Cartographies of Planetary Urbanisation
Architecture of Territory at Coridoio del Bramante, Bologna
Cartographies of Planetary Urbanisation is a joint exhibit by Neil Brenner, Urban Theory Lab, Harvard GSD; Christian Schmid, Chair of Urban Sociology, ETH Zürich and Milica Topalovic, Prof of Architecture and Territorial Planning, ETH Zürich. Thanks to the invitation by the Foundation for Urban Innovation, Bologna the exhibition will be shown at Salaborsa — Coridoio del Bramante, Bologna till November 2019.

Today, urbanisation has become planetary. The boundaries of the urban have been exploded to encompass vast territories far beyond the limits of even the largest mega-city regions. Meanwhile, novel patterns of urbanisation are crystallising that challenge inherited conceptions of the urban as a bounded, universal settlement type.

This exhibit proposes a radical rethinking of inherited cartographies of the urban. The popular claim that we now live in an ‘urban age’ because the world’s majority population lives in ‘cities’ is a deeply misleading basis for understanding the contemporary “urban revolution” theorised by Henri Lefebvre. Cities are not isolated manifestations or universally replicated expressions of the urban condition, but are embedded within wider, territorially uneven and restlessly evolving processes of urbanisation at all spatial scales, encompassing both built and unbuilt spaces, across earth, water, sea and atmosphere.

In this exhibit, interdisciplinary research teams from the ETH Zürich, ETH Future Cities Laboratory Singapore and the Urban Theory Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Design present new frameworks for understanding and representing contemporary forms of urbanisation through three interrelated lines of inquiry:

(1) Comparative analysis of the urbanisation processes that have transformed Tokyo, Hong Kong/Shenzhen/Dongguan, Kolkata, Istanbul, Lagos, Paris, Mexico City and Los Angeles. We explode the singular notion of the city to explore, in comparative perspective, differing patterns and pathways of urbanisation in some of the world’s most dynamically changing urban territories.

(2) The extension and thickening of the urban fabric in some the planet’s supposedly most ‘remote’ or ‘wild’ zones—the Amazon, the Arctic, the Gobi desert, the Himalayas, the Sahara, Siberia, the Pacific Ocean, and the earth’s atmosphere. Even these sparsely populated areas are today experiencing a massive intensification of land use, the construction of new connectivity infrastructures, and accelerated socio-environmental transformation to support the world’s major population centres.

(3) The transnational hinterland archipelago that supports urbanisation in Singapore, one of the world’s most globally networked agglomerations. In contrast to standard representations of cities as self-propelled economic powerhouses, we track the wide-ranging flows of food, water, energy, sand, and labor-power that support this growing, globally strategic urban centre. Instead of the city-state, we propose the cross–border metropolitan region as the new urban paradigm for Singapore.

The exhibition highlights the interplay between (a) the search for new theoretical concepts, (b) territorially grounded studies of specific patterns and pathways of urbanisation and (c) the use of cartography to decipher new geographies of urbanisation for which we currently lack an adequate analytical or representational vocabulary.


Group exhibition by:
Neil Brenner, Urban Theory Lab, Harvard GSD
Christian Schmid, Chair of Urban Sociology, ETH Zürich
Milica Topalovic, Prof of Architecture and Territorial Planning, ETH Zürich

An exhibition of work-in-progress

Director: Neil Brenner; Curatorial Team: Mariano Gomez Luque, Daniel Ibañez; Research and visualizations: Doctoral coordinating team: Kian Goh, Mariano Gomez Luque, Daniel Ibañez, Nikos Katsikis; Critique of cartography: Grga Basic, Shirin Barol; Atmosphere: Chris Bennett, Rob Daurio, Melany Sun-Min Park; Amazon: Chris Buccino, Danika Cooper, Leif Estrada, Ali Fard, Daniel Ibañez, Ana María Quiros, James Whitten; Arctic: Grga Basic, Ali Fard, Ghazal Jafari; Gobi desert steppe: Adam Tanaka, Shirin Barol, Rob Daurio, Grga Basic; Himalayas: Vineet Diwadkar, Chris Alton, Michael Chieffalo; Pacific Ocean: Matthew Brown; Sahara: Tamer Elshayal, Marianne Potvin, Dalal Musaed Al Sayer; Siberia: Conor O’Shea, Roi Salgueiro; Video Designer: Chris Bennett; Cartographer: Grga Basic; Research support: Office of the Dean, Harvard GSD; Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University; Milton Fund, Harvard University.


Director: Christian Schmid; Research team: Naomi Hanakata, Pascal Kallenberger, Ozan Karaman, Anne Kockelkorn, Lindsay Sawyer, Monika Streule, Rob Sullivan, Tammy Kit Pit Wong; Map editing and design: Dorothée Billard, Roger Conscience, Philippe Rekacewicz; Research support: ETH Future Cities Laboratory Singapore; Dept. of Architecture, ETH Zürich.

Singapore beyond the border

Director: Milica Topalovic; Research and visualisation, Sand: Hans Hortig; Water: Architecture of Territory and Benjamin Leclair-Paquet; Food: Marcel Jaeggi; Labour: Ahmed Belkhodja, Saskja Odermatt; Oil: Lino Moser; Cross-border Metropolitan Region Singapore, Johor, Riau: Karoline Kostka; Hinterland typology drawings: Ani Virhervaara, Bek Tai Keng; Photographs: Bas Princen; Teaching team 2011-2015: Hans Hortig, Marcel Jaeggi, Martin Knuesel, Stefanie Krautzig; Student researchers 2011-2015: Ahmed Belkhodja, Desirée Damport, Pascal Deschenaux, Martin Garcia, Giulia Luraschi, Livio De Maria, Lino Moser, Magnus Nickl, Saskja Odermatt, Myriam Perret, Gabriela Schär, Stephanie Schenk, Caroline Schillinger, Karl Wruck, Simon Zemp; Research support: ETH Future Cities Laboratory Singapore; Dept. of Architecture, ETH Zürich 2011-2015.

Architecture of Territory; Concept and project lead: Milica Topalovic, Hans Hortig; Team: Oliver Burch, Michiel Gieben, Klara Sladeckova; Graphic design: Goda Budvytyte; Translation: Mydyti Gyler

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Foundation for Urban Innovation. Coordination: Leonardo Tedeschi; Logistics: Donato Clausi; Promotion and Communication: Rosa Fioravante, Fabrizia Petrei; Supervision: Giovanni Ginocchini, Raffaele Laudani; Implementation: Sfera SRL
About the Event:
Salaborsa — Coridoio del Bramante,
Piazza Nettuno 3, Bologna
September 4, 2019–December 15, 2019
Daily 10am–6pm

Salaborsa — Coridoio del Bramante
Piazza Nettuno 3, Bologna