An International Workshop
University of Sheffield and University of Western Sydney
Sheffield, United Kingdom, 24-26th May 2017.

Organisers: Simon Marvin, Urban Institute, Rowland Atkinson, Inclusive Societies at the University of Sheffield and Donald McNeill, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University.

In major cities around the world, councils and governments are faced with the problem and possibilities of ‘volume’: the stacking and moving of more and more people and things above, across and below tiny, interlocking sites within booming central business districts. Three trends are particularly notable here: first, the growth of improved mass public transport provision that now funnels many more people in and out of city centres than before, often underground; second, there has been a marked increase in tall building construction in cities, between 2010 and 2016 fifty ‘supertall’, or 300 metres plus skyscrapers were built; third, building and city management systems have now improved to a point where ‘utopian’ building projects based around new forms of enclosure and autonomous infrastructures are now being realized thanks to advanced materials and engineering technology.

This workshop has been organized to respond to what we see as the reinterpretation of the limits, porosity and nature of building ‘envelopes’ – the boundary between the notions of the interior and exterior and the placing and management of different kinds of atmospheres in city plans. These are being reworked according to a number of new technological, design and financial logics: architects, engineers, developers, bankers and other specialist service providers act variously to, quite literally, ‘push the envelope’ and ultimately reconfiguring the nature of these built spaces.

The core aim of the workshop is to understand through empirical analysis and theoretical frameworks how urban space is being made more malleable, with surface, airspace, and underground constantly subject to new logics of development.