The International Forum on Urbanism (IFoU) took place in Bordeaux from 29 June to 1 July 2022. Lisa Diedrich, Programme Director at SLU Urban Futures, participated and here she shares her key takeaways from the forum, linking them to SLU Urban Futures' ongoing projects and method labs:
There is no knowledge production without taking a position, there is no way out of the climate crisis and other emergencies without critically examining the systems we have come to be accustomed with, including the academic frameworks in which we are working. This is why Tatjana Schneider, professor of architectural history and theory at Braunschweig University in Germany and one of the keynote speakers of the International Forum on Urbanism (IFoU) 2022, called for different thinking about cities, what they do, and for whom. Referring to Columbian-American anthropologist Arturo Escobar’s recent book 'Designs for the Pluriverse' (2018) she invited IFoU’s audience to engage in shaping urban futures beyond the current market logic, to use collaborative and place-based approaches and to include others than academics alone into processes of learning and research, in particular people who can become future makers of the urban realm.
This plea resonates with SLU Urban Future’s mission to advance inter- and transdisciplinarity as an inclusive form of knowledge production, crossing lines between disciplines and reaching out to the professions and civil society. As one of the founding members of the Global Alliance for Inter- and Transdisciplinarity SLU Urban Futures commits to connecting actors and scales of intervention to advance collaborative research and education in support of urban sustainability, as formulated in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 11.
IFoU’s other convincing keynote speaker Paola Vigano, professor of urbanism at IUAV University in Venice, Italy, argued that transition requires changes humankind is not yet ready to instate, politically and economically, and that we need designated zones of experimentation in cities as the only imaginable way to engage the path towards change. SLU Urban Futures’ collaborative projects, partly instated through formal agreements such as with the municipalities of Uppsala and Umeå, are in line with this thinking, as is the platform’s Criticality Lab, a method-oriented space of learning and thinking with the aim to venture beyond trodden paths in research and education.
Still, any such initiative needs to be shared with global knowledge communities to take effect beyond the local level alone. That’s why conferences like IFoU call for the internationalisation of education and knowledge sharing, which is in line with SLU Urban Futures’ endeavour to network SLU’s nationally grounded research in the fields of agriculture, forestry and animal sciences with transdisciplinary urban knowledge fields globally.
Landscape architecture seems to hold a key role in this respect, as this field includes practice and research, bridges the urban and the rural, has a long tradition at SLU (celebrating 50 years of landscape education in 2021), and directly affects real-world situations through planning, design, building, and policy making. Paola Vigano’s body of work, partly carried out by her urbanism practice, and partly by her research team at IUAV Venice and EPFL Lausanne universities encompass large-scale urban development and design projects inspired by landscape approaches, including the study of natural processes along with topography, soil, vegetation, and enquiries into people’s spatial practices in contemporary metropolitan areas, eventually bringing them together through design.
Around 130 participants from 18 countries have been gathering from 29 June to 1 July 2022 for the 15th edition of the International Forum on Urbanism (IFoU), listening to keynote speeches, performing site visits to Bordeaux’s promising urban transformation projects, and presenting their papers (see book of abstracts). Among them one by SLU Urban Futures’ director Lisa Diedrich with co-authors Flavio Janches (University of Buenos Aires) and Diego Sepulveda (Technical University Delft) on knowledge co-transfer between Latin America and Europe (see SLU’s Linnaeus Palme Partnership 'Critical Urbanities'). The conference was held at Bordeaux’s National School of Architecture and Landscape, marvellously conceived and directed by urban planner Prof. Dr. Carlos Gotlieb and his scientific teams, with whom SLU holds an Erasmus Agreement for student and teacher mobility. IFoU is a global university network, focusing on the study of different approaches, methods, and experiments in teaching and research implemented in higher education institutions for architecture, urban design, planning and landscape architecture all over the world. This year’s conference questioned how internationalisation contributes to meeting the challenge of the ecological transition.