18th AESOP Young Academics Conference
19 March - 22 March 2024
Politecnico di Milano
Milan, Italy

Call for Abstracts

We invite Young Academics and practitioners of all relevant disciplines to this conference, and we welcome contributions that challenge the way knowledge is generated, communicated and acquired. We encourage reflections on an inter-scalar and international level that consider planning from a socio-political perspective, one that engages with communities, practitioners and policy makers. We offer five tracks to which you can contribute:

Track 1: Looking towards a sustainable urban future: transition and challenges

Track Chairs: Eugenio Morello (DAStU, Politecnico di Milano), Gilles Desthieux (HES Geneva)
Track Coordinators: Asef Ayatollahi, Chenling Wu

Problems connected to urbanity are nothing recent. Armed conflicts and wars, massive displacement, urban sprawl, land consumption, pandemics, congestion, inadequate services, and many more, have always impacted cities and the way we live and interact in urban spaces. However, with the hypergrowth of urbanized areas and urban inhabitants, societies are witnessing an unprecedented number of obstacles, some of them being more specific to our era, such as labor shortages, energy transition complications, lack of affordable housing, rising temperatures, decline in the purchasing power… just to name a few. With the backdrop of geopolitical fractures, cities are the first to bear the brunt of these challenges.

When projecting the future, it is anticipated that the current trend of population growth and urbanization will continue and is unlikely to stop. Facing the above cited challenges and looking towards a transition for a sustainable and livable future, urban studies proposed numerous solutions tackling different scales and fields of studies. By researching the present city problems and elaborating on solutions aimed at a prominent urban future, this track invites contributors to re-examine the current urban challenges, the planning methods aligned and supported by international agendas for effective action in the world’s cities and regions, and all the basic forces driving change. The track proposes to promote broader sustainable development scenarios of urban development by providing pathways to low-carbon, livable, and equitable cities.

Submissions may cover but are not limited to the following topics: What are the most relevant sustainable urban transition strategies, actions, and programs? How to develop integrated tools and approaches of action facing these challenges? How does the built environment and urban morphology impact on the climate and vice versa? What are the main trends related to sustainable urban mobility and how are they integrated into transport planning and the city fabric? How are energy transition and climate-neutrality tackled in urban research and discourse, and what is the role of the economy in incentivizing the transition? How can planning become a health and well-being generator so as to help people thrive in urban environments?

Keywords and topics:

  • Urban energy transition
  • Climate-neutrality
  • Decarbonizing, adaptation, and resilient cities
  • Biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services
  • Green and blue infrastructures
  • Urban and transport planning
  • Urban livability, human health and well-being

Track 2: Beyond the urban-rural divide

Track Chairs: Luca Lazzarini (DAStU, Politecnico di Milano), Nitin Bathla (ETH Zurich)
Track Coordinators: Anna Fera, Antonio Salvador, Beatrice Meloni

In urban studies, the ‘rural’ has been defined as a subordinate space of contradictions, an uninhabitable place to tame, of depopulation to contrast, of idyllic countryside and nature to protect, a place for leisure, a productive platform, or an expendable resource, often flattened and objectized, overlooking and underestimating its complexity. The ‘rural existence’ is often legitimized by planning mechanisms considered outdated in urban contexts. The notion of ‘rural’ is proposed not as a defined place but as a lens from which to study territories, phenomena, and conditions. Even those that appear as strictly ‘urban problems’ have an effect elsewhere. Researchers are challenged to understand these effects, to look at less studied territories, and to bring alternative perspectives from ‘known’ issues. Therefore, we should not consider what happens in the rural and the urban as separate phenomena but instead as reciprocally intertwined. The urbanization process is closely related to agrarian and production transformation, while rural elements are present in urban settings and vice versa: in this light, we can assert that the urban question is a rural question. In order to contribute in deconstructing universalist theories that perpetuate the urban-rural divide, we need theory generated from geographic areas where the rural is much more than the non-urban: territories where the rural is vital to the livelihood of many and essential for the understanding of socio-spatial dynamics.

This track addresses the complexity of rural territories by including research methodologies and approaches, new epistemologies, planning scenarios and proposals for large-open spaces, productive and natural landscapes, climate and just transition, multispecies planning, and urban-to-rural migration, among others. The track proposes to open a dialogue and debate on emerging visions of planning and inhabiting the ‘rural.’ It aims to explore, beyond an obsolete view of the division between the city and the countryside, places where rural practices occur inside agglomerations and where forms of urbanization are happening in natural and agricultural territories. The track aims to enrich this discussion by welcoming experiences from the Global South and Global East.

Keywords and topics:

  • Planning and inhabiting the rural
  • Rural ecologies and rural planning
  • Urbanization in rural territories
  • Rural practices in the urban environment
  • Multispecies planning
  • Productive landscapes
  • The “rural” in feminist and postcolonial perspectives
  • Urban-rural ecosystem services

Track 3: Challenging the role of academia: The impact of research 

Track Chairs: Gabriele Pasqui (DAStU, Politecnico di Milano), Julia Wesely (BOKU Vienna)
Track Coordinators: Dafni Riga, Francesco Pasta

In a context where research in the planning field is becoming highly transdisciplinary (integrating fields spanning from data analytics and technology to sociology and environmental psychology) academia has the possibility to obtain a more holistic approach, acquire a broader range of insights, produce knowledge stemming from a wider variety of sources and addressing a wider audience. However, due to the recentness of this approach, the planning field today appears to be little concerned with the role of researchers and rarely adopts in-depth epistemological perspectives, while transdisciplinarity frequently remains a mere conceptual framing or a marketing catchphrase. Moreover, the dynamics of research within the academic milieu are growingly questioned in terms of hierarchy, formality and lack of engagement of researchers beyond academia. This entails an impact on society as a whole: academia is often either self-referential, producing policies and strategies that remain on paper, or detached from society, speaking jargon and not being able to communicate effectively. Considering citizens as critical participants in the process of decision-making and space-making, the challenge for academia is to engage with practice and society through less rigid processes; to assume a more active and inclusive position; and to rethink and politicize research so as to impactfully address current challenges.   

This track invites contributions that research diverse and innovative methods of research and knowledge production, and their eventual effect on society as a whole. How can we overcome disciplinary discontinuities and the continuous overproduction of knowledge that oftentimes remains too vast, theoretical, and less immediate? How can we ensure that academia asks the right questions and addresses matters of urgence? How can university-produced knowledge become more democratic and communicative towards civil society? As early-career researchers and planners, how can we achieve being less self-referential within our fields and foster a professional and cultural shift? How can we attain more hands-on interaction with civil society? How do universities’ off-campus activities contribute in the dialogue and to what extent do they generate an impact in society? How far do processes involving citizens (such as experimental and tactical urbanism, participatory processes, DIY urbanism, bottom-up initiatives and so on) bridge the gap between academia, practice, and society? How to ensure that they are effective and inclusive enough?   

Keywords and topics:

  • Universities and institutions 
  • Democratizing research 
  • Research methodologies and practices 
  • Epistemological enquiry 
  • Critiques on knowledge production 
  • Geographies of theory, knowledge and power 
  • Transdisciplinarity 
  • Bottom-up initiatives and inclusivity 
  • Participatory action research and research activism 
  • Civic engagement
  • Social impact

Track 4: Planning tools and techniques, bridging the gap between theory and practice

Research is fundamental for the evolution of science –social and applied– and for catalyzing innovation and crafting better technologies related to our cities and beyond them. Social sciences, in general, and urban planning in particular, range from theory to practice and from policies to design and implementation. In a time where urbanity, which was once seen as the solution, is becoming more problematic (or at least being shaped by complex problems) and facing growing challenges in diverse forms and on different scales, urban research becomes more fundamental for finding solutions –through innovative planning tools– and responding to the timely challenges, tackling different aspects of our everyday urban and beyond-urban life. However, if research fails to be translated into practice, the impact of the work and effort risks having an impaired effect

This track aims to endorse the implementation and applicability of research, firstly as an experimentation tool and, secondly, on a more diffused scale to solve rapidly growing problems that challenge the natural processes in which urbanity is formed. It invites contributions developing beyond theory and translated into design and practice. It aims to answer the following questions: How are urban theories translated into design, and how is design translated into practice? What are the tools urban planners and urban designers use? What are the best practices and the most prominent applicative research approaches, and what urban challenges are being addressed? Does the applicability of research give it more legitimacy? Does innovation emerge from the work of private studios, institutions, firms, and private research centres, or must it be developed within the core of academia? Are we witnessing a time when interdisciplinary research is becoming more crucial, as well as the collaboration between the university bodies (university-based research) and private entities?  

Keywords and topics:

  • Planning tools 
  • Digital tools 
  • Applied research 
  • Urban Design  
  • Experimentation 
  • Innovative planning approaches  
  • Best practices

Track 5: Towards coexistence: contested social and spatial landscapes in transformation

Track Chairs: Gloria Pessina (DAStU, Politecnico di Milano), Nikos Katsikis (TU Delft)
Track Coordinators: Aamina Shahid, Danila Saulino

Increasing globalization, mobility, acceleration of production and consumption and the contestation of territories are profoundly affecting territorial, social, and ecological equilibriums, posing a threat to the existence of many species, including human beings. Adding to this, it has been estimated that by 2050, climate change and extreme weather will force more than 200 million to migrate. Nonetheless, today we are witnessing a great paradox: on one hand, the increase in frequency and impact of climate events demonstrates an urgency to work towards more holistic and shared solutions; on the other, new boundaries, borders and ideological wars are spreading from South to North and East to West, limiting the mobility of people, goods and ideas. These simultaneous phenomena are not merely physical, but also conceptually divisive. It is necessary to observe such phenomena beyond their inner nature, in order to understand the relationships between them. By doing so we can unveil the question: Who is gaining and who is losing in large scale landscape transformations? In today’s complex societies, shaped by factors such as culture, ethnicity and gender, places of interaction between different societal components have a particular symbolic significance. In this context, scholars and planners play key roles in addressing the challenge of planning territories for coexistence rather than exclusion.  

The track aims to raise critical reflections on environmental and landscape transformations to explore the socio-spatial effects they generate and the power dynamics behind them. Considering territory as a contested place, it also aims to investigate the relationship between identity, territorial use, landscape representation and narratives. How to plan territories for coexistence in today's complex societies? How can urban and spatial planning contribute to bridge gaps rather than building borders between people-people and people-territories? How do new ways of living transform the landscape and what effects do they have on local communities? Is it possible to establish a limit within which the modification of landscape is still sustainable for a territory? By whom and for whom is the sustainability of a landscape transformation defined and assessed? How does identity affect the use of space and place and vice versa? How is landscape used as a means and representation of power? This track welcomes theoretical and practical contributions with an approach on various research methodologies, including participatory and creative tools to study and represent territories and landscapes, their transformations and uses. 

Keywords and topics:

  • Land use and land rights 
  • Regional planning 
  • Borders and proximities 
  • Place power, borders, migration,  
  • Ecological and territorial justice 
  • Ecosystems and ecology 
  • Place attachment, placemaking and community empowerment 
  • Critical landscapes and critical mapping