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6-8 June 2007
Density Inside Out

Interdisciplinary Conference, University of Edinburgh

Department of Architecture, School of Arts, Culture and Environment
Institute of Geography, School of GeoSciences

To think of the city is always to invoke the question of density. Urban density has been celebrated, cultivated, worried about, managed, shunned. For some density is what makes the city full of promise, for others it is what determines its problems. Derived from the physical science formula for the ratio of mass to volume of inert materials, in urban applications density has operated as a seemingly objective measure of the ratio of people or activity to area. As a diagnostic tool density has been set to work in fields ranging from the pragmatic science of urban planning, to the arts of urban design. But the city is no mere inert material. It incorporates complex and fluid relations between bodies, infrastructures, technologies and built fabric, such that the matter of how density should be best measured - FAR, FSI, persons/ha, dwellings/ha - remains contentious. Indeed, as Kevin Lynch warned, as long ago as 1962, '[m]any tricks can be played with density standards'. Density is imbued with powerful figurative, cultural and ideological associations, connoting everything from the unregulated hyper-density of Kowloon Walled City, to the bureaucratic agrarian utopianism of Soviet 'desuburbism', to the hope of a planet facing environmental crisis. Indeed, density measures may well be a symptom of the struggle to comprehend the complexity of lived socio-material relations, shaped as they are by proximity, mobility, distance, contiguity, congestion, distinction, camouflage, porosity, intensity.

Density Inside Out conceives of density as a symptomatic material trope. It is curious about the way density has been put to use, be it as a defensive measure, a visionary formula, an instrument of governance, or a catalyst for urban innovation. It hopes to elaborate the ways density is a component of the city as a performed event. And it encourages investigations that hold the materialist, figurative and performative dimensions of density in creative tension. This conference offers an opportunity to re-imagine the relationship between conceptions of density and how technology, infrastructure, buildings and bodies are organized on, above, and even without the ground.

Conference Venue:
Architecture, School of Arts Culture & Environment
The University of Edinburgh
20 Chambers Street
Edinburgh EH1 1JZ
United Kingdom



+ Ana Dzokic and Marc Neelen
+ Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri
+ atelier d'architecture autogérée (aaa)
+ Asya Filippova
+ Sophie Hope and Sarah Carrington
+ Branca Curcic
+ Christoph Schaefer
+ Campement Urbain
+ Claudia Zanfi
+ Despoina Sevasti and Poka-Yio
+ Erden Kosova
+ Helmut Batista


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