EAUH Conference 2018


Session M30. The mobility of Urban Terminology: 20th-Century Exchanges Across the Atlantic and Beyond

Coordinators: Gaia Caramellino (, Susanne Schindler (

Concepts of urbanism incessantly migrate, and in the process mutate, across national, linguistic and disciplinary boundaries. Through institutional programs as well as personal interactions, ideas on the city generated in a specific economic and political framework, are often significantly altered when translated and transferred to other circumstances. They are often reinterpreted as they move from academic discourse to professional practice and into the terminology of local building codes or national planning regulations. In this process of migration, the connection to the origin of the terms is often lost.

The session moves from the analysis of a particularly influential trajectory of migration-mutation, the one between the Americas and Europe throughout the 20th century. Notions that have become entrenched on both sides of the Atlantic include those in the EAUH 2018 conference title itself, “urban renewal” and “resilience”; their meanings, however, diverge significantly depending on where they are used. A central term that was shaped by the transatlantic exchange is “urban design” and many constituent analytical categories, including “context”, “neighborhood”, “community”, “city-region”, “regional planning”, “environment," and “fabric." Each of these terms has had significant impact on how cities have developed.

Words are powerful mediators, but their changing meanings are often only considered within a single national or linguistic context. Recent literature has investigated specific terms used in architecture and urbanism, and their changing meanings adopting a comparative international perspective (Forty 2004, Topalov 2010). The session builds on this work with the aim of providing a deeper understanding of 20th century urban culture and practice. The session thus seeks contributions on terms shaped by a multifaceted and non-linear transatlantic exchange and by the mutual fascination of architects and planners, devoting a particular attention to the dynamics that drove the mobility of terms and their fortune in diverse national contexts.

Papers will track the origin and codification of a particular notion and its changing meaning through its transfer, interpretation, appropriation, hybridization and revision elsewhere, including, if applicable, the codification in local planning regulation; will identify the channels of the transfer, whether that be popular or professional publications, exchange programs, individual trajectories; and may analyze the impact of this migration-mutation of terms in forging specific urban visions, forms, or built projects. While the session takes the transfer between the Americas and Europe as a point of departure, we strongly encourage papers that analyze the reception of notions forged through the transatlantic exchange in non-Western urbanism or, conversely, investigate other trajectories, by tracing how urban notions formed in non-Western planning cultures migrated to other contexts.
Keywords: terminology of design; intellectual exchange; transnational urbanism; history of urban design