International symposium, December 2018



Projects, visions, ideologies between the Cold War and the Welfare State


Politecnico di Milano, 11-12 December 2018





The international symposium will focus on the impact of ideologies of decentralization and ideals of regional planning on the discourses and practices of architects and planners between the mid-1940s and the late 1970s – a period marked by a new attention for (and approach to) the discourse on urban transformation – paying a particular attention to the definition of their tools, methodologies of analysis, codes and programs. The seminar aims to deal with the diverse cultures and scales of projects, ranging from the territorial scale to the emergence of the still ambiguous concept of “City-Region”.

On the one hand, the seminar will look at decentralization as the answer provided by the planning culture to the WWII experience and to the exigencies of post-war reconstruction and development. On the other hand, it will analyze the new visions that, even if sometimes still rooted in the interwar disciplinary debate, took shape and evolved among architects in the period between post-war reconstruction and the economic boom.

The seminar aims at mapping a set of relevant cases at international level observed through a comparative perspective, paying particular attention, but not limited, to Italian experiences. Moving beyond the manifesto projects and plans already addressed in consolidated narratives, the seminar intends to highlight the complexity of the phenomena of decentralization, offering new interpretative and thematic frames that allow to question geographical and chronological boundaries.

The seminar will address a number of specific questions:

  • How did architects and planners use the discourse on decentralization to advance and legitimate rhetorical, cultural, political, and ideological positions during the Cold War?
  • How did conflicts pave the ground and accelerate the reception and implementation of decentralization in architecture and planning?
  • Which are the forms assumed by ideologies and values of decentralization, in the period of the birth and development of the late-industrial society?
  • Which is the relationship between ideals of decentralization and the emergence of welfare state policies, in Europe and in North America?
  • How did the ideals of decentralization anticipate and contribute to the visions of growth and progress elaborated by architects and planners? Here, we seek to move beyond well-known experiences like the nuclear city or the myth of cybernetic city.
  • How can these questions be addressed when dealing with non-western countries?
  • Which are the occasions/channels/actors that conveyed and mediated the transfer?

The seminar at the Politecnico di Milano will be the second of a series of three, each with a particular thematic lens on decentralization. The first symposium was held in November 2017 at the School of Architecture of Grenoble and focused on the ideals of decentralization and the ecological and economic issues of the projects and theories. The third meeting will take place at TU Delft in January 2019; participants will address the history of energy transitions and its repercussion on evolving ideas of decentralization in theory and practice. Selected papers from the three conferences will be published in three open-access edited volumes through TU Delft Open/BK Books.



The abstracts (300 words maximum), plus 5 key words, written in English, should be sent before October 7th 2018, with a short bio (1 page), to


You can dowload the call for papers in PDF here.