Back to the City. Urbanism, Density, Housing 1976-2016. URBANISM, DENSITY, HOUSING 1976-2016.

Conference at the Glasgow School of Art, 5-6 May 2016.

On 12 May 1976, Secretary of State for Scotland Bruce Millan announced the cancellation of the plans to expand the village of Stonehouse outside Glasgow into a new town with 40,000 inhabitants, and the redirection of the corresponding funds to the Glasgow Eastern Area Renewal (GEAR). After three decades, the era of new towns outside British cities was finally drawing to an end, and policy was increasingly focusing on the inner cities as a place of residence.

The Glasgow experience was by no means unique. Although suburbanization was continuing, from the 1970s onwards national and municipal policies in many European countries increasingly promoted living in the inner city. The International Building Exhibition, or IBA, in West Berlin (1979-1987), the regeneration of Rotterdam’s nineteenth-century neighbourhoods (begun 1973), the redevelopments of the London Docklands (begun 1981), Amsterdam Eastern Harbour (begun 1988) and Copenhagen South Harbour (begun 1995) as well as numerous infills and industrial redevelopments in the inner cities of Barcelona, Hamburg, Vienna or Gothenburg evidence the increasing emphasis on housing in the inner cities.

Our conference will, on the one hand, examine the architectural outcomes of the “return to the inner city” – that is, the numerous variations of dense, multi-storey “New Tenement” architecture. On the other hand, it will look at the conditions that generated this architecture – the political and socio-economic background as well as the different ways in which living in the inner city was conceptualized.

The Back to the City conference, spread over two days and featuring international speakers from academia and practice, will reflect on this shift, and the strategies of renewal undertaken. Sjoerd Soeters, the designer of the famous Java Island/Eastern Harbour development in Amsterdam (1991-2000) and Sluseholmen development in Copenhagen (2005-9), will give the keynote on 5 May. We will also be joined by Piers Gough of CZWG, the master planner of Glasgow’s New Gorbals (1992-2000), Theodor Winters of STERN Berlin, an important actor in the International Building Exhibit (IBA) 1987, Kathleen James-Chakraborty, an architectural historian at the University College Dublin, and many other international speakers (see attached programme).

The conference is organised by Florian Urban, Ambrose Gillick, and Miles Glendinning (University of Edinburgh) and part of Leverhulme-funded two-year research project “The New Tenement” led by Florian Urban.

The conference is free to attend, and refreshments will be provided. If people are interested in attending, they should email Ambrose Gillick (a.gillick@gsa.ac.uk) to book a spot.

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