1. Policies, Governance and Planning

  • Bottom-up solutions and practices: challenging the plan

The systemic exclusion of low-income populations from the formal urban production mechanisms opens a reflection on alternative solutions for developing cities and services. Participatory approaches and design projects have spread among planners. In which way do the unplanned city coexist and influence planning activities? Which initiatives have proved to succeed in promoting equity and participation in the urban sector?

  • Emerging concepts and practices on (small town) planning

To respond to the lack of planning and research on small towns in Africa and, more generally in the Global South, which are experiencing important pressures and changes. We search for proposals that have a multidisciplinary character, including social, economic, demographic, environmental components, and exploring the notion of “integrated planning”.

  • Shrinking cities

Despite the emphasis that recent researches put on exponential and uncontrolled urban growth and issues related to rapid urbanization in the Global South, problems connected with shrinking cities and rural areas play a relevant role.

  • Co-design

Co-design understood as the process of creation of socio-material artefacts with and for stakeholders, grows in popularity. Even though co-design is a step further from human-centred design towards an active participation and adaptation to local context, questions remain on the outcomes and benefits of its application and on how and why stakeholders engage in the process.


   2. Sustainable development

  • Infrastructures and service delivery in urban Africa; environmental health and sustainability

In the Global South, rapid urbanization is not necessarily supported by economic growth and required capacity to deliver services. Consequently, several cities and towns are faced with inaccessibility of basic public services and environmental vulnerabilities. Which alternative strategies and options have been developed to provide communities with more sustainable infrastructures? What is the contribution of “urban metabolism” approaches to improve service delivery?

  • Resilience (new perspectives on resilience), Sustainable planning, Green infrastructure

The concepts of sustainability and resilience faced critics because of their disconnection from local contexts. Nevertheless, a different perspective emerges. How local practices carried out in the Global South enhanced the concept of resilience? How sustainable planning and the design of green infrastructure can find inspiration from the existing practices?   

  • Disaster Risk / Urban adaptation

As climate change becomes part of the reality of the lives of millions of people, human settlements and communities face the dual challenge of planning for sustainable and healthy development and managing the growing climate risks that threaten livelihoods. How do settlements adapt and reduce their vulnerability in front of  climate impacts? Which typologies of actions are implemented through formal development plans and spontaneous, “informal” practices?

   3. Resistance and appropriation

  • Rural development and Village planning, past and present

Ever since the early colonial endeavours in Africa and the Global South, up to more recent international development aid programs, rural development and planning efforts conducted under Western influence aimed at pursuing the goal (or the illusion) of so-called "development". Even in more recent years, programs of villagization or agricultural colonization promoted by the governments of now independent countries have multiplied across the Global South: Tanzania, Rwanda, Vietnam.  What are the underlying planning models and how do they cope with locality? Who actually benefitted of such efforts? To which extent have they reached their declared objectives? How can we deal with the existing results of such planning programs or with their ongoing implementation? We welcome contributions critically discussing the current impact and problems posed by past rural development policies and schemes imported to Africa and the Global South.

  • Historical perspectives

Twentieth century colonialism and its long-lasting influence on independent countries' policies as well as transnational exchange of expertises in urban planning and architecture in the Global South has been racked by grand utopian schemes that frequently failed because of their lack of knowledge of the cultural and physical context. In parallel, forms of resistance and appropriation of Western models arose.

  • Challenging dominant theories on planning: towards a post-colonial planning

We welcome contributions that extends current theorisations towards a more collaborative and socially just practices of planning in multicultural settings, and highlights the further theoretical and practical work to be done to fully realise the complexities of planning in post-colonial settings.


Other specific focus areas could include: conflicts between theories and practices, challenges in the development of risk areas, needs and solutions for global south, emerging territories, public spaces, SME development, grass-root organisations development, interface between rural and urban areas.

Through local eyes: place-based approaches to emerging architectural, urban design and planning challenges in Africa and the Global South


The fast paced urbanization and mushrooming of metropolitan areas in Africa and the Global South especially in connection with rights and access to basic services, have attracted much attention in the last decades from the public, local experts, decision-makers and international stakeholders. In parallel, other built environments such as emerging small towns, shrinking cities and rural areas are now experiencing important pressures and changes, and are increasingly coming under the spotlight.

Practitioners, experts and investors working in the built environment have been prone to import established solutions and concepts borrowed from architectural, urban and planning theories developed and tested in the more economically developed countries (MEDC) to respond to some challenges, whose conditions were in some cases previously established by foreign or even colonial agents. Others have felt more disconcerted in front of the emerging challenges posed by the often contradictory, unconventional, apparently chaotic, and irreducible unicity of such built environments. Despite an increasing sensitivity towards contextualised, participatory and inclusive approaches, such new and emerging strategies have been struggling to enter mainstream urban production which still remains mainly shaped by top-down planning and free market policies, often failing to ensure access to fair, safe and healthy cities.

We welcome contributions investigating architectural solutions or histories, urban designs or visions, comprehensive planning experiments, governance structures or policy-making activities related with emerging challenges into built environments in Africa or the Global South, ranging from rural areas to small and emerging towns, up to larger cities. We encourage contributions developing place-based approaches to emerging architectural, urban design and planning challenges in Africa and the Global South, with a twofold objective. First, to explore the possibility of overcoming Western-based dominant approaches to urban planning and development, testing alternative visions and paradigms. Second, to question the tendency towards replicating and reproducing of strategies borrowed from metropolitan contexts to different urban settings, especially allegedly backward territories. We particularly appreciate contributions that are based on an empirical confrontation with reality and that aim to:

  1. singling out site-based local/urban practices and development strategies, emphasizing their adaptation/conformity/proximity to their specific geographic setting (rural, suburban, urban, metropolitan, …);

  2. challenging the assumptions of modernist and/or dominant architectural and planning theories and their use in situations radically different from those for which such theories were devised in the first place;

  3. testing and formulating new and unforeseen concepts, theories, research paradigms stemming from the specific "urbanities" of Africa and the Global South.



Specific focus areas relevant to the conference include but are not limited to: