The Ideal City: between myth and reality
Representations, policies, contradictions and challenges for tomorrow's urban life

Urbino (Italy) 27-29 August 2015

The RC21 Conference 2015 will be hosted by the School of Social and Political Sciences – Department of Economics, Society, and Politics at the University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy.

Luciano Laurana (attributed) 1480 1490 The ideall city, National Gallery Urbino.

Luciano Laurana (attributed) 1480 1490 The ideall city, National Gallery Urbino.


At the conference, papers will be organized into streams of sessions as well as individual sessions. This is a call for proposals for streams and individual sessions.
The deadline for this call is 15th October 2014.


In the wake of globalization and State rescaling, cities are regaining relevance as social laboratories for new and innovative practices of social inclusion and participation. Within this trend cities are becoming again and more than ever a project. Policy‐makers, planners, inhabitants and mob le people build representations and idealizations that make a big part of the allure of urban life. Cities are imagined, made and remade “by design”. This has long tradition: from the grids of Roman cities to contemporary capitals like Brasilia, from Megalopolis like Shēnzhèn to living experiments like Soleri's Arcosanti; from urban lives in the Renaissance to the Futurist vertical dreams; from, the 19th‐century garden cities to the current hype for smart cities.

All these “cities on paper” have to cope with the complexity and unpredictability of everyday life, of the flow of endogenous or exogenous events, that re‐conceptualize functions and visions. Cities are embedded in social, economic and political contexts. The dream of the planner of ideal cities, as the three Renaissance panels hosted in Baltimore, Urbino (see above) and Berlin, is totally or largely deserted, as to avoid the complexity of the interaction between Utopia and reality.

The conference is interested in unveiling this complexity. By questioning utopian and ideal visions of the city – as represented in policies, public discourses… – it aims at putting them in perspective considering actual agency and current structural changes. How does socio‐economic change – neoliberalization? – affect cities and their ideal “diverse” visions? How do poverty and inequalities challenge ideal views of a just city? How are ideal cities contrasting real cities affected by segregation and social exclusion practices? Do different ideals coexist? Does the crisis affect our urban projects? In which direction? Who wins who loses? How do visions and ideals differ across the globe and how are they questioned by increasingly similar challenges?


We invite proposals for sessions and streams of sessions for each of the following themes:

A — Cities and innovation

Session proposals are invited that focus on urban innovation practices aimed at fostering social inclusion and participation, and the positive and negative actual outcomes that innovation policies have.

B — Images of the city

Here we invite sessions on the construction of public images of the city, in urban marketing strategies, in the organization of mega-events, in the urban politics. Which dimensions grounds new images of the city? Which connection to tradition (and its construction)? Which concurrent and conflicting images? What are the features of successful images? What relation between public image and urban social practices?

C — Cities and urban planning

Urban planning is one of the disciplines that grounds and materializes the “city on paper”. How professional cultures of urban planners influence the planning and construction of the ideal city? How power relations steer urban plans?

D — Urban informality: from plan to everyday life

Here we invite session proposals that focus on everyday informal practices, the “place of desorder” that makes up an important part of urban life – under, beyond and in-between urban plans and their institutionalization.

E — Contested cities

In this stream, we look for proposals on the conflicts between different ideas and practice of cities, neighbourhood, and the daily experience of living together, along different cleavages (class, gender ethnicity...) of populations that live segregated or mixed in urban environments.

F — Urban renewal

Big projects are part of the neoliberal trends influencing tomorrow's cities. Utopias on paper can turn into distopias in practice. Planners, policy-makers, users, and dwellers are urban population with different needs and perspectives on how (re-)making the city can work and affect their life. Which discourses prevail in urban renewal projects? What effect they have on city life, and the experience of living together?

G — Governing cities

In the wake of State rescaling and multi-level governance processes, governing cities is an increasingly complex and fragmented process. Different discourses and governance practices coexist, with a plurality of actors and stakeholders bringing their own idea of city, participation, social cohesion... How different views are accommodated in governance processes? Who wins and who loses in these processes?

H — Well-being in the cities

Part of the construction of the “ideal city” is based on the identification of the main features that make up the idea of urban well-being. Indicators and rankings of happiness, social cohesion, and well-being are more and more widespread.
This may help framing the concept of well-being, but may not be enough. This stream aims at gathering sessions on quantitative and qualitative dimensions of well-being, considering equality, social cohesion and social mix as challenges to be taken into account.

I — City Regions relations

The complex relations between cities and regions show that both cities’ and regional features are important in understanding cities’ success and regional development. Sessions within this stream should disentangle this relationship, considering the importance of rural and industrial contexts’ heritage for the larger cities.


Sessions may take any one of the following forms, and streams of sessions may include different kinds of sessions. We encourage to take all the following options into account when presenting your proposal:

  • The “traditional” format of a maximum of 4 papers in a two-hour session, in which presentations by authors last for 10-15 minutes, followed by discussion on each paper. Papers are posted on line and distributed by the convenors directly to the paper presenters in their stream beforehand;
  • Discussion sessions of a maximum of 4 papers, in which one or more discussants summarize the findings of author’s papers and formulate a statement with 1-3 points of discussion in ten minutes, for which all papers must be made available on-line beforehand and all participants in the session are expected to have read the papers in advance;
  • Round-table sessions in which a panel of some 4 scholars is invited to discuss for 5-10 minutes a theme or question posed by the convenors beforehand, followed by a discussion around the table as well as with the other participants present;
  • Round-table sessions when a larger number of convenors spend 5 or so minutes presenting a summary of their paper;
  • Poster sessions, when researchers can display a poster (70x100cm) summarizing their research, e.g. in the venue where the stream is holding its sessions.


Stream/session convenors are responsible for one or more sessions (the total number of sessions will depend on the number of abstracts submitted).

Stream convenors participate in the selection process of abstracts submitted for presentation within their stream, and in allocating papers to different kinds of session as appropriate. Stream convenors will rank all abstracts submitted for the respective stream (the review will have to be done in February, no later than the end of the month). Final decisions on the number of sessions per stream and the acceptance of papers will be made by local organisers considering the ranking of the convenors.

Stream convenors together with local organisers supervise the deadlines for full paper submission.

Stream convenors chair their respective session(s).


All streams and sessions have to be organised as open streams and sessions. No session shall be limited to members of an existing project network.
Stream/session convenors themselves shall not submit abstracts to their respective stream/session.
Only one abstract submission per participant is allowed. Exceptions are foreseen for co-authored papers.


A stream/session proposal must include:

  • A stream/session title.
  • A short description of the topic, including a description of the types of papers that you expect to receive (max 300 words). The stream/session content should reflect links to the conference topic and themes and should be oriented on one or more research questions.
  • Full contact details of the stream convenor(s) (with a maximum of two-three convenors per stream): Name/s, affiliation, postal address, phone number (will not be made public), e-mail.


Please send submissions to the following e-mail address: streams@rc21.org within October 15th, 2014.
The local organising team will send out information about the acceptance of proposals no later than 15th November 2014. The call for papers will be launched late November 2014.


  • 15th October 2014 = Deadline for stream proposals
  • 15th November 2014 = Notification of selected streams
  • 20th November 2014 = Call for papers opens
  • 31st January 2015 = Deadline for abstracts submission
  • 28th February 2015 = Notification of selected abstracts
  • 1st March 2015 = registrations open (early bird)
  • 15 May 2015 = Deadline for early bird registration and for (some) hotel options
  • 15th June 2015 = Deadline for full paper submission
  • 15th July 2015 = Papers online


Urbino is Unesco World Heritage for being a Renaissance jewel. The Duke Palace – today seat of the National Gallery of the Marche – host the famous painting “The Ideal City”. The picturesque walled town hosted the renowned Court of the Duke Federico and was hometown to the painter Raphael. The University, founded in 1506, hosts a School of Sociology and Social Work, legacy of half‐a‐century tradition of social studies.

Urbino had for long the ambition of being an ideal city. The special relationship between its’ rector Carlo Bo (in office for 54 years!) and the world renowned architect Giancarlo De Carlo (who defined the master plan of Urbino in the early sixties and built several important buildings) produced a unique context (or “project”) in which the City and the University are strongly intertwined. Discussing about the ideal city here acquires therefore a special meaning and an opportunity to rethink urban studies from the perspective of their interdisciplinary nature where the project and the built environment intersect with realities.
h August 2015 = Conference