Visualisations of the 21st Century City 2009

Conflict in Architecture

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Research programme and exhibition- May 2009, London


Visualisations of the 21st Century City is intended to explore how we anticipate change within our towns and cities and how we see the practicalities of these changes manifesting.

Over the next twenty years it is likely that many towns and cities will undergo considerable change as will the technologies, social climates, and environmental conditions that influence their forms; yet much of the buildings and infrastructure we see today will still be in use. This project aims to create visual representations of this dialogue between existing stock and emerging pressures and to discuss how this interface may develop.

Much work has been done to look at new types of buildings and urban forms whether it is sustainable skyscrapers, eco- villages or floating cities tethered to tax havens. Yet little thought has been done on how existing stock and infrastructure will mesh with emerging social and technological trends. It is this sense of collaboration between old and new, existing and forecast that the project seeks to reflect.

Working with schools of architecture across the UK, the aim of this annual initiative is to identify, hypothesis responses to, and create visual representations of future pressures on the built environment.


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Conflict in Architecture

While places such as Palestine, Afghanistan, or Iraq are familiar to us as places that endure conflict, the extended sphere of conflict also exists in European towns and cities. Random terrorist attacks are the most political and high profile expressions of conflict that threatens our urban environment, but conflict can arise readily via gang warfare, territorial disputes and a variety of community divisions. These manifestations put ever more intense pressures on our urban territory and how it is interpreted.

Architecture of separation and control is the traditional response to conflict with walls and fortresses becoming anti-heroes of architecture symbolism. The increasing pressures we face in the next 20 years from competing claims on land, space and services will mean we can no longer afford to default to these norms unless we want to live in cities choked full of barriers and defences; whether these are to defend against terrorists, mobs or floods.

Working with schools of architecture from University of Brighton, University of Bath and Oxford Brookes University- Visualisations in 2009 takes Conflict as its theme and seeks to provoke debate about how a range of future uncertainties; of wars, terrorism, immigration, gang culture, uneven access to health or education, social deprivation, flooding, hooliganism or disparities between rich and poor may force us further in to an Architecture of Conflict. This subject is an ongoing piece of research for Building Futures and Visualisations 2009 forms part of a growing body of work exploring the theme.


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How can conflict be depicted? What are its characteristics? Can we read the existing landscape to reveal underlining tensions? How might we visualise such relationships and ties in the city?

The project also seeks to turn this on its head and envision how we can devise strategies for an Architecture of Resolution.

What will be the business of the future city and what systems would bind it together? How can the landscape be made sociable? What groups will be marginalized in the face of new pressures? Can architecture broker resolution? Can it be all inclusive? How would it work? How would it look and feel?

The project and the resulting exhbition features a range of proposals that are playful yet serious, hypothetical yet grounded, to provide new visions of future cities and communities under pressure from conflict in its various forms.




Students were introduced to the methodologies of horizon scanning as part of their course research and asked to carry out investigations and speculations into the key themes that may cause conflict at their given site. This was married to the brief given as part of their course requirements.

Their thinking was developed and nutured through a programme of workshops, talks and critical reviews co-hosted and developed by RIBA Building Futures. The outcomes are visualisations of this process in a variety of media that tells future stories, put forward provocations and proposals for buildings, interventions, systems and mechanisms.


Visualisations 2009- Conflict in Architecture is supported by the Schools of Architecture at:
University of Brighton
University of Bath
Oxford Brookes University

Sponsored by Smart AV

Exhibition design by Draught Associates

For more information on this project contact

Bath University
Brighton University
Oxford Brookes
Smart AV
Draught Associates