Smartness? Between Discourse and Practice

Call for Sessions


Fun Palace, Cedric Price (1964)

Price, Cedric [1964] Fun Palace 03.jpg

AHRA 2018 aims to be a platform for discussion and debate on the processes of innovation within the built environment in both content and format. As such, the conventional 20-minute paper presentations organised in themed sessions will be complemented by “open-table” discussions for more focused debated, and workshops on particular issues.

Other formats of presentations such as, artistic performances, pecha-kucha style quick presentations, or film showings are equally welcomed. To establish meaningful connections between the various forms of presentation, a few themes have been defined. These themes and sub-themes are meant to challenge and question the prevailing ideas and notions regarding smart buildings and cities.



The historical precedents for both the use of technology and the blind belief in data (example, High Modern period) can be contrasted with today’s challenges on the smart appropriations. These are not only determined by the past, but increasingly by the risky activity of projecting into the future (e.g. climate change, population dynamics, weather forecast, etc.).


Smart forms of architecture and urbanism are increasingly promoted in connection to efficiency and sustainability. Since there is much contestation given to meaning within sustainability in design practices, this theme encourages a critical reflection of sustainability as enacted in specific contexts. Important questions posed are, which set of challenges are addressed, by which means, and for whom?


Smart ideas, technologies, spaces and cities crucially do have a material dimension. This theme shifts attention to these often neglected materialities (switches, cables, data centres, etc.) that do have specific logics, spaces, appearances, and designs.


Questions the emerging power structures and ensuing exclusion and inclusion enabled by smart systems and explores new forms of agency enabled by those same structures. How can smart systems foster new ways to engage with buildings and cities?



Explores the paradox of prevalent smart systems in which networks of instruments and data are organized towards top-down systematization of processes, but in which the dispersed condition of those networks allows centers, nodes and terminals to be connected in alternative ways, thus also establishing ahierarchical structures that empowers its different actors. The work of Jan van Dijk and Manuel Castells provides particular inspiration for this discussion.



Searches for a renewed understanding of the discursive spaces for discussion and political engagement in the context of smart systems, specifically how these complement or displace the very physical space that they seek to augment. The work of Jürgen Habermas lays the foundation for this exploration.



Takes on the notion of control espoused by Gilles Deleuze to describe contemporary societies and challenges the promises of smart systems to achieve total control. With the all-seeing eye, the all-knowing brain, smart systems promise to be all knowable and controllable in new, dynamic, reactive ways, but at what cost?



Collects every other significant positions and conversations that should inform the current debate on smart systems in architecture and urbanism.



We welcome proposals for specific sessions on one of the themes above (alternative session themes can be submitted as “other” if a strong argumentation is provided).


guidelines for session submissions

Session proposals must include:

-        name and affiliation of chair (and up to one other co-chair), with one of the session (co-)chairs being identified as lead contact for the organization committee (in the event of two co-chairs, both must register and attend the conference).

-        Session title

-        Session proposal (theme development) up to 300 words

-        A short bio per chair of up to 300 words


session organization / tasks

Once a session is accepted, session chairs are responsible for assessing and selecting the abstracts submitted to that session (4-5 abstracts are to be accepted to each session). This process must be completed by June 1st, 2018 so that all session participants may be notified by June 15, 2018. Sessions will be scheduled by the organization committee.




Dome over Manhattan, Richard Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao (1961)

Fuller, Richard Buckminster and Sadao, Shoji [1961] Dome over Manhattan 01.jpg