School of Architecture, CUHK

Background City – International Architectural Conference

Date & Time

17.12.2015 18.12.2015


Exhibition Zone F, 1/F, AIT Building, CUHK


Background City

The School of Architecture at CUHK is delighted to announce that between the 17th and 18th of December we will be hosting an International Conference entitled ‘Background City’. This two day conference will see 10 speakers, 5 international speakers and 5 ‘in-house’ professors presenting and debating different readings of the contemporary city.


In architectural terms, architects are right now looking for a pretext as to why certain things cannot happen and are extremely blocked in terms of discovering potential in existing conditions.
Koolhass, R. “Conversation with Students” (New York, Princeton Architectural Press, 1996)

Inspired by observations of real urban settings, this conference proposes to examine the contemporary city as a condition rather than a physical entity, no longer under the control of architects, urbanists and planners, but governed by multiple coexisting agents. ‘Background City’ seeks to make sense of the metropolis not through abstract postulations based on preconceived models but by focusing on the present reality of the city, the actual urban every day that stares at us in the face, the urban presence of the here and now.

Understanding the city as a backdrop raises fundamental questions regarding what constitutes a building, what defines architecture and how cities transform over time. Today in an age of extreme specialization, where experts perpetually dissect every element of the city, we have become numb/blind to our everyday surroundings, to our daily existence, the background noise of the city that is simply there, taken for granted and rarely questioned. The first Background City International Conference at CUHK, aims to re-awaken a sense of wonder in the present, to nullify the effects of collective urban amnesia, and ignite critical considerations to the role of the anonymous city in our society.

Contemporary cities never start nor end, rather they continuously adapt, mitigate and mutate to remain relevant, expanding and contracting to survive. With the recent imperative in the profession to withdraw from claims of an actual city towards postulations regarding the possible future city, aka the Smart City, the conference address notions of the incoherent, forgotten and undefined city, as characterised in 10 specific examples from world cities in Asia, Europe and America. Today, as several hundred million more people are expected to move to cities in East Asia over the next 20 years as economies shift from agriculture and manufacturing to services, when the China’s Pearl River Delta has overtaken Tokyo to become the world’s largest urban area in both size and population, Hong Kong is in a strategic position both geographically and politically to examine the role of what our cities are, rather than what they might become.

Open Conference

The conference will be free and all are welcome to join. It is targeted to professionals, academics, post-graduate and graduate students in the fields of: Architecture, Urbanism, Geography, Social Sciences, Anthropology and all parties interested in debating the present role of the contemporary city within our society.

This two day event will be structured in the form of a lecture marathon, day one, where eight speakers will present insightful readings into eight different world cities, followed by an intense round table debate, day two, focusing on establishing a new urban lexicon.

Speaker presentations will be divided into five sessions, with speakers presenting in pairs (25min each) following which will be an open discussion (20 min).


International Keynote
Prof. Peter Carl, London Metropolitan University, UK
Prof. Gordon Mathews, Chair of the Department of Anthropology, CUHK
Prof. Roger Riewe, Graz University of Technology, AUT
Prof. Eui-Sung Yi, Director of the Now Institute at UCLA, USA

CUHK Speakers
Prof. Filipe Afonso, CUHK
Prof. Thomas Chung, CUHK
Prof. Peter W. Ferretto, CUHK
Prof. Ho, Puay Peng, CUHK
Prof. Francesco Rossini, CUHK

Round Table
Moderated by: Prof. Stanislaus Fung, SoA, CUHK


Peter W. Ferretto
Associate Professor, School of Architecture, CUHK


Day One_Thursday, 17th December, 2015

10:00 – 10:05 Opening address by Professor Nelson Chen, Director of the School of Architecture (SoA)at CUHK.
10:05 – 10:15 Introduction to the topic and attendees of the conference by Associate Professor
Peter W. Ferretto SoA, CUHK

Session 01

10:15 – 10:45 Prof. Peter Carl, London Metropolitan University, UK
10:45 – 11:15 Prof. Thomas Chung, SoA, CUHK
11:15 – 11:30 Discussion

11:30 – 11:45 Tea Break

Session 02

11:45 – 12:10 Prof. Roger Riewe, Graz University of Technology
12:10 – 12:35 Prof. Francesco Rossini, SoA, CUHK
12:35 – 12:50 Discussion

12:50 – 14:30 Lunch (speakers and audience welcome, buffet in AIT lobby)

Session 03

14:30 – 14:55 Prof. Eui-Sung Yi, Director of the Now Institute at UCLA
14:55 – 15:20 Prof. Filipe Afonso, SOA, CUHK
15:20 – 15:40 Discussion

15:40 – 16:00 Tea Break

Session 04

16:00 – 16:25 Prof. Gordon Mathews, Department of Anthropology, CUHK
16:25 – 16:55 Prof. Peter W. Ferretto, SoA CUHK
16:55 – 17:15 Discussion

17:15 End of first day proceedings

19:00 Dinner for Speakers

Day Two_Friday, 18th December, 2015

Session 05

11:00 – 11:25 Prof. Ho, Puay Peng, CUHK
11:25 – 11:55 Ms. Inge Goudsmit, OMA
11:55 – 12:15 Discussion

14:00 – 16:30
Moderated Round Table
Discussion where 10 panelist elaborate the potential of a theoretical position/agenda towards the notion of a contemporary city.

Download Poster

Download Programme

Subscribe to our Mailing List

Jump to Menu