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Professor Aseem Inam publishes special issue of journal on urban change

17 January 2022

CEPT library construction workers
CEPT library construction workers

Professor Aseem Inam, Chair in Urban Design at the Welsh School of Architecture, is the guest editor of a special issue of the international journal Urban Planning on the theme of "City as flux: Interrogating the changing nature of urban change."

The premise of this special issue is that urbanists—particularly those with backgrounds in professional fields like architecture, landscape architecture, urban design and city planning—tend to be trained to view the city as an object that is planned, designed and built according to definitive visions.  In reality, the city is constantly changing at different timescales:  by the hour, the week, the year, the decade and the century.  Thus, while urban geographers and historians have studied change for quite a while, such thinking has not yet permeated the world of urban practice in a meaningful manner.  What would be the benefits if urbanism, both as an object of study and as a mode of practice, were to be approached from the perspective of flux rather than just an object?  Why would such a reversal of ontological priorities be helpful?  It would be helpful for three reasons.

First, it enables researchers to obtain a more complete understanding of the micro-processes of urban change at work.  For example, to understand urbanism more accurately, one must allow for emergence and surprise; that is, one must consider the possibility of urbanism having ramifications and implications beyond those initially imagined.  Second, as well as not knowing much about the micro-processes of change, we often do not know enough about how change is actually accomplished.  In order to understand this, we need analysis of urbanism that was fine-grained enough to show how change was accomplished on the ground; that is, how ideas were translated into action, and by so doing, how they got modified, adapted, and changed.  Third, a major cause of dissatisfaction with the traditional approach to change—the approach that gives priority to stability and treats change as an epiphenomenon—is paradigmatic.  Strategies for change that are informed by that view often do not produce change, let alone transformation.

Through a rigorous double-blind peer-review process, six articles were accepted for publication in the journal, including "Fits‐and‐Starts: The Changing Nature of the Material City" by Professor Inam, and "Change by Activism: Insurgency, Autonomy and Political Activism in Potosí-Jerusalén in Bogotá, Colombia" by Juan Usubillaga, a doctoral student at the Welsh School of Architecture.  The entire special issue is publicly and freely available online.

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