EAUH Conference 2018


Session M06 - The Engineered City: Engineering Design, Experience and Failure in Urban History, from the Middle Ages to 21st Century

Coordinators: Shane Ewen (, Genevieve Massard-Guilbaud (

Read Session abstractThe relationship between engineering design and urban space has attracted growing interest from environmental historians and historians of technology in recent years. Much work has been published on the networked city’s evolution, focusing on the ways that cities became increasingly sophisticated entities of communication, energy systems, transportation, industries and infrastructure. Towns and cities are also connected by engineering – interurban communication and transit systems, which connect urban with rural environments – and subject natural features like rivers, moors and the coast to the control of urban actors.
In this main session, which covers the period from the Middle Ages to 21st centuries, we are interested in exploring the multiple ways that urban engineering has shaped urban space, and how engineering design and practice has been moulded by other urban actors. Our leading question is how has resilience been engineered into the city’s DNA, and what happens when this resilience is challenged by engineering failure?
Related themes include:
(1) Models of urban engineering – how have particular engineering designs become models of innovation and subsequently been imported elsewhere? In what ways are these models shared, adopted and modified in different local and national contexts?
(2) Ordering urban engineering – Which urban actors commission studies from urban engineers? How are decisions involving multiple interests negotiated?
(3) Engineering and agency - how do engineered landscapes and operational systems manage people (users, workers, residents, visitors) and facilitate or prevent their freedom to access spaces? How do people engineer urban space in everyday interactions like pressing buttons, turning on taps, or in accessing smart technology?
(4) Cultures of urban engineering – What role has engineering played in the (re)formation of place identity? How has the representation of engineering changed over the period, as symbols of reform or modernity, and as sites of conservation and heritage?
(5) Resilience and failure – What happens when urban engineering fails? Operational or systemic failure tests the resilience of engineering systems and their capacity to cope with crises, so how does the engineer respond in such cases? What kinds of lessons are taken from the experience? How is engineering renewed?
(6) Contesting urban engineering – What kinds of urban design were contested, by whom and why? What were their results?
We welcome papers on topics related to these themes, which focus on comparative as well as individual city cases. We strongly encourage papers that connect urban and environmental history. Papers in French are welcome.
Keywords: urban engineering; early modern and modern cities; landscape; place identity; technical urban networks; resilience; failure; negotiation; contestation

Thursday 30th August 2018
  Room 21 09.00-10.30, 11.00-12.30, 13.30-15.00



Numbers and measurements in the struggle for the Aniene River. Rome 1884-1892.
Salvatore Valenti

Water and the Modern Engineered City: The Association of Water Engineers in a British and Transnational Context, 1896-1914
Andrew Mctominey

This Land Belongs To The Sea: The Case Of William Jessop And The River Dodder
Elizabeth Shotton

Les transferts technologiques vers Lyon aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles
Olivier Zeller

Imagineering Network Models. Resilient Infrastructure Design between ‘the Ideal’ and ‘the Real’: Belgium, 1830s-1860s
Greet de Block

Satisfying the need for heat – Planning urban district heating in Switzerland, 1920s-70s
Irene Pallua

The Soviet model of urban engineering: housing estate in Czechoslovakia
Agnes Dudych

"Engineers' street": street-use conflicts and engineer's minds for modernizing "the oldest bridge of Lyon", 1930's and 1950's
Louis Baldasseroni

La « gêne et l'inconfort » des citadins. Démoustication et suburbanisation dans la France des années soixante.
Renaud Bécot

Threshold values and property values : the mitigation of legacy industrial pollution in poor cities of Central New Jersey (1970s till present day)
Pascal Marichalar