The 3rd International Conference “New Urban Languages: Tales and Images of Spatial Justice” took place from June 24 to 26 2015 at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment of the TU Delft (Bouwkunde).

The Conference is a joint initiative of the Politecnico di Milano (Department of Architecture and Urban Studies), the Politecnica of Madrid (Department of Urban and Regional Planning) and TU Delft (Department of Urbanism, Chair of Spatial Planning and Strategy). It attracts PhD candidates and young scholars from all over the world. This edition had representatives from Austria, Bangladesh, Belorussia, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Iran, Italy, Poland, Sweden, The Netherlands, Uganda, UK, US, Uzbekistan, etc.

The Conference gathered more than 55 scholars from all over the world in a three-day intensive program, in which 45 papers were presented and discussed over 9 different parallel sessions.  The theme of the conference was Spatial Justice 9please read description below). This provided the framework for the discussion and for the presentation of three keynote speakers: Alain Bourdin, professor of planning and urban studies at the French Institute of Urbanism (Université de Paris Est, Marne-la-Vallée), Benjamin Hennig, senior researcher at the  School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford and Andrea Pavoni, post-doc fellow at the Centre for Socioeconomic and Territorial Studies, at ISCTE  (University Institute of Lisbon).

The discussions were complemented by a rich social programme, which included a dinner at the innovative restaurant The Experiment, in the Lijm en Cultuur initiative and a tour to the city of Rotterdam, during which Rink Drost, senior real estate advisor for BPD Ontwikkeling, Carin Alves and Michel Leferink gave presentations at the site of their new development at the Wilhemina Pier.

Read below for a detailed description of the conference theme.


Third International Conference




Discussing New Urban Languages of Equality, Justice and Sustainable Development

Architects, urbanists, designers and planners often dodge issues of democracy, justice and redistribution and concentrate instead on the technical or aesthetic aspects of their activities. This is not acceptable. Justice and fairness in urban development must be continuously and critically discussed, or else we risk failing to meet the social dimension of sustainability. This is described by Larsen (2012), among others, for whom “for sustainability to occur, it must occur simultaneously in each of its three dimensions: economic, social and environmental”.

 But spatial interventions, plans and designs do not happen in a vacuum. They happen in real governance structures, in which there are power struggles, disagreement and continuous negotiation. In short, urbanism happens in political arenas.

 Designing and planning the built environment are profoundly political activities. There are no purely value-free or ‘technical’ solutions for spatial problems: all decisions in spatial development are political decisions insofar they must involve choice, negotiation, friction and divergence, and occasionally agreement that enables action. This is also known as politics. Spatial planners and designers have a highly central role in achieving justice, as shapers of innovative spatial and institutional relationships between civil society, the public sector and the private sector and designers of sustainable structures and processes. Cities and regions that are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable and fair are not a “given”, they are an achievement.

The recent financial crisis has highlighted at least one convergence: cities all over the world are becoming more unequal and socially and spatially fragmented, even in the developed world. This is very bad news, as it is widely accepted that economic growth alone is not enough to promote well-being: equity is important too. There is plenty of data showing correlation between inequality in a society and economic success. And more evidence showing that inequality is socially and economically unsustainable in the long run. But we must leave the dry world of statistics and try to understand inequality where it happens: in space. In order to advance the discussion, we need to explore some key issues of spatial inequality and its antidote: spatial justice.

In this conference, we want to explore the concept of spatial justice and its implications for urban planners and designers. We also wish to understand in which ways we can describe, imagine and represent spatial justice, in a time in which the representation of reality can be used to distort, embellish, and falsify it.

Please, visit the conference website HERE.


Roberto Rocco, Department of Urbanism, TU Delft

Rossella Salerno, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, Politecnico di Milano

Daniele Villa, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, Politecnico di Milano

Frank Eckardt, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Javier Ruiz Sanchez, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Grupo de investigación: Paisaje Cultural. Intervenciones contemporáneas en la ciudad y el territorio


Committee assistants:

Politecnico di Milano:

Atousa Marzban

Magdalena Zalewska

Delft University of Technology:

Angela Mocaleano

Laura Garcia

Nikita Baliga

Olaf IJzerman

Putri Santoso

Susanne van Rijn

Logistics and organisational support:

Linda de Vos

Karin Visser

Danielle Karakuza

Chiara Termini

Margo van der Helm

Astrid Roos-Aukes

Annemieke Berger




See more pictures of the conference HERE


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