Polycephalum City


On Thurs 14 and Fri 15 Sept 2017 TAB 2017 hosts a 2-day international symposium entitled Polycephalum City. The symposium will discuss the role of architecture in the context of the current socio-ecological crisis, and calls for a critical reading of the geological era, which scientists call the Anthropocene. Curated by the architect, urban designer and ecologist, and Chief Curator of TAB 2017 Claudia Pasquero, the dialogues at the event challenge typical assumptions of what constitutes the boundary between natural and artificial realms.

If we look at many of our contemporary global cities from very far away, from a satellite scale for example, we realise that it is quite difficult to depict what is natural and what is artificial; contemporary cities, despite being large artificial systems, are often described as the antithesis of nature, and develop patterns that seem to recall natural formations of a radically different kind: they are complex and articulated systems.

When we look at cities from satellite we realise that the depiction of territories through this medium provides us with a different set of boundaries that depart from the traditional human-oriented distinction between the artificial – the city – and the natural – the landscape. By looking, instead, at the city from the microscale of energy flow into unicellular organisms, we get another set of distinctions that allow us to discover the processes of collective intelligence that question the problems defined by the scale of the urban.

These ‘macro and micro’ observations allow us to discuss what we call the non-anthropocentric view of the urban. From these perspectives, cities and their morphologies are mostly determined by flows of matter, information and energy that fuel their metabolisms. This shifts our attention from looking at urban form – figure ground – to the morphogenetic process that underpins the current morphology of an urban landscape, we can look at cities as living systems.

Over the last 10-15 years the contemporary world has become globalised and interconnected to an incredible extent, and the flows of material, energy and information feeding contemporary cities now span continents and connect points across the biosphere as part of a resource-driven industry that is both necessary to the survival of our urbanising society and detrimental to the wealth and well-being of its inhabitants.

Mines, power stations and landfill sites are all needed to support our urban metabolism. So here we are presented with a paradox: today we talk of one large global urbansphere that  envelops the whole world and exchanges at an incredible rate with the natural biosphere,, to the extent that it has become almost impossible even to tell these two global systems apart.

So our question is : how can we design this urbansphere so that it becomes more resilient and adaptive?

In an age of unprecedented interaction between the natural and the artificial realms we are confronted with the necessity to develop instruments of transformation equipped with an embedded capacity of constant adaptation and self-evaluation. As nature is becoming more and more hybridised with embedded artificiality, the ethical paradigm of natural conservation is progressively losing its value and needs to be replaced with more adaptive mechanisms of management and direct evaluation of the effects of human transformation of natural ecosystems.

Can architecture provide a material and operational framework to deal with change and transformation, the two main defining qualities of this new understanding of urban ecology? Can the material of architecture support interaction between heterogeneous systems, such as social, infrastructural, architectural and environmental ones? Can we re-think architecture to signify sensing, registering and manipulating through our daily lives the unfolding processes defining our cities, our homes and our artificial environments?

The symposium advocates an approach to the city through the notion of polycephalism. Polycephalum City means many heads with their own view on the city. Such a concept can mobilise a number of perspectives that go underneath, above and to the side of our customary human (anthropos) view. In this respect we call for a strategy that critically questions the geological period of the Anthropocene.

Headline speakers and participants include Lucy Bullivant, well-known international place vision strategist, curator and critic; Mitchell Joachim, renowned innovator in ecological design, architecture and urban design, co-founder of Terreform ONE, and an Associate Professor of Practice at NYU; Areti Markopoulou, leading Greek architect, Academic Director at IAAC in Barcelona, educator and urban technologist working at the intersection between architecture and digital technologies, and Marco Poletto, co-founder and director of ecoLogicStudio, an architect, author and educator.

The full programme will be released on the TAB website on the 25th of April.

Some of the TAB Symposium speakers among others are: 

Lucy Bullivant
TAB Symposium Moderator 

Dr. Lucy Bullivant PhD Hon FRIBA is a place vision strategist, curator, author and founder/Creative Director, urbanista.org. Formerly Heinz Curator of Architecture Programmes, Royal Academy of Arts, she has curated groundbreaking exhibitions globally for the Shenzhen Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, the British Council, Vitra Design Museum and other leading institutions. Her publications include 4D Hyperlocal (2017), Recoded City: Co-creating urban futures, (co-author Thomas Ermacora, 2015); Masterplanning Futures (2012), winner of Book of the Year, Urban Design Group Awards (2014). www.lucybullivant.net

Areti Markopoulou
Symposium Speaker

Areti Markopoulou is a Greek architect, educator and urban technologist working on the intersection between architecture and digital technologies. She is the Academic Director at IAAC in Barcelona, co-editor of the Urban Next global network and co-founder of  StudioP52 arts & tech gallery. Her research explores novel architectural models that combine ICTs, Material Intelligence and Fabrication, for creating adaptive built and public spaces that responds to behavioural and environmental changes over time.

Marco Poletto
Symposium Speaker

Marco Poletto, co-founder and director of ecoLogicStudio, is an architect, author and educator.
After graduating with Honors from Turin Polytechnic in Italy, Marco moved to London to study at the Architectural Association. He worked in London as environmental designer with Battle McCarthy before co-founding the ecoLogicStudio in 2005. Over these past few years Marco have been Unit Master at the Architectural Association in London, Senior Tutor at the IAAC in Barcelona, Visiting critic at Cornell University, Research Cluster leader at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, Adapt-r research fellow at the Aarhus School of Architecture and Distinguished Visiting Critic at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
His projects have been published and exhibited throughout the world, in particular in Orleans (9th Archilab – FRAC Collection, 2014), in Paris (EDF Foundation, 2013), in Venice Biennale (STEMv3.0 the lagoon experiment, 2008; The Ecological Fotrprint Grotto, 2010; Solana Open Aviary, 2016), in Seville Biennale (STEMcloud, 2008), Istanbul (Fibrous Room, 2008) and Milan Fuorisalone (Urban Algae Farm, 2014 -Aqua Garden, 2007) and Milan EXPO 2015.
He is author of “Systemic Architecture – Operating manual for the self-organizing city” published by Routledge in 2012.

Mitchell Joachim
Symposium Speaker

Mitchell Joachim, PhD, is the Co-Founder of Terreform ONE and an Associate Professor of Practice at NYU.
Formerly, he was an architect at the offices of Frank Gehry and I.M. Pei. He has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and fellowships with TED, Moshe Safdie, and Martin Society for Sustainability.
He was chosen by Wired magazine for “The Smart List” and selected by Rolling Stone for “The 100 People Who Are Changing America”. Mitchell won many honors including; AIA New York Urban Design Merit Award, 1st Place International Architecture Award, Victor Papanek Social Design Award, Zumtobel Group Award for Sustainability, History Channel Infiniti Award for City of the Future, and Time magazine’s Best Invention with MIT Smart Cities Car. He’s featured as “The NOW 99” in Dwell magazine and “50 Under 50 Innovators of the 21st Century” by Images Publishers.
He co-authored the books, “Super Cells: Building with Biology” and “Global Design: Elsewhere Envisioned”. His design work has been exhibited at MoMA and the Venice Biennale. He earned: PhD at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MAUD Harvard University, MArch Columbia University.


Roheline Saal, Telliskivi Creative City

Telliskivi 60a, Tallinn, Estonia