Spring 2022

Urban Governance and Development Talk Series, Renmin University of China

Convenor: Dr Yimin Zhao (

How shall we reconceptualise the urban when cities are going through spatial, social and political transformation across the world? What implications can be sought for rethinking both theories and practices related to “governance” and “development,” among other issues? These questions have been haunting for a while yet clues to answering them are still vague. 

To address these questions and, in doing so, to bring different perspectives and approaches into more productive dialogues, Department of Urban Planning and Management at Renmin University of China is organising a new series of talks in this Spring, bringing together speakers from London, Ohio, Durham and Sheffield, to reflect on some aspects of the questions above: 

  • Chance and the urban, 6 April 2022, by Professor Kevin Cox (Ohio State University)
  • Planetary Gentrification: Revisit and reflection, 13 April 2022, by Professor Hyun Bang Shin (London School of Economics and Political Science)
  • The Urban “Now”: Generating concepts across time and space in the midst of an urban world, 27 April 2022, by Professor Jennifer Robinson (University College London)
  • Urban life at the extensions, 11 May 2022, by Professor AbdouMaliq Simone (University of Sheffield)
  • Urban densities, crowds and politics (tentative), 18 May 2022, by Professor Colin McFarlane (Durham University)

Details about these events will be updated here, together with the links to register and other related information. Please check later if they are not yet announced. 

Chance and the urban

Seemingly chance events, the unpredictable, play an important role in the formation of human geographies, including those of the city and urban patterns. Recently this idea has been assimilated to the more general sorts of processes identified by complexity theory. On the other hand, a dialectical view of a materialist sort suggests that the structures with respect to which chance is counterposed are themselves, in a sense, chance outcomes; and that to focus on complexity is to ignore the background of social processes of a more universal form. These condition the more concrete trajectories, including the geographic, in which the dialectic of chance and structure is so significant.

Planetary Gentrification: Revisit and reflection

Born out of the experiences of post-industrial cities in the West, gentrification has been a concept that has been both advocated and contested, with its definition and applicability to various emerging urban phenomena challenged. This talk will review some of the key arguments in the gentrification literature, and explore the planetary implication of gentrification, and what opportunities Global East presents to the gentrification literature.

The Urban “Now”: Generating concepts across time and space in the midst of an urban world

If each urban outcome is considered as distinctive, as “individual”, rather than a “universal”, “specific” or “diverse”, how might we imagine generating concepts about urbanisation and urban life, and sustaining conversations about urban experiences across time and space? With Walter Benjamin and Gilles Deleuze, we can place conceptualisations of the urban as a multiplicity, emergent in close association with (the formation of) each urban outcome/observation – but implicated in the virtuality of all the possible ways we can think (about) the urban. Whatever the urban is (“now”), might flash into recognition, as “constellations” across historical moments and, in the case of the urban, across the diversity of urban experiences. The talk will argue that the distinctiveness and opacity of urban life, and the great variety of forms of the urban in different historical moments and contexts, are not grounds for turning away from concepts, but for initiating new and creative, relevant and embedded insights on the urban in all its diversity. Here, comparative urbanism – as strongly open to revisability, as starting to think the urban from anywhere – incites attentiveness from all urban scholars to the challenges, deep differences but also important insights which might chart filaments of connection across divergent understandings. I suggest that this can foster a rich seam of insights emergent from different urban experiences, including those which have too often been excluded from analytical repertoires in urban studies. The example of the term “informality” will be considered. Initially a marker of the incommensurable difference of poorer cities, “informality” is now a generative analytical starting point for thinking many aspects of the core urban processes of association and emergence.

Urban life at the extensions
  • Speaker: Professor AbdouMaliq Simone, University of Sheffield
  • Time: 18:00-19:30, 11 May 2022 (Beijing Time, UTC+8)
  • Registration: TBC

As urban majorities increasingly find themselves across diverse peripheries and hinterlands, what are the modes of production that result in spatial compositions that are at once both familiar and strange, embodying a heterogeneity of logics, inclinations, and aspirations rather than a univocal series of maneuvers and processes. The talk portrays extensions as multifaceted intersections that remain largely unsettled, aiming for uncertain eventualities.

Urban densities, crowds and politics (tentative)
  • Speaker: Professor Colin McFarlane, Durham University
  • Time: 18:00-19:30, 18 May 2022 (Beijing Time, UTC+8)
  • Registration: TBC

(Abstract TBC)


 Spring 2015

Un-Learning from Lynch: Cinema and Architecture in the Alley Behind the Marketplace

Time: 2-4 pm, Mar 11, Wed

Venue: Room 103, 1st Floor, Bartlett School of Architecture, 140 Hampstead Road, London NW1 3EE


Part of The Nocturnal City series. How might the work of the American film director David Lynch speak to contemporary urban and architectural concerns?

Drawing on his recently published bookThe Architecture of David Lynch, Richard Martin will discuss how the worlds Lynch has built and filmed force us to confront the strange forces involved in urban change, the social relations architecture constitutes, the uneasy feelings of being at home, and the presence of the past in the spaces of the present. In the words of Peter Eisenman, ‘All our lives are spent learning how to get it: Lynch un-learns us’. The discussion will be chaired by Iain Borden (Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture, Bartlett School of Architecture).

Dr. Richard Martin works at the intersections of film, art and architecture. He is the author of The Architecture of David Lynch(Bloomsbury, 2014), and his articles and reviews have appeared in the European Journal of American Culture, Senses of Cinema, Apollo and The Modernist. Having completed his PhD at Birkbeck, University of London, where he taught literature, visual culture and critical theory, he is currently a Teaching Fellow at King’s College London and a Visiting Lecturer at Middlesex University. He is also the organiser of a series of public events and courses at Tate Modern.

The discussion is part of Urban Lab’s Nocturnal City series, exploring how the introduction of gaslight and electric lighting into cities led to the expansion of urban night-time activity, creating new social customs, forms of leisure, opportunities for work, and power inequalities. Two film evenings will take place in April and May.


Regeneration: Imaginaries of Decline and Renewal

Time: 6.30-8 pm, Mar 12, Thu

Venue: Room M/421, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS


In this talk Dr. Ben Campkin (Director, UCL Urban Laboratory) will consider how the definition, discourse and practice of regeneration in London have shifted from the 1920s to the present. He will focus, in particular, on housing, with an example from the 1920s, an historical evaluation of the architectural, political and cultural representation of the Aylesbury Estate, and a coda linked to the Olympic-led redevelopment of East London. Using exemplars of particular types of urban image taken from related contexts internationally, he will examine the wider imaginaries of social, material and spatial disorder encircling each London site.

Ben Campkin is an urbanist and architectural historian. He is the author of Remaking London: Decline and Regeneration in Urban Culture (2013) and co-editor of Dirt: New Geographies of Cleanliness and Contamination (2007/2012), Cities Methodologies (forthcoming, 2015), and the series Urban Pamphleteer (2013-). Ben collaborates on the project Picturing Place, exploring the agency of images in urban change, recently featured as a series of articles in Guardian Cities. He is Senior Lecturer in Architectural History and Theory at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, and has been Director of UCL’s cross-disciplinary Urban Laboratory since 2011.


Dark Matter: Kings Cross and the politics behind built form

Time: 1-2 pm, Mar 16, Mon

Venue: Rm G02, 140 Hampstead Road, London NW1 2BX


We plan cities within an environment dominated by vested interests, conflicting agendas, power and politics. Built form is brokered as much as it is designed. Underneath the visible physical fabric of the city is the dark matter of politics, invisible, difficult to measure, but essential to our understanding of how cities work.

In this lecture Peter Bishop will use the Kings Cross development as a case study to examine the process of how the design of a new piece of city can emerge from six years of negotiations, the agendas, the tactics, the compromises and the politics.

Peter Bishop was a Director of Planning in central London and worked on major development projects including Kings Cross. In 2007 he set up Design for London, the Mayor’s architecture and design studio and was then deputy CEO of the London Development Agency where he worked on the London Olympics and the regeneration of east London. Since 2011 he has been a director at Allies and Morrison and Professor of Urban Design at The Bartlett School of Architecture. He has been an adviser to the Mayor of Bucharest and is an adviser to the City of Zhuhai. His book on temporary urbanism, The Temporary City, was published in 2012.

Situating Architecture is a new architectural history lecture series on Monday lunchtimes at The Bartlett School of Architecture. Lectures are free and open to members of the public on a first come, first seated basis. Places are limited so early arrival is recommended. Situating Architecture is a new architectural history lecture series on Monday lunchtimes at The Bartlett School of Architecture. Lectures are free and open to members of the public on a first come, first seated basis. Places are limited so early arrival is recommended.


Writing across diverse urban contexts: Informality in Tallinn, Bafatá & Berlin

Time: 6-8 pm, Mar 18, Wed

Venue: Exhibition Room, G07 Pearson Building, Gower Street, University College London


Urban research has long related informality to a lack of state capacity or a failure of formal institutions. This assumption not only lacks attention to the heterogeneous logics and relations through which informality is produced by multiple actors in- and outside of the state, it has also created a dividing line between states. Whereas some states are understood to manage urban development through a coherently functioning state apparatus, others presumably fail to regulate. To unmake and reframe such understandings this paper offers both a theoretical discussion and an empirical exploration of the ways in which informality is infused in processes of governance in cities across the globe.

Based on a comparison of three case studies in Tallinn (Estonia), Berlin (Germany) and Bafatá (Guinea-Bissau), we suggest that if we seek to account for the similarities and differences in the informalization of cities in the north and the south we need to reconsider the role of states. More particularly, our line of argumentation focuses on the ways in which local state agencies are entangled in the workings of informality. Herby we work towards a more relational understanding of informality that is attuned to the multiple roles adopted by different actors involved in urban processes and the power relations that are mobilized therein in order to pursue two aims. On the one hand, we seek to show that state institutions shape urban development through everyday negotiations, legal incoherencies and regulatory ambiguities rather than coherently functioning institutions. On the other hand, we explore alternative forms of rule and institutions that exist beyond the state and govern people’s lives alongside the state. It follows from these two perspectives that allegedly informal processes can similarly be understood as ‘formalities’, while what appears to be formal at first sight might work through multiple informal relations.


Night Walking: A Nocturnal History of London

Time: 6.15-7.30 pm, Mar 26, Thu

Venue: Medawar G01 Lankester LT, Malet Place, UCL, London WC1H 0AT


Part of The Nocturnal City series. Dr Matthew Beaumont (Co-director, UCL Urban Laboratory and Senior Lecturer, UCL English) discusses nightwalking in London in a public lecture complementing the release of his new book Night Walking: A Nocturnal History of London (Verso, 2015), a captivating literary portrait of writers who explored the city at night, and the people they met.

Throughout its history, London has been two places: the daytime city of business and work, and the night-time palace of dark desires, crime, and vagrancy. This place has attracted writers, lawyers, poets, and politicians who have all attempted to chart and control the nocturnal flows of the capital. In the medieval city, nightwalking was a punishable crime; by the Victorian era, Charles Dickens was forced to wander the streets by night in order to becalm his disturbed mind. Why has the city shrouded in darkness been such a compelling subject over the centuries?

Before the age of the gas lamp, the city at night was a different place, home to the lost, the licentious, and the insomniac. In this lecture, Matthew Beaumont discusses the perambulations of poets, novelists, and thinkers from Shakespeare, to the ecstatic strolls of William Blake, the feverish urges of opium addict De Quincey, as well as the master nightwalker, Charles Dickens.

Night Walking: A Nocturnal History of London is available to purchase from 24 March and will be available at the lecture for a discounted price of £15. No booking required.

The lecture is part of Urban Lab’s Nocturnal City series, exploring how the introduction of gaslight and electric lighting into cities led to the expansion of urban night-time activity, creating new social customs, forms of leisure, opportunities for work, and power inequalities. Two film evenings will take place in April and May.

Dr Matthew Beaumont is Senior Lecturer at the Department of English Literature and Language at UCL and co-director of the UCL Urban Laboratory. He set up the City Centre within the Department of English in 2010, which is now part of the Urban Lab as Cities Imaginaries.

Access to the lecture theatre is via Malet Place. Please consult the map below, and use UCL Maps for more information.



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