Increasingly the world around us is becoming ‘smart.’ From smart meters to smart production, from smart surfaces to smart grids, from smart phones to smart citizens. ‘Smart’ has become the catch-all term to indicate the advent of a charged technological shift that has been propelled by the promise of safer, more convenient and more efficient forms of living. When combined, all these so called ‘smart’ devices amount to a ubiquity of computing which is heralding a new technological paradigm and a fundamental shift in the way buildings and cities are both experienced and understood. Through a variety of sensors, cities and buildings are now defined not by the people that inhabit them, nor their functions, nor their identity or history, but simply as increasingly larger sets of data. Such sets are then processed to immediately adjust and alter (physical) conditions in real time. Although such large scale collection and use of (big) data has an inevitable effect on the way people live and work, there has yet to emerge a clear answer to how architecture and cities should respond and assimilate such brave new world.

Carried by both corporate and governmental initiatives the ‘smart’ paradigm has entered architecture and cities as a powerful force. Even as it indelibly reshapes our patterns of inhabitation, the particular ways in which the ‘smart’ paradigm affects architectural and urban debates, design practices, and our forms of living remains woefully under-analysed. An open question that gains further urgency and demands debate, as with each development the meaning of ‘smart’ becomes more diluted.

We seek to stimulate a broad understanding of ‘smart’ technologies - one that conceives them not merely as “efficiency oriented practices, but [as practices that] include their contexts as these are embodied in design and social insertion” (Andrew Feenberg, 1999). Such a broad understanding includes questions of responsibility, accountability, ethics, participation, knowledge (necessary to both produce and participate), and many more. Effectively, beyond comfort, safety and efficiency - how can ‘smart design and technologies’ assist to address current and future challenges of architecture and urbanism?

To establish meaningful connections across the conference, a few themes have been defined. These themes and sub-themes are meant to organize sessions that challenge and question the prevailing ideas and notions regarding smart buildings and cities.

Histories and Futures

The historical precedents for both the use of technology and the blind belief in data can be contrasted with today’s challenges on the smart appropriations. These are not only determined by the past, but increasingly by the risky activity of projecting into the future (e.g. climate change, population dynamics, weather forecast, etc.).


Smart forms of architecture and urbanism are increasingly promoted in connection to efficiency and sustainability. Since there is much contestation regarding how to give meaning to sustainability in design practices, this theme encourages a critical reflection of sustainability as enacted in specific contexts. Important questions posed are, which set of challenges are addressed, by which means, and for whom?

Materialities (and Spaces)

Smart ideas, technologies, spaces and cities crucially do have a material dimension. This theme shifts attention to these often neglected materialities (switches, cables, data centres, etc.) that do have specific logics, spaces, appearances, and designs.


Questions the emerging power structures and ensuing exclusion and inclusion enabled by smart systems and explores new forms of agency enabled by those same structures. How can smart systems foster new ways to engage with buildings and cities?


Explores the paradox of prevalent smart systems in which networks of instruments and data are organized towards top-down systematization of processes, but in which the dispersed condition of those networks allows centers, nodes and terminals to be connected in alternative ways, thus also establishing ahierarchical structures that empowers its different actors. The work of Jan van Dijk, Manuel Castells, and Bruno Latour provides particular inspiration for this discussion.

Public Sphere

Searches for a renewed understanding of the discursive spaces for discussion and political engagement in the context of smart systems, specifically how these complement or displace the very physical space that they seek to augment. The work of Jürgen Habermas lays the foundation for this exploration.


Takes on the notion of control espoused by Gilles Deleuze to describe contemporary societies and challenges the promises of smart systems to achieve total control. With the all-seeing eye, the all-knowing brain, smart systems promise to be all knowable and controllable in new, dynamic, reactive ways, but at what cost?


Collects every other significant positions and conversations that should inform the current debate on smart systems in architecture and urbanism. 

We welcome proposals for specific sessions on one of the themes above (alternative session themes can be submitted as “other” if a strong argumentation is provided).

Guidelines for Session Submissions

Session proposals must include:

  • name and affiliation of chair (and up to one other co-chair), with one of the session (co-)chairs being identified as lead contact for the organization committee (in the event of two co-chairs, both must register and attend the conference).
  •  Session title
  • Session proposal (theme development) up to 300 words
  • A short bio per chair of up to 300 words

Session Organization / Tasks

Once a session is accepted, session chairs are responsible for assessing and selecting the abstracts submitted to that session (4-5 abstracts are to be accepted to each session). This process must be completed by June 1st, 2018 so that all session participants may be notified by June 15, 2018. Sessions will be scheduled by the organization committee.


  • Michael Batty
  • Andrew Feenberg
  • Dan Hill
  • Geeta Mehta
  • Antoine Picon
  • Igea Troiani


  • Sergio M Figueiredo
  • Sukanya Krishnamurthy
  • Torsten Schroeder