Previous Calls for Papers


Issue #15: "Urban Processes, Water Dynamics & Climate Change"

Expected publication date: December 2020

Call Text:

Essential to any form of life, water defines our blue planet. Historically, human settlements have managed this resource for both personal use and the development of all kind of activities. Old settlements and their hydrologic systems found at some point in time a balance, but with the industrial revolution, urban development and its relation to water systems and associated ecologies have drastically transformed. Today’s socioecological crisis is unprecedented. Humanity’s capacity for environmental transformation has come to define a new geological era, known as the Anthropocene (the era of men)[1]. Understanding the causes of this planetary transformation calls for alternative and more precise names such as Thanatocene (the era of war), Phagocene (the era of consumption), Thermocene (the era of global warming) and Capitalocene (the era of capital)[2].

Amongst all the places of a watershed, riverfronts, deltas and coasts are not only the most densely inhabited and often polluted landscapes, but they are also the most vulnerable to climate change. Within these areas, the most floodable and polluted zones typically host the most underserved social groups, adding complexity to the problems in place.

A regime of increased frequency and intensity of storms, floods of extraordinary flows, and longer periods of droughts characterizes climate change. Global warming melts glaciers and icecaps provoking sea level rise. While adaptation to climate change is an urgent matter, it is no less important to pay attention to the causes, that can be summarized by both high energy and material consumption. Reforming our cities and the way we inhabit our territory can unfold at two speeds. Short term climate adaptation and resiliency will need social cohesiveness to deliver fair resettlements. Mid and long-term strategies to reduce energy and material consumption will act together to reverse global warming and pollution.

These short and long-term strategies will engage several scales and disciplines. Short term will touch on the reorganization of the urbanized territories engaging the fields of architecture, urbanism, landscape architecture, engineering, and public health. Long-term strategies of reform will engage the fields of economy, law, politics, sciences and the humanities. There is an urgent need to develop a holistic approach where transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary collaboration strives to reform the western way of inhabiting the planet at a time where this lifestyle is still globally exported.

Adaptation and mitigation are the main short-term objectives for climate resiliency. Floods are the most common catastrophic events affecting cities. For this reason, we must redesign cities and their public spaces for floods to become an opportunity instead of a threat. It is important to understand water dynamics as a means of establishing new relationships with water. Instead of walls, dikes, and impermeable soils, our rivers and cities will benefit from public spaces that can adapt to the change while recovering the ecological processes that have been lost. Buildings and landscapes must take advantage of water, river or delta as a resource. In addition to changing perspectives so that floods can be seen as a natural, instead of catastrophic cycle in public spaces, there is also the need to provide everybody with quality water, a vital resource for life. Adaptation will also require organized migrations to higher grounds. This calls for a revision of the entities that manage the territories, which is to be more trans-municipal, trans-national, or global.

In regard to the medium and long-term strategies, energy, and material consumption are central causes of climate change. Metropolitan reforms of the urbanization model and associated lifestyles can offer a path for reversing climate change in the long run. 

ZARCH 15 creates this space to rethink urban processes to respond to the new water dynamics in the context of this triple crisis of climate change, environmental pollution, and social inequity. The issue is complex and requires crossing fields of knowledge as a means to provide global and holistic long and short-term strategies to the contemporary challenges. The space of reflection is organized in four scales, S, M, L, XL, and the themes bridge architecture, urbanism, engineering, and landscape architecture with other disciplines in the humanities, the economy, urban geography, public health, political and social sciences.

S- Architecture, Water, Energy and Biodiversity 

Floods in riverbanks and sea-level rise in the world’s deltas and coasts present challenges to the current urbanization dynamics. How can architecture cohabit with floodable and flooded lands? On the other hand, to face the causes of these rising waters means to reduce energy consumption. Strategies might include improvements to thermal insulation, building reuse, and efforts to reconnect citizenry to production and consumption of energy. Which are the palliative strategies that look at consequences?  Moreover, which are the regenerative strategies that look at the causes which understanding can allow to plan to cool down the planet? Can architecture promote biodiversity in the urban context?

M- Metropolitan Infrastructures, Water and Energy

The infrastructures of the Industrial city were designed to be monofunctional and apart from the city. Today these monofunctional and antiurban infrastructures are growing in size to increase their economic and technological efficiency. This tendency is detrimental to urban integration and resilience. This phenomenon occurs with water, transport, energy, or waste infrastructures. How can we reform urban infrastructures to foster better relationships with the hydrological systems? Concerning energy, what are the new models that combine decentralization, interdependency, scale reduction, and multiplicity of programsAnd how can all of this contribute to the improvement of the cycle of water?

L- Urbanism and Urban Form

In the neoliberal context, the crisis of planning is a reality that has left the discipline of urbanism perplexed. Areas of study range from looking at urbanization as a phenomenon to the verification of obsolete tools with very limited power. What kind of urbanism will reverse today’s trend towards the Generic City[3]?, Can urbanism generate new legal tools for the planet to flourish, and with it, the societies that inhabit it? Can the history of urbanism illuminate the way? In which way is the discussion of urban form relevant and necessary today? What relation can be found between morphology and the promotion of biodiversity, energy consumption, social equity, and the water cycle?

XL- Urbanism, Urban Ecology and Landscape 

The most advanced urbanism analyzes human settlements and its performance in relation to water, energy, society, and ecology. Today, cities should be considered human habitats with the conditions for promoting biodiversity, equity in the access of resources for life, and reduction in energy and material consumption. How can the ecological view affect the tools of the urban projectWhich is the role of landscape infrastructure (water, vegetation, soils) to warranty urban public health?

Margarita Jover, Rubén García, Carlos Ávila

[1] Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer, “The ‘Anthropocene’”, Global Change Newsletter 41 (2000): 17-18.  

[2] Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene (London - New York: Verso, 2016).

[3] Rem Koolhas, "The Generic City", in S, M, L, XL, Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau (Rotterdam - New York: 010 Publishers - Monacelli Press, 1995).


Issue #14: "Mapping the Boundaries"

Publication Date: 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.


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