Previous Calls for Papers

 Issue #14: "Mapping the Boundaries"

(Scheduled for publication in June 2020)

The aim of issue 14 of ZARCH, Mapping the Boundaries, is to contribute to enriching the most conventional definitions of limits and borders—understood as places for transition and separation that connect well-defined spaces or environments—to offer a more in-depth reading of their meaning, in keeping with the complexity of today’s world. The concept of boundary is, unquestionably, too broad and may address reflections related to cultural, theoretical, disciplinary or metaphorical aspects. However, in order to narrow down the scope of study, this call is intended for those researchers who fundamentally explore topics related to the spatial nature of the concept of boundary.

On the one hand, on an urban and territorial scale, it is worth considering peripheries and peri-urban areas as places of dynamic interaction. In recent decades, debate on urban voids and undefined spaces—less frequent when cities’ growth used to be more compact—has intensified. Although these processes also occur in the central areas of cities, they are more common in the boundaries between urban and rural environments. Urban voids, interstitial spaces, unused spaces, empty lots, residual landscapes, intermediate landscapes, waiting spaces, terrain vague...are places of unquestionable interest, without clear boundaries, which constitute the heritage of the contemporary city and are consistent with its essence: complex, in constant development, fragmentary and, at the same time, continuous.[1] The new landscapes of suburban areas—defined by shopping centres, dwellings, work and leisure spaces, infrastructures or motorways—constantly generate voids or intermediate spaces in which reflection on the concept of boundary is more than relevant. Georges Perec warns about the dangers involved in trying to find a definition for city too quickly. One of the steps he proposes to outline it is the need to distinguish “what divides the town from what isn’t the town” recognising that “suburbs have a strong tendency not to remain as suburbs.”[2] To Perec’s thought-provoking considerations on the difficulty of establishing boundaries for cities, it is worth adding that, nowadays, contemporary cities are not only defined by their centres—as is traditionally the case—but also, and especially, for what happens in their boundaries.

On the other hand, on a smaller scale, it is not difficult to see how different cultures have explored the huge potential of the boundary for architecture. The transition between inside and outside offers episodes of great quality, such as the sophisticated versions of threshold-spaces in the Japanese hisashi or in the Mediterranean patio. Thresholds, filters, galleries, loggias, hallways, gardens, intermediate spaces, transition spaces, etc. focus the value of architecture on boundaries. However, there are other ways of understanding the concept of boundary in architecture: the boundary as an interface, porous boundaries, diffuse boundaries, etc. In Western architecture, modernity blurred the boundary between “inside” and “outside,” thus reducing it to a thin atectonic skin or a transparent membrane. The architects of Team 10 made the idea of threshold, at all scales, one of their main lines of research. Using deliberately undetermined and ambiguous spaces, known as “in-between” spaces, they wanted to explore the complexity and richness of the intermediate situations between the interior and the exterior, between the public and the private, between the natural and the artificial, between the house and the city. In this sense, the work of architects such as Jaap Bakema, who have traced the potential of boundaries—transition spaces, thresholds—to shape the relationship between the individual and the city, between “public (urban) and private (architectural) spaces”[3] is a clear example.

For this issue we expect contributions that, using different approaches—from the most specific to the most global or interdisciplinary—, enrich the debate by providing information on research papers, institutional initiatives, case studies, etc., that delve into the concept of spatial boundary (architectural, urban or territorial). Beyond the traditional descriptions of border, boundary, limit, margin, etc.—which are connected to the physical sense of the concept of boundary—this issue offers, from an international perspective, the opportunity to highlight the value of the boundary as a place where several situations concur, where rules are challenged and their identity questioned, where certain predetermined conditions—physical, normative or functional—generate complex urban and/or architectural, sometimes even contradictory, situations. At the same time, other readings can explore the condition of the boundary as a space for opportunity, for example in areas that are endangered by their special fragility, as is the case of the “rurban” peripheries, which are being transformed as a result of the development of agricultural practices and are being threatened by multiple sectoral logics, with serious risks of deterioration and loss of their productive and cultural identity; spaces that show what the city no longer is and what it has not yet become, where those activities that the consolidated city rejects and the contemporary city demands have a place.

In this issue, it would be interesting to receive works that use mapping as an operating research tool, not only for communication, but also for analysis and design. Representing the boundary requires making an effort in conceptualising and interpreting that goes beyond strictly graphic questions. Specially, contemporary cities are no longer recognizable for their plan views, they need complementary and innovative charts and notations to identify elements, processes and relationships between areas and their boundaries in continuous development.[4]

With this call we encourage reflection on the concept of boundary convinced that, as Walter Benjamin said “Nowhere, unless perhaps in dreams, can the phenomenon of the boundary be experienced in a more originary way than in cities.”[5]


Raimundo Bambó, Carmen Díez Medina

[1] Javier Monclús and Carmen Díez Medina, “Urban Voids and ‘in-between’ Landscapes”, in Urban Visions: From Planning Culture to Landscape Urbanism, eds. Carmen Díez Medina and Javier Monclús, (Cham: Springer, 2018), 247-256.

[2] Georges Perec, Species of Spaces and Other Peaces, (London: Penguin, 1997), 60.

[3] Jaap Bakema, Van stoel tot stad, een verhaal over mensen en ruimte (Zeist / Antwerp: W. de Haan / Standaard Boekhandel, 1964), 3.

[4] Raimundo Bambó, Miriam García, “Mapping Urbanism, Urban Mapping”, in Urban Visions: From Planning Culture to Landscape Urbanism, eds. Carmen Díez Medina and Javier Monclús, (Cham: Springer, 2018), 237-246.

[5] Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002), 88.


Issue #13: "The Traces of the Ephemeral"

Published in December 2019

Call Text:

«Modernity is this inconstant element, the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is eternal and immutable»

Charles Baudelaire

“Modernity”, in The Painter of Modern Life (1863)

In his presentation of modernity, Baudelaire conceives the imperishable beauty associated with monuments in parallel with the ephemeral beauty of the city of the industrial age. Despite the passing of time―and although ephemeral architecture has always accompanied lasting and ‘permanent’ architecture―the truth is that conventional architectural and urbanism historiography still fails to pay enough attention to the former, relegating it to a lesser position.

However, major research is being conducted into the nature, role and traces of the ephemeral in the fields of architecture, urbanism and cultural studies. Evidently, we refer not only to the ‘physical’ footprints of temporary constructions but also to the intangible legacies that remain in the cultural landscape and in the social imaginary, our architecture and our cities.

One of the traditional aspirations of architecture and urbanism is that of timelessness, permanence, the obsession with eternity (Aaron Betsky). However, it is also true that good architecture, both cultured and popular, is one that has known how to adapt to its time, to understand what in German is defined as Zeitgeist, the ‘spirit of time’. Ephemeral architecture has always been a reflection of its historical context: from Antiquity, passing through Baroque or Modernity, to the present. Much has been written about ‘occasional’ architecture associated with public celebrations, religious acts, political or cinematographic scenographies, festivals, temporary markets, nomadic housing, emergency architecture in the context of natural disasters, war conflicts, etc. The field of the ephemeral goes, however, even further, particularly regarding the proliferation of provisional architectures, from those associated with the great events of modernity―such as the Olympic Games, International Exhibitions or football championships―to those that deal with cultural capitals and other events (John Gold). Many of these architectures can become permanent, although it is often difficult to distinguish between those that were planned as ephemeral containers and those designed with the will to remain. In a way, the difference between temporary and permanent structures is, increasingly, only a matter of time (Robert Kronenburg). Therefore, it seems reasonable to question the nature and quality of the ephemeral in history, at present and―why not―in the future of our cities.

It is commonplace to counter the architecture of the ‘ordinary city’ (lasting) with that of the ‘extraordinary city’ (ephemeral) that manifests itself through large or small events. It can also be argued that it is precisely what happens in that city of exceptional moments that makes urban life vital (Schuster). Celebrations or events of all kinds allow us to experience other forms of architecture and urbanism that often become paradigms of each historical and cultural moment, as is the case of the Serpentine Pavilions in London.

Some of the best examples of architecture and urbanism have been associated with temporary events. The Olympic Games and International Exhibitions are probably the best known. There are many exhibition pavilions that have become key pieces in the history of architecture, such as Bruno Taut’s Glass Pavilion in Cologne (1914), Le Corbusier’s L’Esprit Nouveau in Paris (1925) or the German Pavilion in Barcelona by Mies van der Rohe (1929), including Patio & Pavilion by Alison and Peter Smithson (1956), the Philips Pavilion by Le Corbusier in Brussels (1958) or the Spanish Pavilion in New York by Javier Carvajal (1964), or more contemporary ones such as the Portuguese Pavilion in Lisbon by Álvaro Siza (1998), the Swiss Pavilion in Hannover by Peter Zumthor (2000) or the Blur Building in Neuchâtel by Diller & Scofidio (2002), to name but a few.

Exhibition pavilions have very unique features that allow them to turn their apparent fragility into strength. Their ephemeral nature, their great programmatic freedom and their origin in architectural competitions are opportunities that favour their understanding as true architectural and urban laboratories. Many of these events respond to strategies that promote and catalyse large-scale operations in the host cities. The impact of projects linked to Olympic events and international exhibitions is demonstrated; the urban transformations of Paris cannot be understood without taking into account the impact of its successive exhibitions, as well as the impact they had in consolidating the cultural centres of London, the opening up to the sea in Barcelona in 1992 or the mutations associated with Seville Expo that same year, in Lisbon in 1998 or Zaragoza in 2008 (Expo Cities - Urban Change, BIE 2018). The planning strategies of the urban pieces made up of the exhibition sets and the sports and cultural facilities correspond to visions and paradigms of the international urban culture of the moment―not only as a ‘reflection’ or a mechanical translation of the principles of each historical period, but as forerunners of what comes next (Stephen Ward). Whilst it is true that there is also a proliferation of what Daniel Boorstin calls the ‘pseudo-events’―created and structured by the media in the face of ‘spontaneous’ events, ‘festival markets’, etc―these are ‘less authentic’ proposals that deal with competition strategies between cities associated with globalisation (David Harvey).

Alejandro de la Sota said that the legacy of modern architecture is not so much that of physical footprints as that of ideas. This statement is, undoubtedly, extendable beyond the limits of modernity. The current issue of ZARCH, which is entitled “The traces of the ephemeral”, aims to collect those traces crystallized in ideas, vindicating their ability to conquer the physical reality of the architectural or urban fact and transcend time, moving beyond the immediacy of their existence and achieving immortality among future generations.

Many questions are open to reflection and can be included in this issue 13 of ZARCH. All of them should favour a broader debate to understand the value and potential of the ephemeral, as well as the nature of temporary events and their ability to produce relevant and lasting changes in the architecture and urban shapes of our cities.

Javier Monclús, Enrique Jerez

Print edition ISSN: 2341-0531 / Digital edition ISSN: 2387-0346. Copyright © 2016 ZARCH. All Rights Reserved