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 (sub) URBAN TROPICALITY: Urban challenges in the tropical zone

International Network of Tropical Architecture (iNTA) Conference at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia,  5 – 8 December 2019

The cities and urban centres of the (sub) tropics are where the greatest challenges facing our collective future can be found. They are where the challenges of global warming, inequality and the migration of people fleeing political unrest or climate change are at their most extreme. The 2019 International Network of Tropical Architecture (iNTA) conference provides a forum to discuss architectural and design solutions for a resilient, smart and just future for urban centres in the tropics.

Founded in Singapore in 2004, the International Network for Tropical Architecture (iNTA) is a networking platform for international researchers and practitioners to collaborate and learn from each other about problems and solutions pertaining to architecture and urban design in the tropical (and sub-tropical) regions and brought together by the shared climatic imperatives and opportunities of these regions. The iNTA permanent secretariat is located at the Department of Architecture, School of Design and Environment at the National University Singapore.

The 2019 iNTA conference is hosted by the School of Architecture at The University of Queensland, located in Brisbane, capital city of the state of Queensland, Australia. Brisbane is proximate to both the fastest growing urban centres in Asia and many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) most at risk from climate change, including Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federal States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Niue and Tuvalu amongst others. Queensland’s most northern extremity, Cape York, sits at the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, those very same oceans that generate the weather systems that circle the globe and affect the destiny of millions of people.

For those who live in the so-called “global south,” there is a sense of urgency about the challenges arising from rapidly changing climate conditions. Matters are not merely academic, but dynamic and concrete. Before the launch of iNTA, discourse around architecture and urbanism in the tropics was framed by centres of scholarship in Europe and North America. The malingering aftermath of devastating tropical storms such as Maria and Irma (2017) in the Caribbean and Typhoon Haima (2016) in the Philippines challenges such ascendancy. The 2019 iNTA conference in Brisbane brings discourse to a subtropical city at the crossroads of cultures, regions and climate zones. At a time when Australia’s role in the region continues to be questioned, it provides an opportunity to enhance north-south dialogue. 

Submission Information & Instructions

Submit abstracts of no more than 300 words in length by email as Word documents to:  https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=inta2019.  Please name the email subject ABSTRACT-SURNAME and use this name for your submission file as well.

  • Abstract deadline: 26 April 2019
  • Submission of full papers for review: 26 July 2019
  • Submission of final papers for publication: 18 October 2019

 All abstracts will be considered by the conference academic committee; authors will be invited to prepare a full paper (no longer than 4,500 words); authors wishing their papers to be published in conference proceedings should submit their final papers for peer review on or before 26 July 2019. The date for submission of final papers is 18 October 2019. Authors may opt out of publication.

Conference Streams 

Tropical Architecture refers to constructed architectural and urban environments relating the climatic and natural conditions of the tropical (and sub- tropical) regions, and interacting with various local specifics of culture, urban fabric and technology. Contributions to the following conference streams are sought. 

1.            Tropical Urbanism  

Stream focussing on challenges to and solutions for enhanced liveability in urban centres of the tropics. Papers might address:

  • projects or propositions for reversing or healing the degradation and collapse of urban centres under rapid growth; 
  • urban infrastructures at risk: rising sea-levels, increasing storm intensity, expanding torridity and aridity.
  • urban adaptation responses : design planning policy, governance and codes
  • urban forms shaped by determinants other than climate alone, such as topography, nature, cultural life. 
  • vegetation in (sub) tropical cities: cultivation in gardens and the peri-urban or neglect in terrain vague

2.             Tropical Architecture :: Contemporary Tropical-isms

Stream focussing on individual designs/ architectural, infrastructure, adaptation projects.  What is it that makes the contemporary architectural project tropical? Or the tropical project contemporary? Papers might illuminate projects that demonstrate instances of : 

  • building technologies: tropical and subtropical applications including 
  • passive low energy and carbon neutral architecture
  • climate mitigation strategies
  • equity in the tropical city
  • the (sub)tropical tower
  • contemporary architecture (still) learning from vernacular traditions
  • reciprocities/dialogue between architecture and tropical environments: between the zeitgeist of a globalized culture and a project’s specific circumstance. 

3.            Narratives of Disease, Discomfort, Development and Disaster ::  Reconsidering Tropical Architecture and Urbanism  

The idea of tropical architecture and urbanism initially developed through a particular connection between discourses on disease, spatial practices and optimum architectural typologies, which were believed to circumvent the spread of tropical diseases and to maintain the comfort of the white settler. After the Second World War, the focus shifted from the European settlement of the colonial tropics to the self-development and governance of the world’s tropical regions; a phenomenon necessitated and propelled by post-war decolonization and global regimes of development aid. Accompanying this change was a shift away from the physiological comfort of the colonial settler to a new focus on indigenous cultures, vernacular building traditions, use of local materials, and increasing appreciation for the psychological value of cultural conventions, including superstition and taboo. The aim of this stream is to examine how “triumph” in the tropics was imagined across multiple geographies, by various subjects, through diverse discourses, and at different times and to critically investigate the roles architecture and urban planning played in this process. We particularly welcome papers that offer historical case studies of tropical and subtropical architecture and urbanism examined through one of four lenses: 

  • disease 
  • discomfort
  • development or disaster.

This stream will be convened by Dr Deborah van der Plaat (The Univerity of Queensland), Dr Vandana Baweja (University of Florida) and Professor Tom Avermaete (ETH Zurich).

4.             Historic Urban Landscapes and Tropicality 

The Historic Urban Landscape is a new approach recommended by UNESCO that recognises and positions the historic city and its core as a resource for the future and the centre for the urban development process. Papers might address:

  • operational principles for urban conservation models: respecting values, traditions and environments of different cultural contexts.
  • historic urban centres and tropical vulnerability 
  • mapping urban heritage values and attributes
  • planning, design and implementation of development projects in historic urban centres
  • adaptive use and re-use impacting authenticity and integrity of physical and social fabric in historic urban centres
  • Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Pacific and Caribbean: their vulnerability and resilience
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