Benjamin Solomon-Schwartz: My home is not a castle: Property lines, city limits, and the law (Presented by Alpen Sheth)

5:30pm Drinks and Catered Dinner

Saturday, May 12, 2012
MIT, Media Lab, Building E14

10:00am Session 3: Nature
Daniel Daou: The Limits to Growth and the Urbanization of Nature (Presented by Karen Noiva)
Karen Noiva: A Dynamic Approach to Examining Feedbacks Between Regional Constraints and Water Management: Insights from Singapore (Presented by Daniel Daou)

11:00am Break

11:30am Session 3: Nature
Travis Bost: Urban-natures and ‘Limiting Machines’: Evaluating Hybrid and De-limiting Production in Urban Spaces and Infrastructures (Presented by Ian Gray)
Ian Gray: Cyber-Panopticon vs. the Anthill: Or, the Clash of Anarchies over the Fate of the Commons (Presented by Travis Bost)

12:30pm Catered Lunch

1:30pm Session 4: Discourse
Graham Willis: The Bandido (Presented by Adam Kaasa)
Adam Kaasa: The idioms of architecture: a critical reflection on the limit between literature and form (Presented by Graham Willis)
Derek Galey: From the City as Oikos to a Politics of the Urban (Presented by Gunter Gassner)
Gunter Gassner: Representational Limits: Towards a more inclusive conceptualisation of the new London skyline (Presented by Derek Galey)

3:30pm Break

4:00pm Final discussion, closing remarks, planning next conference and publication