Smartness? Between Discourse and Practice

Smart Vagueness: Alternative Urbanities of the Global South

Anubha Kakroo: Indian Institute of Art and Design, India

Anuradha Chatterjee: Affiliate (Senior Research Fellow), Centre for Architecture Theory Criticism History, University of Queensland


KEYWORDS: Terrain Vague, Public Space, Global South, Democracy

This sessions addresses the theme of smartness and public space in the context of (smart) cities in the Global South. It looks at the intersection between the problems inherent to smartness, such as threats to democracy due to the emphasis on technology and over governance; and the speed of urbanization that the phenomenon entails, which is likely to create interstitial spaces, or gaps in the urban landscape that exceed the constraints of use and economy, and the boundaries of the plan. We suggest that these gaps may be the way to complexify the debates on smartness beyond the paradigms of technology, control, and efficiency.

Such spaces can be thought through Ignasi de Sola Morales’s notion of terrain vague, which is defined as: “Unincorporated margins, interior islands void of activity, oversights, these areas are simply un-inhabited, un-safe, un-productive. In short, they are foreign to the urban system, mentally exterior in the physical interior of the city (1995).” However, as Karl Kullmann (2014) has more recently argued, it is important to think of such spaces through the frames of “openness and potentiality” of uselessness, such that their potentiality is not co-opted by hegemonic forces, and such that their looseness is maintained “by people actively transforming their close-at-hand environment in real time.”

To this end, the session problematizes the citizen-driven ‘activation’ programmes of terrain vague spaces in cities in the Global South, which aim to create greater custodianship of spaces, through city beautification and public art projects. It invites participants to ask whether interstitial spaces in cities can provide alternative, and democratic public spaces. Is this already happening? Should these spaces be open to community appropriation and occupation, on what terms, and to what extent? What is our role as designers in this? Should these occupations be temporary, or permanent? Should these spaces be managed? Would the potential of these spaces be diminished if they were formalized, and absorbed into the gamut of planning? Can such spaces provide alternative urbanities that are beyond design, beyond typologies?


Delhi InSites: Urban construction environments and the role of interim design

  • Divya Chand, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore, India

MAPS & LEGENDS: Enabling the 4th City Through User Engagement

  • Michael Cowdy, Nicola Balch, McGregor Coxall, Australia

Smart underplaces: terrains vagues and the threat of the Global South in the North

  • Ian Sebastian Woodcock, RMIT University, Australia

Cellular City

  • Nubras Samayeen, University of Illinois, United States of America


Sound and the Smart City: Mapping Sound and Noise

Sarah Lappin: Queen's University Belfast, United Kingdom

Gascia Ouzounian: University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Conor McCafferty: Queen's University Belfast, United Kingdom


KEYWORDS: Sound Mapping, Noise Mapping, Sound Art, Architecture, Recomposing the City

Efforts to define and quantify sound and noise have a long history across many fields, a history that dovetails with the refinement of architectural acoustics and noise control through the twentieth century. Yet the challenge of addressing sound and noise in urban and architectural space stubbornly persists. Concepts of the audible toggle between ‘unwanted’ noise as an objective measurable and ‘pleasant’ sound as a subjective qualification. Sound maps and noise maps invite the public, alongside practitioners of architecture, urban design, planning, acoustics and sound art, to provide new perspectives on these issues, in turn prompting further questions around the elimination of noise as an annoyance or the harnessing of sound as a creative building material.

Sound maps and noise maps enlist ubiquitous computing, powerful geographic information systems, new spatial media, and mobile devices to produce their cartographies. However, the ‘smartness’ of such projects does not mean they can bypass fundamental issues of theory and epistemology. Sound maps and noise maps engage publics in processes of citizen science and participatory art, giving rise to questions on the authority of maps, their authorship, and their critical and political purpose. By various methods, these mapping projects convey the audible as a key component of urban spatial experience. What remains less clear is how the maps assembled from such data might inform or, indeed, transform architectural and urban space.

This session will explore the politics of sound mapping and noise mapping in urban contexts. We invite papers that consider such pertinent issues as: sound and the smart city; sound mapping projects whose concerns range from acoustic ecology to urban sensorial history; the role of mapping in sound art, with particular attention to participatory and community-based art projects; recent innovations in noise mapping, including participatory noise mapping apps and automatic noise monitoring systems.


Mapping Subversive Sounds: Alternative Urban Narratives using the MyCities/Mysounds App

  • Eric Lewis, McGill University, Canada

[Re]mixing Space: A Sonically Inclusive Methodology for Charting Accessibility and Social Equity in Creative Urban Contexts

  • William Renel, Royal College of Art, United Kingdom

politics of soundscape measurement - modalities of sensing and listening

  • Dietmar Offenhuber, Northeastern University, United States of America