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vs. the city

is the city

a red queen

or is utopia

a red herring?



Friday, January 31st
A. Alfred Taubman Wing Commons, Art and Architecture Building

1:00 Registration

1:30 Welcome | P+ARG Coordinators

1:35 Introductory Remarks | Jonathan Massey, Taubman College, U-M

1:40 Prolegomenon | Robert Fishman, Taubman College, U-M

2:00 Panel 1 | The A(nta)gonistic: Urban Belonging and its Discontents

Moderator: Soyoon Ryu, History of Art

  • “A State in the State: Krupp's Utopia circa 1871”
    Maur Dessauvage, Columbia University

  • “Architecture for the ‘Common Man:’ Gregory Ain’s Mar Vista Housing Tract”
    Courtney Rawlings, Emory University

  • “Military Urbanism, Militant Urbanism: Local Sovereignties and the Spatialization of Conflict in Nigeria”
    Abdulbasit Kassim, Rice University

  • “Spaces of Ideology: Islamist, Secular, Democratic Registers of Urban Transformation in Istanbul”
    Onursal Erol, University of Chicago

Respondent: Se-Mi Oh, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, U-M

3:45 Break

4:00 Panel 2 | The Projective: Imag(in)ing the Counter-City

Moderator: Timothy Berke, Urban and Regional Planning

  • “Unthinkable City? Think Again”
    Anne Berg, University of Pennsylvania

  • “Recuperating Black Bottom: The Complicities of Modernist Design”
    Madeleine Aquilina, University of Michigan

  • “Utopia in the Expanded Field: Cross-disciplinary Transitions”
    Charlott Greub, RWTH Aachen University & North Dakota State University

  • “Non-Urbs: A City Without Ownership”
    Eduardo Mediero, University of Michigan

​Respondent: John McMorrough, Taubman College, U-M​​

5:45 Break

6:00 Keynote | “Predatory Formations Dressed in Wall Street Suits and Algorithmic Math”

Saskia Sassen, Columbia University



Saturday, February 1st
​A. Alfred Taubman Wing Commons, Art and Architecture Building


8:30 Coffee

8:45 Interlegomenon

Performance by Adam Kahana, School of Music, Theater & Dance, U-M​


9:00 Panel 3 | The Intelligent: D(esider)ata and the City as Digital Network

Moderator: Alaa AlGargoosh, Architecture

  • “Actualizing Providence: What Might Happen to Environmental Design within Ubiquitous Artificiality”
    Adel AlBloushi, Kuwait University

  • “Crypto-Utopia and Colonization: Questioning the Potential of Blockchain in Urbanization and Economic Development”
    Jillian Crandall, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

  • “Imaginary Maps: A Posthuman Urban Design Method Based on Neural Style Transfer”
    Matias del Campo, Sandra Manninger & Alexandra Carlson, University of Michigan

  • “Smart City, Just City: Open Data and Accountability”
    Brett Merriam, Anne Lin & Chelsea Lee, Harvard University

Respondent: Malcolm McCullough, Taubman College, U-M​

10:45 Break

11:00 Panel 4 | The (En)gendered: Subjectivity and the City Experience

Moderator: Luis Flores Jr., Sociology

  • “The Unsettled City: Competing Senses of Place in a Rapidly Changing City”
    Lynne Manzo & Richard Desanto, University of Washington

  • “The Great Elephant of Nantes: Gentrifying, Enchanting, and Placemaking in the Contemporary City”
    Jason Grant, University of Michigan

  • “Brasilia and the Utopia of an Egalitarian City: Hidden Shades of Gender-oriented Segregation”
    Rogério Rezende & Hilde Heynen, University of Leuven

  • “Breaking The Third Wall”
    Seantel Trombly, Wentworth Institute of Technology
    Meesh Zucker, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Respondent: Kimberley Kinder, Taubman College, U-M​

12:45 Lunch

1:30 Interlude | Conversation with Keynote Speakers

Facilitators: Eric Bettis, Urban and Regional Planning

Irene Brisson, Architecture

2:15 Break

2:30 Panel 5 | The Typ(olog)ical: Rethinking Urban Topoi and Morphologies

Moderator: Alexandra Judelsohn, Urban and Regional Planning

  • “Utopia in the Suburbs: Picturing the Corporate Landscape”
    E. Scott Mitchell, University of Virginia

  • “Utopia as Socialist Experiment: Linear City Socmisto in Kharkiv (1930s)”
    Oksana Chabanyuk & Olena Remizova, Kharkiv National University of Civil Engineering and Architecture

  • “Randel’s Utopia: New York City and the Commissioners’ Plan”
    Fran Leadon, City College of New York

  • “The Art of the Common: Envisioning Real Utopias in Postindustrial Detroit”
    Vince Carducci, College of Creative Studies

Respondent: Robert Fishman, Taubman College, U-M​

4:15 Break

4:30 Postlude | Scott Campbell, Taubman College, U-M

4:50 Break

5:00 Keynote | “Animating the Public Realm with Emerging Technology”

Rodolphe el-Khoury, University of Miami

This conference is generously supported by the University of Michigan's Taubman College, Rackham Graduate School, and Department of Sociology.


call for proposals

call for proposals

What is the city? The answers to this perennial question remain endless. It does the question no justice to simply ask it once more. Perhaps the fall of cities can better tell us what they are. When the Americans sought to break the Japanese metropole’s resolve, they knew what they had to do: annihilate a couple of its cities. Already depleted by war, the Japanese government decided to throw in the towel rather than depopulate its urban centers: cities, no less than inhabitants, had to be saved. This is all to say, the human lifespan is much too short to sustain the nation but the city's long history documents (and sustains) the suprahuman life of political geography. We contend that the city is where the national image is born. That the city is where national identity simultaneously resides and is challenged. While social media networks a movement, it is still the mass of feet on Cairo’s Tahrir Square and more recently Hong Kong’s streets that encrypt the image of protest in the global mind. And even as political and economic systems shift and realign, the fable of the city persists: Detroit, from one of the world’s fastest-growing cities to a paragon of urban decline; Mexico City, from Aztec capital Tenochtitlan to colonial capital to the most populous city in the Americas; and Delhi, through at least eight cultural and political reincarnations. Perhaps urbanism is humanity's true soteriology.


Is it not irksome then, that the city is never perfect? Is it not ironic that humanity's worst depravities fester in the city? Is it not unsurprising that many have thought up ideal topos beyond the shortcomings of material (read: urban) existence? Why else would utopia be imagined? Is utopia the goal of human progress or but society expiating its sins? If so, is utopia the city’s salvation? Was Lewis Mumford not amiss in pronouncing that “the first utopia was the city itself"? Is utopia the city to end all cities? Is it the mythical Atlantis, philosophy’s Virtuous City, comicverse’s Wakanda, or the New York or Paris of movies, fetishes of the geographical imagination? Does utopia have any other purpose than to help us escape the drudgery of real life, if only for a moment or two? But is utopia itself not too selfish? Or can it be universal? Are there those who aspire and those who conspire? Why do architects and planners think they can do both? What ploy allows us to be both idealists and cynics? Is it simply a marriage of convenience—a stoic wed to an epicurean, a suburb to a city center, a New Cairo to an Old, a Frankfurt to a Munich, a Chandigarh to a Delhi, a Shenzhen to a Hong Kong, an Eswatini to a Pretoria, a Brasilia to a Rio de Janeiro?


But a city is much too complex for a single human being to plan and design; utopia then delimits the possibilities and attunes the mind to a manageable set of variables, foregrounding what its conceiver values. If utopia is a value-laden empty canvas, then the city is a value battleground. Can utopia be ephemeral or nomadic, or must it be moored to time and space? Can utopia be an experiment or is it simply a simulation? Is utopia a smart city? Is utopia BIM’s telos? Is utopia the final extinguishment of the law of the jungle? Is utopia post-DEI? Is utopia nature’s true metropolis? How awephilic it must be—how singular! But is utopia not a mere fancy in this dystopian present? Is utopia the city of the bored? Is the city the utopia of the spontaneous? Must utopia and the city be at odds?

Is all this triggering? Is all this risible? Is it infuriating? Challenge us; we seek submissions for papers, projects, and performances that engage with this primal binary: of the immaculateness of imagination and the nakedness of life.

We hope to capture a broad range of interests and approaches. We especially invite graduate students, recent graduates, and postdoctoral fellows to apply. Topics in which we are interested include, but are not limited to, the following:


  • Private utopias and utopian publics

  • Masters, plans, and masterplans

  • (Artificially) intelligent cities

  • Urban existential crises and dei ex machina

  • Civic siblinghoods: twin and sister cities

  • Urban legends and origin myths

  • Hemispheric and (inter)continental infrastructures

  • Counter- and countering utopias


poster submission


We seek poster submissions from across all disciplines that engage with imaginaries, realities, and anywhere in between. We invite works from scholars, designers, and artists who want to analyze, critique, design, document, and explore cities, imagined and real. Selected posters will be displayed for the duration of the conference.

To allow for a broad measure of scholarly and artistic license, we have no requirements other than that the poster engage with the conference theme in one form or another, that it be 36”x36” and that it include the following:

  • Poster title

  • Full name

  • Institutional affiliation (if any)

  • Email address

  • The following statement must be on the poster: “Submission to P+ARG 2020 Utopia vs. the City”

To be considered, the poster must be submitted as a flattened PDF document at 300 ppi resolution by January 27, 2020, 11:59 pm. Please name the file as follows: LastName_Poster_TITLE.pdf

The Planning and Architecture Research Group (P+ARG) welcomes submissions from a broad range of disciplines and fields, including:​

  • Information Ecology

  • Law and Public Policy

  • Literary and Cultural Studies

  • Media Studies

  • Network Theory

  • Pedagogical Innovation

  • Political Economy

  • Rhetoric and Communication Studies

  • Science, Technology, and Society

  • Spatial Analytics

  • Spatial Anthropology

  • Spatial History

  • Topological Philosophy

  • Urban and Regional Planning

  • Urban Sociology

  • Urban Theory

  • Animation Studies

  • Architecture

  • Building Technology

  • Building Sector Innovation

  • Complex Systems

  • Critical Cartography

  • Critical Urban Studies

  • Design Studies

  • Digital Humanities

  • Environmental Psychology

  • Futurology

  • Geography

  • Global and Comparative Urbanism

  • Heritage and Memory Studies

  • Historic Preservation

  • History, Theory, and Criticism



The Planning and Architecture Research Group (P+ARG) was created over a decade ago by and for the doctoral students at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Our mission is to enhance the academic and social experiences of students engaged in research across the college’s programs through collaboration. We seek to foster community among students and scholars of planning, architecture, and other disciplines in order to sustain an exchange of ideas within and between our disciplines and subfields, with a primary focus on issues related to the built environment. We organize forums and workshops for sharing research and pedagogy and are best known for our Emerging Voices lecture and colloquium series and our biennial conference.


Biennial Conferences:

  • 2018: “Networks of Power and Knowledge”
    Keynote: Kazys Varnelis, "Network Histories: Milgram and Baran in Perspective”

  • 2016: “Rule & Form: Confronting The Spatial Transactions and Logistics of Capital”
    Keynote: Reinhold Martin, "Beijing in Detroit"

  • 2014: “BANKRUPT: Economic Crisis and the Built Environment”
    Keynote: Panos Leventis, "Walls of Crisis: Street Art and Urban Fabric in Central Athens, 2000-2012"

  • 2011: “The Lean Years: Infrastructure, Dwelling, and Sustenance”
    Keynote: Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson, "Retrofitting Suburbia"


Emerging Voices Lecture Series:

  • Winter 2019: Fenaba Addo,  "Racial Disparities in Student Loan Debt"

  • Winter 2019: John Arroyo, "Shadow Suburbanism: Mexican Everyday Life, Fear, and Space in Greater Atlanta"

  • Fall 2018: Jesse LeCavalier, “Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment”

  • Fall 2017: Tarek Rakha, "Performative Built Environments: Transdisciplinary Necessity in the Age of Climate Change"

  • Winter 2017: Kian Goh, "How to be an Accomplice: Urban Research and Practice in a Time of Socio-Ecological Uncertainties"

  • Fall 2016: Francesca Ammon, "Bulldozer: The Culture of Clearance in Postwar America"

  • Fall 2015: Javier Arbona, "Footprinting the Urban Security Cloud"

  • Winter 2015: Mariana Mogilevich, "The Invention of Public Space"

  • Winter 2015: Pedro Ignacio Alonso, "Panel Trajectories"

  • Winter 2015: Charisma Acey, "The Fight for Institutional Voice: Making the Human Right to Water a Reality"

  • Winter 2014: Bjorn Sletto, "Duty to Map: Insurgent Cartographies and the Struggle for Rights and Resources"

  • Winter 2013: Brent Ryan, "Design After Decline: How America Rebuilds Shrinking Cities"

  • Fall 2013: Lydia Kallipoliti, "Mission Galactic Household"

  • Winter 2013: Todd Gannon, "A Confederacy of Heretics"

  • Fall 2012: Lucia Allais, "Integrities"

  • Winter 2012: Laura Wolf-Powers, "Teaching Planners to Deal: The Pedagogical Value of a (Simulated) Development Negotiation"

  • Winter 2012: Kenny Kupers, "The Social Project of Architecture"

  • Winter 2010: Zeynep Çelik Alexander, "Architecture and Knowledge circa 1900"

  • Winter 2010: Sanjeev Vidyarthi, "Interpretations of the World-City Debate in Secondary Indian Cities"

  • Winter 2010: Sonit Bafna, "The Visual Performance of Marcel Breuer's Atlanta Public Library"



Please send any questions, thoughts, or inquiries to:

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