CfP: Public Space: the Real and the Ideal. Monte Verità, Switzerland, 2-5 August 2020

Call for Papers: Public Space: the Real and the Ideal. Monte Verità, Switzerland, 2-5 August 2020

The International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture (ISPA) is thrilled to announce its 5th Biennial conference, set to take place from the 2nd to the 5th of August 2020 at Monte Verità, Switzerland. This edition, organized in collaboration between the ETH (Zürich) and EPFL (Lausanne), is dedicated to the topic Public Space: the Real and the Ideal.
Although public spaces are everywhere, and used extensively, the term itself is a contested notion. Many architects, urban designers, philosophers, and political theorists – like Camillo Sitte, Rem Koolhaas, Hannah Arendt, and Henri Lefebvre – have emphasized the importance of understanding public space from a humanistic and a democratic perspective. This is often inspired by an ideal of social interaction and democratic pluralism that should somehow be tangible in public spaces. The built environment is thus understood as offering more than just a functional space or an aesthetic experience. It is rather seen as a force shaping a world-in-common, which in turn shapes the human experience of this commonness and the understanding of the world itself, both consciously and unconsciously.
However, current developments in cities and societies, from smart-cities and Big Data to gentrification, surveillance and commodification, seem to make it increasingly difficult for public spaces to live up to this ideal. Public spaces are increasingly privatized, commodified, controlled, monitored, and scripted; they are designed to accommodate leisure and tourism, shopping and sporting, or transportation and travelling. Such spaces have, at first sight, little regard for the social and political ideal of encounter and exchange. On the other hand, even in highly controlled spaces, social life and also political protests can occur, as is shown by the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, that even stretch to spaces that are privatized, heavily controlled, monitored, and scripted towards a single purpose. This presses the questions: How important is architecture and urban design for public life after all? Does design still trace concrete outlines for it, or can these be found elsewhere?
The organizers invite philosophers, architectural theorists, architects, urban planners, urban designers, landscape architects, and all those interested to submit an extended abstract of 300-500 words by 16 February 2020.
The full Call for Papers with some of the themes and issues that can be addressed in the papers can be accessed here.
Proposals and any further questions should be sent to

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