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Urban traumas

Cities and disasters


The CCCB is organising a symposium on Urban Traumas with the aim of reflecting on how cities and disasters intersect. The symposium will provide a forum to discuss, on the basis of the idea of disaster (not only natural disaster, but also political, social and technological disaster - the "accident" as Paul Virilio puts it), to what extent the city, born as a space of utopia, is also exposed to internal and external forms of vulnerability that transform it into a space of risk and defencelessness.


The debates will attempt to analyse whether disaster is inherent to the very notion of the city and also what new kinds of traumas the contemporary city is exposed to, using the specific cases of a number of cities around the world as the basis of discussion. The symposium will bring together social scientists, urban planners, philosophers and architects from all over the world.

The symposium will coincide with the third award of the European Prize for Urban Public Space, a biennial event which the CCCB organises jointly with the Institut Français d'Architecture of Paris, the Architecture Foundation of London, the ArchitekturZentrum of Vienna and the Netherlands Architectuur Instituut of Rotterdam ( An Urban Dance Festival ( will take place at the same time and this annual CCCB-fostered event will occupy selected and sensitive spaces around the city of Barcelona (among them the surroundings of the CCCB) for three days, with the aim of making citizens aware of the crucial role of public space in bolstering democracy. Finally, the symposium will also coincide with a large exhibition at the CCCB on war in the twentieth century, with a special section dealing with the impact of war on cities.



11:30 am
. 3rd European Prize on Urban Public Space

Chair: Oriol Bohigas, Architect, former Chief Urban Planner of the City of Barcelona.

With the participation of

Mr. Aaron Betsky
, Director, the Nederlands Architectuur Instituut (Rotterdam).
Mr. Francis Rambert, Director, Institut Français d'Architecture (Paris) Representative from the Architecture Foundation (London).
Mrs. Kerstin Gust, ArchitekturZentrum Wien (Vienna).

7 pm. URBAN TRAUMAS - Opening Session

The Vulnerable City

The political, social and technical changes in the contemporary city have given rise to new vulnerabilities which have contributed towards turning the city into a space of risk and defencelessness. Is the idea of disaster inherent in the notion of "city"? If so, what are the new vulnerabilities to which the contemporary city is exposed?

Peter Sloterdijk, Professor of Philosophy at the Hochschule für Gestaltung of Karlsruhe Terror and Space.
Nigel Thrift, Professor of Geography, University of Oxford. New Urban Vulnerabilities

Chair: Josep Ramoneda, Director of the CCCB.


Imagination and Reconstruction

Panel 1 (morning). Imagining the Disaster, Remembering the Trauma.

Over the centuries, catastrophes have been part of the history of cities, determining their urban planning and entering into the imaginary of their citizens through art and literature. How is the possibility of catastrophe imagined and how is its memory constructed?

Eusebio Leal,
Official Historian of the City of Havana, Chronicle from Havana.

Christine Boyer (tbc), Professor at the School of Architecture, Princeton University.

Richard Ingersoll,
Professor. School of Architecture. Syracuse University. Florence. The Death of the City. Venice and Gibellina.

Vyjayanthi V. Rao,
Assistant Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, The New School University Co-Director of PUKAR (Mumbai). The City as Stage: Speculation and Catastrophe in the Bombay Blasts

Chair: Josep Maria Montaner, Professor at the School of Architecture, Barcelona.

Panel 2 (afternoon). After the Ruins.

What kinds of approaches constitute the guidelines to the reconstruction of a city? Eradicating the traces of the disaster, or incorporating them into a new profile of the city? The destruction of a city also offers the opportunity to rethink it, to try to overcome the vulnerable features that have led to this destruction and to re-establish collective life.

Maha Yahya ,
Professor of Architecture and Planning, American University of Beirut. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Let the Dead be Dead. The Role of Memory in the Reconstruction of Beirut.

Jorge Jáuregui
, Architect. Author of the project "Favela - Barrio" (Rio de Janeiro), winner of the Sixth Veronica Rudge Green Prize in Urban Design (Harvard University). The Informal City: the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

Joaquim Tintoré, Director. Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies. University of Balearic Islands. Mallorca. What is natural In natural disasters?

Edi Rama, Mayor of Tirana. Colors.

Chair: Luis Fernández Galiano. Architect and professor at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid.


Permanent Disaster: Disaster for the City?

Panel 1 (morning): «Living with Catastrophe»

There are times when the city is so unable to deal with the disaster that it becomes structural, permanent. Such is the case of cities that have been the centre of armed conflicts, or of regions that have always been exposed to natural disasters or that are victims of some accident with long¬term effects. To what extent can the permanence of a disaster come to endanger the very traditional notion of "city"?

Achille Mbembe, Research Professor in History and Politics. Senior Researcher at WISER. University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg). Writing disaster.

Stephen Graham
, Professor of Urban Technology, University of Durham. Urbicide. City, Warfare and State of Emergency.

Michel Agier,
Centre d'Études Africaines, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris) Author of « Aux bords du monde, les réfugiés », Refugee camps : the Emergence of a new urbanity?

Svetlana Aleksievich, Writer and journalist. Author of "La plegaria de Chernóbil. Crónica del futuro" and "Ensorcelés par la mort".
Chernobyl: Chronicle of the Future.

Chair: Rafael Vila-Sanjuán, General Director. Médicos sin Fronteras, Spain.

Panel 2 (afternoon): «Metropolis: The Disaster Within»

In the great metropolises, a lack of appropriate policies can lead to segregation and exclusion in endemic catastrophes that appear to have no solution, thus preventing the possibility of collective urban coexistence. Fear takes root among the citizens and the fractures become visible. Does the uncontrolled growth of the metropolis necessarily imply the death of the city?

AbdouMaliq Simone, Assistant Director. International Affairs Program. The New School University (New York). Heretical Urbanism in Africa.

Lindsay Bremner, Professor of Architecture, University of the Witswatersrand (Johannesburg). Exile Geographies.

Teresa Caldeira, Professor of Anthropology, University of California (Irvine). Hip-hop, Periphery and Spatial Segregation in São Paulo.

Manuel Cruz, Professor of Philosophy, University of Barcelona. Life as a Dress Rehearsal: On Calamities and Catastrophes.

Chair: Francesc Muñoz. Professor of Urban Geography, Autonomous University of Barcelona.

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