30 January 2024
Lightning Talks III

Respondent: Savia Palate, Cyprus University

Designing Wellness:
Epidemics and the Shaping
of Modern Architecture in Iran

PhD, University of Exeter

An illustration published in 1907 in a late Qajar periodical, proposing new layouts for Iranian neighborhoods to enhance their hygiene.

In the histories of modern architecture in the MENA region, including Iran, there is a strong inclination to perceive fundamental architectural shifts towards modernity as colonial, Western, and imitative. While these accounts certainly hold some truth, they often neglect the agency of Iranians and, in some cases, lack the nuance needed to appreciate differences in various contexts in the Global South region. During the 19th to mid-20th century, the issue of contagious diseases became a problem that led to the emergence of certain modern socio-political concepts. As argued by scholars, the introduction of modern concepts, such as the formulation of despotism and liberty, was partly based on the collective understanding of epidemics as a nationwide crisis. For my research project, I am exploring questions such as how the notion of "modern" as "healthy" architecture was defined and shaped in Iran. How were pre-modern architectural traditions categorized and demonized as the architecture of despotism, associated with filth, disease, and death? How did these understandings influence architectural practices until the mid-20th century? Can we reconsider some of the architectural efforts typically considered aesthetic or Western as attempts to promote hygiene in Iranian architecture? How was the role of women redefined as the domestic agents of the new “healthy” architecture? How did different readings of religion influence these efforts? How did new spatial layouts or landscape design contribute to these health concerns? In my talk, I will touch on some of these questions, echoed both in the theoretical debates and architectural practices from the mid-19th to mid-20th century in Iran.


Evaluating Radical Designs
for the Climate Crisis

PhD, University of Miami

Credit: OCEANIX/BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group

As climate change intensifies, architects and other design professionals are creating bold visions for future dwellings, such as green buildings, masterplanned eco-cities, and even planetary-scale sustainability measures. These climatopias, categorically different from ecological utopias of the past, are architectural and urban planning proposals for the built environment that seek to address climate adaptation and/or mitigation through new design, material, and sociopolitical processes. Even if never implemented, climatopias have inspired provocative thinking for the climate crisis, and they could transform systems that no longer serve the greater good. However, as with all utopian works, climatopias have the potential to do as much harm as good. Integrating research from architectural studies, utopian studies, and adaptation science, this paper defines the concept of climatopia and analyzes eight climatopia projects around the world for their effectiveness, justice, and feasibility. Our findings reveal that climatopias have the potential to support climate resilience in planning and design schemes for the built environment when they 1) employ design, construction, and material production processes that significantly lower a project’s embodied carbon, 2) are affordable and involve residents in the design and implementation processes, and 3) are designed to be built and deployed today or are designed to provoke transformational thinking about potential climate solutions. To ignore these factors runs the risk of climatopias becoming yet another chapter of failed, if not harmful, utopian experiments in the built environment.


Points Noirs

Cergy Paris Université / École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Versailles

Laboratoire Architectue Anthropologie LAVUE


Carried out in conjunction with the City of Paris's waste management services, the Points Noirs study maps and analyses for the first time the recurring anomalies of cleanliness and illegal dumping sites in Paris. This research has enabled us to identify and classify 1,412 "black spots" spread across all the arrondissements of Paris. They reflect daily misuse as much as they reveal micro-spaces: nooks, crannies, urban or architectural incongruities, gables, blind walls...
Talking about black spots, showing them, evoking their consequences, the problems they raise and their history, is also a way of getting everyone to take an interest in the phenomenon and adapt their urban practices. There are several ways of describing black spots, since they are represented as much by their content as by their container, as much by the bulky object as by the urban form that accommodates it. These areas account for over 32% of the bulky items collected each year by our services, i.e. 34,596.40 tonnes of illegal dumping. The solution to the problem lies mainly in revealing these places, making visible what is invisible. Describing, quantifying and measuring these black spots means talking about the city and its metabolism. Over and above the census, the study focuses on specific cases, selected for their representativeness, their form, their administrative status or because local residents have shown an interest in them. "Points Noirs" proposes a new cartography of Paris through the prism of waste and through the eye of the person who criss-crosses the city on a daily basis to reveal these "crumbs of land" and define their potential for evolution.
In this talk we will discuss the results of this project and propose the adaptability of this research method in other places in France, and abroad. The relationship between the maintenance of the city, the people that maintain and the city itself. Mapping in collaboration with people who are not architects but have strong links to the urban blueprint through their personal practices is a way to understand and reveal new layers that are until then unknown places.

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