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City Design Symposia


Socio-Spatial Design and the Transformation of Urban–Rural China 

9 December 2017, 2–6pm
Xuhui Campus, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

The symposium discussed how historical spatial development forms in China – such as the urban danwei and worker’s new village or rural people’s commune and Third Front – are an important contemporary heritage of urban form and Chinese modernity. Current problems of neighbourhood transformations and urbanisation in China can be understood in relationship to these historical developments. The symposium consequently also debated the significance of this spatial heritage to urban design and planning theory, history and practice, and how spatial design has been instrumental to shape a sense of community and place. This discussion is framed through three contexts critical to understanding contemporary urban design in China: the history of communal spatial development models; socio-spatial changes in urban and rural developments; and changing models of urban-rural governance. Therefore, a key question arises: how are these socio-spatial developments critical to formulating a new interdisciplinary urban design practice and theory in China?

Organised by the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA), the Royal College of Art (RCA) and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU).

For more information on the symposium, click here.

Event Guide | Symposium Brief

The Object and Strategy of the Ground (w/ Tarsha Finney) 2017
The Object and Strategy of the Ground (with Dr Tarsha Finney), 2017


Melinda Cooper – Family Values: Domesticity and Intergenerational Debt

7 November 2017, 46pm 

Darwin Building, D612, Kensington

RCA City Design, in collaboration with the MA Architecture Student Lecture series at the RCA, hosted a presentation by and discussion with Associate Professor Melinda Cooper, moderated by City Design Programme Lead Dr Tarsha Finney.

Dr Cooper discussed her work on asset (house price) inflation and household debt and how this has precipitated a return to intergenerational debt networks. This comes with, in a very material sense, a return to the home on the part of young adults and intergenerational cohabitation; a forcing back into the dynamic of familial space that has all kind of (relatively unexplored) consequences in terms of domestic violence.

Cooper's most recent publication, Family Values, is an account of the re-appropriation of the family, or 'family values' in Cooper's terms, following the breakdown of the Fordist Family wage in the 1970s and as part of what she argues is a domestication of 'non-normative lifestyles' through the use of credit and via the logic of inheritance. As she says, 'The History of the family is one of perpetual crisis. Yet, this crisis presents itself in distinct, even contradictory fashion to different political constituencies'.

Melinda Cooper is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney. She is the author of Life as Surplus: Biotechnology and Capitalism in the Neoliberal Era (University of Washington Press 2008), Clinical Labour: Tissue donors and Research Subjects in the Global Bioeconomy (Duke University Press, 2014, with Catherine Waldby), and Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism (Zone Books 2017). She is coeditor, with Martijn Konings, of the Stanford University Press book series, Currencies: New Thinking for Financial Times.

Melinda Cooper presents at RCA
Melinda Cooper presents at RCA, Tarsha Finney/RCA 2017


Architectural Type and the Discourse of Urbanism

14 December 2015, 10.30am – 5pm
Gorvy Lecture Theatre, Battersea

    This one-day symposium explored typology as a mode of spatial reasoning that underlies architecture’s autonomy as a field of thought and action, its agency in the transformation of the city, and its strategic intersection with the spatial politics of the liberal metropolis. It brought together academics and practitioners to reflect on typology both as critical project and design strategy. 

    Watch a video of the keynote speaker, Lawrence Barth, by clicking on the video above.

    Read more about the symposium here.