Neil Brenner, Kian Goh, Mariano Gomez-Luque, Daniel Ibañez, Nikos Katsikis and UTL students. 

In what sense do we today live in an ‘urban age’?  This idea is frequently invoked by scholars, policy-makers, planners, designers and architects, usually with reference to the proposition that more than 50% of the world's population now lives within cities.  But, can the nature of our urban world be understood and mapped exclusively with reference to the growth of cities and their populations?

In this series of four interlinked research studios (2013-2016), the Urban Theory Lab turns this proposition upside-down and inside-out by speculating on a radically alternative mapping of contemporary planetary urbanization.  Rather than focusing our attention on large population centers, we investigate urbanization from the point of view of its putative ‘outsides’, the zones that are commonly represented as rural, remote, wild and/or untouched by human impact, and which appear as “empty” on the iconic nighttime lights of the world image.  What happens to our cognitive map of the global urban condition if we focus not on the global cities or megacities of the world, but on the wide-ranging sociospatial and environmental transformations that are currently unfolding in supposedly ‘remote’ or ‘wilderness’ regions such as the Amazon, the Arctic, the Gobi desert steppe, the Himalayas, the Pacific ocean, the Sahara desert and Siberia, and even the earth's atmosphere?  To what degree are such zones now being integrated within a worldwide fabric of urbanization?  How are they being restructured and enclosed to support the energy, water, material, food and logistics needs of major cities?

Through speculative cartographies of these emergent ‘operational landscapes’, we aim to illuminate the radical transformations of land-use, infrastructure and ecology far beyond the city limits that have made the contemporary formation of planetary urbanization possible.

This page assembles the preliminary results of UTL student research on this collaborative project:  it represents an interim report on work in progress rather than a final presentation of our research.


Critique of spatial taxonomies

  • Fall 2014 - Shirin Barol, Grga Basic: Essay






Pacific Ocean

Sahara Desert


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Overview: Extreme Territories of Urbanization by Urban Theory Lab - GSD