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Words & Concepts

“Wording Urban Diffusion”

Driven by the wish to produce innovative scientific material, the DCUN organized on the 21 November 2018 a workshop entitled “Wording Urban Diffusion”. This event that took place at the Architecture School of Paris-Belleville in Paris (France) and gathered more than fifteen speakers who discussed and examined the lexicon linked to the territorial diffusion of urbanization.

Today, urban diffusion is global and induces in the field of urban studies a revision in the way of thinking the relations between urbanism and territory. For this reason, this phenomenon has been studied in different geographical and historical contexts, and has resulted in the production of a terminology and a conceptual and theoretical apparatus in different languages.

This workshop was an opportunity for the scientific community to question the conceptual, disciplinary and methodological frameworks that have guided the production of knowledge on urbanization processes in different contexts and historical moments.



DCUN provides online content of this workshop with 8 videos, please see below


1 – Thomas Sieverst: “What are the problems with wording urban diffusion?”

This talk discusses the importance of adequate terms for the phenomenon of urban diffusion and the necessity to use words, which are connectable to ordinary language.

This means, that an adequate word should evoke suitable, correct and not negative images, the latter we can observe in Germany and this makes constructive discussions difficult from the very beginning. A good term might even have a poetic dimension. Completely artificial terms do not generally have these qualities.

To watch DCUN’s video (1) (content in English) click below or here


2 – Susan Parham & Matthew Hardy: “Repairing Suburbs – The socio-spatial dimension of the traditional urbanism discourse”

In Britain and the United-States, suburbs have over the past couple of decades generated an increasing amount of academic research. Initially, many of these works attempted at shedding light on the forces shaping these changing suburban areas and at describing their spatial characteristics. More recently however, a number of publications have focused on design and action, in particular those produced by academics and practitioners who can be referred to as traditional urbanists. These works suggest a number of principles and methods aiming at transforming, retrofitting and ‘repairing’ suburbs identified as sprawl based on transect principles and in the light of current social, economic and environmental issues.

To watch DCUN’s video (2) (content in English) click below or here


3 – Chiara Barattucci: “The italian urban planners lexical inventions describing the diffusion and dispersion of urbanization, since 1960”

This presentation aims at explaining the functioning of sector language of italian urban planners in relation to their rich neological creation about low density urbanization. In this contribution the author identifies and observes, in particular, the use, the diffusion and the role of three neological expressions, widely used from the sixties by Italian planners in their texts: (i) Campagna urbanizzata, (ii) Urbanizzazione diffusa and (iii) Città diffusa. Speaking of Città diffusa, this presentation will also stress the significance given to this expression by its inventor, Professor Francesco Indovina (thanks to a recent interview realized for the DCUN’s workshop).

To watch DCUN’s video (3) (content in French followed by translation in English) click below or here


4 – Charlotte Vorms: “Does the notion of urban periphery always make sense? Perspectives from collective works on the naming of urban periphery”

Drawing on the experience of several collective works (“Les mots de la ville” research programme, the book What’s in a name? Talking about suburbs, and “La ville informelle au 20e siècle” research programme), the talk discusses the relevance of the generic notion of urban periphery and the importance of other criteria to describe urban space, according to place, time and speakers.

To watch DCUN’s video (4) (content in English) click below or here


5 – Feriel Boustil: “Urban peculiarities in Algeria: words and specificities”

The classic concepts of urbanization of the countryside (periurbanization, urban sprawl, etc.) are concepts that present the evolution of the urban world as a simple consequence of urbanization mechanisms in the morphological and functional sense of the term whether in America or in Europe. The urban growth in the western Mitidja in Algeria implies an incorporation of several terms in the social system of the city of the “periurbanisation”, “rurbanisation” and “between two”, this intimate mixture between city and countryside is as much in space than in the heads of the inhabitants. Peri-urban areas move and move away but in Algeria – formerly colonized country – this state of affairs is rather characterized by the notion of order and disorder and a process of migration between town and country.

To watch DCUN’s video (5) (content in French followed by translation in English) click below or here


6 – Astrid Safina, Leonardo Ramondetti & Filippo Fiandanese: “Diffuse urbanization with Chinese characteristics’”

The contemporary Chinese landscape has been mainly described by opposing megalopolis to minor cities, coastal to inland regions, and urban to rural areas. However, during the last three decades this landscape has been radically transformed. Within this framework, a ‘blurred space’ is taking shape by the erosion of boundaries and hierarchies between cities and countryside, by the capillarity of the infrastructures and by stronger interconnections between urban and rural areas. In recent years, scholars have used different expressions to describe this phenomenon, such as city regions or urban agglomerations; while others have associated it to the south-east Asian desakota regions or to the suburban or post-suburban areas.

This talk presents some outcomes of the ongoing empirical researches on the city of Zhaoqing, in the Pearl River Delta, the city of Zhengzhou, in the Central Plain Agglomeration, and Tongzhou District, in the JingJinJi Region.

To watch DCUN’s video (6) (content in English) click below or here


7 – Anne Grillet-Aubert & Bernadette Laurencin: “The texture of the city. Words and Maps of Urban Diffusion in China”

A rich vocabulary gives account of diff use urbanization in Europe and in other continents. These words designate different processes and forms of urban sprawl. They invite us to examine the morphological specificities of urbanization in different contexts that also depend on preexisting urban forms. Does diff use urbanization break with former substrata and processes? Is it a symptom of broader and deeper transformations? This talk describes the patterns of urban diffusion in China in relation with Chinese lexicon on cities and urbanization. Also, it compares diff use urban morphologies in China with other periurban territories in Europe and the United-States.

To watch DCUN’s video (7) (content in French) click below or here


8 – Charles Goldblum: “Concluding Remarks”

On the basis of the presentations given in the workshop, Charles Goldblum concludes with a series of remarks and presents possible lines of research.

To watch DCUN’s video (8) (content in English) click below or here